Google’s Webmaster Guidelines no longer suggests having relevant sites link to yours. They also removed their suggestion of submitting your site to relevant directories. This was brought up in Google Groups recently, and subsequently on the big Webmaster forums Digital-Point and Sitepoint. However based on the logic of these threads, which get pretty heated over Google vs. directories, Google is also suggesting that we don’t have relevant sites link to us!
Why the focus on directories in the above sites? For one thing, Google hates paid links. Directories almost always charge for link submission, sell featured links, or let you bid on links. Directories have been a very popular type of site on the Internet for a long time, and many Webmasters run profitable directories, or have lucrative directory submission services. Obviously the impact of Google demoting every directory to “SPAM” category implies a very large impact on many Webmasters. This also really stems from an ongoing topic that bubbles up in many forms about link directories and Google’s efforts to smite paid links and link building. Directories don’t usually generate a lot of unique content, but they do generate a lot of links. Webmasters are wary on the topic and see how this change to the Webmaster Guidelines affects their own directory involvement.
I have my own opinion about directories, and Google antics in general. Contrary to what many people continue to rant about, directories are not dead. Directories need to evolve and start offering more than just massive link fests. Google might want to replace the function that directories have always held online, but they can’t replace a worldwide network of privately held niche sites with just one tool. Directory owners need to focus on building valuable sites, offering good content, and targeting their listings along with their niches.
It’s pretty obvious that relevant links aren’t out. These items have most likely been removed from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines so they are not promoting link building for the sake of links. Google wants Webmasters to focus on running their site and getting natural links.