Google has recently punished a number of web directories, relegating many of them to the lower reaches of Google’s search results, even in cases where users search for them by name.

These sites, known as link directories, are there purely to generate traffic for the sites that list with them, and most have no value or content of interest for the average web user.

The websites in question are those specifically that charge other websites for inclusion in their directories. Over 70 such sites have had their Google PageRank reduced.

Links are crucial in search engine rankings, and are a measure of a website’s authority and relevancy in Google’s eyes, which has led to a number of websites existing just to buy and sell links.

Google Webmaster guidelines normally ban the buying and selling of links, as is the case with the other major search engines, and Google’s Matt Cutts has previously asked for users to report paid links as part of the search engine’s efforts to improve its index:

According to Google Webmaster Central:
“There’s no “outright penalty” for being a directory, but we do value, as I’m sure you’ve heard, “unique, compelling content.”

“Directories can run into the problem of not containing original information. Should the webmaster believe their site has fallen in search results, there’s no reason they can’t add more “unique, compelling content” to help their site rise.”

It seems that Google is now treating link directories much the same way it treats splogs (spam blogs) and spam-filled websites. As long as the directory has some content of value to web users, and doesn’t charge for its links, its search engine ranking should remain unaffected.