Using Logic to Prove that Directory Links are NOT Worthless

Written on September 2, 2008 – 8:37 am | by bigoak |

It’s faddish these days to walk around saying, “Directory links are worthless,” or “Directory links aren’t that effective for SEO anymore.”  I don’t know where the people who seeded this myth (or the parrots who repeat it in lockstep) came from, but I know how to make them flip their opinion straight away.  By using logic.

Recently a colleague of mine was looking at a client’s backlinks in Google webmaster tools and noticed that about 20 of them were coming from a single directory submission to directory name removed to preserve its effectiveness*.  I had included about 20 tags when I did the directory submission, and Google had indexed and cached each page that was created in the directory via tagging.  The fact that Google spiders this directory often and felt it was important enough to show as 20 backlinks to a site in webmaster tools would indicate to a rational person that Google trusts this directory a great deal.

Yet there are still people who like to make the generalization that directory link building is dead. Why?  Well, the generalization seemed to begin after it became clear that Google was on a crusade to torture directories that sold links.  When Google feels like it, it will go to a random directory that sells links, knock down its PageRank, decache half its pages, and make sure it doesn’t rank for its own name.

The fact that the only way Google can handicap the power of a directory is to manually punish it should indicate to a logical person that directory links must carry weight in the algorithm.  And based on what we know about the algorithm, the links should carry weight.  Google likes links surrounded by similar links, and that’s the essence of what a page in a web directory is–it’s just a collection of links surrounded by similarly-themed links.

Google can’t just devalue all paid directory links in the same way that it can devalue, say, sitewide links because directories don’t leave footprints that the algorithm can discover on its own.  As a result, the only way Google can reduce the effectiveness of a directory link is to manually visit a directory in question and punish it.  Therefore, Google only punishes directories that sell links to a.) create the public perception that buying directory links isn’t effective anymore and b.) rob directories of power in the only way it can–through manual penalties.  Ergo, broad sweeping generalizations like “directory links are worthless,” have no place in civilized culture.

*If you want to know the name of the directory I cited in the second paragraph that Google seems to hold in high regard, email me at Will {at} bigoakinc {dot} com.

image credit: bill barber
  1. 16 Responses to “Using Logic to Prove that Directory Links are NOT Worthless”

  2. By Shell Harris on Sep 2, 2008 | Reply

    Oh, Will. The suspense is killing us! In the meantime, here are some good niche directories:

  3. By Clint Dixon on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    ummm nothing new here…I hope the people who think directory links are worthless, continue thinking that way…

    ignorance is bliss they say…..

  4. By Will on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    @Mr. Dixon, not everything here is going to be new to you. This blog caters to people of all SEO knowledge bases.

  5. By Vertical Measures on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    @ Clint – agree with you on the “hope others continue to think that way”, but disagree with your little shot about “nothing new”. As a blogger I know how hard it is to appease all experience levels.

  6. By Denver SEO on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    Most seo forums admonish directories mainly due to the cheap directory submissions.

  7. By SEO Rabbit on Sep 28, 2008 | Reply

    I agree with almost everything written here.
    There is something unrelated to algorithms that will push directories down, down do road, and that something is the growth of social media,which will gain weight in “ranking systems” of all search engines.

    Don’t get me wrong, I start every linkbuilding campaign with directories because I know that they are not worthless but as I said, directories will lose their importance down the road.

  8. By Myron on Oct 7, 2008 | Reply

    So the goal is to buy into multiple cheap directories with low pr with hope that these directories doesn’t annoy google enough to slap on a manual devaluation?

    Is yahoo still worthwhile for linkbuilding?

  9. By Gabriel Harper on Oct 8, 2008 | Reply

    Google will do their best to fight the nature of the new economy but neither directories or paid links are going away. Directories must adapt. Publishers must adapt. Advertisers must adapt. Directories will not go away or become worthless, they will just be forced to evolve along with the rest of the Internet.

  10. By Website Directory Fan on Oct 10, 2008 | Reply

    I totally agree with you on this article, it is still important to submit your site to directories, as long as they are not of a low quality. I think directory submission and paid directories are however, worthless in the long run.

  11. By Anonymous on Oct 12, 2008 | Reply

    I agree, directory links aren’t worthless, its a free do follow, some make you pay is why I tend to stay away from directories though.

  12. By sunny on Feb 24, 2009 | Reply

    I agree with your thinking, although i have also same thought the Directory also play a important role for link submission.

  13. By michaelj72 on Jun 7, 2009 | Reply

    if it’s true that these directories are useless or going to be soon, then i’ve spent the last 6 months of my life wasting my time working that angle of seo optimizaton. which infact has rasied the pagerank and the serps so the directories are still good, i have the organiz proof

  14. By Aaron on Jun 30, 2009 | Reply

    Good post mate.

    Every dofollow link carries some weight in Google even if it is only the slightest amount.

    Every single page in the Google index is assigned with a PR value so think link juice will flow no matter what.

    Google do contradict them self’s with their paid links rules.

    Some of the most trusted and highest valued backlinks you can get come from paid directories (yahoo directory, Best of the Web).

    They are so highly valued due to their manual human review process and purity of indexed sites. Extremely low level of spammy sites exist in these directories due to rejected submission requests and the high price of submission.

    Google would be insane to punish these directories for paid links.

    Definitely should penalize the directories that charge small fees and accept any spammy site that pays.

    Imo backlinks from the top 10 paid directories would be worth more than 1,000 backlinks from spammy unknown directories.

    I do smile at directories that have changed their submission fees from “pay for inclusion” to “pay for a review”. Just to make it sound better in Googles ears.

    I definitely think that the worthless directory backlink myth will be hurting the paid directories in the pocket.

  15. By Richard on Jun 30, 2009 | Reply

    While SEO seems like a large mountain that needs to be climbed, there a also some basic steps required

  16. By CT Web Design on Jul 29, 2009 | Reply

    I agree most of these directories end up just becoming free for all link farms, but the flaw in Google’s algorithm helps us “grey hat” our way into some search result rankings.
    This does not by any way mean that we should submit to every directory out there…but on the other hand, according to Google, every link helps…right? Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

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