Directories and Clueless Webmasters

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martinibuster on Crapola Directories
Story Text:

Martinibuster posts an awesome rant about directories and clueless webmasters. It's not just sounding off though, it's a damn good read for anyone involved with directories.

Let's whip out those two brain cells and rub them together: What do you imagine the search engine engineers would think about a directory that is marketed exclusively to webmasters? Aren't directories supposed to be useful to web surfers? Would the search engineers think that these directories were a scheme for helping SEO Webmasters manipulate their ranks? If so, what action do you think they would take?

Directories drive me nuts, it's so damn hard to find really good, genuiney useful directories in amongs the steaming piles of poop littering the net. MB's post should be pinned to the monitors of soooo many SEO's...

Here's a novel idea: How about a directory that has really cool websites listed for free? Ever IM with a friend or read a forum, and they drop a link to a really cool website you have never heard of before? Why not a directory that is full of links that lead to really cool websites the users enjoy visiting?

Didn't he do well? I should thank andy for the link, im subscribed to MB's blog, but for some reason i've not been seeing any new posts - something must have gone wrong, i'll be fixing that right now..

On the flip side though...

Linda pointed me to some good directory lists yesterday by mentioning Bob Mutch's directory list that can be ordered by Alexa, PR, Price and more. Quite a nice little compilation, and if you've ever seen Bob post, you'll know he has 2 favorite subjects: PR (to the 43rd decimal place heh..) and Directories.

Good stuff - must be some shiners in amongst the dross there...

Comments

There are any number of

There are any number of websites listing 'cool' links, for quite a lot of niches (you probably won't for example, find 'cool' websites about taxidermy) - the only difference is no-one arranges them into a directory structure. Such things are much better off as 'linkblogs' or simply del.icio.us style feeds and listings; not least because many cool links don't last for long.

I disagree with a few points

I agree it's a good read, but I also think MB has been a bit quick on the trigger here. I'm not sure if MB runs directories, but I have some experience from that sector, and I disagree with a number of the specific points.

I'll just post about half the post I wrote. Perhaps I'll post the rest later.

I disagree, e.g.:

  • that directories should not have "links", or "webmaster" or "SEO" as part of their domain name. Except the obvious long spammy names with hyphens, there's really no reason to assume that any particular kind of domain name would signify either a good or a bad directory.
  • that directories should not target webmasters. Webmasters are a niche just like any other niches and of course you can build really valuable and useful directories for that particular demographic. No reason at all to assume that because you target, eg. "steel workers" you would do more good to the world than if you target "webmasters".
  • that ROS casino links is a sign of bad quality. Personally I don't have any, and I understand where MB's getting at, but the directory business is not easy, and quality directories are hard to monetise. That, and casinos tend to spam everyone with requests/deals for links/banners/whatever, so some very high quality directories are bound to have those links as well.
  • that the general web surfer is "your constituent" (had to look up that word). General interest one-size-fits-all directories with "something for everyone" are definately not the kind of directories that would most likely earn a quality stamp from me (not even Yahoo! LookSmart, or your typical dmoz clone). Specialist directories, otoh, are. Those that fill a limited need and do that well.
  • that one category should be enough for the specific subject "internet marketing" (?!) Heck, there's an abundance of firms, blogs, forums, corporate and personal sites with all kinds of specialist focus. It's (getting to be) a whole industry, even with people starting up industry associations and the like. You could easily have a full directory of a subbranch of that category, say, eg. Ressources - no problem. And... I'm kinda puzzled that I have to point out that particular fact.

The point MB misses is this: You can't tell the quality by the tech used, or by how professional the site looks, or what domain name it might have.

Some sites that will appear as great value directories to the casual surfer as well as the SE spider are really nothing but crap, eg. bought extracts from some YP database serving as a vehicle for cold calls and large bills to small business owners. It looks great, it has professional structure, it has listings, but it's just a scam anyway. There are other types of directories that you have to take a closer look at to discern the value, including some that looks like crap, but are really great ressources nonetheless because of the skill/knowledge applied in selecting those links.

The quality of any given directory lies in the links it features. That's the core product. I'll repeat that: Links are the core product for a directory, anything else is just noise. The skills, labour, and knowledge employed to collect, organize, and maintain those links is what makes a quality directory good.

If two persons list the 1,000 most important/relevant links to, say, "green trees", you have to be in the target group to know which one of the two does the best job. You might just see green trees, but a gardener will see something else. There are different shades of green just like there are over 20,000 types of trees.

No way you can get a clue about that from the domain name, the advertising on the site, comments/non-comments, or whatever.

that directories should not

Quote:
that directories should not target webmasters.

Yeah, this is wrong. You have to target both users and webmasters. Directories are essentially passive in the way they collect links, unlike a spidering engine which actively seeks links out. Therefore the directory owner must target webmasters to a degree in order to get a constant fresh supply of new listings. Also, at least in the content web, a lot of those webmasters you listed are going to link back to you which provides helps provide users via direct click throughs. In fact a mature, healthy niche directory is going to get significant traffic from direct referrals from other websites. Of course any directory worth it's salt also wants and needs real human users - but the proper answer is targeting BOTH.

-

I haven't read the MB article yet, but the argument against webmaster-targeting directories could be similar to one put forward for .edu domains, in that if you take sample of the webmaster/SEO-targeting directories you may find that a lot of them are low quality (and .edu domains likely to be of high quality).

I think a lot of the general

I think a lot of the general criticisms thrown at directories are pretty relevant - the problem is that in a saturated environment consumers need to find ways to discern quality in overwhelming quantity.

I've been generally looking at ways to improve my own, but a key problem is trying to engage consumers in the right way. I'm trying to get local businesses to submit, but too many don't understand even the basics of internet use let alone directory submission - while webmasters, on the other hand, are often so PageRank obsessed that if a page doesn't have a PR4, then it's not worth submitting to in their mind.

I tried to address some of those points on the DP thread.

Ultimately, a core idea behind building a directory is to provide perceived value and useful experience for consumers - submitters and searchers. There are probably different ways in which directory owners can be more proactive about this, but again, it depends upon the business approach being targeted.

in a saturated environment

in a saturated environment consumers need to find ways to discern quality in overwhelming quantity.

That's a nice one. It's right on the money. If it was a normal market people would just stop publishing directories because costs would be too great relative to income. However, while quality directories have very high costs (not least in terms of labour) for a crap directory, costs are very close to zero.

>> I tried to address some of those points on the DP thread

- got a link?

Directories are essentially passive in the way they collect links, unlike a spidering engine which actively seeks links out.

Honestly, I didn't even think in those terms when I thought about "targetting webmasters". Not until I read that. I thought in terms of webmasters being the users, not submitters.

Personally I don't work with submissions at all. It's the job of the editor to find the right links for listing, it should never depend on which website will make a submission and which one will not. If the site is relevant it should be there regardless if the webmaster is actively searching for links or not. Of course, people can suggest a site, but never submit it - they're even told that suggestions are just that and that it does not imply a listing.

For the same reason I don't accept PFI - if the site's relevant (and of sufficient quality) it must be included no matter if it's a billion dollar corporation with a budget or a small spare time webmaster who neither can nor will pay. No empty categories either. That just don't happen.

Just a bit to picky for me!

Some of the points are ok others I think are too picky. Lets discuss the marks of a good directory. Here is a short list to start the ball moving.

1) Directory on dmoz.org and dir.yahoo.com .
2) Low Alexa ranking showing traffic (well kind of).
3) Either accepts free submissions or has volunteer or pay editors adding up sites.
4) A high number of pages in the index of Google/Yahoo/MSN.
5) More than 2 or 3 sites in each category. In fact how about 10 to 20 or even more.
6) Traffic. Click though traffic is important. With out this a directory may be seen as a site just selling links to give the submitters site higher rankings in the search engines.

Some Clarification

>>>there's really no reason to assume that any particular kind of domain name would sigify either a good or a bad directory.

In my experience, directories that use those phrases in their domain names generally (but not always) have no other focus apart from selling links to webmasters. A directory so focused will not send traffic. I repeat: Not true in all cases. But true in enough cases where I can confidentally say it is true in general.

Not everyone who has a cough has cancer, true. But when you take all the symptoms together, the diagnosis becomes clearer.

>>>Webmasters are a niche just like any other niches and of course you can build really valuable and useful directories for that particular demographic.

Claus, I think you may have misunderstood my point, and that we actually agree very much.

The point I was making is that if you create a general directory and make zero effort to promote that directory to surfers who would be interested in exploring that directory, and 100% effort to promote it in web forums and seo blogs, then it's painfully obvious that directory is not going to deliver traffic (because traffic has not been cultivated), and that it is a PR/Link selling scheme.

Quote:
You have to target both users and webmasters.

The other point I wanted to make clear is that if you do promote your directory in the SERPS, and your categories are showing up in the serps, webmasters will be lining up to piggyback on your serp positions.

The consequence of promoting your directory to SURFERS (as opposed to promoting it to SEOs) is the happy situation in which your directory will be delivering leads/traffic and will become sought after for submissions. Just think of all the webmasters who want to piggyback on wikipedia serps, for example.

The big problem with that proposition is that not every directory owner has the imagination to promote their site for traffic, or the expertise to make it rank well.

A directory that focuses on building traffic and offering quality listings to that traffic is a quality directory. Isn't that one of the things we SEOs and webmsters are looking for?

Most everything else that isn't selling leads or traffic is selling links/PR. Nothing wrong with that, I'm fine with that believe me, but let's be honest about it and not try say we're something we are not.

I know of a few directories that have put effort into ranking well and they don't lack for submissions.

>>>casinos tend to spam everyone with requests/deals for links/banners/whatever, so some very high quality directories are bound to have those links as well.

True. But look at it this way: There are a great many men who are willing to pay to have a go with your wife, but for most people, not even poverty is an excuse to kick their wife into the street.

I'm not saying a directory owner shouldn't take money from a casino. I am saying that as a person concerned about where my website is listed, I don't want it sharing space with pills and casinos because that is a quality issue. There are other ways to make money selling shovels to casino site owners, but that's an issue for another thread.

I think we agree as well :-)

I needed that clarification (and Brad's above) as well as a good look as Bob's list (Great list btw. :-) in order to fully understand what this was all about. I just didn't get the distinction between "webmasters as target group (users)" and "webmasters as target group (submitters)". Stupid me...

4) A high number of pages in

Quote:
4) A high number of pages in the index of Google/Yahoo/MSN.

Fail to see how that makes any difference to the quality of a directory. A small niche directory might have 50/50 pages indexed, whereas a mega directory might only have 10,000 out of 50,000 indexed.

If quality counts for

If quality counts for anything, why would a webmaster want to have their link sit on the same page as a casino link, much less on a site that links to casinos from every page?

?In the three major search engines eyes, quite a few casino and casino related sites are "quality" sites, as measured by Pagerank, Alexa, link popularity or whatever measurement pertaining to search engine "quality" you want to use.

Just because online gambling is illegal in SOME PLACES does not make casino sites "evil" or make all casino sites "bad"...

does not make casino sites "evil"

By quality I am talking about and concerned with relevance as determined by the mapping of relationships between websites by their links to one another. This is according to the principle of who you link to says something about what your website is about.

If a directory has a major amount of links pointing out to gambling sites, that says something important about that directory.

As a webmaster who is considering submitting a website to that directory, I may not want to have a link from a website from that particular neighborhood if my website is completely unrelated to gambling. Does that make sense?

There are different thresholds of risks, and as I stated already, it's not a one size fit all position. However, if you care about the longevity of your website, it makes sense to care about the quality of your inbound links, especially with regard to issues of relevance.

The whole point of submitting to a directory, if not the traffic, is to have your link sitting on a page that is relevant to your site. Having a fistful of casino links on that same (non-gambling) page destroys that. It's like pouring ketchup in a beer.

Now, I'm not saying casino sites are low quality. Nowhere did I say that. Is that clear? I only used Casino Sites as an example, as it's quite commonly seen. If it makes you happy, replace every instance of the phrase Casino Site with the phrase Knitting Site. It doesn't change the point I'm making.

casino sites

Just about every casino affiliate site owner I've ever seen will do just about anything to get links pointing at them.

There's no way I'd list a white hat, non-casino site in a directory that had ROS "blackjack" and/or "phentermine" type links.

There's way too many sites offering links that have a bit of dodgy green PR anyhow. If you're going to promote a whitehat site with any sort of success and longevity you are going to avoid precisely these types of sites - sites that are in the business of selling links instead of qualified human traffic.

That's what I list my sites in directories for, and why people list their sites in my directories.

ROS Knitting links

Great discussion this one :-)

One each individual page of a directory, a ROS link to a knitting site will only be one out of many (except for directories with empty categories). So, the damage done per page is probably not all that great. However, being advertising it will not be on topic for, say a Gardening category page. So, by having a few of these ROS things, each and every page will get a few links that totally misses the site topic.

Add to this the 404's and wrong pages (eg. faux directories, domain placeholders) that naturally appear as sites move, change, get bought and sold - and the percentage of outbounds that are on target can be lower than you think.

That's a general problem with advertising, except contextual and sponsorships. Moreover, by doing ROS the site effectively associates itself (as partner site) with the site(s) that it ROS-links to (one reason why ROS links are always too cheap - they should be extremely expensive)

Just a few thoughts anyway...

We don't need no stinkin directories !

All we really need is a tag ... say like coolwebsite ... or maybe just "cool" see http://del.icio.us/tag/cool .

PaulH: "Fail to see how that

PaulH: "Fail to see how that makes any difference to the quality of a directory. A small niche directory might have 50/50 pages indexed, whereas a mega directory might only have 10,000 out of 50,000 indexed."
Well if you go and look at my list and note the number of documents in G/Y/M you will quickly see that there are a number of directories with none or very few documents in the index. This is a very good way to tell the quality of a directory. Go take a look at my list and you will see what I meant.

tag

del.icio.us is just another directory. It is a Free-For-All directory, where anyone can submit anything to any number of categories ("tags"). The same goes for Flickr and all the other tag based directories.

I would but Parse error:

I would but

Quote:
Parse error: parse error, unexpected '{', expecting '(' in /home/bob/public_html/directory/admin/class.scrape.php on line 8

I had quick look earlier and thought some of the directories with 100’000s pages were far from quality directories either for users or webmasters. General directories with mostly empty categories. Category structure repeated for every country, countries like Benin which I’m guessing most people have never heard of. Not my own idea of quality.

Obviously if a site has no pages indexed something is up, but what i’m more interested in is are those pages worth being on. Simply comparing the number of pages index doesn’t distinguish between smaller high quality directories and empty mega directories.

PaulH: You will note that I

PaulH: You will note that I have never said that because a site has lots of documents in a search engine index that it is, based on that point alone, a good directory. But if you are really wanting to know what directories are good and which ones are not so good a quick look at the number of pages in G/Y/M index is ONE of the indicators.

If a directory has a

If a directory has a major amount of links pointing out to gambling sites, that says something important about that directory.

Yup, I think it says that it is a directory about gambling or a directory that advertises gambling. ;-)

The whole point of submitting to a directory, if not the traffic, is to have your link sitting on a page that is relevant to your site.

Hmmm, “Relevancy”, is in the eye of the beholder, just like “Beauty”.

I just heard a very good argument (backed up with research studies) that stated, pre-school children should be taught gambling card games, like poker, to improve their math, communication and decision making skills. So, I think a very good argument could be made that Texas Holdem sites ARE “Relevant” to children’s learning sites (although I know most parents would disagree).... I could go on ad nauseam with more examples of relevance/non-relevance, but I think you get my meaning.

Throwing relevance around like it matters in SEO, is like comparing apples and oranges. “Relevance”, in my opinion, has no place in SEO. “Relevance”, does have a place in marketing, public relations and branding, but “Relevance” has NOTHING to do with technical SEO in the major SE’s, at least at this time.
If you can prove me to be wrong about this I would be grateful, cuz right now I am basing most of my personal income on this assumption.

ROS knitting links have the same weight as ROS casino links (all other things being equal) and it does not matter if they point to a wrestling page, cooking page or a fishing page, they will still effect the ranking of the page being linked too, at least that is what I see ( I am willing to be shown I am wrong).

Just about every casino affiliate site owner I've ever seen will do just about anything to get links pointing at them.

I think that statement can be made about any small business site on the www, not just about casino sites.

If most business sites were not willing to do just about anything to get links pointing to their sites, several people that frequent Threadwatch would not be making the obscene amounts of money that they are. :-)

There's no way I'd list a white hat, non-casino site in a directory that had ROS "blackjack" and/or "phentermine" type links.

There again, this is a personal taste, marketing, branding or a public relations decision, not a decision based on the technical aspect optimizing a page for the search engines.

...by doing ROS the site effectively associates itself (as partner site) with the site(s) that it ROS-links to (one reason why ROS links are always too cheap - they should be extremely expensive)

Good point and I agree about the price.

two sides

There's at least two sides to this discussion. No, make that four:

1) The benefit of the directory to the owner/editor
2) The benefit of the directory to the listed sites
3) The benefit of the directory to the users
4) The benefit of the directory to the advertisers (eg. ROS)

I think these benefits get a little mixed up in the discussion, as sometimes things that benefit one party does not benefit another. IMHO, the trick must be to develop benefits for all four parties. Easier said than done, though.

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