The beginning of the end for directories?

There is a very interesting discussion going on over at Sphinn at the moment after an abundance of popular directories (60+) apparently no longer appearing for their brand names in Google.

After wildly accusing Rand Fishkin of giving Matt Cutts a backhander to ‘hand job’ the directories out of the results (seriously, wtf?!) the submitter of the story and others not following the Sphinn etiquette they were all put in their place by Danny Sullivan, and an interesting discussion unfolds.

Have they suffered a manual penalty or have they just suffered at the hands of the algo?

I’m going with the latter. It makes sense. Think about it – what is a directory… really? A link farm? A free for all? Essentially, yes. Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme, and it’s not fair to tarnish all directories with the same brush, but I’ve never really been convinced by directories being classed as ‘authoritative’ websites because they go through a ‘human editorial’ process. My experience of paid directories has been that if you’re willing to pay, you’re in (apart from the typical pills, porn, blah blah blah). Sure, a human review takes place but it is more likely a review of their Paypal account than of the website submitted. The only exceptions to this rule (as I have found out to my cost) seem to be the Yahoo directory and business.com who will actually reject your submission (and keep your money!) if your site doesn’t exactly meet their guidelines. Good on them!

Why shouldn’t Google punish directories for selling links? We know Google can algorithmically remove the ability of pages to pass Pagerank if they are known to be selling links (that aren’t nofollowed, JavaScripted, robotstxt excluded etc), so why should directories be any different? They shouldn’t, and apparently now a lot of them aren’t

So what will it mean?

Hopefully this will also mean a reduction of threads at DP and the like, that typically go along the lines of “Quick - First 10,000 people only - $5 featured listing on my same-as-every-other PHPld directory - newly installed on a PR2 domain which I bought for $1 to try and make some quick money!!”

Seriously though if directories are not ranking for their own brand or domain they are not going to be passing any link juice (I hate that phrase) to sites listed within. SEOers will therefore stop submitting to them and spend their money on other spammy link networks quality, relevant link sources.

Websites already listed in these directories, relying on their link juice (ugh) will likely see a slip, or in some cases a tumble down the SERPs. A good kick up the backside for their SEO team to be a bit more innovative with their link building campaigns IMO!

Maybe all directories will add link condoms (another phrase I despise!) to all their listings, and continue to make a good amount of money by selling the ‘direct traffic benefits’… Yeah right! How many referrals have your sites received directly from a directory? Did those visitors generate enough revenue for you to justify the $99 annual fee (or whatever it is) that you forked out? Thought not! Without the ability to positively manipulate the rankings of submitted sites, directories are nothing.

Posted by Andy Heaps on September 6th, 2007 | Filed in Google |

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