Link Quality: Perception is Reality

A friend of mine recently submitted a sleazy site to a number of human edited directories and was surprised at how many accepted it...almost all of them.

A bigger surprise though was who rejected it. Yahoo took the $300 and accepted the submission. A directory that has been highlighted as a spot that sells links to anyone who has $10 and a URL rejected it.

Perception of quality and brand awareness (as signals for trust) often trump true quality, usefulness, and how strongly a link source discriminates.

Published: June 28, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


July 5, 2007 - 3:03pm

Hello friends!

Take a look what I've just found at the web! Even Jamaica Ministry
trade links!!!! :))))))

Ministry of Finance and Planning Jamaica

"First add a link to my site. You may pick from any of the following text or banner links... "

Free Chess School Online webmaster

Khalid Hajsaleh
June 29, 2007 - 6:50am

Yesterday it was article submission sites and today it is directories:)

In all honesty, I wish both would either go away or that we can find real quality ones. Don't you think that there is a conflict of interest built into directories that take money to listing a site? Who is their real customer? Is it the site paying the membership fees or is it the person navigating the directory listings? Website owners want to get a link back to their site regardless of its quality. Web visitors on the other hand are more concerned with quality and relevance.

Regardless to the perceived quality of these directories, don’t you think that the perceived benefit from getting listed with them is what keeps most of these directories around?

June 29, 2007 - 12:10pm

Yeah the age old discussion of, directories and link sites. They defeat the entire purpose of why the internet started and well, it's the argument that goes around on every SEO forum isn't it:

Should there be pay directories and Link Submission sites and should Google onsider these as backlinks to your site.

Personally, I think people should link to your site if your sites worth the link. "Screw" the directories and paid inclusions.

June 29, 2007 - 1:55pm

WizardMan...that's a nice philosophy, and the one Google made its USP early on.

However, in a world filled with hundreds of millions of web sites, many or most new sites have trouble getting noticed....even if they offer some legit value.

Aaron is the expert in this arena, not me. But it seems to me that, aside from article sites, directories, press releases and reciprocal sites almost always have to opt for some level of paid inclusion in order to have a chance of BEING order for your dream of truly organic linking to occur.

I have experienced both, personally. I have quite a few sites that are frequently linked to because of thier high value and uniqueness. Actually, my favorite "value and uniqueness" indicator is the letters of thanks I receive from people who have benefitted from the resources I'm providing.

But I also have new sites that I'm trying to GET SEEN in the first place. Directories are largely worthless in my view (outside of the few human-edited directories, it's now largely a process dominated by spam-bulk-submission). But articles sites and some reciprocal linking can have a degree of value. After that...errr, I probably have to buy some links in order to ever get noticed in a noisy, messy web landscape.

I'm open to other ideas and would love to hear them...but, based on my level of knowledge...that's about all I know.

Hamlet Batista
June 29, 2007 - 4:38pm

When it comes to human reviews perception is reality. For machines, such as search engines, that would never be the case. There will always be a way to spam them.

June 29, 2007 - 6:34pm

Hi Aaron,

I can tell by the date of your blog entry you are a forward thinker (as I type this it says July 28th, 2007 :)

June 29, 2007 - 7:17pm

Darn - I have to pay my tax bill tomorrow - July has flown by, hasn't it? :)

On a more serious note, I totally agree with Chuck. It's no good telling a new website that all they have to do is create 'link bait' and just wait for the one-way links to flow in. Doesn't happen. You have to be seen in the first place to get properly noticed. Also, consider that the vast majority of sites actual content isn't going to be link-worthy in terms of bloggers going "WOW! LOOK AT THAT WEBSITE!! THEY SELL GLOVES!!". It's tough in non-sexy markets to truly be link-worthy in that way.

Of course content is the most important thing, but it's still one component of an overall strategy, that should include some reciprocal linking, article submitting etc.

June 29, 2007 - 8:21pm

Maybe it will be a sliding scale soon. Yahoo can charge 1200 to include you if your site is made for adsense, 600 if its crummy, and 300 if its average.

David Eaves
July 1, 2007 - 6:54pm

Directories guide the search engines, I have a directory listing that generates over 30 visitors a week and many others around the 10 mark, if a directory is optimised properly then it not only offers link value but traffic as well. There are lot's of high quality directories around, you just need to fully understand directories to know where to look. Linkbait is not enough, many directories allow you to link to the internal product pages of a site using relevant anchor text, your linkbait is not going to give you that. Many corporate websites simply cannot have blogs, news or articles or anything that is really going to attract links, some sites are governed by the FSA and have to have all of their content pre-approved, many others have brands that need protecting. Should these sites not be allowed to rank in the search engines? Bloggers and people who are just having fun etc. can linkbait, serious businesses need ways to get links and directories can help them with that. As for directories being a link buy that is a load of rubbish, I know from 1st hand experience that running a directory properly requires a lot of time and effort, the listings need to be checked on a regular basis, directories are designed to link out to other sites so it is a totally different ball game to buying links.

July 1, 2007 - 9:07pm

The point of this post was not that all directories suck, but that trust is based on perception.

For most general directories I do think of them as typically being nothing more than a link buy, but high quality niche ones might send a bit more traffic. Also when you submit to Yahoo! sponsoring a target category that ranks well is a nice way to drive a bit of traffic

David Eaves
July 1, 2007 - 10:25pm

I was having a pop at some of the people who had commented before me not at your post.

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