Will Google consider Yahoo! Directory and Best of the Web as sources of paid links? If no, why is this different from another site that sells links?
Whenever we look at whether a directory is useful to users, we say – “OK, what is the value add of that directory? Do they go out and find their entries on their own, or do they only wait for people to come to them? How much do they charge and what’s the editorial service that’s being charged?” If a directory takes 50 USD and every single person who ever applies in the directory automatically gets in for that 50 dollars, there is not as much editorial oversight as something like the Yahoo! directory, where people do get rejected. So, if there is no editorial value add, then that is much closer to paid links.
In fact, if you look at our webmaster quality guidelines, we used to have a guideline that says “submit your site to directories”, and we gave a few examples of directories. People would get obsessed with that line and go out and look for a lot of directories. There were people who were like “Oh well, if people are looking for directories, i’ll make a directory”, and so you saw all this fly-by-night directories, that would start up and say “Oh yes, I am a PR6 directory, give me 50 dollars and you’ll automatically get an entry in my directory”. It’s not as if those types of listings are the sort of things that users really value, or that do a lot of good in our search results, or that we want to do a lot of good. So we ended up taking out that mention in our webmaster guidelines so that people don’t get obsessed with directories and think “I have to go find a bunch of different directories to submit my site to”.
The Yahoo! directory does a good job of editorial discretion by doing a review and rejecting a significant number of entries that are low quality. The question on your mind whenever you are considering a directory is “what is the value add, do they have high standards?” I have a blog post out where I talk about some of the other different factors of a directory and whether we might consider it as real, but those are some of the factors that you should ask yourself about. So by those measures – no, the yahoo directory is not just automatically paid links. Typically paid links are much lower quality, they’re much more automatic, people would give you whatever anchor text you want, and all those sorts of things. So there is a difference.
If you make a great site, and try to make sure that people find out about it, those are some of the things that really make a difference; not “I have to go submit my site to at least 5 directories, or at least 10 directories” or anything like that.
by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team