There some discussion going on in the webmaster/SEO community that Google may have de-indexed some free web directories. Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable points to a WebmasterWorld forum thread on the subject.
The thread begins with a post from user Sunnyujjawal, who says:
While checking some sites links I found 50% free submission directories are out of G now. Will Google count such links in negative SEO or unnatural linking?
Schwartz concurs that about 50% of the ones he searched for did not have listings.
He points to one example: global-web-directory.org. Indeed, I'm getting no results for that site:
I'm not sure about the 50% thing though. I've looked at a number of others, and haven't come across many that were not showing listings (though I have no doubt that there are more out there). Either way, there are still a lot of these sites that are still in Google's index. We do know, however, that quite a few of them recently received PageRank reductions with the recent update.
This discussion happens to come at a time when we've been analyzing Google's quality guidelines, and its treatment of a certain directory, Best Of The Web, which sells reviews for potential listings, which appear with links that pass PageRank.
Other directories that follow a similar model, may be experiencing similar treatment from Google. In that same WebmasterWorld thread, user Rasputin writes:
I have a paid directory that I haven't touched for about 3 years, only gets about 25 submissions ($10) a year - strange thing is, I just looked and not only is it well indexed but all the internal pages are now showing page rank - for a very long time they were all 'greyed out' after the google clamp-down on directories a couple of years ago.
No idea when it came back, certainly nothing I've changed and pretty unlikely it's attracted natural links.
That's pretty interesting.
User Netmeg adds:
I don't think free or paid makes anywhere near as much of a difference as to whether or not the directory is actually curated for quality. Because if it isn't, what other reason is there for it to exist other than to create links?
That's a very relevant point, and that seems to be Google's reasoning, based on this video from Matt Cutts from several years ago:
“Standard directory listings remain in our editors complete editorial control, and as such do not need the nofollow tag,” Best Of The Web President Greg Hartnett told WebProNews. “An editor looked at those listings (pay for review or not) and decided that they meet editorial guidelines and as such merit a listing. We vouch for that listing, so why would we nofollow it?”
If you go to global-web-directory.org,'s submission page, it would appear that they violate Google's quality guidelines. There is a pricing structure as follows:
Express Reviews - $2
Regular Reviews - Free
Regular Reviews with reciprocal - Free
While they advertise a paid review process, it's clearly much different than how Best Of The Web operates. The only payment is for speeding up the review process, from the looks of it. Otherwise it's free, and they'll even throw in a reciprocal link for free. That could be the part that Google has a problem with. If sites are really being "reviewed" for quality, perhaps that is one thing, but if your'e saying flat out that you'll give a link back, that might fall under Google's "link schemes" criteria, discussed in the quality guidelines.
It does list "links intended to manipulate PageRank" as the first example, and it does look like the site attempts to show the listings' PageRank right with the listings.:
If you really look around the site, however, you'll find many category pages without listings, just displaying ads. It's not hard to see why Google wouldn't want this site in its index.
Update: There's an interesting post about this issue at Search News Central, from Terry Van Horne. Terry writes:
Directories that would be candidates for this kind of "draconian" action were as good as de-indexed ages ago. We sent out our super staffer Mike, with our vetted list of directories to see what he could find. From that (top end list) we found 65 no change, 2 domains parked and 1 de-indexed site; roughly 1.3% were de-indexed.
Next we went to our friends at Steam Driven Media for the last 100 (based on TBPR) from a list of 1500. From this group we found 1 with low indexation and 9 deindexed/gone - roughly 10% affected. Keep in mind, we have no idea how long these sites were out of the Google index.
Van Horne questions whether directories are really "getting nuked or not".
So far, we've not really seen anything indicating it's as big a change as made out to be by the original poster in the WebmasterWorld thread.
Have you seen paid directories rising in Google? Free ones disappearing? Let us know what you're seeing.