If you've worked in the SEO industry for more than a couple of years, you probably remember the days when article directories were all the rage. You could write a quickie article, submit it to literally hundreds of article directories, link it to your site, in hopes others will publish it on their own sites to add content.
However, with duplicate content filters and link penalties, article directories definitely fell out of favor for many webmasters. That said, there are many article directories that are still actively soliciting articles and publishers who continue to republish that content.
What is Google's official stance on article directories such as Ezine in 2014 – good or bad? This is the topic of Matt Cutts' latest webmaster help video, which begins with a history lesson on the rise of article directories:
Over time article directories have gotten a little bit of a worse name. So just refresh everybody's memory, an article directory is basically where you write 3-, 4-, 500 words of content and then you'll include a little bio or some information about you at the bottom of the article, and you might have three links with keyword rich anchor text at the bottom of that article. And then you'd submit that to a bunch of what are known as article directories, and then anyone can download them or perhaps pay to download them, and they'll use them on their own website.
While the video specifically mentions ezine.com, there are hundreds of similar article directories that all accept articles from site owners and publishers. While the sites often make money from advertising of the articles or even from spyware and malware, writers hope that others will syndicate it and they will get links out of it, or at least a bit of traffic.
The theory behind that is if somebody finds it useful and puts it on their webpage, then you might get a few links. Now in practice what we've seen is this often tends to be a little bit of lower quality stuff. And in fact we've seen more and more instances where you end up with really kind of spammy content getting sprayed and syndicated all over the entire web. So in my particular opinion article directories and just trying to write one article and just syndicating it wildly or just uploading it to every site in the world and hoping that everyone else will download and use it on their website, I wouldn't necessarily count on that being effective.
SEOs largely abandoned article directories many years ago, but there are still new webmasters who see the opportunity, think it's a great idea, but don't realize the implications of it. The reality is that article directories have become overwritten with low-quality, stolen or spammy content but many just don't realize it.
Cutts also hinted that their search algorithm is filtering, or perhaps even penalizing, mass article directory spam.
"We certainly have some algorithmic things that would mean is probably a little less likely to be successful now compared to a few years ago, for example," Cutts said. "So my personal recommendation would be probably to not upload article like that."
While many SEO practitioners haven't touched article directories for several years, clearly some webmasters still don't realize it's a bad idea. Right now, the most useful things a webmaster can use an article directory site for is to simply get topic ideas and then rewrite in their own words for their own sites, because there is no ranking perk from submitting to them.