Is Google Dropping Directory Sites?

This blog post discusses the oft-stated warnings about directories being bad for search engine optimization, or the false idea that Google is dropping web directories from its index.
Every time Google changes its algorithm, the SEO community heralds the end of web directories. I suppose that I should clarify that when I refer to the SEO community, I am not talking about the good people who will help you figure out what you need to do in order to earn a better position in the search engines, but about those who are selling SEO schemes, since these are the ones who are the most vocal on Twitter and in blog posts.

If you think about it for just a moment, you'll realize that it is in their best interests to make you believe that web directories are dead, or that submitting your site to a web directory is a dangerous thing, because then you may feel that you have to turn to them for help. In turn, they will very likely submit your site to the same web directories whose death they have announced in tweets and retweets.

On an SEO site called Search Engine Roundtable, I came across a blog post that claimed that free directory sites were being dropped from the Google index. While it is quite likely that Google has dropped several free directory sites from its index, the reason is not that they are directory sites, or that they are free, but that they are crap. Without the resources to properly maintain a web directory, a lot of free web directories accept whatever is submitted, just as it is submitted, the result being a directory that is not well maintained.

If the author of this post wanted to argue that free web directories were being dropped from Google's index, surely he could find examples of this, but the suggestion that they were dropped before they were free, or because they were web directories, is unsupported by the facts.

Interestingly, the only example that this author gives is the directory on the global-web-directory.org domain. After pointing out that this directory was not in Google's index, he asks the question:

"The big question to me is, is this new? Did Google just remove a bunch of these directories? Is Google going to remove more? What criteria did Google use to decide which ones to remove?"

Indeed, what criteria did Google use? Well, this blog post is dated May 15, 2012, and the directory that he referenced first showed up in the Internet Archive on May 18, 2012. So, at the time that this blogger referenced the site, the Internet Archive hadn't even found it. The directory was new, and Google probably hadn't even indexed it yet. Rather than being removed from Google's index, Google hadn't gotten around to indexing it yet. At this time, the directory has no PageRank but it has been indexed. On the other hand, the Open Directory Project, another free directory, has a PageRank of seven, with many of its internal pages ranked as well.

I would further suggest that it has no PageRank, because it has almost no content. While there may be some sites listed, I clicked through several of its categories only to find them empty. Directories are websites, and websites do better in search engine positioning when they have content.

If I uploaded a crappy website, that was little more than a placeholder, to one of my domains, could I then argue that Google is dropping websites from its index because it hasn't indexed my no-content site?

In the most recent Google update, yes, there were losers within the web directory industry. Some directories that I would consider to be good, reputable directories lost a point in their PageRank, for reasons that are unknown to me, but the biggest losers were, fortunately, those directories that had no content, as well as some of those who had previously gained PageRank by buying back-links on hacked sites, and through other black-hat SEO means.

Other directories gained in their position, while most remained the same. The biggest winner, at least so far as I am aware, was Jasmine Directory, a content-rich directory that went from a PR-4 to a PR-6. Another winner was Master Moz.

Is Google dropping directories from its index? Yes, the bad ones are being dropped, more slowly than some of us would like, but the good ones are being rewarded, also more slowly than some of us would desire, but quality rises to the top. As we have come to expect from Google, or other automated processes, sometimes things happen that don't make sense to us. World Site Index lost its PageRank, and I don't know why that would have happened, since it appears to be a pretty good directory. There may be something going on there that I don't know about, or perhaps it was simply a lapse in judgement on the part of Google's algorithm, as we've seen before, but it was not because it was a web directory. Other sites lost PageRank too.

Web directories are websites, and a link on a good website is valuable, the chief difference being that it is usually easier to get a link from a web directory.

There are reputable SEO companies, to be sure but, just like web directories, most of them are crap, and you can lose a lot more through a crappy SEO company than by submitting your site to a crappy web directory.

Learn discernment. Take some time to determine whether a web directory is worthwhile or not, as some of them can be your website's best friend when it comes to search engine optimization.

You don't need an SEO company to submit your site to web directories, since this is something that is better done yourself. You know your site, and you care about what happens to it, as far as search engine optimization is concerned. Once your site has useful content, web directory submissions should be your first step in search engine optimization, and that is something that you can easily learn to do for yourself. That's why the shadier SEO firms would like to scare you away from web directories.

Later in your marketing efforts, you might want to hire a reputable SEO firm. While it is outside of the scope of this post to help you differentiate between SEO firms, I will say that any SEO company that says that web directories are bad SEO is one whose agents either don't know what they are talking about or are not being upfront with you. On the other extreme, anyone who promises to submit your site to thousands of web directories is also one to stay away from, since there aren't thousands of web directories worth submitting your site to, and I can assure you that these won't be good submissions.

Good web directories are good SEO.
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