Google’s Penguin War on Directories Gathers Pace


About mid-way through last year Google began delisting directories from search results stating that the reasoning behind this was that many had no quality content. This was initially aimed at directory sites that exist purely to provide backlinks whether paid or free. Everyone knows that getting links to your website is how to gain authority and increase PageRank. This is very true, but for some time now, poor quality and low value links from directories have been ignored and the directory site has been removed from the Google index. We keep a list of just under 400 directories for monitoring purposes and in recent months quite a few have disappeared from SERPs, some have reappeared, mainly those that changed the way they attempt to pass on ‘juice’ on by using rel=”nofollow” according to the webmaster guidelines. It seems that if you use the nofollow option, you are an actual directory serving the community, possibly a specific industry or niche. For example, Nuoret was a PageRank 5 directory last year but today it has PageRank of zero and has been delisted by Google altogether. This is one example of about 60 that we have seen delisted.

A recent warning issued takes this one stage further and many see it as a step too far, where a website is perceived to be listed in too many low-quality directories or bookmark site links the site itself is to be devalued. Google calls it ‘a loss of trust’. Punishing a website for being listed in directories which Google thinks are low value is somewhat unnecessary. Surely, the way to go would be to ignore the inbound links from the low quality directories.

The consequence of this stance will be far reaching. Site owners who have been listing in directories for years as it was the safe the thing to do whilst avoiding link swaps, 3 way linking, link farms etc. will have to request removal of their listings on the downgraded directory sites. The opportunity for ‘negative SEO’ attacks by listing your competitors’ websites will become even more effective unless they have regular checks and ‘disavow’ each and every link manually. Financial viability of web directories, even the genuine ones, has just been hit hard. What site owner will be requesting inclusion into a directory whether free or paid?

It seems both paid and free directories violate Google’s quality guidelines unless they incorporate nofollow attributes. In the words of Google “We do take this issue very seriously, so we recommend you avoid selling (and buying) links that pass PageRank in order to prevent loss of trust, lower PageRank, lower rankings, or in an extreme case, removal from Google’s search results”. The latest Penguin update ensures that the majority of existing directories will be overwhelmed with requests for subscription cancellations and link removals. Killing off directories and those who submit to them appears to be incredibly harsh but, if you follow the guidelines, the changes shouldn’t be a problem. If you have a directory, always use the ‘nofollow’ guidelines. If you are listed in directories check out if it has been hit by the updates and act quickly if it has. Either request removal or disavow the inbound links.

If you have concerns about this Penguin directory update, contact us for a full website audit. We can check who links to you, whether they are effecting your website’s status and clean up the problems quickly before it has a negative effect on your own search engine rankings.

Dave Hinxy

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1 Comment. Leave new

SEO Content
March 2, 2013 4:13 am

Excellent post! I’m wondering if the expensive yahoo directory would be penalized for this as well?


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