Paid directories have historically been one of the best link building strategies for Search Engine Optimization. Back in the golden days of SEO, where it was much easier to manipulate Google for SERP’s, paid directories were thought of as being the ‘holy grail’ of link development.

Over time, the fine staff over at Google have constantly and consistently taken efforts to both manually and automatically penalize these directories. In some extreme cases, the ever-feared Google ban has even been applied! The goal of this post is to attempt to explain why Google penalizes directories, and also to provide a few examples of powerful directories that:

1.) Have gotten penalized or even banned by Google
2.) Have had their PR edited over time
3.) Have successfully maintained their PR and authority

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There are still lots of paid directories out there, but it’s now much more difficult to find good paid directories to submit your clients too. I’ll cover this difficult topic in a future post, but for now let’s focus on why Google despises paid directories so much. Let’s start off with some examples as promised:

Directories that Got Penalized

Alive Directory: Went from a PR 7 all the way to a whopping PR 0! Isn’t that nice! They also got the Google penalty- hence they don't rank for their own domain name.

Big Web Links: Also went from the big PR 7 all the way down to a PR 0! Also got the Google penalty, starting to see a pattern...

Uncover the Net: Once upon a time this nice little directory was a PR 7. It got extra special treatment from the fine folks at Google and is now... BANNED! That’s right; got the full ban. Done and done; see ya later, nice searchin’ ya! No but seriously, just type in site:uncoverthenet.com into Google and check for yourselves! Nothing comes up= they got banned! Let’s move on...

Directories that had their PR Edited

Site sift: No penalty but PR edited from PR 6- PR 3

Romow: Had their nice PR 6 edited back down to a PR 4, not as bad as the site-sift edit though.

Aviva- Was penalized but then recovered their PR after a very "lucky" indirect chat with the one and only Mr. Matt Cutts. Apparently, someone on the Google Webmasters Blog inquired about why Aviva was penalized; drawing a long list of no-no’s from Matt which then somehow got passed along to Aviva’s webmasters. They erased and/or fixed all the problems Matt had outlined and then their PR was restored in a week, but they did get pinged from a PR 6 down to a PR 4; either way it's pretty convenient if you ask me! At least Matt helped them out though...

Directories that have Maintained Quality and PR

Joe ant: Is currently a PR 6 and has been around since 2001.

Best of the Web:BOTW is also a PR 6 (was a PR 7 at one point) and dates back all the way to 1994. Since then, they have consistently maintained their status as one of the best directories on the web. This directory is called the "Best of the Web" for a reason!

Family friendly sites:FFS is also a PR 6 and has been around since 1996. They strive to provide family friendly content for users of the web.

These powerful directories such as Joe-Ant, BOTW and FFS have been able to maintain their PR because they have strict guidelines to determine which sites they will actually accept. Their editors are even stricter when it comes to approving any keyword-rich anchor texts or descriptions. They also do not accept any adult related sites, and they certainly won’t even consider engaging in any of the shadier link building strategies mentioned below.

Why are these directories getting penalized?

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Well in the case of Aviva directory, Matt called them out for a number of sketchy link building strategies, the least being blatant cross linking between websites all owned my the same person. As for the other directories? I thought it over and compiled the top 7 reasons why Google continuously strives to strike directories down to their graves. Think of it as a Google pet peeve list for link building strategies for directories. When it comes down to it, Google hates:

1) Paid links
2) Cross linking sites all in the same network
3) 301 redirections
4) Velocity of link building going crazy
5) Link farms and any directory that mimics their linking structure
6) Blatant (and in a lot of cases, not relevant) link exchange requests
7) Low quality sites/high acceptance rates/spammy sites/overly favourable anchor texts

So is it really any surprise that directories continue to get penalized? Not really, and that’s what makes it even harder to find good, high quality directories to submit too. On that note, be sure to watch out for my next post in which I will cover this exact problem! Happy searching!