By Andrew Dennis
03 Mar 2015

Using Advanced Search Strings for Directory Link Building – Tutorial Tuesday

Advanced Link Building

Hey everybody, welcome to another rousing installment of Linkarati’s weekly series – Tutorial Tuesday!

In previous editions of Tutorial Tuesday we’ve discussed using advanced search modifiers for finding brand mentions, EDU link prospects, and to track a competitor’s guest blogging campaign. In fact, there are a number of different ways you can leverage advanced search strings for link building, and today I would like to walk through how to use them for finding worthwhile directories.

Tutorial Tuesday Banner

Now before you start saying “But Andrew, isn’t all directory link building considered spammy?!?”, you need to understand that there is a right way and wrong way to do directory link building. The key distinction between useful directory links and spammy directory links is relevance. If you’re building thousands of links on giant, irrelevant directories that have no human visitors:

Youre Doing it Wrong Meme

On the other hand, if you’re building directory links with a relevancy-first mindset, you can find some viable link opportunities. The two main aspects of relevancy you need to consider in terms of directories are location and niche/industry. This means the links you build should either be on local directories specific to your local community or relevant niche directories that focus solely on your industry.

Of course, there are a number of advanced search strings you can use to find these relevant and worthwhile directories where you should have a link. Let’s get started!

Step One: Finding Relevant Niche Directories (RNDs)

Advanced search strings are vital for anyone searching the web with a specific intention. Here, we can use advanced search to return only directories relevant to our specific niche.

To find RNDs that might be worth getting a link on, I would suggest some of the following search strings:

  • “industry” inurl:directory
  • “industry” inurl:links
  • “industry” intitle:directory
  • intitle:industry inurl:directory
  • related:industry inurl:directory
  • Etc.

There are a number of variations you can use within your search strings (including using any of the above search strings without the quotes), and at first it will be a bit of trial and error. To offer an example, I will pretend I’m trying to build some quality directory links for a local ad agency. Through random selection, we’ll go with CLM Marketing & Advertising.

If I were looking for directory link opportunities for CLM I might use a search string like:

“advertising agency” inurl:directory

A search string like this should return a number of potential opportunities relevant to CLM.


Step Two: Finding Relevant Local Directories

Relevant local directories can also provide worthwhile link building opportunities.

However, the search strings you use to find relevant local directories will be slightly different than those you use to find RNDs. To find local directory link opportunities, you can use queries like:

  • “city” inurl:directory
  • “city” inurl:businesses
  • “city” intitle:directory
  • “city industry” intitle:directory
  • “city directory” intitle:industry
  • Etc.

Again, try experimenting with different variations or not including quotes around your query.

Using our ad agency example from before, let’s look at how CLM might find build some local directory links. Let’s try:

“Boise” inurl:directory

Here are the results we get:

Advertising Example Local Directory SERP

Immediately I notice a promising option in the 3rd spot of the results:

Advertising Example Local Directory SERP with box

After clicking on the link, we arrive at the “Think Boise First” home page:

Advertising Example ThinkBoiseFirst Home Page No Drop Down

From here, we can filter by category, and specifically “Marketing Services”.

Advertising Example ThinkBoiseFirst Home Page

Here are the results for “Marketing Services”:

Advertising Example ThinkBoiseFirst Marketing Services

Right away, we can see that this would be a great link opportunity as each listing comes with a “Visit Website” button that links to that business’ home page.

Advertising Example ThinkBoiseFirst Marketing Services with box

Because CLM is not listed here, this local directory offers a great link opportunity for them.


Due to spammers and an over-saturation of low-quality, useless directory sites many people have written off all types of directory link building.

However, there is still a right way to build worthwhile directory links on directories where your site belongs. These are links your site absolutely deserves and if you’re not pursuing them you’re simple leaving link equity on the table.

One of the best ways to locate the relevant directories you want a link from is to utilize advanced search strings. There are almost an endless amount of different search string combinations you could use, but hopefully the examples listed here can get you started and give you an idea of the processes involved in finding directory link opportunities.

Andrew Dennis

Andrew Dennis is a Content Marketing Manager at Shopify. Andrew is an alumnus of the University of Idaho and consequently a lifelong Vandals fan. You can connect with Andrew on Twitter or LinkedIn.