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So, here is what I believe to be the case based on the results I've seen:
Google is keeping track of the top level paid directories and submitting to them can actually lower your ranking.
Submitting to Yahoo, Dmoz, BOTW etc. did not have this effect. The next group down (i.e. still high PR, still manual review but obviously just a directory for the sake of link building) are the dangerous ones. You know, the ones that appear in every list of "top paid directories to submit to".
The concept makes sense to me. Submitting to these directories shows that you are trying to artificially increase your ranking as they have no other real worth and you can't get into them without paying unlike Dmoz or Yahoo. BUT, if this is the case then if as little as five submissions caused a ranking drop that's a very cheap way for your competitors to sabotage you.
The number of original backlinks to each site varied and the effect did not seem to be as strong on sites that had really old backlinks as opposed to the newer sites I used.
Surely they would just not count the links as apposed to dropping the rankings. Especially since it is "very cheap way for your competitors to sabotage you."
Search for thread in this forum for "things competitors can do to harm your rankings in Google". 450 results showing in a site:WW search!
If those links had initially given you a boost is rankings, Google may discount those links causing your site to drop back to the previous position. So it may appear that you are being hurt, but in reality the links that were helping you are now just ineffective.
No longevity given, after the first backlink update the site had dropped and it never recovered. The test now is whether removing them will undo the drop! I'll be sure and post if there's a change.
the effect did not seem to be as strong on sites that had really old backlinks as opposed to the newer sites I used.
I don't think what you're seeing necessarily says avoid 2nd tier Paid Directories as much as it says make sure that you have a diverse link profile that is similar to leaders in the area you are targeting. Just look at the -950 penalty and how it targets specific phrases for pages based on many different variables. Your anchor text and title tag might be good enough for #1, if you didn't have the keyword stuffed in the footer... In other words those links could well be useful if other on and offsite factors were different.
This is an assumption, that I don't really believe the brightest bulbs in the pack at the plex would buy into. It sounds pretty uniformed to me.
The instant gratification of traffic now, and the resulting sales, can hardly be compared to being listed in serps in position #22, increased to postiion #18 when popularity is upgrade due to inbound links. Add nothing to nothing and you still get nothing.
Now, if you are talking about straight link exchanges, with a one line link found buried on page 10,245 of a web site, I might buy into it. The only reason for posting a link there is to gain popularity, not immediate traffic.
Those 'link exchange' websites, should not be compared, confused or grouped with straight forth industry directories that provide a very valuable immediate traffic service to their nitch.
Directories of these type have been a main fixture in industry for many decades, long before the web was even a concept. If anything, they have more value to industry within the nitches they represent, than the new kids on the block, search engines.
After all, within a nitch directory, all you get is relevant content. Within search results you get force fed content that isn't even remotely related.
An example would be the Thomas directory. Within those pages you would NEVER find a paragraph about a family eating tomato and bacon finger foods on the beach, with photographs they took for their friends, just because tomato sauce is sold by a manufacturer. The two are not connected for finding vendors in the root of the supply chain. Yet, that type of unrelated content is exactly what you get, more times than not, from search engine results.
I will say though that when I develop websites I focus on Trust in the first 3-4 months, and this means only listings in what I call the 'top 5'
Generally I fill in the other directories over time, but have never seen a reason to hit them first, since it is fairly obvious at this point which ones pass value and trust and which do not.
With what you are calling 'second tier' directories getting milions of page views a day,
No they're not.
and sending thousands of highly targeted visitors to the websites that pay to advertise on them,
No they don't.
as well as to those who are listed in the directory FREE of charge,
They don't list for free.
I think it is hardly fair to say that the reason for being linked to from a directory is for increased ranking.
99.9% of the time that is the reason someone has bought a listing in a directory. Even Yahoo and MSN.
I think you have misunderstood my post. Are you talking about sites like Yellow Pages and Thomson Local?
[edited by: tedster at 7:16 am (utc) on June 14, 2008]
It's tough to know if this is just a visual deterrant for people looking to buy links on high PR pages or whether these pages have actually been flagged as lower quality pages.
Unlike link farms I don't think Google will penalise sites linked to by these Y! or BOTW, maybe just dramatically reduce the value it gives to outbound links on that page.
Personally, I've got a sneaking feeling that this is Google taking a hissy fit because these top directories are refusing to obey Goog's "nofollow" rel tag demands ... drop their PR (which probably contributes to a large chunk of the reasons people are buying links in those directories in the first place) and drop their sales a bit till they give in or something ...
Just some thoughts
[edited by: tedster at 2:46 pm (utc) on June 14, 2008]
[edit reason] moved from another location [/edit]
It's possible that Yahoo changed their linking somehow, or that there was an issue on our side with how we canonicalized a url, but I do know that the Yahoo Directory has PageRank in our internal system, so I'll ask folks here about it. Thanks for mentioning this.
BOTW has been showing a lot of interal gray bars for quite a while. Not only that, one site I work with runs a human edited directory as just part of the whole, has also been showing a similar pattern since last fall - visible and strong PR on top level pages only, then an abrupt drop-off to gray bar.
I have done a bit of testing, and the gray bar pages still appear to send help. After all, gray bar indicates "no data" and not zero (an all white bar).
First Yahoo Directory, now BOTW too. Seems like even the "trusted" directories are getting grey-barred on their internal pages. It's tough to know if this is just a visual deterrant for people looking to buy links on high PR pages or whether these pages have actually been flagged as lower quality pages.
I would tend to agree with the premise that Google is manually adjusting TBPR on those websites that have trust. Notice how Matt said that Yahoo! had PR based on their internal systems. Well, I think the same applies to all those that are now gray. I mean, if your directory home page is PR6 and then everything under that is gray, and its been out there for a few years, and those pages are performing, I think we can assume that there is manual intervention at play.
It also puts an end to all the "Our link pages are PR4" type statements. No longer will advertisers be able to sell based on PR. It really puts a rather large kink in the armor as they say. ;)
So if you built a site five years ago and began link development with directory submissions but then grew the site to the point where you were starting to get freely given editorial links, you should expect that those old directory submissions could come back to haunt you and torpedo your site. Bull. No one could logically justify that. Reducing the advantage gained from directory submissions is a different matter.