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Web Site SEO Popularity: Web Directories

   Directory Listing Checklist
  1. Write a description of your Web site that includes your keywords and location.
  2. Submit your site to the Open Directory Project – dmoz.org
  3. Pay to have your Web site listed in the law firm section of Yahoo!.
  4. If you have unique content of interest to consumers, submit the it to other Web directory locations in Yahoo! and Zeal.
Internet users find the Web sites of numerous businesses by browsing through various directories, or by performing keyword searches within directories using terms specific to the information or services they seek.

Web directories use human editors to put Web sites into specific categories. As with an index in a book, users can browse directory category and subcategory headings to find the information they need. Directory categories are organized as a hierarchy, with broader categories at the top of the organizational structure, and more specific subcategories lower down. For example, in Yahoo!'s online directory, you will find law firm listings in the following category hierarchies:

Government > Law > (followed by law-related categories and law practice areas)
Business & Economy > Shopping and Services > Law > Firms

Every Web site that you find in a directory is indexed in a relatively similar way, under major category headings, which are narrowed into subcategories.

Submitting Your Site to a Directory

Once your firm's Web site is on the Internet, you should have it listed in the major consumer Web directories, namely the Open Directory Project, Yahoo! and LookSmart. Directories screenshot

Most Popular Consumer Web Directories

Being listed in these Web directories is a good way to market your business online and it will help your site get indexed by search engines. It will also increase your Web site's popularity as part of your search engine optimization plan.

Submitting your site for inclusion entails preparing a description of your law firm and/or the content on your Web site, and sending it to the directory editors for their review. (Note: Yahoo! and LookSmart charge fees for commercial listings, see below)

To learn about the importance of being included in these directories, see our Link Popularity Section.

Directories screenshot

Open Directory Project - Data Supplied Directories

All directories are unique and have their own rules for submission. The submission process for each of the leading three directories is explained on the following Web pages:

Open Directory Project Add URL page:

Yahoo! Add URL page:

LookSmart Add URL page:

The length of your listing will usually be dictated by the directory editors, so you should check individual directory guidelines. It is a good idea to keep track of this information, as well as other important information regarding each directory submission you make, including:

  • The URL(s) you submitted for your Web site
  • The date of your submission
  • The directory categories in which you asked to be listed
  • The Web site title submitted
  • The description of your Web site
  • Directory contact information
  • The e-mail address and name of the person who submitted your firm's information
  • A copy of your receipt and order number (if a paid submission)

When submitting information about your law firm to a directory, your submission should always include:

  • The URL of your Web site homepage (e.g., http://www.YourLawFirmURL.com/)
  • The name of your firm
  • The city/cities and state(s) and, possibly, the counties in which you practice
  • Your practice areas

For example:
Title: Johnson and Smith [Law Firm Name]
URL: http://johnson-smith-family-lawyers.com [Your Home page URL]
Description - Ann Arbor, Michigan [City/State] family lawyers practicing divorce, adoption, wills and estates [Practice Areas] in the Ann Arbor metro and Washtenaw County region [Metro and County Areas].

In writing your directory listing, you should include keywords and phrases compiled through your keyword/SEO research (see our Keyword Section). This will greatly improve the chances that your Web pages will appear at the top of the directory results when people search for firms like yours. However, you should be forewarned that directory editors may or may not use the description you submit. After your submission information and Web pages have been reviewed, the editor(s) will decide whether or not to include your site in their directory. Sometimes, an editor will prepare an alternative description of your Web site, and that will be used instead of the one you prepared. Although an editor might not use the keywords you have placed in your description, you should always prepare your own description and indicate where you think your Web site fits within the hierarchy of the directory's categories. This increases the likelihood that your description and/or keywords will be used.

Submission Tip: Since directories list more Web sites than Web pages, you should always include your homepage's URL in any submission(s) you send to directories.

The following are the maximum lengths allowed for business descriptions in the major general directories:

The Open Directory Project - 25 to 30 words
Yahoo! - 150 character limit
LookSmart - 170 character limit

Searching Directories and How Results Are Ranked

Open directory search results While the term "search" is used to describe essentially the same process, submitting a search query to a directory involves different sets of content and ranking methods than those of a search engine. Directories typically rank Web sites by category, title, and site description. When a user enters a series of keywords or phrases to search a directory, the results are ranked based on the following criteria:

  • Whether the keywords entered appear in a directory category name
  • Whether the keywords entered appear in a Web site (or Web page) title
  • Whether the keywords entered appear in a Web site description

Sites that have keywords in their category name, company name, and Web site description will be ranked the highest; sites that have keywords in their company name and description appear next, followed by sites that have keywords only in their descriptions.

Google will also list Web sites that have keywords on the Web page corresponding to the URL linked in the Google directory.

What Directory Editors Look For in Submissions

Most, if not all, directory editors look at the following when determining whether, and where, to list submitted Web sites or pages in their directories:

  • Is the content unique? Directory editors are not looking to compile a collection of links with exactly the same information. Before you submit your site, it's a good idea to look at your competition to see how other firms are described, and formulate descriptions for your firm that are different and will add value from an editor's perspective.

  • Where does the content come from? This is sometimes referred to as the "authority" of the content. Editors want to know if any of the claims being made or information given is false.

  • Who is the organization or company submitting the site? Is it legitimate? This is very important to the editors who review submissions for inclusion in their commercial or business categories. One way to show your site's legitimacy is to make all your contact information readily available. Meeting this requirement should not be a problem for a law firm.

  • Is the description accompanying the submitted site or pages accurate? Your home page should accurately reflect the description you have submitted.

  • Does the Web site fit well in the category listed on the submission? Sometimes the category in which you feel you should be listed is different than the category an editor thinks is appropriate, and the editor may place your listing in a different category.

  • How well is the Web site designed? Has the developer paid attention to basic Web design rules? Specifically:

    • Is the site easy to read?
    • Is the site easy to navigate?
    • Is the site easy to find, even if a user doesn't have the URL?
    • Is the site's design and layout consistent throughout?
    • Is the site quick to download?

Submitting a Law Firm Site to the Open Directory Project, Yahoo! or LookSmart

The key to being included in the Open Directory Project is to select the correct category for your listing, including the "Lawyers and Law Firms" category (organized in the category hierarchy as Society > Law > Services > Lawyers and Law Firms), and any subcategories that are applicable to your practice.

Although Yahoo! and LookSmart charge a fee to submit commercial/business listings, if you have content on your site that would be valuable from a research perspective, you may be able to get additional links to your content without paying a fee. An example of quality, law firm content that Yahoo! links to free of charge is Oppedahl & Larson LLP's Intellectual Property Law Web Server (http://www.patents.com/). This firm is linked, even with a "sunglasses" enhancement, on the Yahoo! Directory > Government > Law > Intellectual Property page (http://dir.yahoo.com/Government/Law/Intellectual_Property/). The content on that site is much more substantive than a "How to hire a lawyer - Hire me!" one page Web site, and stands to be much more appealing to a directory editor seeking to bring valuable and reliable information to Internet users. That said, it is extremely unlikely that a law firm Web site would ever be denied being listed in the law firm category on Yahoo! or LookSmart, as long as the appropriate fees are paid.

Paying for Expedited Review of Your Site - Paying to be Listed

In many instances, the directory submission process can take a long time. Directories receive thousands of submissions each month, and each one needs to be reviewed by an editor. Yahoo! and LookSmart offer a way to expedite this process - through "paid submission" programs. Making a paid submission entails paying a fee to a directory to expedite the review of your Web site by its editors, essentially bumping you up in the line of submissions waiting to be reviewed. Paying for this service does not mean you will automatically be included in a directory. Also, you should be aware that sometimes you will be asked to pay an additional fee if you want your Web site or Web pages to be considered for inclusion under more than one directory category or subcategory.

Given the value of being indexed by the major search engines and boosting your Web site's popularity and search engine rankings, paid submission programs are a good idea in some cases. Yahoo! and LookSmart both have paid submission programs , and can usually ensure that your submission will be reviewed within approximately 48 hours to one week. The MSN - LookSmart contract, where LookSmart listings appeared on MSN's portal and search results, was not renewed, and LookSmart listings were removed from MSN in early 2004. This substantially reduced the value of a LookSmart listing, but since they have now moved to a pure cost per click model it may be worth purchasing a listing for a search engine marketing campaign. We recommend purchasing a Yahoo! Web directory listing.

The following is information on submitting your Web site to the leading three general directories:

Free Web Directories

Open Directory Project:
Cost $0

Paid Web Directories


Noncommercial or Content Listings - a site that has unique content that the editors wish to add to the LookSmart/Zeal Web directory may be able to get a free listing in an area outside of the commercial law firm listings area. The Zeal editors are volunteers who add the best Web sites to the LookSmart directory at no cost to the Web site owner.
Cost $0

Business/Commercial Listings
Cost: Cost per click pricing starting at $0.15 per click.
Minimum monthly spend is $15

Noncommercial or Content Listings - a site that has unique content that the editors wish to add to the Yahoo! Web directory may be able to get an additional, free listing in an area outside of the commercial, law firm listings area.
Cost $0

$299 for available priority review of each directory listing submitted (nonrefundable)

Business/Commercial Listings
Cost: Required $299 for priority review of each directory listing submitted (nonrefundable).
Recurring annual fee of $299 to maintain a listing in the Directory for the subsequent year.


We recommend submitting your law firm's Web site information to the Open Directory, Yahoo! and LookSmart, but paying only Yahoo! for their expedited submission-review services in their commercial law firm section. As noted above, the MSN - LookSmart contract was not renewed, and LookSmart listings will be removed from MSN's search results. But as LookSmart has moved to a pure cost per click model, there may be some value in purchasing a LookSmart listing as part of a search engine marketing campaign.

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Last Modified: 7 October, 2003
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