Most directories suck and could do a whole lot better

My friend Lyndon was talking about SMO (Social Media Optimisation) and directories the other day and pissed a couple of people off. He was damn right too.

Most directories are useless rubbish

Bog standard web directories are not worth a cold cup of ****. A directory that sells on the basis of PR is asking for its link-pop-pass on ability to be stripped away.
See, for me, the whole get links from lots of directories on different IP’s thing is so frickin 2003 its not even funny any more! Most can be knocked up in two seconds flat and then populated with a dmoz script or Y! scrape. Most if not 99.9% of them offer very little value at all othe than the ability for joe bloggs to be able to drill down and find or add a site in an area they want to. Usually they are plastered with adsense adverts in the head of the document, designed to attract the users eye and take them away from the people who have paid to list. Funny.

Some try and capitalise on the little green PR bar, that’s pagerank to those who haven’t been awake for the past 7 years. They run around forums and blogs talking their sites up or getting some non informed person somewhere or over to extol the virtues of this ‘great new’ resource. People look and for those still hooked into that whole green PR tool bar thing, some think ooh lovely I think I’ll buy me one of those too.

People forget that search engine sharks patrol the seo seas . Sites or individuals that brag about PR usually end up worse off as a result. Don’t take my word for it though, go have a read yourself. Who is the demon here though? The search engine for killing their ability to pass juice, or the site owner for their cynical exploitation of their naive users?

Some directories don’t even get that far though and are strangled at birth never to recover. The case cited a classical victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Keeping ones mouth shut can keep you out of bother

See, the moment, the very moment, a directory starts to brag about its pagerank or its pages indexed, or its anticipated PR, then that’s the moment when they effectively say to all their directory participants, sorry but your link is now worthless for ranking purposes. We got greedy, we saw a PR6 + and decided to try and capitalise on it, this is capitalism after all.

Surely they aren’t all bad?

Noooo absolutely not, some directories offer great value for money.Those who actively promote themselves and add real value to the space and do things differently and so called niche directories for example, really are worth the participation. I know of some great niche directories ( I wont list them here) that are absolutely brilliant. They are full of laser targetted relevant stuff, they take the time to contact their submitters and offer new services, they prune old listings, they take feedback from site users and ask them to come back and write reports on sites they’ve used. They give people options to talk and discuss their experience using the companies that advertise, they allow for a conversation to take place. In short, they add value. Most directories out there today do not do any of this.

But a link is a link is a link, its all about links right?

No it isn’t, some links really are better than others. Ok, so initially you’ll gain a link with some anchor text and overtime even, you may well get some genuine visitors in buy mode, you may well even get a small ROI. Yet its only a may at best, and hardly the best way of spending your money. Most of the time it will be a complete waste of your time effort and money. You may as well, just spend it on some PPC scheme somewhere, guarantted traffic, or better still pay yourself and go write 2 or 3 kick arse responses to blog posts in your theme using technorati to classify authority for your niche – seriously, I kid you not.

But directories are permanent never go away links

Sure they are, but the value they convey is always subject to the traffic they receive and the importantance placed upon them. Directories are like all manner of other web properties, if they are just offering same ol same ol without adding anything new to the mix, then really, from both a user POV AND a search engine looking to output quality sites POV where oh where is the value?

I don’t blame people for trying to sell an idea or promote and collate a business. Some like Bruce really are passionate about what they do and agonise over giving a good service and adding value to the options provided for their visitors. BOTW and one or 2 others that escape me also try to do it all a little differently, yet few if any these days at least rank in Google for anything half worth ranking for. Like it or not I have to say they just aren’t doing enough and could do a whole lot better. Sure too, they may well have traction in other spaces and verticals and rank elsewhere which is great for now, but I wouldn’t trust it long term for something that’s gonna keep its place or juice. The engines move on, algos change, they are consistently looking out for new signals and indicators. A site that ranks well today can just as quickly plummet tomorrow, especially if it isn’t getting that SMO buzz.

There are a zillion and one directories out there offering that same broad topic and region structure. Dmoz and Y! were the 1st and quite frankly have been copied to death to the point of why even. Who really needs another directory that does the same as one that exists already. One person – the owner who spots what he thinks is a gravy train and a chance for an easy pound note, and for those that would protest and spit, just wake up and smell the coffee, please. No one denies your right to build it, but you should’nt expect it to do well in search, not in a bog-standard-seen-it-all-before-what-the-heck-is-so-good -about-this-one form.

Good directories are good directories you should use them.

Just in case I gave the wrong impression, there really is nothing wrong with a directory.

Blogcatalog.com – Bumpzee.com – mybloglog.com are 3 that spring to mind. Spicypage.com is another. What I hear you say, these aren’t directories! These are different, these offer something else, whatever are you talking about Rob you big fat idiot!

Well, no just go take a look. Everyone of them is a directory of sorts, a variation on a theme, that theme being the directory theme with a little SMO, you know that SMO stuff that creates buzz and interest.Whilst they are indeed very different types of directory, they are directories nonetheless in that they offer categorised sections of links to themed content and sites. They are different though and hold one simple similarity between them that their predecessors are severley lacking.

They Actively Engage With the People Who Use Them.

They are an alive community of real people talking about real things. They are not some static dead bunch of links that antiquate with age, ran by some little hierarchical fiedom who talk to you like you are some piece of errant scum. They are ran by people who truly want to provide something useful and different. They stay fresh and on topic. They utilise new tools and technologies to help the people who use them. RSS to give user visitors sample content, they get real traffic for their users illustrated in server logs and SERPs up and down the lists of those who participate. They provide voting systems, messaging systems, widgets and stats, they lead the way in enabling people to use the web as the amazing communication tool it is.

If you are a directory owner today, and aren’t trying to engage ALL of your users in ALL manner of ways that take account of web 2.0 and all the various other interaction options that people want, then you really could be doing a whole lot better.

If you are a site owner of any description, then you really need to wake up to the fact that the days of just build it and they will come are fast fast diminishing. You really need to get out there and enage, just like you would in the real bricks and mortar world. You can catch up, its not too late, get on it today.

Rob Watts
Kickstart your business today - Get an SEO Consultation or just talk to Rob about your online aspirations. With over 20 years experience in building traffic he's pretty much encountered most markets and scenarios
Posted on: 5th May 2007, by : Rob Watts

22 thoughts on “Most directories suck and could do a whole lot better

  1. Hey Rob,

    I never thought of sites like MyBlogLog as directories. That’s a really great point. I’ve never really understood the worth of the old-school directories … mostly because I never use them to search for anything.

  2. Hi Shane

    Old school dir’s for me have, and as ive suggested in some cases, still can add a fair degree of value to ones SEM mix.

    No one, perhaps the upper tier SE reps aside, truly knows the value of an old dir link. Business.com, dmoz and Y! have all been cited as seed reference points in the past, but the past is exactly that – the past. Things change, algos change and as these changes occur the SE’s tell us very little about the buts and whys.

  3. Thanks for the support mate. Wow, if only I could stir up that much trouble with every post, haha. Some of these directory guys are real nutters.

    It’s funny how they took it so personally. I still have not got a response about directory submission being boring.

    I took a look at a bunch of directories and it’s all old, boring crapola. Yeah they have a high pr, but what about context. A site about knitting that gets a like from a site alos about knitting but only pr 3 is more important than a link from a general directory with a pr 4.

    It’s all about context these days and so it should be, these morons seem to think that Google just uses PR, backlinks and on page seo. I play it like they use anything and everything they can, including gmail, google feeder, toolbar, and some very clever context relation thingy majiggy.

    Thing is, I kinda like bashing the hornets next.

    OK, so who to go after next. 😉

  4. Well..I think there are lots to choose from, how bout PPC or click fraud or scammy seo’s 😉

    Seriously though, I’d like to hear a sterling response in favour of the status quo.

    I have lots of sites in lots of different directories, i get virtually no traffic from any of them. If anyone can show some serious traffic from a non niche directory, or at least show me a non niche directory that ranks for any kw’s half competitive in a serious SE like Google then I’d be happy to hear about it.

    The world is about innovation – stand still for too long and birds start crapping on ya!

  5. That was a great post. I have to agree that the good directories you name are really good. I even view them more as social sites than blog directories. For example I’ve “met” a bunch of people there that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Also the discussion forum on BlogCatalog is great in my opinion. So nice to see what other bloggers are up to and learn from them.

  6. My biggest beef with directories is selling a low ranking deep link for the price of a higher link. I don’t care if a directory is PR6 or PR7; your inner pages seldom are ranked that high.

  7. @ church of integrity – yes they are social sites too agreed, directory sites with a social angle even.

    @Matt – good point, those that do sell on this basis are being less than upfront really. Most people are a little bit clueless on that stuff and have little idea as to what they are buying – they read a post here or there on some forum somewhere about pagerank and links, see a reference to the word directory and then proceed to put their hand in their pocket without really being fully aware of what it is they are buying into and why.

    Oh and thanks for commenting too, both of you 🙂

  8. You obviously missed my response to Lydon’s post (see the trackback – comment #4) wherein I addressed most of your points.

    The biggest problem with your post is that you are lumping all directories together – that’s just as bad as lumping all Blacks together – and stereotyping them.

    The fact is that there are at least 3 or 4 dozen quality directories out there that do a lot of the things that a quality sites should do. However, you look at the worst of the directories, then state that all directories are like that.

  9. Jeff, I don’t believe that I said anything of the sort – the title of the post is ‘most directories suck and could do a whole lot better’ I stand by that comment. Please read what I wrote in its entirety before you say that Im lunmping all directories together, and for heavens sake lets please leave bizarre comparisons between SEM and racial groupings completely out of it, there are far better ways of making a point.

    I understand exactly why directory owners and opertors would disagree, they have a business model to maintain after all. Ive ran directories in the past and recognise the value that a good one can offer. Some do a very good job, but they are IMHO in the very smallest of minorities.

  10. Amen to what Matt said. And I agree with your inclusion of those “social” sites as directories, Rob. Directories of “themed content” as you said.

  11. Yup – couldn’t agree more. I like the idea of directories but they are so old hat! There’s a few worth joining but in the day and age of Digg and Stumble etc – why would you waste your valuable time?

  12. I would never pay just to get into a directory, that isn’t worth it at all. I submitted myself to 1000 directories once and the direct traffic was very minimal. It definitely wouldn’t have been worth paying any money for.

  13. I don’t think people are lumping all directories together, but many directories are, in fact, over rated. If you manage a directory, then you need to show your customers exactly what your directory can do for them. If you don’t, then the assumption that your directory is like the rest will be made.

    Your race analogy, BTW, is weak and serves to only diminish whatever you are trying to tell us.

  14. Matt,

    Thanks for the point of view

    I’d say its a mixed bag though. Some people will buy the snake oil ‘all links are good’ viewpoint whereas others will not.

    I absolutely agree with your directory owner point, its pretty central to the point im making too.

    The closing race aspect of what I was saying at the end was kind of a call to arms. I would’nt agree that it was weak or that it diminished what i was saying either, but hey! We are free to have our views and different opinions. 🙂

    If anything I was trying to impress upon those that have directories that it isnt a case that they should shut up and shop and go home, far from it. Moreover if anything, they just should be looking at what they do and question whether they can do it better. Again IMO, that is going to increasingly be a requirement for good rankings and spidering and ultimately traffic for the submitters and participants and services users they purport to serve.

  15. Court – this is part of the problem with the whole submit to a 1001 search engines and directory scam offering. The good get lumped in with the bad. There is a differentiation, its clear to experienced eyes and users, but not to all.

    Hence the headline, most directories suck and could do a whole lot better 😀

  16. I agree with shane – I never considered those blog sites to be directories – but more of communities. I feel that some directories have their place – but only when you do it in a calm and rational manner. Going out to 3000 directories and having yourself listed might not make nearly as much difference as just posting something useful on a blog, then participating in a few other blogs and communities around the net to get the traffic and links your looking for.

    Ok thats enough out of me before I rant myself into a whole other post.

  17. Hi Matt

    With regard to those sites, I agree the community thing is very much in evidence if anything its dominant yes, it is the very thing that powers its uptake and generates the interest, they are indeed social community platforms serving the purposes and promotional/networking aims of blog owners yet all have a directory componant at their heart. Without a thematic categorised view they would be little more than a chaotic miasma of random nonsensical links – you wouldn’t be able to find a thing!

    http://www.blogcatalog.com/directory

    http://www.mybloglog.com/buzz/community/

    http://www.bumpzee.com/seosem/blogs/

    My main point was aimed at saying that the old style directory model is a little tired and that we don’t really need anymore polluting our space.

    Its a little bit like the days when all we ever had was things like ‘submit your site to 100000 search engines’ and all that nonsense. The uninformed were basically being ripped off, sold an idea that wasn’t in any way beneficial or useful. The proliferation of directories out there today, is IMO getting close to being of a similar vein.

    Quality directories CAN differentiate themselves and should be taking steps to learn from what web2 is about and could learn a lot from those guys referenced. I agree that it takes a bit of work to reduce what I’m saying down to a simplistic core directory model – web directories on steroids even, communitories perhaps 😀 .

    Just to reiterate, whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with a plain topical set of themed categorised links, too much of the same, or new kids on the block who add little value just shouldn’t expect to do too well in the game. Those directory owners that get this have changed their model or are working hard to add value daily.

    Ok, I’d better shut up I’m in danger of repeating already made points 😀

  18. I hear yah about too many new kids on the block. But so long as the Search engines continue to spider them – and they continue to add value to those who are in there – then they will continue to be run.

    I setup one in January – added 300 links or so – and pointed to it from another site. In May it was a page rank 5… Its just a basic directory with a search engine attached. Confused the heck out of me…

    Just like my netscape profile was created around the same time and is page rank 5… I’m so very much not sure of how google does their page rank calculations – but sure enough – having lots of links helps.

    As for submitting to 100k search engines… well I say submit to none – and let them find you…

  19. I’m obsessed by page rank and at the same time I ignore it.

    I think as a metric it’s pretty useless, but as a way of selling links on your page it’s very useful.

    My theory is that the affect page rank has is constantly changing. It shows when something is crap and when something is fantastic, but there is this huge middle bit that we really don’t have enough info to go on.

    Sometimes I think it’s like conkers, my fiver can be your twoer. Well not always.

    I know this thread is about directories, but the only metric that really matters is ££££££

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