Is Google Hitting Directory Links?

    September 6, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Algorithmic flux or selective penalization? Nobody’s sure and nobody that can answer is talking so far, but paid link directories have been plummeting in Google search results. Many are not ranking for their own business name, according to reports, even though webmasters have not received penalty notices.

Is Google Hitting Directory Links?
Is Google Hitting Directory Links?

Editor’s Note: This article doesn’t address the robust discussion of whether Google should or should not devalue paid links, or even the value of directories themselves. This is a hot topic and we know you have an opinion. Speak out in the comments section.

Listen to the audio

As many as 60 directories, according to this report, suddenly dropped in rank, leading to suspicion that Google has begun aggressively (and likely, manually) targeting paid link directories deemed to be in violation of the search engine’s quality guidelines. Some have suggested competitor sabotage via the recently initiated paid link reporting form.

Some of affected directories included Aviva, Alive, Big Web Links, ewebpages, Directory Dump, Elegant Directory, and Biz-Dir. David Eaves, the owner and operator of Biz-Dir told WebProNews that about 550 of his directory pages have been dropped from Google’s index altogether.

Key Takeaways
Don’t panic, rankings fluctuate
Review Google quality
Clearly label paid links
Don’t Pass On PageRank
Don’t forget content
Resubmit for indexing

Eaves admits to buying links, which he considers a legitimate form of advertising, but says Google gave him no notice that his site was being penalized. Eaves is considering dropping his paid links in order to get his pages re-indexed by Google.

It’s important to note, though, that’s not necessarily the best course of action for everybody. Eaves is obviously quite concerned for SEO and directory clients, and says he can sustain a decent rank with natural links. And he says it wouldn’t hurt him to change the links he paid for to nofollow, as the traffic from those links outweighs the traffic he gets from Google.

Again, Google hasn’t sent out notice, and hasn’t returned request for comment, so it could be just an algorithmic flux. So the important thing to remember is: Don’t panic. This could be just the old Google Dance. I remember a man in 2005 ready to put a shotgun in his mouth because his site was de-listed after an algorithm update. "Don’t panic" was the operative phrase of that day, too.

But Google’s Matt Cutts has been firing warning shots in previous months, both from his blog and from the Search Engine Strategies Conference in San Jose, saying that Google was going to be more aggressive about paid links that violated quality guidelines.

During a session at SES called "Are Paid Links Evil?" Cutts presented a slide presentation, which he was approved to release, distinguishing the types of paid links Google doesn’t like. Cutts cited first a Federal Trade Commission ruling opinion that said sponsored or advertising links must be clearly labeled, and further differentiated between paid links by saying the only ones penalized were links that passed on page rank (PPP).

So whether or not you philosophically agree with Google’s point, if being in Google’s search rankings is more important to you than winning an argument, Cutts suggests labeling paid links in the following ways:

· Redirect through URL blocked by robots.txt
· Redirect through URL using a 302
· Use Javascript to direct the link
· Apply the rel= "nofollow” attribute to the link
· Add <meta name = "robots" content = "nofollow"/> to the page header

It may not be fair to say that Google favors buying links from certain places, but there are "certain places" on the approved list, and they include:

·    AdBrite
· Quigo
· IndustryBrains
· Microsoft AdCenter
· Yahoo! Publisher Network
· Any site that doesn’t pass PageRank

>>> Listen to the audio interview with owner David Eaves.