As any SEO (or inbound marketer as it is being called these days) will tell you, the game has changed. The old tricks for ranking well are no longer valid. Up to around the year 2010, a typical SEO strategy for a new website consisted of no more than the following simple steps:
Needless to say, those days are long gone. In today's world a fledging website must put together many aspects of design, content, marketing and optimization into one neat and highly polished package to even be eligible for success. Existing authoritative websites can be a bit more relaxed due to the huge amount of backlinks they tend to have accumulated over the years. That said, the continuing updates to Google and its algorithms mean any website can be a candidate for a penalty at any time. In the past years there is one type of website that has been particularly hard-hit by Google updates: online directories.
An online directory is a website that has hundreds, thousands or at times even millions of listings, each with a link out to the particular website. These yellow-page style sites were sitting ducks for the Google content-oriented updates which began in 2011 due to the undeniable fact that they tend to be very thin on content. To make matters worse, the vast majority of them were set up to charge for backlinks. Some clever chaps had even written automated scripts that would post your site to thousands of these directories in seconds for a fee. For years these directory sites thrived and passed on link juice to their "customers". Recently, however, these link farms have been destroyed by Google, dropping dozens of spots in SERPs or being kicked out of the Google index altogether.
Despite the difficulties in maintaining a directory website in Google's favor these days, is is not impossible. And the recipe for keeping a directory as part of the "good guys" goes hand-in-hand with what is necessary for maintenance of any successful website: it must be cared for.
Thomas Job is the director of www.reiselinks.de, a German web directory founded in 1998. At first glance, it seems to be a prime candidate for a penalty. However, Mr. Job has stubbornly resisted search engine algo wrath by personally caring for his creation. It is this human element and personal attention that has become so important to keep a site on Google's good side.
Mr. Job explains:
"Reiselinks.de is 15 years old and is updated nearly daily. Web directories seem not to have a very good standing, but if it is well organized and up-to-date, it has some worth for the user."
The key here is "organized" and "up-to-date". The human footprint on a website is now traceable by Google. Google can also detect when content is created or updated by automated scripts by analyzing certain patterns. This has been a key factor in Reiselinks.de's resisting, even thriving in the post-Panda world.
Thomas continues by stating
"I read travel magazines and add new URLs at once. I have a personal look on the entries and add them if they have a good quality in content no matter what their link-scheme is."
Mr. Job is giving his site the personal touch that Google so much likes to see these days. He adds that
"many websites disappear from search engines at this moment, no matter if they have a good quality or not. My directory is faster than Google."
We at Puelo Consulting could not agree with him more. Today, more than ever, it is of utmost importance to take personal care of your online project. Thomas Job sums it up perfectly when he states "if it is well organised and up to date, it has some worth for the user." His final thoughts on the future and justification for his hand-made directory site is
"If Google continues its strategy of further punishments, very good small and medium-sized companies will continue to disappear from the top spots in the search results. For this, well-maintained web directories have a right to exist. I am sure that the user will be looking for content that has been sorted and evaluated by human hands and professionals in their theme."