There was a time when Google recommended for websites to place links on link directories and article directories. This made link building a cinch because most directories were begging for content to populate their websites. Before search engines became the de facto way to find information on the internet, link directories and portals were the way to go to find something close to what you were looking for, or even just as entertainment to pass the time. So you have to remember that there was a time when link directories were a great way to organize similar content together in the World Wide Web’s nascent history.
However, there are three reasons why directories are no longer the amazing link building opportunity they use to be.
The first reason is manipulation and SPAM. When Google says something is good for SEO, it tends to make massive waves within the industry. Not only were link builders clambering to get their clients on as many link directories as possible, new link directories and even link directory submission services and programs were popping up left and right.
Everyone was submitting their sites to link directories because directories made it so simple to do. Even the paid directories made the situation even easier with quick payments made via PayPal, meaning your link would be live within just a couple of days, or earlier.
I recall using a program to submit clients’ links to hundreds of link directories semi-automatically, sometimes only requiring me to enter the CAPTCHA code. This worked tremendously, and I looked like a genius and my clients made lots of money with the increase in organic traffic.
But as you can see, by making it incredibly easy to submit these links, it devalued the link directories long before even Google realized they had created a monster. When the primary reason a link directory is getting traffic is from people trying to submit links to your directory, you’ve lost the ultimate goal of what a link directory is: procuring a directory of helpful links for users. Instead, link directories became an industry that only supported link building, and it became an incestuous relationship.
Article directories were also hot for a long period of time. Google loves content and links to more content. That’s why article directories had such a high value. Writing a 500 word article with a keyword-rich link brought an incredibly amount of value to the user.
Just like link directories, manipulation rose significantly. Websites began to hire or outsource their writing to low-wage writers who delivered barely comprehensible content, and lots of it. If you’re a user, reading these articles was a useless endeavor, as the topics were awkward as were the strange ways they stuffed long-tail keywords.
Much like link directories, article directories began to exist for one reason and one reason only: to support content farms and link building. So, legitimate users were no longer using these websites to learn about topics, which naturally meant the value was going to drop.
Google Replaced Them Entirely
This is my favorite reason.
It used to take several weeks or months to find out if your webpages were increasing or decreasing in search results, and we never knew when Google would re-crawl the site. When Google introduced their Caffeine search index update in 2010, all of this flew out the window. Websites were being ranked and crawled almost all the time. Today, an article published in the morning could be crawled and indexed within 10 minutes.
Google is always perfecting their product, otherwise they will lose their throne as the leading search engine, and effectually lose AdWords income. As they’ve made their product more and more powerful, they completely replaced the benefits of link directories entirely. The entire internet is now indexed by Google and content is crawled all the time, and available in milliseconds in a SERP. Link and article directories relied on information to be submitted and users to manually crawl categories to find websites that might not really be what they’re looking for.
With Google’s zoological penalties in the last several years, link and articles directories were specifically targeted to combat manipulative link building techniques and reduce the effect of SPAM on search results. Hundreds of thousands of websites saw massive drops in organic search results and even manual inbound link penalties. This saw the introducing to the disavow tool, the growth of link removal campaigns, and sickeningly, link and article directories now requiring payment for link removals.
The lesson to learn about the fall of link and article directories is that when a concept that is directly tied to increased SEO benefits that can easily be manipulated, don’t expect Google to turn a blind eye! Today, Google rarely introduces concepts that are healthy for SEO that can easily be manipulated. In 2014, they did officially proclaim that SSL did have a slight SEO-benefit. Unlike link directories, the SSL industry typically cannot be manipulated as it is a certificate and security-driven industry meant to improve the security of the entire internet. Of course, the possibilities of SSL manipulations and breaches can occur, the overall goal of moving your site to a secure connection is to increase the trust of your users.
That’s right, Google encourages websites to move to SSL to benefit the users. The manipulation of link and article directories did not help users.
So there you go. When doing something for SEO, don’t just consider the benefits to your site, but the benefits to your users. Every link, article, or change you make to your website or your website’s presence on the internet, consider the impact on your user. By doing so, you’re focused on helping users find the information they are interested in finding.
Steve Scott is the CEO & Director of Training at the Tampa SEO Training Academy. He has taught SEO skills to people from around the world and currently offers his hands-on search engine optimization training workshops in Tampa to individuals and businesses of all sizes. Corporate SEO training classes and consulting are also available.