Owning a few directories myself, this is a question that is of interest to me, especially after Matt Cutts recently stirred up some controversy when he invited people everywhere to report paid links as spam.

With our directories, some listings are editorial while others are paid. In the beginning, every site added was editorial simply to populate the directory. Today we require payment for every submission simply to compensate for the time that is taken to review, edit and include the listing. Therefore the submitter is not necessarily paying for a link but rather paying for the editor’s time to consider the submission for inclusion.

The first question I pondered was how Google would be able to differentiate a paid directory listing from an editorial one? As far as I am concerned, they can’t unless paid listings are clearly marked. Secondly I wondered how they would treat them. Would they simply begin to devalue any link from a paid directory or accept them as they are?

In an update to Matt’s original post, he answers these questions. What he says provides some insight on how Google views paid directories.

Matt states, “When considering submitting to a directory, I’d ask questions like:

  • Does the directory reject urls? If every url passes a review, the directory gets closer to just a list of links or a free-for-all link site.
  • What is the quality of urls in the directory? Suppose a site rejects 25% of submissions, but the urls that are accepted/listed are still quite low-quality or spammy. That doesn’t speak well to the quality of the directory.
  • If there is a fee, what’s the purpose of the fee? For a high-quality directory, the fee is primarily for the time/effort for someone to do a genuine evaluation of a url or site.

Those are a few factors I’d consider. If you put on your user hat and ask ‘Does this seem like a high-quality directory to me?”’ you can usually get a pretty good sense as well, or ask a few friends for their take on a particular directory.”

From Matt’s answers, we can see that Google does not frown upon links from paid directories so long as the directories are relevant and are of good quality. In these types of directories they view any fees charged as compensating editors for their time and not necessarily the same scenario as buying a link for the sake of trying to improve one’s ranking. For those of us that own and maintain paid directories, this is good information to know.

David Wallace

David Wallace

David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of SearchRank, is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Since 1997, David has been involved in developing successful search engine and social media marketing campaigns for large and small businesses.

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