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The Rise of the Directory
By: Brian Turner
This article seeks to explore the relvancy and usefulness
of directories for search engine optimisation purposes.
The article is split into the following areas:
Florida, Hilltop, and Directories
- Florida, Hilltop, and Directories
- Directories as Expert documents
- How directories may help ranking
- Directories: Important notes
On November 12th 2003, what seemed like an otherwise minor
and innocuous update began on Google. Everybody in the
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) community was completely
unprepared for the major upset that was about to happen.
What changed was the face of Google forever.
Within two weeks the story had even made world press
agencies such as Reuters and the BBC. You may even have
heard of the name of the update: it was called "Florida".
What Florida did was to abandon the normal way that
Google evaluates websites. The consensus within the
SEO community is that a number of changes were rolled
out together - perhaps creating results unpredictible
even to Google.
Although it is certain that Google changed the way
it deals with the semantics of queries, any other possible
changes remain speculative.
However, one clear possibility believed applied was
some form of algorithm change that was related to Google's
Hilltop paper. Hilltop contained a number of features
in its patent, such as:
Directories as Expert documents
- Devaluation of links by C class IP
- Determination of "authority" sites
- Relevancy determined by an "expert set"
One specific area that interests this article is that
Hilltop determines relevancy, based on cross-referencing
with a pre-determined set of "expert documents".
That means off-topic links are on their way out of
usefulness. That means "expert" pages need
to be found.
Luckily, Google has publicly published papers on expert
systems. One in particular is called "Hilltop".
And Hilltop very clearly states what an "expert"
Experts in our definition are directories of links pointing
to many non-affiliated sites. This is an indication
that these pages were created for the purpose of directing
users to resources, and hence we regard their opinion
as valuable. Additionally, in computing the level of
relevance, we require a match between the query and
the text on the expert page which qualifies the hyperlink
being considered. This ensures that hyperlinks being
considered are on the query topic. For further accuracy,
we require that at least 2 non-affiliated experts point
to the returned page with relevant qualifying text describing
How the term "directory" is quanlified by
Google is, of course, a matter of conjecture. But what
it almost certainly means that good directories in themselves
can have a specific intrinsic value in an expert system.
In short, directory listings can theoretically provide
a special relevance in an expert system, such asa Hilltop-derived
Welcome to the rise of directories.
How directories may help ranking
Once upon a time directories were of limited importance:
they generated little human traffic for starters. And
the PageRank of individual pages often seemed so low
that the arduous and often expensive submissions process
could seem like too much effort and expense.
Not any more.
Even though the Hilltop algorithm almost certainly
is unlikely to have been implemented in its original
form, there are features of it that are almost certainly
being used to help deliver better relevancy in Google's
rankings - not least, because specific features were
re-issued in a later Google patent named New Score (LocalRank).
So how can directories help?
Directories: Important notes
- Wide IP spread
Listings in a wide range of directories will offer
a good spread of IP ranges being linked from. This
is good for the simple purpose of connectivity, which
is one feature than any major search engine will take
into account for ranking purposes.
- Keyword anchor text
Search engines use anchor text - the text in links
- to evaluate the meaning of pages being linked to.
Where allowed, a keyword or two in your directory
link will help significantly.
- On-topic linking
With various semantic processes in development, on-topic
linkage remains a key concern of link building. Directory
listings are usually structured into a thematic heirarchy
- so that links pertaining to a specific topic will
be linked together. This makes many directories ideal
repositories of "expert pages".
- Authority linkage
Good human-edited directories build up a good reputation,
and will accrue a good number of links over a period
of time. This means that directories can become contenders
to be regarded as "authority" sites, which
means that links from such sites can be given added
Will Google give the same respect to every directory?
Almost certainly not. But where is the dividing line drawn?
That's Google's secret.
You should look to ensure that you start submitting your
links to a wide range of directories, but bear the following
important points in mind:
Ultimately, the most important point to mark out is that
directory listings may be beneficial for search engine
rankings - but you shouldn;t seek to rely on just this
aspect in a commercial SEO environment. Directory listings
are simply one weapon in the SEO armoury - don't neglect
your other options.
- Quality directories
Human edited directories, rather than ones than will
automatically accept submissions, are the most likely
to be quality. However, it is not a hard and fast
rule. Some directories are very selective at what
they will list. Others are not. A directory that will
admit any listing is nothing but a free for all (FFA)
site. Whilst links from such places may or may not
be given any particular value, their content pages
are almost certainly not going to qualify as an either
authoritative or expert. Which means that the link
may be of little worth.
- Spider friendly pages
Not all directories are spider-friendly. After all,
what do most web developers know about SEO? Many know
nothing, and develop sripts where the page URLs are
filled with numerous variables that can choke search
- Spider friendly links
Even worse, a HUGE number of directories redirect
listed URLs through a tracking script, which renders
the links as invisible to search engines, and so your
site will see no linkage benefit from such listings.
Don't submit to such sites, unless you're convinced
you'll get profitable traffic from them.
- Quality directories
Anyone can - and does - set up directories online.
You want to look for the ones regarded as being of
a decent quality. After all, search engines such as
Google may just agree with you. Don;t waste your time
with FFA (Free For All) directories that will list
anything - they are likely fille with doorway sites,
redirects, and other bad neighbourhoods that could
see such a directory purposefully overlooked by search
engines, once rumbled.
- Take your time
It's unlikely you can submit to all directories all
at once (unless you indend to spent a lot of time
and money doing so! So take your time - once you have
identified which are the most important directories,
then submit at a rate that suits you. Telling yourself
to submit to one directory every day - or every week
- is a perfectly good way to to good about it. Especially
because, no matter what lists you use, there are almost
certainly new directories for you to discover and