Google devaluing Human-Filtered Directories?

At the Mile High Social Media Club meeting tonight, speaker Brett Borders mentioned that the google webmaster guidelines had been recently updated to remove a recommendation to submit to “relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!, as well as to other industry-specific expert sites.” I tweeted this nugget of information, and @theguigirl asked if I had any more information.

I don’t, officially, but I can speculate, and I also googled 🙂

When DMOZ was brought up at the session, I volunteered that I had been an editor back in the day, and I guessed that the recent update to the guidelines was due to the lack of democracy-an editor can maintain their section autonomously. Indeed, I was solicited to serve as editor when I submitted a site I maintained. When the volunteer pool is folks who have a vested interest in their own site(s) being promoted, how objective can you really expect the directory to be? While there are certainly ways to “game” digg and stumble-upon, at the very least one some level the wisdom of the crowd should offer some level of checks and balances.

A secondary consideration is the whole basis of google – the PageRank algorithm (math and stats and computer science). I’ve read a fair amount from the google folks, and it appears their preference is to automate, automate, automate. Yahoo! was a human-powered directory that was super-ceded by Google because Google was able to offer better, more accurate results, more quickly. PageRank is based on authority: inbound vs outbound links, and the quality thereof. As a directory, DMOZ links out far more than it’s linked to. The algorithm must therefore be tweaked to assign a weighting to a directory like this. So how much ‘authority’ do you assign to a listing in DMOZ, when they let anyone, even Canadian college kids, be editors?

I do recall a bit of an uproar months ago about a blog post that claimed that Google was to punish pagerank for digg stories. Although it’s never really been verified as coming from a legitimate Google source, the warning seems to make some sense: sources that were found to be manipulating social bookmarking sites to unfairly promote sites would be blocked. Don’t be evil, kids, and you’ll be fine.

What I feel makes the story really interesting, however, is the buzz shortly following that Google was planning to acquire digg. Was the “leaked” blog post a way to devalue digg in the eyes of SEO folks? Or does google really recognize the importance of social bookmarking? A Stanford 2008 survey actually found that 25% of the sites posted to have not yet been indexed by the major search engines. That’s pretty amazing. I would love to have seen if Google incorporated digg rankings into their algorithm, or kept digg as a complimentary service and simply used it to help find new sites to index more quickly. Assigning authority to individual users would be very, very interesting!

So why did Google update their guidelines? Hard to say. But it may be because:

  1. Google sees directories as having equal credibility as other sources, so there is no need to distinguish them in the guidelines
  2. Google sees human-classified directories as having less credibility than other sites
  3. The Google algorithm needs to take into account many more sources than simply directories like Yahoo! and DMOZ
  4. Google wants the demise of all non-Google entities

2 thoughts on “Google devaluing Human-Filtered Directories?

  • I think Google is just really tired of people buying PageRank with directories and is starting to treat the general ones more and more like a worthless bought link.

  • I think they may perhaps be saying to both those big diretories that we don’t think you are all so very important these days, so we are not going to be recommending that people specificially submit to your sites.
    dmoz is certainly in a different boat than yahoo which i do believe maintains a high standard. 9/10 of eveyone i encounter on line about dmoz is a rag against them. google should put a few hundred people in there and reorganize and clean it up, it would be so simple. i could even do it.
    since so many of the google wonkers themselves are bloggers i guess may they are leaning away from directories and towards the social marking and marketing/linking end come from bloggers and social bookmarkers…..we’ll have to read more

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