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Can Paid Directories Still Be Used For SEO?

Search engine marketing can be a tricky business, and as if it wasn’t already difficult enough, competing for keywords and page rank on Google seems to be constantly moving the goal posts. Many of the white hat optimization practices that were considered to be reliable have now fallen out of favor with the search engine giant, and the latest anti-spam update to their algorithm, Penguin, has put the spotlight onto the links that contribute to page rank. Because the update is focused on link schemes, many websites with links to less authoritive online directories have suffered in the SERPs, which has caused a lot of webmasters to go into a panic over the links that they are using. In the final analysis, a lot of the blame for unnatural link penalties has fallen on the paid directories, calling into question the value of paying for links on these sites.

Google’s intent in penalizing links from disreputable sites is to decrease the number of low quality pages that are getting a top ranking in their SERPs, not to penalize every paid-for link that websites use. The real focus isn’t on links in general, but rather on the authority of the sources of those links. This means that links to business listings on reputable sites, like Yellow Pages Online and Google+ Locations, will still contribute to SEO because the search engine recognizes that they are from an authoritative source. Online directories have remained a good source of backlinks even after the advent of Penguin (and Panda before it), with the proviso that you stick to Google’s quality guidelines when you make those links1.

Successful use of paid listings requires you to vet the directories before creating your links to ensure that they aren’t from the sort of low-quality site that Google is targeting. One way to do this is to make sure that the directory is indexed so that the crawlers can find all of the listings. Equally important is that the links shouldn’t be “no follow” links as these tell the crawlers not to look at the site that they are pointing to. Because of that, they contribute nothing to SEO anyway. Look for directories that have “do follow” links and make sure that they don’t redirect via another site or have too many parameters for the crawlers to read through. Most of the mainstream paid business directory services will meet or exceed these criteria, and Penguin is really aimed at those who abuse SEO as a business practice.

It is important to spread your submissions across a period of time to build a more naturally progressive set of links rather than to publish a large amount of links at once. This will not only look more natural to Google but it will deliver longer-term SEO benefits. The links should point to a variety of anchor texts as well rather than just pointing to generic product names or your short tail keywords. In fact, it is becoming more important now to link to your long tail keywords and their synonyms.

Online directories are among the oldest of websites still online, and they can be valuable resources for users and crawlers alike. That isn’t going to change in the near future so the trick is to choose your directories carefully before making submissions. Directory submissions won’t improve your page rank on their own and should be used as a part of a larger link building strategy. Contact InfintechDesigns.com to discuss which paid directory listings would be suited to your business and how you can develop a link building program for your website.

References:
1. http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769


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