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Earlier this year I asked a SEO company to optimize my small e-commerce site. They told me useful things like using appropriate tags around <H3>Headers</H3> etc but they also added my url to quite a number of dodgy looking directories, like the old Yahoo directory but more naff. Since I have seen my Google listing go down and not Up. Could these bad links be causing this?
I had optimized the site myself the best I could but I thought a decent SEO would do a far better job...not the case.
It is quite possible that the one who chose the directories, also chose some poor reciprocal links: review every outgoing link for relevence, quality and value for your visitors. Remove every link to the seo.
Ther are tens of thousands of general directories, 95% of which are little more than link exchanges or adsense display cases. None of that lot have any SEO value, and could damage you - though that is unlikely.
It is only that small group of quality directories that matters in any way; choose them yourself, or use a submission service that demonstrates that it understands the difference.
Quadrille's 3rd Law "Never submit to directories; submit to Quality Directories - and know the difference"
For example: Content
Once you get beyond first impressions, a detailed look at the directory is essential; look at the category where you wish to submit your site, then look at a few other random categories
What To Look For
Do the existing sites reflect the category name? Are there many empty categories? Try a few links; are there deadlinks, or sites that no longer match the description?
Category descriptions should be mainly factual, and in a consistent style. And they should ensure you don't get surprised on arrival! There's no perfect length for descriptions; I favour minimal - but long enough to inform. Be suspicious of directories which fill a page for each site; it's often better to visit the site itself (But you decide).
Titles should look like titles (not a bunch of keywords). Mouseover the links - do they go where they should?
Search for specialist directories that match your topic, as well as 'general' directories.
What To Avoid
Be on the alert for categories filled with irrelevant or spam sites; on the web, you really are judged by the company you keep - if the editors are accepting rubbish, best walk away - there's plenty that will do a better job.
Descriptions written by someone who clearly does not understand the sites - or love stories written by the site owners - should ring alarm bells. We all know that we can write the very best description in the world, but sadly no-one else can, so it's best left to the editors!
There are directories that let every webmaster write what they like - you guessed it, they are terminally awful, and will do you no favors. Avoid!
Avoid directories with millions of categories and virtually no sites; we all start somewhere, but getting to 'critical mass' is the editor's problem, not yours. Equally, avoid directories with 1000 sites per category; a good directory would subdivide. Who ever visits site #999?
Avoid directories where you don't feel the editors are coping - eg lots of dead sites or ad-filled parked domains - your site is too important.
I could go on ... ;)
When people report disappointing results from directory submissions, a little probing often reveals that they weren't doing much else to cultivate links.
Submit to directories that satisfy your "signals of quality" check, but make sure you're doing other things to cultivate links as well.
If your rank went down shortly after the "SEO" company worked on your site check all your code and look for hidden text or links. Also look for a doorway page that doesn't have to be on your site. If all the directories they submitted to were reciprocated then that could be the problem also as Google has started penalizing sites with a majority of link trades and the way to get around this is to submit to directories that don't require a link trade (see below)..
Barring anything the above company did to your site you could be suffering from link rot--old links dying off due to sites expiring or Google devaluing links itself so you may just need to gather more links.
There are tens of thousands of general directories, 95% of which are little more than link exchanges or adsense display cases. None of that lot have any SEO value, and could damage you - though that is unlikely.
I wouldn't say "none" of them have any value. You have to search high and low but you can find some that put out PR and don't
require a link trade do a search for directories that pass PR. However, you have to check all their links to make sure they don't put sites in a frame or with a 302 redirect or have a "more details" page with your title in their title and too much of your info on that page so that they can outrank you for your own keywords (some scrapers put the title, description and keywords 6 times on one page). After you weed all those out you might find about 5% of directories that you check are worth submitting to. The lower PR directories often accept submissions for free but the othes often don't.
I disagree that incoming links can't hurt you and what Google claims re this matter is not true because if any of the directories that SEO company submitted your site to have 302 redirects pointing at your site your site could have been harmed by the redirect (this usually happens soon as the 302 is activated and will remove any affected page from Google's index). If your affected pages are no longer in the index, you need to get the 302 removed by writing the host, google spam, google adsense violations or any other advertiser on their site.
If an IBL (doorway, directories, etc) can hurt you, why don't I just create a few of some spammy sites and point it to all my competitors. I will be the only site left after Google have banned them all.
That's a big "if." Do you really believe that Google's engineers haven't learned to weigh inbound links and other factors in context?
They told me useful things like using appropriate tags around <H3>Headers</H3> etc
It's the etc that I'd look at first.
Dodgy self-proclaimed, or simply ill-informed, seo types have been known to advise doing on, and/or off, page stuff that could easily result in dropping in the serps.
And some otherwise normally helpful actions might result in a drop if they result in significant changes to a fairly well ranking page.
Keep in mind, the drop may be as much from a combination of actions as much as from from any one action.
Spammy links from scraper directories usually can't hurt you UNLESS like I stated when they repeat your title, description and keyword several times each on their "details" page. I have seen this affect several clent sites where this site <edited> is ranking higher than my clients (reported it to Google spam, etc. and now my client's rank is back although that site still has the page up--so google must have demoted the scraper's rank). I find these on nichebot keyword rank checker when another site comes up with the client's url in their title.
[edited by: tedster at 2:04 am (utc) on July 6, 2006]