We all know that the Penguin and Panda updates are designed to push Webmasters away from relying on SEO tricks and towards creating more relevant content. So if Google is de-indexing free directories that SEOs and webmasters have often used to artificially build links, it would not come as much surprise. Google has made it clear that it does SEO and does not want anyone else trying to beat it at its own game. But that’s not the endgame. SEO is evolving and the best SEOs already know they have to change their approaches or fade away.
A bit of research.
The following research (using the term research loosely) was performed by Search News Central.
Updated at 3:40 PM EST on May 15, 2012
“We ran 423 mid-range directories (TBPR1-3) and found 22 not indexed. The spreadsheet download has been updated. So here’s what we have so far;
- Vetted list of top directories (66); 1.3% not indexed
- 423 mid-range directories; 5.2% not indexed
- 468 low end directories; 15.76% not indexed
Again, we don’t know how many of these were previously in the index, but it does give a sense of the quality factor involved.”
At first glance, one might be compelled to worry, especially if relying on free directories as a primary source of backlinks. But it’s a bit like chicken little, the sky is not really falling. We do not have all the data to say definitively at this point whether Google is really de-indexing free directories, but it seems many types of low quality sites are being classified as dead zones. A comment posted by Steve Gerencscer takes a more scientific point of view.
“There are quite literally tens of thousands of directory websites out there and to claim that they are being de-indexed with a sample of “5” or even 100 is not terribly scientific. Even at 1,000 being checked we are still only getting anecdotal information because I doubt too many people were tracking them to begin with.
I keep a refreshed list of about 1,000 directories for a lot of reasons…even that list sees about a 5% de-indexed or simply closed/shut down website percentage. between refreshes.
Until someone takes the time to track a statistically relevant number of sites over a period of time longer than ‘right now’ no one can claim anything.”
Well when you put it like that it’s hard to disagree with Steve’s logic. But the truth is in SEO you do have to speculate a lot of the time. Google makes changes so rapidly, and our clients feel compelled to react one way or another. We have to try to make sense of what’s happening and advise clients the best course of action.
The take away.
You should not rely on these directories for your link building strategy. If you provide SEO services, you have to focus on creating quality relevant content and optimizing it for social media. If you have relied a lot on directories for link building in the past, you may want to focus less on that and instead focus more on creating relevant content and getting quality links from more diversified and relevant sources.
Finally, from a user-experience perspective, not showing free directories in search results is probably a good thing. There’s not much helpful information to be gained from those sites, they are almost strictly used by SEOs and webmasters to build links, not to provide any benefit to general audiences. Further, I doubt that most businesses would want a listing in a free directory as a top search result for their brand.