Web Directories – Performance, Purpose, Problems – A General Guide to Web Directories

The path to building a successful web directory is far from a simple task. It requires a certain amount of devotion to take a web directory script and transform it into a heavily used directory. Web directories contain more complexities than meets the eye, and I have learned first hand that the development of a quality web directory is no walk in the park. But a good web directory is worth its weight in gold, for both webmasters & internet surfers alike. Let us enter the world of web directories.A web directory acts much like a search engine, but on a much smaller scale. Web directories are essentially a categorized index of websites that have been submitted by website owners. Directories normally have search features, allowing users to search through the entire index, just like a search engine. The main differences between a directory and a search engine is that very few directories contain the amount of links that a search engine does. Search engines also collect data from websites, which is used to categorize and rank them. Directories lack the ability to “crawl”, or exam websites as search engines due, therefore the only information a directory contains on a particular website is the information that was submitted by the website owner. Most directories use meta tags and keywords to search for websites, where as search engines use complex algorithms that take into consideration much more than meta tags (the value of meta tags in search engines has actually declined). Web directories are not the most popular internet search tools because huge search engines like Google and Yahoo are much more convenient to use and contain a vast amount of resources available to be searched. The largest and most popular web directory is the Open Directory Project (DMOZ), whose links are indexed by Google, Yahoo, and the majority of other search engines. Google and Yahoo both have their own web directories as well. Though independently owned web directories may not be so popular for internet searchers, they do have their benefits for webmasters & surfers alike.Web directories can have several purposes, it all depends on what the administration’s intended goals are. Some web directories are purely advertising hot spots, while others focus on driving targeted traffic to the directory. Some directories are free, some paid, others both. Directories can have broad topics, or specific topics. Lets start with the different types of web directories.First, we have what is commonly referred to as a “niche” directory. Niche directories have a specific topic, or niche, and the links found within the directory reflect that. Examples of a niche would be automotive directories, sports directories, shopping directories, web promotion directories, etc. Niche directories are most beneficial to internet *searchers; they have a specific topic and therefore *surfers and *searchers have a better chance of finding what they want. In a human edited niche directory, you are very unlikely to find spam sites as well.We will label the next kind of web directory as a “Free for All” directory. Free for all directories have no specific topic. They are very broad in their category selection and links are usually hidden behind several sub-categories. Free for all websites can benefit webmasters so long as the “no follow” tag is not applied (page rank increase), however it is in your best interest to avoid free for all directories for several reasons. Using a free for all directory to search for a website is more likely than not going to require you to sort through heaps of spam. A lot of free for all directories are not human edited due to the massive amount of link requests they receive, and websites are not carefully examined before being approved into the directory. The link quality of some free for all directories is extremely poor. Also, a lot of free for all directories extract data from other directories; how original. No sense in supporting the lack of creativity or devotion in such web directories. Despite a flood of low quality free for all directories, there are some very good ones available. A well organized, human edited (human edited = higher quality links) free for all directory is a great place to search for websites. It also serves webmasters with increased website exposure and if they are lucky, the directory is indexed by Google and other search engines, therefore improving its ranking on search engine result pages.

The final type of web directories that will be examined are the poorest quality ones. Often referred to as “link farms” these directories are not human edited, due to contain high quality links, lack organization and unique features, and more often than not they become blacklisted from the major search engines. Searching these type of web directories is useless, and it’s highly recommended that you do not support such sites. Furthermore, if you are a webmaster, submitting your website to link farms will substantially decrease your popularity amongst search engines. These directories due more harm then good, and consequently give other directories a bad name.Whether you are submitting a website or searching for one, you will achieve the best results with a high quality niche directory. Webmasters, here are the common submission options for most web directories: Free submission: Submit your website to the directory for free. Simply fill out the form and wait for approval. A “no follow” tag is often placed on free submissions. Regular Submission: A small fee is usually necessary for regular submissions. Regular submissions can sometimes use the “no follow” tag. The main benefit is that submission approval times are significantly faster for regular submissions. Reciprocal Submissions: Free submissions that require a reciprocal link of the web directory to be placed onto the website you are submitting. Reciprocal submissions sometimes use “no follow’ tags, but often do not. Cost is free with reciprocal submissions. Featured Submissions: Paid submissions that grant you premium listing (websites listed in special section of category, generally above regular links), fast submission approval, and paid submissions do not place “no follow” tags on your links, meaning you gain a back link for search engine ranking benefits. Featured and regular submission fees are generally charged per year, and prices vary depending on the directory and the traffic it receives.Web directories have benefits for both webmasters and internet users. For webmasters, web directories main benefit is website exposure. Webmasters submit their websites to directories to increase their exposure. Not only can they receive traffic from people using the directory, but they can also benefit from a back link; a link to their website indexed by Google. Google ranks pages in several ways, but back links is one of the most important. A quality back link to your website increases your Google page rank. Enough quality directory back links, and your on your way to the top spot in Google search results. Bottom line: Web directories can increase your websites exposure by sending targeted traffic your way. For people using web directories as a search tool, web directories can offer you a big advantage over search engines. Search engine indexing is a big contest between website owners and therefore a lot of high quality content gets left out of the search engine result pages. Top results often go to corporations, big business, or highly devoted marketers. What about the little enthusiast and personal websites that contain valuable knowledge otherwise unavailable on the web?Well, a lot of these quality content websites can be found in web directories. If you are having trouble finding what your looking for in search engines, try searching for a niche directory and I bet you will find what your looking for. Furthermore, using web directories supports smaller businesses and helps the little guy out. Not everyone has the time or money to spend on internet marketing or website promotion, and web directories are a great way for these small websites to gain some exposure. Big search engines have monopolized the internet search market, and it makes the relationship between big search engines and website owners way to critical. Google doesn’t like you, and your sales drop 75 %. Now that does not seem right, does it? If more people frequented web directories, directory owners would gain a larger slice of the search engine market.There is a large number of web directories on the internet today that have been blacklisted by Google. It is best to avoid these directories at all costs; having your link listed there will most likely negatively affect your search engine rankings. But how do you know which directories to submit your URL to and which ones to avoid? These guidelines in rating web directories may help:1. Organization- Web Directories should be well organized and categorized.- Categories should be, neither, too broad nor too narrow. Category organization is important, but a directories search feature holds more value for finding links.- Links should be easily accessible.- Links should be posted into the correct category. If they are not, this is a sign of automated link approval, which should never be used in a directory. (Even the largest, most powerful of web directories are human edited).

- Poor quality and spam links should not be accepted into any decent web directory.2. Advertisements- A quality directory should contain a free submission option, so it is necessary for directories to offer sponsored listings and sale advertisement space. However, the page should not be cluttered with ads. This is a sign that the directory administration is too focused on making a quick buck than enhancing the internet experience.- If the directory has a specific topic, or niche, than the advertisements should pertain to that topic. Off topic and irrelevant ads do not belong on niche directories.3. Page Rank (PR)- Rumor has it that it’s possible to fake some page rank indicators. Make sure your page rank comes from a reliable source when examining the PR of a web directory.- Page rank is important factor in website popularity. However, directories that boast high page ranks, or have their page rank in the directory name or slogan typically use the page rank factor to compensate for their downfalls. It’s like bragging…and you want a modest web directory. Find a directory that shares and uses their page rank to the benefit of directory users, not a directory that clearly lacks in features but boasts a high PR.- Directories that display website links within a category in descending order of PR are less desirable than those that display links based on popularity (unique hits). Most desirable first, not highest PR; very beneficial to new websites attempting to build initial PR.4. No Follow Tag- A web directory that uses “no follow” tags on all links is useless.- “no follow” tags are acceptable on free submissions. Reciprocal & featured submissions should not be tagged as “no follow” links. This gives value and meaning to featured (sponsored) & reciprocal links, while controlling the amount of links indexed by search engines to a reasonable number.- In a quality directory, do not fear a “no follow” on your free submission. A good directory brings in targeted traffic, and though you may be missing out on that back link, there is still a lot of potential for increasing traffic.5. Reviews, Marketing, & Promotion- Search around for reviews and recommendations on web directories. There are some really good resources when it comes to choosing quality directories.- A web directory should be marketed to both webmasters & internet surfers. If a directory only attracts webmasters, what kind of web traffic is it likely to bring? Look into how the web directory is promoted and marketed.
These 5 guidelines can help you distinguish between low quality link farms and high quality, effective web directories. I hope this information helps you in your website’s marketing and promotion campaign, in terms of website directory submission.Teal Reid, SYC Automotive Directory Administrator