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How Search Engines Treat Links From Directories

In my post on “How to Get Great Incoming Links” one of my visitors asked me some interesting questions.

I had written:

Google and many other search engines have ways to catch a paid link. If search engines find a paid link, it’s not considered as a link at all. …Since search engines don’t like paid links, you run the risk of irritating them. Guess what may happen. Its always better to avoid paid links.

To which the visitor asked me some questions (I quote):

I do NOT buy or pay for links. However, I do submit my sites to Directories because some send a large number of visitors to my sites. The problem and questions I have are:

(1) what happens if you are listed in a FREE Directory, which at a later date begins to charge a fee for listing and it keeps all of the previously listed free sites? and
(2) many free directories review sites for submission and list them at no charge, but also have a paid listing option available.

Therefore, how does Google or any search engine distinguish between those people that do not pay for links, such as me, in the two scenarios that I mentioned above?

In the later case, you might say that the search engine would assume that featured links have been paid for–however, I have had several small directories list one or more of my sites as a featured site because the liked the sites.

It is one thing to just not consider a listing from a directory, but it is another thing to downgrade a site for having paid listings, when in fact the site owner hasn’t paid for any directory listings.

I think there is a lot of confusion over paid links. For the time being forget a paid link.

Let me put it in another way:

Whatever you do to SPAM the search engine results might get your site in trouble. Paid links is one of them. You are the one who knows better. If you have bought links just to increase the link popularity and page rank of your site, your site MAY be banned.

However if you are getting your site listed in web directories its perfectly ok. But please stay away from questionable directories mainly link exchange directories. These directories list your site in exchange of a link from your site. Their main objective is to increase their link popularity and page rank. Once that happens they start selling links on their site without nofollow. This is clear spamming of the search engine results.

Directories either free or paid are known by the search engines. Well, most of them. If your site is listed in any of them, you need not worry.

However, there are a few things one should know:

Directories are of different quality. If search engines think a directory of good quality like – Dmoz, Yahoo etc., a link from them is highly appreciated (since a human has reviewed the site.)

Infact there are two benefits:

a) you get visitors from these directories
b) link popularity improves

Unfortunately there are some free directories which lists sites of all and sundry. There is no quality check, no one sees the site – they just list your site. These are the directories that are of little help.

However no worries – since they are still directories. Only thing, the link popularity will not improve.

I repeat again – if you feel a link directory is offering no value to its visitors and is spamming the search engines, its better NOT to get your site listed there.

Please understand whether paid or not – a link from a good directory is always helpful. In such a case Google is not bothered where you paid for the link or not.

In my opinion if you get your link for free, why pay? Especially if the free link sends you traffic.

A featured link is no problem at all. Most directories add “nofollow” to the href tag, so these links are not considered as incoming links.

I think people are more concerned about being banned. Rest be assured, this is the last step a search engine would take. More than paid link, if they are absolutely sure, the site owner is trying to SPAM the search engines for whatever reason – they might ban the site.

So go ahead and get your sites listed in various directories. Just make sure you are not stepping overboard and spamming the search engines.

Have you any more questions on link directory? Do let me know.

Recommended Reading:

1. How to Report Paid Links by Matt Cutts
2. How To Use Rel Nofollow For Paid Link Advertisements
3. Is Buying Links Stupid?
4. Conversation With An Idiot Link Broker by Danny Sullivan

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Jack October 8, 2008, 7:43 pm

    Good point. Google is always several steps ahead. So, there is NO point to place your link to directories. You may only get no-value links for less critical search engines. Google even doesn’t count them at all.

    Jack http://seoapplied.blogspot.com/

  • Gil December 4, 2008, 3:16 am

    Thanks for answering my questions with an article. I appreciate it. It does set my mind at ease that what I am doing is the correct way to generate traffic and links. I usually submit to one of three subcategories: dentistry, health or beauty and I look at the quality of the links that are already present in the Directory in those categories. For example, if I see some “viagra” type websites in the Health subcategory then I do not submit my sites. Again, thanks for your thoughts on how the links are viewed.

  • Phil February 9, 2011, 5:03 pm

    Excellent points, I’m building links for my website right now and I wasn’t for sure if directories were a good option.
    Great advice!

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