I am addressing this post to a few web directory owners out there.
As we all know, the era when anyone could install a directory script on a $10 shared hosting, import some categories and listings from DMOZ – all these to get a PR of 4-5 – is now over. Or, at least, I hope it is so, just as I hope that the manner in which such people advertised their directories – let’s recall the times of ‘Best Directory, listing only for $5′ – is gone.
It is my hope that during the last few years webmasters, small business owners and SEO companies have realized that those directories are nothing but SPAM, and that they all violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
In a way, the need of any webmaster to own a web directory through which he can get some cash is understandable in our consumerist society. However, we must also understand that while we appreciate Google paying a lot for back-links and their anchor texts, using and maintaining directories in which anyone can get in is just wrong, once the so called ‘review fee’ (in fact, a ‘guaranteed acceptance’ fee) is paid.
I recall that years ago, having some of my websites on my mind, I was looking for the best directories to make submissions to. There were only scrambled lists, and-except for DMOZ, Yahoo’s Directory, Business.com and BOTW-everything was just a bunch of URLs no one had heard of.
Not meaning to point out at anyone in particular–although it’s just not me–but even now, if someone is searching Google for ‘Best web directories’, the first 20 results will reveal the reality of my [above-stated] point: everybody makes lists based on whatever criteria they want, sometimes without any specific criteria at all. I would expect such a thing from a random blog or so, but not from authoritative publications [publications credited with some authority in the field], such as the Search Engine Journal.
Why should we all be concerned with these lists at all? Well, imagine a random gift shop website owner who has just quit his job in the hope that the online business environment will offer him better chances to create a more fulfilling life for himself and his family. After some cheap web design company gets to develop his website–and if he’s lucky enough to avoid hiring some ‘guaranteed results top page SEO leading company’–he’ll surely look by himself for whatever can be done to improve his website’s visibility, increase his brand awareness and finally, get some sales. We all started like that.
Now, at some point, he will undoubtedly stumble upon those ‘these are the best ever directories’ lists.
Here’s the catch. I’m pretty sure that at least 70% of all listed directories, including those ‘top directories’ lists, are pure spam – some of them don’t even exist anymore, and so on. Do we really want to feed the directories that are already doomed anyway? Do we want to promote the ones that once had a nice back-link profile and were listed, but aren’t worth a dime nowadays?
Matt Cutts himself talked about paid web directories in a video. I suppose you all know what his point was. He didn’t say that Google hates web directories; he just suggested that the current model of many directories (like I get an old domain with PR, turn it into a directory and sell links…) is just wrong. But he did appreciate the few directories that fulfill their initial purpose: helping users find information.
You might ask yourselves which are the criteria we should use to decide if a web directory is worth being part of any ‘top’ list.
Page Rank, as we know it, is in a comatose state.
But the guys from Moz have some excellent metrics we can use: Page Authority, Domain Authority, Moz Rank, Moz Trust. We can also find out the age of the domain.
But, most importantly, we need to look after the editorial discretion each directory owner applies.
I mean, in most directories categories like SEO are crowded with several listings of the ‘best SEO company’, ‘The leading company’, ‘guaranteed results’ type – and the list can continue. Titles, in most cases, are just a bunch of keywords that webmasters want to rank for.
Some directories are also selling homepage or sitewide text links.
Basically, some of them will do anything it takes to make an extra buck – and it is indeed their right to do so, but it is not the right thing to be done when considering our common interest.
Slowly but surely, webmasters will make the difference between a real web directory and spam directories. This is what I hope for, and perhaps you do too. I am so happy when I see people who have already started to sort stuff out: http://www.webdirectoryreviews.org , http://www.whitelistproject.com and a few more. My own list of best web directories is based on real criteria; it is objective and available to anyone.
In conclusion, I kindly ask those of you who have a reputable web directory to revise your top lists and to do so while considering viable, measurable criteria. In due time, I’m sure that those who deserve to be helped will start benefiting from our actions, and this will also help us see whether this is the path we should walk on, or not.