Matt Cutts does a Q&A after many webmasters became concerned about his paid links post.
Interesting bits relating to how to evaluate a quality directory:
Â ” Hey, as long as weâ€™re talking about directories, can you talk about the role of directories, some of whom charge for a reviewer to evaluate them?
A: Iâ€™ll try to give a few rules of thumb to think about when looking at a directory. When considering submitting to a directory, Iâ€™d ask questions like:
– Does the directory reject urls? If every url passes a review, the directory gets closer to just a list of links or a free-for-all link site.
– What is the quality of urls in the directory? Suppose a site rejects 25% of submissions, but the urls that are accepted/listed are still quite low-quality or spammy. That doesnâ€™t speak well to the quality of the directory.
– If there is a fee, whatâ€™s the purpose of the fee? For a high-quality directory, the fee is primarily for the time/effort for someone to do a genuine evaluation of a url or site.
Those are a few factors Iâ€™d consider. If you put on your user hat and ask â€œDoes this seem like a high-quality directory to me?â€ you can usually get a pretty good sense as well, or ask a few friends for their take on a particular directory“
“Are you interested in hearing about directories in this report?
A: Nope, Iâ€™d be most interested in feedback like the examples that I mentioned above, or things like paid posts that might affect search engines.“
In relation to a site on the topic of Unix, Matt mentioned that the paid links had been detected and discounted, which appears to indicate Google don’t tend to ban the site, just prevent PageRank from passing.
“Our existing algorithms had already discounted these links without any people involved. However, our manual spamfighters had detected these links as well“.
On the topic of competitor buying links on your behalf:
” Iâ€™m worried that someone will buy links to my site and then report that.
A: Weâ€™ve always tried very hard to prevent site A from hurting site B. Thatâ€™s why these reports arenâ€™t being fed directly into algorithms, and are being used as the starting point rather than being used directly.“
Matt again mentions the word “discounted”, as opposed to, say, ban or de-list.