Matt Cutts Explains Why You Should Not Use Article Directories To Build Links

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Matt Cutts Explains Why You Should Not Use Article Directories To Build Links

Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, answers a question about link building in his latest Webmaster Help video where a user writes in to ask:

Links from relevant content in article directories — Seen as good or bad? eg. I link my beauty website from a cosmetic surgery article on say, Ezine? Would you do that?

Over time article directories have developed a bad name for themselves. Matt goes on to refresh everyone’s memory as to what an article directory is.

An article directory is a site where you go to write 300 to 500 words of content with a bio at the bottom that contains up to three links with keyword-rich anchor text. Once the article is uploaded users can download it and use it on their own website if they wish. The end goal is that if someone finds the article useful enough to publish on their site, you might get a few inbound links out of it.

In practice, Matt says the content included in these directories tends to be of low quality. That’s putting it lightly, as Matt goes on to say they’re usually full of spammy content that gets sprayed all over the web. “I wouldn’t necessarily count on that being effective,” Matt says.

Google has made some changes to their algorithm that would result in this kind of tactic being much less successful now compared to a few years ago. Matt’s personal recommendation is to not use article directories to build inbound links.

To hear Matt’s full response to the question in his own words, please see the video below:

Matt Southern
Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing... Read Full Bio
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  • James Halloran

    Yeah, I don’t see why anyone would think this is an effective strategy at all. It’s sort of borderline duplicate content, isn’t it?

  • Thank you for always keeping me up to date with changes! Great post.

  • Thanks for breaking it down for us Matt !

  • Mark Tillison

    This is getting old fast.

    Here’s the real question, which has the same answer as the question Matt is answering:

    Does this activity add value to your customer?

    If you’re doing stuff “just for SEO value”, it isn’t worth the effort. Spend time and effort on things that your customer would value. Those are the same things Google will value.

    Customers will live your brand more AND they’ll be able to find you too.

  • This has been going on for a while – but it’s good to see Matt specifically addressing it. When I client come to me with links fro ezine articles… well let’s just say there is a lot of work to be done.

  • Mark

    what can I apply off page strategy fro website if Client just told whats going on site then Lets we have words to say that articles submission is going on. Can you elaborate for off page activities. Thanks

  • I am not reading too much into what he just said. He did not say don’t write content for an (keyword meaning one) article directory. for example has put the hammer down on writers who were using it for simply link building.

    What he said was don’t write an useless 300-500 word article and then syndicate it to hundreds for article directories just to build links.

    Article marketing is less valuable as a traffic source, and definitely dead as a link building option. But its doing nothing more that guest posting on a site. Which as you remember, Matt said was dead not too long ago, and people freaked. The fact is if your building your brand and generating traffic by writing great content for readers on other moderated properties your still go.

  • Egan Rao

    It’s good that someone asks Matt about one question and get his opinion. I feel strange this time especially, viewing it after Matt talked about guest post. Should we ask him questions anymore? Or, is the entire ecosystem of building back links is low value?

  • RobinJackson

    Great Article !!!!Thanks for the new update………

  • Yes!!!!! Just after warning for guest blogging process, now its time for Article Directory. Not sure whats going on with the content marketing.
    By the way, I don’t remember when I submitted any content on a article site last time. Its already an old story for most of people.

  • It goes back to two things: “Good SEO means some work” and “There is no free lunch”. If a service promises lots of great links, instant SEO or top ranking on Google, run the other way. Informative, consistent content continues t o be the best way to build solid links and leads. Thanks for the great answer.

    • Agreed James. Quit looking for shortcuts and start thinking of this as an investment in brand, not an ad in your local newspaper or a leaflet drop.

      If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is. If it’s cheaper than you think your competitors are spending, you’re not being clever. Quite the opposite.

  • deborahwilliams

    I still feel that article directories work, if they are done limited quantity by choosing the top quality article directory websites. I normally prefer for submissions of articles in article directories as Google is crawling few of article directory websites like in search then why not do that?

    While giving links in the bio ensure that to give links to the brand name rather than exact match keywords that will help to avoid penalization.

  • The principal point to understand is not how many director sites, not how many article sites, but the VALUE of them to your audience.
    Writing a unique post every day and submitting it to the same site or different sites is only valuable to your brand if that’s where you market hangs out.
    If your market (users) find the information useful, valuable or interesting, they’ll validate that with interaction, genuine sharing and comments.
    With Hummingbird, Google has committed to measure and value genuine interaction and to place less value anything which is spammy, of little value or unvalidated by an audience.

    The audience validates your content.
    Sites with no audience therefore have little or no ranking value.
    Content which an audience doesn’t find valuable has little or no ranking value.

    On directories, the same is true. If you believe customers will find you there, list your site. But ONLY base that decision on customers, not on Google’s algorithm. If that means you list on a handful of relevant directories, that’s logical and realistic. It’s reasonable to expect no penalty from Google for genuine placement of that nature.

    This is really targeting the 1000’s of pointless directories sites have historically been link-spamming for ranking points. Game over.

    • Great points Mark! I agree that some directories can be beneficial and are actually used by people looking to find information.

  • Thanks for sharing this Matt, great post. This once again emphasizes the need for quality links. Better yet, earn links.

  • Recently Matt Cutts tweeted, guest blogging is no-more for purpose of link building and now he replied “NO” for article publishing. Then how business owners and webmasters can brand their product or service ??

    • That’s not entirely what Matt Cutts said. He said that excessive guest posting with low-quality, recycled content was “done”.

      If your post is valuable, interesting and on a site where your audience hangs out, ranking benefit should come second – you’ll increase your brand and gain some traffic directly from the piece. The audience will validate it with interaction and social sharing and Google should respect its value.

      Guest blogging and directory links ONLY for ranking benefit has no value to your audience. Google is aligning its algorithm with what the audience (your audience, their audience) wants. So should site owners.

  • I’ve watched this video for the second time around. I think I see it more clearly now. One can still build links on other people’s websites as long as nobody’s causing a negative impact with what the entire website is all about. On article directories, there are no clear topics to base your interests on why you would go to such sites except for building links or syndicating content which isn’t yours. I think Google is doing a good job of raising the competition to a new level where it’s time for us to level up and be the expert.

  • Thanks very much really appreciate this step against spam link building with cross niche blogs and website to rank.
    Hats off Matt Cutts

  • Amit

    After the Panda algorithm update, I usually submit one Article per site. And then we don’t do much director submission and bookmarking when Penguin came in to the scene. Now Matt is saying don’t do article. Can anyone share their advice on how to do SEO (On/Off page) to get the top ranking on SERP.

  • John Gibson

    Ok it’s all nice. So I can not write quality content that gives visitors to the site where my article legally take my website.To spam. I have a website that does not buy backlink in directories, but I know a couple of sites that are buying links came on the first page. Telling the truth because if you enter friv in demand on the first page of the web sites that have links to directories.
    Whether it is about a selective punishment or there are cases where the panda close my eyes in front of similar activities, to enhance the visibility of the website.

  • Rahul Chouhan

    Nice explanation about link, really helpful for us but i think article submission is one of the toughest method to build backlink i only use comment or no follow backlinks.

  • Thank you for the update. I have the feeling that since hummingbird , Google has broaden its definition of spam.

  • mvenkatk

    First hat’s up Matt Cutts, really this step against spam link building with cross niche blogs and web sites to rank, it’s in Face book lot of spam link building with each other like to like, many sites buy links and come first pages, why Google not stopped these types of sites, and put some soft ware’s who buy back links then automatically they rank is down.

  • Good job Matt Cutts! Someone says that you have done very hard SEO but in reality you just help users in finding the right and useful information. Hummingbird only penalizes Black Hat SEO; it is not harmful for Ethical SEO. Now to get rank in SERP you have to do some ethical work which is very good for users and audience. Now, SEO Tagline becomes”Visitors are Kings”.

  • Thanks for sharing this Matt, nice post.

  • Thanks Matt for this information as I am new with blogging and will really appreciate every possible post like this so I can make my blogging successful, hopefully within the year! Cheers!

  • Good post for new seo update, ok i m agree with Matt Cutts….that Matt Cutts said that do’nt take links from article, bookmarking, directory…etc, but Matt Cutts not tell that what should do off page work for SERP, all off page activities almost spammed. then what can I do in OFF PAGE SEO ??????


  • Many times when Matt Cutts speaks it is also about what he doesn’t say as much as what he does say. He did not say that article links don’t work because in reality they still do.

    He did say that many of the article directory articles fall on the spammy side and therefore may not ultimately be used by quality sites thus watering down the value of the intended link juice.

    In any event, article submissions should only be a small part of the overall SEO strategy.

  • We stopped using article directories some time ago. Great content is now far more important than good content. We have encouraged our writers to step up their game and write longer and more detailed articles. This also comes with an increase in pay. Great writers are again being paid what they really are worth. No offense to all of you Fiverr writers 🙂

    Answer a question, fix a problem, show people how to do something…that’s what people generally want. Throw some personality in it too. There’s nothing wrong with a little sarcasm or fun.

    Google has gone to a more “natural” ways of doing things. If your content is great people will naturally link to it.

  • Though articles directories are not insanely effective. I don’t feel as if they hurt. Any little bit counts..right?