How A Web Directory Works

A  web directory organizes websites by themes and is usually managed by humans instead of software. A search engine searches sites organized in a series of categories and menus. These collections of links are generally much smaller than search engine databases since sites are seen by human eyes rather than spiders.

There are two ways for sites to be included in the listings of a web directory, either when the website owner submits the site by hand, or when the directory editor meets that site and decides to include it in the list.

The High Search Engine SEO

Web directories have long been one of the main strategies to promote a website since they were a relatively simple way to obtain links to a page to strengthen its positioning. However, after the arrival of the changes in the Google algorithm with Panda e Penguin, the indiscriminate registration in directories is an advisable practice that can have very harmful negative effects on SEO positioning, since, although the presence in thematic directories And quality is not harmful, many of them are considered as link farms. That is why, currently, one of the first tasks addressed when starting an SEO project is a link audit to detect harmful links.


With the growth of the  Internet and the proliferation of web pages, which grew exponentially, it became necessary a  tool that allowed grouping and ordering all this information. In this way the figure of web directories emerged, gigantic databases that thanks to their great utility quickly became popular.

It was from 1995 when some of the most important web directories, such as Yahoo! or DMOZ, they were founded and began their growth. During these five years, web directories were undisputed kings of the Internet, however, with the arrival of search engines, the operation of the Internet changed radically.

The emergence of search engines, led by Google, led to the use of web directories as methods of searching web pages gradually becoming obsolete. However, during the early years of Google, this encouraged the use of directories as a search engine positioning tool. The result was the proliferation of a massive link building that multiplied the number of directories, causing a loss of value for the user since they were not focused on generating quality content.

To solve this problem, Google decided to punish this type of practice with the launch in 2012 of Google Penguin, a powerful update of its logarithm that led to the beginning of the end of web directories. From this moment, these were declining and losing millions of users, with many currently closed their doors (the last DMOZ in 2017).


We can classify web directories in different ways according to their typology:

  • According to the cost: if these allow us to include the link to our website without any cost, we will talk about free directories, if on the contrary, it is necessary to pay to register our website we will refer to paid directories. The latter is usually much more beneficial for SEO as a general rule since they are less saturated and transmit greater authority, while with the free ones the opposite is true in many and they can even be as webspam issuers. There is a variant within the payment directories known as bid directories in which this payment method is used to define the visibility that our website will have within the directory.
  • According to the correspondence: there are numerous directories that are free, but in exchange for including our website they require a link to it, which is known as reciprocal directories, these are usually more relevant than the non-reciprocal free directories.
  • According to the geographical area: if it is a web directory that includes only web pages of a specific geographical region, we are talking about a  local directory, if it does not have any type of geographical limitation, it is a  global directory.
  • According to the specialization:  if it is a directory that is not specialized in any specific topic, it is called a general directory, when it is a directory thematic. The thematic directories are as varied as disciplines exist and we can find directories of sports, news, health, technology, shopping, etc.