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A link directory is a website that collects and categorizes links from around the web. While the first link directories were general catalogs of the World Wide Web, modern link directories often specialize in a particular niche, industry, or topic.

Before Search Engines Ruled the Web

The Internet allows us access to vast amounts of data, but that doesn’t mean anything if you can’t find the information you're looking for. Today, we take for granted how easy it is to look up anything at the click of a button: No matter how obscure the fact is, or how muddled your search terms, it seems like Google or Siri always know what’s on our minds.

Search engines have been around for a long time, but they haven’t always been quite so useful. Before the rise of Google, early Internet users searched with Excite, InfoSeek, and AltaVista. Back then it took those early search engines much longer to crawl and index the web than it does today, making it tough to find the most recent information. In addition, the search algorithms weren’t as advanced, so the information you needed usually wasn’t at the very top of the search results, leaving you to do some digging.

In the early days of the web, an often more efficient way to find what you were looking for was through a link directory, also called a “web directory” or “web portal.” One of the earliest such directories was Yahoo! Directory, comprised of a collection of links to websites categorized by topic. Each link included a brief description of the website, and they were all approved and added manually by Yahoo staff.

The Downfall of Link Directories

Eventually, Yahoo! Directory evolved into Yahoo! Search as search algorithms evolved, and it became too resource-intensive to continue to update the link directory.

Today, since search engines are much more fast, powerful, and efficient than they used to be, there aren’t many general link directories like Yahoo! Directory.

Another factor in the downfall of link directories was their potential for abuse when it comes to search engine rankings. As SEO (search engine optimization) became a field in its own right, “black hat” optimizers took advantage of link directories to get a huge volume of links to low-quality websites in order to increase their rankings in search engine results.

Google and other major search engines began to be wary of links from link directories, no longer using them as an important factor in determining search engine rankings. In some cases, having your website listed in a link directory could actually harm your rankings and get your site penalized. Along with rise of more powerful search engine algorithms, this abuse led to a decline in the popularity and use of link directories.

Do Link Directories Still Have a Place on the Modern Web?

While general web directories may have already seen their heyday, more specialized link directories still live on and are useful to niche audiences.

In some industries or niches, it may be difficult to find specific information or high-quality sources online. In those cases, a specialized niche link directory can help you to find this specialized information when a search engine can’t. Local directories, which link to local businesses and websites for a specific city or geographic region, are also useful on the modern web.

Modern link directories sometimes exist not as a standalone website, but as a section of an authoritative website or blog. The term “link directory” itself is a bit outdated, but the principle still lives on today in blogrolls, recommended resources, and other forms. These mini-directories are carefully vetted and managed by the website owner or blogger, and can still boost search engine rankings for the sites they endorse.

How to Build Your Own Link Directory

If you’d like to include a link directory on your own website, you can use specialized software to do so. Some web hosting companies provide one-click installation of content management systems that have features for creating directories.

Before deciding on a web hosting company and plan, make sure the plan you're considering will support the software you choose to use to build your directory. If you're not sure, you can contact the host’s sales team and ask them if they support your desired software, or can recommend any alternatives. You can also check out the web hosting company reviews from real customers here on WhoIsHostingThis before you purchase, and then check out our coupon pages to get a great deal.