Updated for 2021
"How to SEO" Your Website
This long page contains the information (or links to it) that web designers should know about optimizing a website for the search engines.
Note Well: This is not a page about WordPress SEO. See: Why Shouldn't I Use WordPress for Top Rankings? To learn how to SEO a WordPress site, click that link to Yoast. They cover WordPress SEO better than anyone else.
The process of making a site "search engine-friendly"—also known as "SEO"—is probably the most important aspect of website design. Many, many commercial websites are designed and set up by people who know little or nothing about SEO; how to give the search engines what they need to see when they index your site.
Here's a short video that explains what SEO is all about, from our friends at Common Craft. Watch this to get an overview of why it is important to optimize a website for Google and Bing (which are really the only two major search engines left).
For a technical "how to" on optimizing Flash files, see this page from J E Hochman, and for a summary of the pros and cons of trying to optimize Flash, see this (old 2010) article from WebsiteMagazine.
Caveat: We do not recommend building a website in Flash for the simple reason that it won't display on any Apple products. Apple abandoned support for Flash some years back so it is now a dying medium. So please just don't use Flash! If you have a Flash-based website, contact us for how to get your site moved into HTML5 and CSS3.)
There are many small things you can do when designing or re-designing a site to get better rankings in the search engines — and every little bit helps in the end result. There is no one magic thing you can do to get top placement at Google or Bing for your website. But you can do a bunch of small things that will add up to excellent placement in the search engines for the key words you select that are relevant to your web pages.
Note: If you have a database-driven website, there are special concerns. Click here for more info on how to optimize a database-driven website for the search engines.
Also Note: If you have a website that is designed using <frames>, there are also special concerns about frames. Click here for more info on optimizing a frames-built website for the search engines.
If you are designing a site from scratch, see also especially this page: SEO Techniques in Web Design.
To get a good feel for what is required in optimizing a normal commercial website for the search engines, let's pretend we're creating a website which sells after-market accessories for the "Alfa Romeo Alfetta", a 70's 4-door sports car that provides a snap-your-head-back kind of driving experience. (It is a car with a small but fanatical base of fans.) Our site will sell floor mats, hood ornaments, key chains, steering wheels, and so on -- all for the Alfetta.
Exact Match Domains (called "EMDs") still help in the rankings at Google in 2021, and every little bit helps. For the perfect domain name match-up in a search engine so that a page of our "Alfa Romeo Alfetta" website comes up at the top of the search results, the website itself would be best named:
For more info on picking a good domain name for optimum search engine placement, and what you can do if you already have a domain name that isn't very good in this respect, click here. Don't sweat it if you haven't got a great domain name, you can skip this step and move on. This aspect of search engine optimization doesn't count for much; only a little. In past years, there was a huge benefit at Google to having an "exact match domain" that matched your key words -- but that's not as true today.
What type of website hosting company do you have? This can be very important to Google and Bing. Free website hosting is usually bad for search engine rankings, for several reasons. Nearly free (advertising-supported) or free "affiliate" website hosting is bad for your rankings at Google and Bing, for many of the same reasons. If you have an "affiliate website", provided by a company like Amway or some other multi-level marketing company, all the other affiliate websites look exactly the same and contain the same products and descriptions. There is just no reason Google would want your affiliate site to go to the top of their results, unless you are the only Amway distributor in your little town and someone two blocks from you is searching for their local distributor. Even then, it seems Google may penalize all the duplicate content in your site, and so your site may not show up in their results even if it is a perfect match.
But more importantly, if your web hosting company has some "bad hats" (spammers or pornographers or whatever) who have been banned from Google and/or Bing for good reason, your site could also be banned "by association" because, to Google, your site's IP address looks to be the same one the bad hats are using or once used. To Google and Bing, your site may have the identical numeric IP address of a known spammer; that is, the IP address belonging to your web hosting company, and now assigned to your website. Even if the web hosting company kicked off the spammer or pornographer from their hosting, the IP address used by that "bad" site may be remembered long afterward by Google. You can have email delivery problems and ranking problems because of the IP address your hosting company dynamically assigns to your website.
An important SEO factor is that your website should have its own "static, dedicated" IP address. In other words, its numeric IP address should be stable, and not be different every time someone types in your URL and goes to your website. An IP address that changes every time someone requests your website is called a "dynamic" IP Address and is typical of Windows IIS Hosting as well as some Apache servers. Big hosting companies typically use "dynamically assigned" IP addresses, which work this way: when someone types in your URL into her browser, the HTTP request is presented to your hosting company's server, which quickly assigns an IP address to your website files on its server and connects the visitor to your files. For various technical reasons, this is not as good for rankings as having the same IP address all the time.
Google has been known to try to get to the IP address to determine if the website is "cloaked", meaning it is serving different content to Google than it is to human visitors. That's a very bad thing, in Google's eyes. So if they get different content from your IP address than they get from your normal website call, then it can lead to confusion at Google. Confusion is not good.
If you are serious about getting good search engine rankings for your site, you need to have a static, dedicated IP address for it. If you don't know what kind of IP address you have, call or email your web hosting company and find out whether your IP address for your site is static and dedicated, or dynamic. If it is a static, dedicated IP address, they should be able to tell you exactly what your static numeric IP address is. Find out what that is. For example, the static numeric IP address for Words in a Row is: 220.127.116.11. If your site actually has a static, dedicated IP address, you should be able to type it into your browser and go directly to your website. If you don't actually get to your website by typing in its IP address, then you don't have one.
You can also "ping" a website to find out the IP address being used. For example, if you open a DOS command prompt window on your Windows PC, (which you can get to by clicking on
Start > All Programs > Accessories > Command Prompt) you can type the following:
and the ping will return the IP address of 18.104.22.168.
For Mac users: you can ping by going to
Network Utilities or
You can ping any website, get its IP address, and try to reach it through the
http:// protocol at that IP address. Try it on my website:
Clicking that link should take you directly to my website.
If your website has a static, dedicated IP address, you'll get to your website if you type your IP address into your browser bar. If not (and that's usually the case) you'll either get taken to a different website, or a generic message from the server saying that there's no website configured at that address.
Now take the numeric IP address you received from the ping, and type it in your browser after typing "http://". Don't put in "www" — just type the four numbers after the "http://". If it returns a
404 page not found or some site other than yours! then you have a dynamic IP address. If your site shows up in your browser, then that four-part number is your static, dedicated IP address.
If your hosting company does not offer static, dedicated IP addresses, my advice is that you should change web hosting companies. Pixelgate.net is a good choice if you need your own dedicated server (most websites do not need that) but not your only choice. You could instead use Verio or many others. Even Godaddy.com offers cheap hosting with a dedicated static IP address, for an extra $3.00/month (last time I checked).
Our company, Words in a Row, also offers website hosting, but only to our marketing or web development clients.
Unless you are locked into a proprietary shopping cart or content management system, it is not usually very difficult or expensive to move your site from one hosting company to another. Just make sure your new hosting company will give your site a static, dedicated IP address.
It has been our experience, with all other factors being equal, that a website with its own static, dedicated IP address will rise slightly higher in the rankings at Google and Bing, over those with dynamic IP addresses. This is something your hosting company may well dispute—especially if they don't normally provide static, dedicated IP addresses. Google has denied that it makes a difference. In our experience, that is not true; it helps.
The vast majority of all IP addresses on the web are dynamically assigned, so do not be surprised if your site has a dynamic IP address when you check it. Also consider this: a disproportionately large percentage of websites at the top of the search results DO have static, dedicated IP addresses.
One easy way to get a static, dedicated IP address from a reluctant web hosting company is to tell them that you want to make your website "secure", meaning that you want them to install a security certificate on your website. That will enable you to use the
https:// (i.e., "secure") protocol on your website, instead of
http://. See the next panel down for why that's also a very good idea!
A security certificate, when properly installed, will require a static, dedicated IP address for your website. So you also get the benefits of a static IP address when you have a secure website. (See panel above on that subject.)
But the main benefit you get from installing a security certificate on your website is one of trust. Your visitors will trust that if they give you their personal information, it won't be accessible to just anybody on the web. And Google will trust that your site isn't "fly-by-night" and is trying to protect your visitors. Because having a security certificate is a Google "Trust Factor" as well. (There are several more of these trust factors -- so keep reading!)
Google has publicly stated that they will favor with better rankings those websites that are secure. This is one of a very few things Google has publicly admitted to making a difference in their ranking algorithm. Note: As far as we can tell, they haven't yet actually boosted the rankings of any websites that have a security certificate. But we have observed Google has penalized websites that don't have security certificates. This is especially true for websites that have forms requesting information from visitors. If those forms are not secure, then it apparently a violation of a Google trust factor.
Your next step should be to do some homework and figure out what your key word phrases should be for your website pages. You need to make a short list of up to half a dozen related keyword phrases for each page of the site you want to optimize. Each phrase should be no more than three or four words. It is okay if the same words are in more than one keyword phrase, and it is okay if some of the pages overlap their keyword phrases.
Examples of related keyword phrases which describe the merchandise for sale on a particular page:
For each page of your website, you should wind up with a list of about half a dozen keyword phrases, each from two to four words long. Longer phrases can be great (called the "long tail") but won't bring as much traffic. Single words are mostly useless because they are too general. The word "Software" for example, is ignored by many search engines; it is what they call a "stop" word, like "the" or "a"—they just ignore it when you search for it, unless you put it inside quotation marks or otherwise make it clear it must be part of your search.
For more info about picking the right key word phrases for your website, click here. There are several tools that will help you pick the right keywords. One great free tool is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. You'll need to sign up (it costs nothing for a Google AdWords account to use this free tool.)
Another good place to get keyword suggestions is from Google itself! Go to Google, start typing in a phrase, and see what ELSE Google suggests in the dropdown box immediately beneath what you started typing. Those listings are "keyword phrases" arranged by VOLUME, meaning that the most popular searches are shown at the top of the list they give you.
The real trick is to use keyword phrases such that, when someone clicks through to your website from the link on Google in the search results, it makes the user happy! Google will know if it doesn't, because that user will bounce back and click the next website displayed at Google. Over time, too much of that kind of bouncing from your site will result in worse rankings. Because Google's USERS aren't happy with your site.
In keeping with our example, here are some good pages names. These page names help Google figure out what is on the page:
A note about using dashes: for many years Google has "understood" that a a dash (also called a "hyphen") is a word separator. Google has also "understood" that an underscore (also called an "underline") is a word joiner. So if you want to make a new word for Google, just use an underscore to join words together. "hood_ornament" is not the same as "hood-ornament" to Google. Google treats a dash as a "space" character, used to separate the words. Google treats an underscore as a joiner, making a new word called "hood_ornament". Maybe Google's new AI is figuring out that many people used underscores to separate words. Maybe not. Why take a chance?
And here are some examples of page names NOT to use. These page names do not help Google make sense of what is on the page.
There are several "tags" that go into the HTML code for a page of a website. These tags are placed in the HEAD of the page, between the
</HEAD> tags. These are invisible to the average person browsing the site (visible only if they look at the source code), but are used by Google and Bing when they come crawling through your site to gather and index the information on each page. These meta tags should be present on every page of the website. The most important tags are:
<title>tag -- there's a title tag on each page that should summarize what the page is about in as few words as possible.
<meta> descriptiontag -- which is the snippet from your website that a searcher will see if Google shows your page in its search results. So make it something worth clicking. Keyword phrases in this tag don't count toward your ranking at Google, but putting a Call to Action in this tag is highly recommended.
<meta> Canonicaltag. This is a tag that Google invented, so that you can tell Google what the exact address (URL) is of the page it is crawling through. "Canon" means "Name" in Latin. That tag sounds kind of unnecessary, right? But it turns out to be very important and useful to Google.
Learn more about these important meta tags in the following panels. I'll give you examples of what they should look like.
Note well: The
"keyword" <meta> tag used to be important but is basically useless and possibly even harmful now. If your site has keyword meta tags on your pages, we recommend removing them completely from all your pages.
Each individual page of our site would contain a <title> tag, something like this:
<title>Alfa Romeo Alfetta Accessories</title>
What we put in the title tag for any page is based on the keyword phrases we figured out above. The title tag should contain the main thing that page is focused on. Using our Alfa Romeo Alfetta website, for example, if the page is about floor mats for the Alfa Romeo Alfetta, then the title ought to be:
<title>Floor Mats for 1979-1982 Alfa Romeo Alfetta</title>
The title tag shouldn't contain more than 60 characters. You're better off if you can make it seven words long or less (discounting words like "and" and "for", which Google ignores anyway).
The <title> tag must contain the main keyword phrase for which you are optimizing that particular page. Google places heavy emphasis on what is in your page's <title> tag. So does Bing. Use them well
You don't have to put the main keyword phrase for the whole website into every page's title tag. Using our Alfa Romeo Alfetta example, if the page is your "About us" page, then you'd title it, "About us". Or "About our company" or "About Alfetta Parts Inc."
The <meta> description tag is a description of the page. It can contain our keyword phrase for the specific page we are describing, but it should primarily be written from the viewpoint of, "If someone sees this at Google in their search results, what will make them click it instead of one of the other results?"
<meta name="description" content="Brake pads for the Alfa Romeo Alfetta, 1979-1982, for sale here. Click here to get the exact brake pads you need. Paypal and credit cards accepted.">
This tag should describe the specific page it is supposed to describe, not the whole website. This is supposed to be a snippet of text, which shows up at Google or Bing when someone is lucky enough to find this page in a search there. So don't make the description contain more than about 150 characters. Describe the page! It doesn't hurt if it contains your key word phrase for the page, but it doesn't help your rankings, either. The text you put in here is your chance to get a possible visitor to pick your page from all the others Google and Bing have listed on their search results page.
Don't repeat keywords in any meta tag, because that can get a site banned from a Google for something called "spamdexing", which means trying to "spam" the index of a search engine. It's also known as "keyword stuffing". Don't do it! For more info on how to avoid spamming the search engines, click here.
To reiterate: The description meta tag must include a call to action, such as "Call for a free consultation" or "Click here for a discount coupon" or something else to make it stand out, so people will select it and click on it when your listing does show up on the page of query results at Google or Bing.
For every page on your website, create a "Canonical" tag that tells Google and Bing exactly what the name of the page is.
The "canonical" tag goes in the
HEAD area of the page, and on this page, looks like this:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.wordsinarow.com/seo.html">
The important thing about a canonical tag is that Google uses it to keep things in their index straight. From Google's point of view, the name of the page can seem confused and contradictory.
For example, all these URLs point to exactly the SAME PAGE, which is the page you are looking at now:
So to help Google consolidate all information it gathers about that page into one URL, I've used a canonical tag that basically tells Google, "Hey, Google! Ignore all the other possible page names and use this ONE URL as the name of my page, no matter how you got here."
Back to our Alfa Romeo Alfetta website example: It will have "headings" like the one at the top of this section. It was created using heading tags that look like this: <H4>Put Keyword Phrases in Headings</H4>.
These "headings" make your browser display the text larger and set it aside from the rest of the text, on its own line. Google and Bing will look for and index our headings when they index the pages of our site. So our headings should ALSO contain the main keyword phrases for our site, like this:
And so on through as many headings (in this case our products for sale on this page) as we want to include on that page.
Any heading should describe the paragraph(s) or section(s) which follow it on the page.
Headings appear to be given some slight extra weight in the search engines. Google and Bing booth appear to give the keyword phrases in headings a little more value than elsewhere on the page. Don't neglect to use headings. Use them to set off areas of text, in the same way this page you are reading now is divided up by the blue and white headings of the panels.
Note: Some website designers dislike using headings because they tend to be big clunky elements in default website layout; heading can add a lot of space down the page. You can easily handle this problem by using a simple inline style command, like this:
<H1 style="margin-bottom: 5px; font-size: 12px;">This will make a small H1 heading with a small space below it!</H1>
<H1> headings should be reserved for branding of your site. H2 tags should be used for keyword phrases, to help visually outline the information contained on the paage. Don't use more than one H1 tag on a page. Heading tags are supposed to work to create an outline format, for presentation of information, exactly as we learned about in grade school.
Our optimized page would contain TEXT of at least 300 words, with the relevant keyword phrases occurring in the text. It's preferable to have as much as 1500 words of relevant text on a page. You'll get better results from both Google and Bing if you have more text on a page, rather than less.
There's some controvery over whether Google actually uses "latent semantic indexing" (LSI) to determine how relevant that keyword phrase you're using actually is to other phrases on the page. If a particular phrase in the text occurs along with other phrases that would normally accompany that phrase in conversation, or in a written page, then Google is likely to think it is more relevant. Semantic indexing is a good thing, up to a certain point.
The main thing is to make sure you have enough text on a page to describe what you do or what you're selling on that page; something that makes your page a resource worth indexing and worth showing to possible visitors who search for that same text at Google and Bing.
The page you are reading now usually ranks on page 1 or 2 of Google's results in a search for "DIY SEO". Have you noticed how incredibly long this page is? It's about 7500 words long. Google likes long, authoritative pages!
A note about keyword phrases and text: don't just throw in the same keyword phrases again and again on a page, and don't make lists of your keywords; don't make your keywords white text on a white background, etc. Those are forms of "keyword stuffing", upon which Google will not look kindly. What should be used are variants of your keyword phrases, which would naturally occur when writing about the subject of your page, or when talking about it.
It doesn't take a lot of writing to put together 1500 words on a page. On your way toward writing 1500 words on a subject, don't keep repeating yourself, and don't just throw the same phrases into what you're writing, over and over. Google will eject that kind of repetitious garbage. Note: Years ago, that repititious use of words used to be very effective SEO. Nowadays, it will only create problems at Google and Bing. So don't do it!
Create stellar TEXT content. Don't settle for mediocre content about your products, full of marketing buzzwords. It saddens me to see websites where one cannot easily figure out what the website is actually about. All that work, wasted on paragraphs about "solutions" and "paradigm shifts" and "empowerment" and "synergy"; they seem to be intentionally created to hide what's really going on there.
Pictures displayed on a website can and should contain a little text description that only shows up when you move your mouse over the picture. That little description is called an "ALT tag" or, more properly, an "ALT attribute" ("ALT" is short for "alternate"). Hold your mouse over the picture of the car for a couple of seconds and your browser may display the ALT tag for the picture.
Google and Bing index the text in those ALT tags, so we will make sure we label every picture on our website with an ALT attribute--every last image. Wherever it is possible and appropriate, each ALT tag will contain a keyword phrase for the page.
Note: If you have little graphic elements like stars or lines or borders that are created using images, DO NOT stuff them with keywords. Call the images what they actually are in the alt tags, or leave the alt tag empty if that info isn't helpful to visitors. Here's why:
Visually handicapped visitors to your site will also use the ALT attributes to tell them what a picture is showing. There is special browser software for the blind which reads aloud to the person everything that's on a web page. If there are no alt tags, the pictures are "invisible" to them, so it is worthwhile and helpful to them to put an alt tag on every picture. If you can appropriately place some keyword phrases in those alt tags, so much the better.
This article by Robin Nobles quotes SEO researcher Jerry West's research showing that the alt tag is not used by Google at all. My own research tells me that alt tags are only a small part of what the search engines do look at.
Even so, I still recommend that you put alt tags on all images (because that is one thing needed to make your HTML code "valid", and that you put keyword phrases in the alt tags of any images that you use as links where using keywords would be appropriate in helping to describe the image to someone who cannot view the image (i.e., someone who is visually impaired or who is using a text-only browser). My research shows that Google does use those alt tags describing the image used as a link to determine what the page the link points to is all about.
You need to have an alt tag on every image (in order to have valid HTML code), but page design element images (such as lines, color blocks, etc.) should just have an empty alt tag, like this:
alt="". Screen readers will skip over those when saying aloud what is on the page. Also, if you give design elements names that are just numbers, such as 1.jpg, 2.jpg, etc., then Google won't bother indexing them, and they won't dilute the importance of images that you DO want Google to index, such as your product images. Don't use numbers as the names of product images if you want Google to index them. Try to use keyword-rich image names and alt tags, of any image that you want Google to index.
Bottom line: Keep the information in image alt tags "real"; don't stuff keywords into them. But DO use keyword phrases in alt tags where appropriate.
Bonus info 1: Take this one step further, and also create a "caption" for your featured photos on your web pages. See the text under the photo above, that says what it is? That's a caption. Without it, you'd just see a nondescript brown car, and wouldn't know what you were looking at. Google works pretty much the same way, with images.
Bonus info 2: For even better results, also NAME the image something helpful to Google, like "gold-alfa-romeo-alfetta.jpg", instead of the unhelpful "alfa1.jpg" (which is what I named that image nearly 20 years ago, before I knew the information on this page!)
The code for a link on a website usually looks something like this:
<a href="alfa-romeo-floor-mats.html">Text being linked</a>
Website coders call those "anchor tags" — that's what the "a" stands for: anchor. Normal web visitors call them links.
Sample Anchor Tag:
<a href="alfetta-floor-mats.html">Alfetta Floor Mats </a>
That's if the link points to the floor-mats.html page. Make sure the words that you wrap the anchor tag around are keyword phrases, too, when possible.
In our experience, a robots meta tag with instructions to index and follow the links on the page is simply ignored by the search engines. You can safely omit the robots meta tag if that's all you have been using it for. In the old days of the net (a few years ago) you might have put this tag in the head of your document:
<meta name="robots" content="index,follow">
It might have done some good a few years back but in today's world you can leave it out. Notice in the code of the page you're reading, about SEO, there is no keywords meta tag. Really, no joke, you can stop using it on pages you want Google to index.
The robots meta tag is more useful for pages you do NOT want indexed. If you don't want a page to be indexed -- such as a test page, or a page you put up for your own use, then put this robots tag in the head of your document:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex">
That will help to keep the page out of the search engines that recognize and follow these tags. Of course, to actually prevent the page from being indexed by the search engines, you ALSO need to add the page name to the robots.txt file as one of the disallowed files. A robots meta tag is not enough to prevent the page from being indexed by some of the search engines that ignore them completely.
But even that may not be enough to keep Google or Bing or Yandex from indexing a page.
The only way to be absolutely sure that a page isn't indexed by any search engine is to require a password to view the page. (Which is trivially easy to do.)
Here's an example of a sitemap file from my own site:
It lets Google and Bing know where every page of my site is, and what priority I give to each page on my website.
If you have a huge site (thousands of pages) then you can break it up into sections and use many sitemap.xml files.
Don't forget to put the address of that sitemap in your robots.txt file.(See panel below for more info on robots.txt files.) Here's what the line looks like in the robots.txt file:
A robots.txt file is useful for telling Google two things:
You might well ask, "Why should I bother to make a robots.txt file, if I want Google to index all of my site?" Good question! The answer is, you want to give Google the location of your sitemap.xml file. And you also want to make sure that there's no instruction in your robots.txt file for Google to avoid the site and NOT INDEX it. I have several times been contacted by website owners who have complained bitterly of their websites not being in Google's index and never showing up in a search result, who (unbeknownst to them) had a robots.txt file that banned Google from doing so. It seems to be a favorite trick of disgruntled webmasters to create havoc after being fired. And sometimes a web designer will put a robots.txt file that bans Google from indexing a development site, then forget to remove it when making that development website into the "live" version of the website. Oops!
You can check your existing robots.txt file through the Google Search Console, under the left-hand menu,
Crawl > robots.txt tester
Here's the Wikipedia article on sitemaps, which gives an overview.
Here's an example robots.txt file we might put on a typical website:
We're asking Google and Bing (and all the other search engines) to not crawl our cgi-bin and clients folders, and we've disallowed the Fasterfox browser from crawling through the website at all.
And we've communicated the location of the sitemap for this website to the search engines so they will go crawl it.
To see the robots.txt file in place on Words in a Row, click here
After our website is created and working, we would then go out and find as many other websites as feasible that might have an interest in linking from their site to ours, contact them and convince them to set up such links. This is even more difficult than it sounds.
Of course, you also want to go set up your Facebook page, your Google Plus Page, a Twitter account and claim your listing at Yelp. Make sure there's a link from each of those pages to your site. If you make handmade items, be sure to list them on Etsy. If you also sell things through CraigsList or eBay, make sure those contain a link to your site as well.
The rule of thumb is: The more relevant links there are to our site, the better placement it will have in the rankings. A lone website with no links to it from anywhere else is a very sad thing. It has no friends. So get plenty of relevant links to your site. Ten links to your site is a good start. A thousand links wouldn't be too many.
Don't bother with the old Free For All Links pages. "FFA" links pages don't work, and no one actually uses them any more. You'll get penalized at Google if you do. You want links from websites that are similar to yours, or which provide related services, or which contain specialty listings or directories of your type of business.
Don't buy links in "private networks" or "link networks" -- Google penalizes websites that do. Don't leave random "drive-by" links to your website on other people's blogs or forums. Article directories and Press Release sites can be good for one or two links to your site, but realize that after the first link from one website to your site, subsequent links from that same website don't count for anything worthwhile.
To see a sampling from Google of the websites that are currently linking to your site, go to Google and type in your domain name like this:
Of course, you'll want to substitute your actual domain name instead of mydomainnamehere.com.
That will give a partial list of websites that Google shows linking to yours. [Note that the Google toolbar's "backlinks" or "links:" function are broken and have been for many years — they give incorrect results.]
We list several places to get inbound links on our page covering how to get links.
In years past, directories (such as the Yahoo! Directory) were a great place to get links.... but not so much these days. Most of the good ones have gone out of business, and the general business directories that still exist are useless as far as Google counting them as links to your website and helping with your rankings there.
If you can find a human-edited specialty directory of your services or products, which is also free to submit your site, such as this one here on my site, of Opt-in Email List Providers, then by all means get a link from that directory to yours. But if a directory is a general directory, it won't help your rankings to have a link from it to your site.
If you want to list your website in a particular directory because it makes sense to you to do so, then go ahead. Business.com comes to mind. Just don't expect a listing with them to help your rankings.
We used to maintain a list of about the top 30 directories where it was worthwhile to register a website. We no longer do because it's not worthwhile in 2021.
Google and Bing will find your site if there are any links to it from anywhere, so no, it's not absolutely necessary to register your website with them.
That said, it doesn't hurt anything to register your site at Bing.
And you might as well make sure Google knows about your website, too, in several locations. There's no harm in it. So, register your website in the Google Search Console (here are directions to submit your sitemap file to Google Search Console) and register your website in Google My Business.
Despite the many articles on the web about the "Death of SEO" we are please to report SEO is still alive and doing well. We have gotten and continue to get top placement at Google for many of our clients.
One of my clients sent me this in July of 2017, after a lot of work to handle various problems. (This was for a WordPress website which depends utterly on being on Page 1 of Google for its search terms.)
Dear Jere you are awesome!
We are number five on page one.
Thanks for reading all this. We hope that it will help you design (or re-design) your website to optimize it for the search engines. If you need help doing that, you can contact us here. SEO is our specialty.
There's a lot more than what we list here, that can be done to effectively optimize a commercial website in a very competitive market; not every SEO technique is listed here, just the basics that we try to use on every site we optimize.
"I would like to say thank you for providing such great information. I recently opened an e-tail business, and realized that my site had not been submitted properly or optimized at all. I did not know how to do this myself, and did not have the funds to pay someone else. I used the knowledge gained from your site and am now in the top 5 listings .... Thank you so much for giving such great information in order to help others be successful!"
"... I checked on Google this morning, and I'm on the first page for two of my main search terms. Looking through my order book, there is a huge increase in orders since you did the [search engine optimization of my] site. March was a very slow month in my store, but the internet orders made up for the slump."