Matt Cutts Explains How Google Handles Paid Directories [Video]

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Have you ever wondered about how Google handles paid directories? Well, Matt Cutts answers the question “Are paid directories held to the same standards as paid links?” from the famous Blind Five Year Old and I personally liked what Matt had to say. Before you decide to pay to be in an online directory or choose to create one I suggest you watch the video.

Melissa Fach

Melissa Fach

Melissa is the owner of SEO Aware, LLC. She is a consultant and trainer helping companies make the most of their content marketing and SEO.... Read Full Bio
Melissa Fach

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  • Tony Tellijohn

    How does Google know how much editorial discretion Yahoo uses? I’ve never heard of anyone that I know tell me they haven’t been accepted into Yahoo Directory when they fork over the $300–maybe I only know honest, upstanding folks that only submit good sites. But then again, I’ve never read online anywhere that I remember about a site being rejected by Yahoo either…

  • Erik | Gravytrain – Vancouver SEO

    To be honest, I’m a little bit surprised at what Matt stated here. Why should paid directories – regardless of how much effort they put in to filter through their submissions – be held to any other standard than any other site with anchor text / dofollow links?

    A paid directory is much like buying a permanent link on a site – it’s something that’s expected to be on a certain relevant page for much longer than a guest / paid blog post, etc. which will drip off of the front page eventually. The only benefit to forking out the cash to Yahoo! or bribing a DMOZ editor is to get your link on to a static page with minimal outbound links and years of history behind it.

    Google should be treating these “big” or “trusted” directories just like any other links, paid or unpaid, using the trust and relevance metrics that they normally would.

    • Peter J

      Erik, I couldn’t agree more. An expensive backlink as long as you pay for it.

  • Chris Vendilli

    Erik I don’t think he was necessarily saying ALL paid links are bad per se… I think he means they’re looking a little deeper to see if the directory owner is some creep who bought a recently expired but decent PageRank domain and is attempting to make a quick buck off of people who are willing to buy links just to appease Google….

    So it sort of sounds like Google is trying to determine your motives for buying a link – if your motive is to just grab a high PR link then bad on you – but if say the directory is BBB and your business has been vetted by BBB as reliable and you pay to be accredited, that’s a little different…

    Those fly by night directories that pop up running generic PHP scripts in the place of a recently expired website however, where ANYONE can pay for a link with no curation to their link library… ill advised.

  • Jeff Libert

    Pretty much self-evident.

    At least in theory, with Google, everything gets down to the “value added”.

    Editorial control = value added. Pay for inclusion isn’t synonymous with editorial control. Ditto for paid links.

    Editorial control = G+1 by another name.

  • Jamie Keaney

    In general I don’t use directories to provide link value. But I do think of them as opening a new doorway to a Web site and if a relevant audience is using that directory, I don’t really care if it doesn’t provide link value, but I do care about the type of person it sends to me. The “100 Directory Submission” schemes are tired and old and don’t work.

  • Tony Tellijohn

    @Chris – Your comment “I don’t think he was necessarily saying ALL paid links are bad per se” runs contrary to everything that Google & Cutts specifically have been saying over the last few years. They have said that basically all paid links are bad links–even if the paid link is completely relevant to the content on the page you’re buying the link on–unless, apparently, it comes from a “high quality” directory that exerts editorial control.

    Apparently they have a way to tell if a directory exerts editorial control? Especially when that directory is (or was) one of their biggest competitors over the years?

    I still don’t understand why relevancy doesn’t matter more than status as paid or not paid–but that’s what Google has said pretty consistently over the past few years.

  • Jeff Downer Indianapolis, IN

    It’s a matter of being transparent, I think. Featured positions on directories may be presumed to be paid for . Much like ads. Links where that it may not be so apparent are being purchased are different.

  • Chris Vendilli

    @Tony – seems like we’re talking in circles and basically in agreement whether you realize it or not… Jeff Libert sort of summed it up – they say they HATE paid links BUT right in this video they “sorta kinda” admit that “value added” or a “curated” directory, even if it’s a paid one, has more value than a directory anyone can join or submit to, or possibly and in some cases more value than a contextually relevant directory.

    Below is a quote of a quote of what you quoted me on lol – the opening sentence that you quoted says almost the exact SAME THING that you concluded the paragraph with – quote me make on argument, debate with me, but then you end the sentence notion with the sentence, “UNLESS…” where you go on to repeat the very point I made and you quoted the only difference is that now it’s in your own words.

    I was comparing a directory where the paid links are thoroughly reviewed to one that is running a free PHP script and anyone with cash can get in… you’re saying paid links vs paid links with “editorial control…”

    Same difference:

    [begin quote of a quote]

    @Chris – Your comment “I don’t think he was necessarily saying ALL paid links are bad per se” runs contrary to everything that Google & Cutts specifically have been saying over the last few years. They have said that basically all paid links are bad links–even if the paid link is completely relevant to the content on the page you’re buying the link on–unless, apparently, it comes from a “high quality” directory that exerts editorial control.

    [end quote of a quote]

  • Photocopier

    Interesting. How can Google keep on top of which directory is vetted and which directory is not?

    I have paid for the odd few in the past but usually only pay when i know i will get the right users. Traffic means nothing to me unless its a relevant audience. Would people here recommend the Yahoo directory? seems quite pricy.

  • Neredekal

    Yeah, this is too important question but how Google manages all directories is that vetted or not. It can be possible ?

  • AJ Kohn

    Matt answered half of my question.

    It’s good to know that Google has some guidelines for the value of a directory. However, the ‘editorial oversight’ provided by these directories (even the big ones) seems pretty cursory. Apart from overseeing whether my payment was valid, it’s pretty rare to be rejected for anything but truly blatant spam.

    But if you use ‘editorial oversight’ as the benchmark I find it difficult to reconcile that with highly relevant paid links on a site or blog. If I take great care and only provide paid links to relevant and valuable content, haven’t I passed the ‘editorial oversight’ benchmark?

    In fact, doesn’t that site or blog have greater expertise in that topic than the directory? And most would be more selective and have fewer links than your average directory. I’m not saying this is the norm or even the majority but why the alternate standard for those that do apply this type of ‘editorial oversight’ to paid links?

    I just don’t see much (if any) difference between a paid directory and paid link with ‘editorial oversight’. The ONLY difference is that Google can easily identify directories but can’t confidently identify a highly relevant paid link.

    Google wants to have their cake and eat it too.

  • Paul

    After putting my toes in the seo water – I’m really surprised anyone bothers with directories at all any more. Looking at traffic sources, results and stats, has led me to conclude that over the last few months especially, traffic is driven by tags, content and domain authority. Directory listings drive such low traffic that I see no point in using them at all? Or maybe I’m wrong and the result is peculiar to our site?

  • Srinivas Venkataraman

    One best way to find the worth of a particular paid directory is by checking how old are they. Usually an older paid directory with a good Page Rank and Alexa Rank is good.

    But hope its always best to stick with the Top ones. If anyone is desperate to get a paid directory link.

  • Mark Best

    I feel people need to look at these things more in terms of how Google can use the information. If a directory has high editorial standards and only includes high quality sites then Google will see that with link mapping and if your site happens to be in it then you’ll be grouped with them.

    Google’s got a lot of information to decipher so it doesn’t make sense that they’d ignore human reviewed information.

  • Karen Maskall

    Hi Melissa
    Thanks for your post.
    Being the owner/founder of a high quality paid directory I am sticking to my guns and holding out on dofollow out bound links to the sites that are included in my directory.


    Well for a start .. as the whole site is dofollow ( guest blog posts and members posts and directory ads and other promotions) then it would be absolutely ludicrous to suggest to investing members that their links would be NOfollow.

    Dofollow is a lot more than passing a measily bit of page rank ( and lets face it even a high PR site only passes a morsal because it is al divided up between the other links too). Dofollow is about telling the search engines that we VALUE and VOUCH FOR the site that we are linking out to. So dear search engines..please would you kindly send your little bots over and spider their site too!

    Can you imagine for one moment a directory accepting payment from a site and saying well we dont VOUCH for you so you get nofollow matey!

    If you don’t VOUCH for a site then why would you include it into your quality directory in the first instance?

    The sooner they get rid of page rank and come up with a more quality and trustworthy way of helping quality sites be better positioned in serps then the sooner we get rid of low quality link building purely for page rank.

    Without being too self promotional, (and please remove this if you wish, )I have an ad for SEOmoz who were really pleased with their inclusion in our ethical directory. AND guess what? ALL of the links in their ad are dofollow going to several internal pages as well as their RSS feed dollow too. And they never even mentioned the fact that the links might harm their site because they are dofollow.

    There are paid links and then there are paid links with reviews and editorial discretion.

  • Jamie

    I think a lot of people are jumping to conclusions because of this video. I found it on a forum where people are saying “Paid Directories are Link Farms”. I watched the video and it isn’t what is said at all.

    Also, however Google will judge how useful a directory is or how well they moderate their content is going to be a well thought out process that will surely include a lot of different aspects so trust should be put into it.

    Directories are useful, a lot of companies will not optimise their website for Google so they are not found for the keywords they should be found for and a lot of people get ripped of by so many rogue SEO providers when trying.

    Paid directories that do manage the quality of their content well will put a large amount of their revenue back into promoting the directory and sending users to the website offer small businesses a way of being found in Google through the directories own optimisation. All this advertising, optimisation, quality control and development costs money so I think people should appreciate paid directories!

    All businesses need to do instead of worrying about the cost for directories is look at the content on the directory instead and make a decision based on this, and, if you decide to sign up, make an effort with your listing! You will see a lot of directories that do care ask you to fill out your profile 100% for a better rank in the directory, this is so it helps them be seen in Google as a great directory and it puts you higher in the directories list so good content helps both parties.

    P.S. We run a business directory at so you may think my view is biased 🙂 but I genuinely do not!

  • george

    hi l would like to know more about your services

  • Josh Fernandez

    So would submitting your link to paid directories for a new website help to get good links back to the new website. And you could provide a list of paid directory services or sites that you would suggest are of high quality

  • Bets10

    The new google algorithm update changes a lot page ranking. And they start to digging domain names without link for ranking.