|Penguin Update - Not All Directory Listings Are Spammy!|
The first onslaught of Penguin update is behind us. As someone who is an active SEO managing several websites and also the administrator of a popular web directory, I am seeing a lot of webmasters and SEOs rushing to remove their listings from web directories. This has got me pondering over if the Penguin update is all about profiling inbound links as directory links, forum links, blog links, so on and so forth, and removing all links belonging to a particular profile. But I beg to differ.
1. My first yardstick is to see if a page linking to your site is meant to give links out. Is a forum page carrying a signature link to your website is meant to carry such links? Is the guestbook on a site carrying a disproportional guest entries with links to some sites is meant to give out links? If it is such a page where the users are not likely to be benefited by links, then such links should be discounted. Is a directory page expected to give links? Yes, it is.
2. My second signal is, as you all know, the anchor text abuse. This has little to do with linking site profiling. If the linked to site has disproportional percentage of keyword anchor text in its inbound link profile, it is a case for it to remove such links or edit link anchor text where possible. Again, if the directory is not in the habit of giving Title just made of keywords, I don't see a reason why should they be removed.
3. And lastly, Neighborhood. Links placed in pages that is not relevant to the target site or bad neighborhood. Again, if a directory has stuck to its editorial integrity and not compromised on categorization or placed RoS links to Payday Loan sites, that directory can't be on ones hit list.
Just how useful are directory links, is a subject for debate on another day, but blindly going after all directory links, to me, is nonsensical.
If you have to pay a fee to get listed in a directory, then some might consider that to be a purchased link.
In my case, I submitted to a lot of free directories back in 2006 and 2007. Some of those directories later started charging a fee, and so it could appear now that my listings were purchased when in fact they weren't. In any case, Google should simply devalue those links, which would make it unnessary to remove the listings.
My criteria for directories is pretty much limited to 1) they have to be relevant, 2) they have to be strictly curated - not just anyone can get in, even with a credit card - and 3) they have to be directories that human beings actually deliberately visit, and not directories that only exist for the purpose of links. Payment doesn't enter into it - if it's a good directory that will provide traffic, I don't mind paying for it, and if it's curated, and relevant, I don't see anything wrong with it being free.
That filters out a lot of the garbage and it has worked out pretty well for me and my clients.
(Of course, there aren't a whole lot of directories like this for every niche)
When I started submitting to free directories in 2006, I knew virtually nothing about SEO. But I read somewhere that people should submit their sites to directories, and I discovered a forum where new directories were being annoounced. At that time at least 4 or 5 new free diratories were being launched everyday. I used a form filler to submit to them, and as a result the anchor text and descriptions were always the same. I was hoping to get some traffic, and actually did get 2 or 3 visitors a day, which at the time was almost as much as I got from Google..
Anyway, as I said above, some of these directories later started charging a fee, and some of these are still around. But I've got better ways to spend my time than to try to get any listings removed, so I suggest to Google that they simply devalue all directory links.
I agree - grouping all directories into the "bad link" category is wrong - some are good and useful. Remember that Yellowpages is a directory that links to you and it isn't penalized by Google - in fact it seems to me that Yellowpages has benefited from the penguin/panda updates, so all directories are not bad. I'm not saying we all need to rush out and get our business listed in the yellowpages - just making a point. I know of quite a few other directories out there that are still ranking, so it's not a "directory penalty".
I read somewhere that if you do a site: search and the directory no longer shows then it has been penalized - has anyone tried this?
Some people seem to be confused about the issue. The question isn't whether a particular directory is valuable or useful. No doubt some are. The real question is whether Google should use directory listings as a factor in its algorithm, either positively or negatively. I say they shouldn't.
A lot of low quality web directories are being removed from google and rightfully so.
Why people would try to remove these links is beyond me. I dont think these links would ever cause a penalty, just simply be devalued.
If a directory will let anyone in, then it probably will get hit. This is not too hard to tell from google. If a directory is linking out to a bunch of crap sites, then thats an easy way for them to see the directory is a free for all.
I wonder whether anyone with a quality website considers directory submission as a legitimate SEO practice anymore?
I've run a fairly well ranked directory for 8 years. I guess you could call it a 'niche' directory, but it's a large niche.
It used to get a decent percentage of quality sites being submitted, along with the crap sites. But over the last few years, it seems like 95% of the sites are pure garbage.
So I've pretty much stopped approving anything, but still add links on my own to sites I think are useful.
|If you have to pay a fee to get listed in a directory, then some might consider that to be a purchased link. |
This has been an area of confusion for a long while - no matter how much Google publicizes their viewpoint. Here's my understanding:
If the website is paying for editorial staff to review the site - and therefore the entry can still be turned down if it's not up to editorial standards - that is NOT considered a paid link. If the directory accepts every site that pays them, then that IS considered a paid link.
I happily purchase niche links in vendor directories (both online and print) for one of my clients, because they send traffic and I can directly attribute sales to them. I haven't looked; I suspect the links are not nofollowed, but I don't really care one way or the other, because they send *traffic.*
But unfortunately, it doesn't look like Google feels the same about it. The primary directory I've used was most likely hit by the first Panda and never fully recovered (they probably don't know to this day what hit them) But they're still an industry directory that my client's customers use, so they still send us traffic. Just less than they used to.
Directories on niche markets can prove extremely usefull to the user as they contain industry understanding of the subject and real human editing
|If the website is paying for editorial staff to review the site - and therefore the entry can still be turned down if it's not up to editorial standards - that is NOT considered a paid link. If the directory accepts every site that pays them, then that IS considered a paid link. |
I think the distinction would be unnessary if Google would simply devalue all links from dirctories. People could then buy all the directory links they want without having to worry about a penalty. And webmasters with money to spend wouldn't gain any advantage in Google's SERPs from buying directory links.
If Google did "devalue" directory links..I suspect 99% of webmasters who have bought them , would not do so again..
But that would ruin the FUD effect of the present state..If you* were Google and the name of the game was "keep webmasters and especially the majority of SEOs from knowing which way was up"..you* would do just like Google..
*you being used here in a "general sense" not talking to any individual here specifically ..:)
It doesn't make sense to remove your directory links, it's such a waste of time. First of all, practically, many directories won't even respond to such requests or act on them. Secondly, I don't think it's worth it.
As far as the value of directory links are concerned, I personally think they still offer some amount of value when obtained "smartly" - i) using a "large" variety of target terms in your submitted titles, ii) for newer sites - to incorporate some "branded non-commercial keywords" that would help make the link profile look more "natural"
Apart from general directory, there are also quite a few niche industry specific directories that do still hold some weight in terms of their link value. If you do analyze the backlink profile of many top ranking sites, you'll still find directory links as part of the link portfolio. We can't really tell how much value it adds but it does add to the diversity of the link profile.
The point is submitting to directories might still help but not if it's used as the only strategy in trying to build links. That would not make sense.
|That filters out a lot of the garbage and it has worked out pretty well for me and my clients. |
(Of course, there aren't a whole lot of directories like this for every niche)
IMO, this is a story from 10000 BC!
A few thoughts it is probably the overdoing of exact anchor text and too many such links all going to the home page - as directory links of course do which cause the demotions rather than the actual directories themselves.
|...If the linked to site has disproportional percentage of keyword anchor text in its inbound link profile, it is a case for it to remove such links or edit link anchor text where possible. Again, if the directory is not in the habit of giving Title just made of keywords, I don't see a reason why should they be removed. |
|...Again, if a directory has stuck to its editorial integrity and not compromised on categorization or placed RoS links to Payday Loan sites, that directory can't be on ones hit list. |
To expand a bit on these excellent points... it's important that the directory edits both the titles and descriptions it receives. Once upon a time, in my early days of SEO, I didn't used to think so. I was frustrated by directories that messed up my carefully optimized submissions.
I've come to understand that editing is how a directory comes by unique content. Even if directories varied the titles, most sites submitting to directories submit the same boilerplate descriptions.
So, editing helps you, if not for your own submission, then for all the others they accept. The quality of the editing is one of the factors to look for when choosing directories.
I wouldn't suggest new websites to submit links to directories, because the risk of losing credibility at the very beginning is higher than the benefit.
How diversified (and frequent) could your link profile be when you're just starting out?
Have seen many websites succeeded without active link building - If your site worth something, people will do the job for you and link to your pages.
I run a directory site in a small niche and in the last 2 months, my traffic has more than doubled - most of it from Google organic search.
I am skeptical how long this will last as the last time I saw a significant rise in organic G traffic, I was then hit with Mayday.
However, I use the url of the submitted site as the anchor text, I edit descriptions and I remove deep links.
A website can only exist once in the directory.
All submissions are free.
It's been running for nearly 5 years.
We do send traffic to the sites that are listed.
There is no other site that makes it easy to find resources for this particular niche (which is why I set the directory up), so I think my directory is a good resource, and just because it's a directory, links from it should not be discounted.
I am sure there are many others directory sites out there that add value to their niche as well.
Therefore, I don't think Google should blindly ignore all directory links...unfortunately, Google doesn't take advice from me ;)
Google may not consider paid directories a paid link but most webmasters do.
Robert Charlton, couldn't agree with you more. Same description (even well written) everywhere, borders on scraped content. Each directory should have its own code of writing description and stick to it.