|Should Directories or Sites That Accept Links or Listings Explain Why They Reject a Specific Listing?|
Is failing to explain rejections harmful to their reputation?
Directory owners often complain about keyword-stuffed titles and the way submitters rarely read the guidelines:
At the same time we often hear people speculating that directory submission is devalued and virtually useless for SEO or traffic. Often these are the same people who simply don't understand how to make a successful submissions to the directories which count.
I think directory owners and script developers are partly to blame for this state of affairs, and it's all down to the rejection emails. Or, more often, the total lack of them. A lot of owners shy away from sending any emails, for fear of angry responses from submitters. However, when these emails are sent out they often consist of catch-all rejections: sorry, not for us, read the guidelines. They're not informative. So someone who makes bad submissions that could easily be fixed could end up none the wiser for tens or even hundreds of rejections.
For directory owners as a group, there's a lot to be gained by improving rejection emails. I'm not suggesting writing custom emails to everyone. That would be madness. But for most editors, it's easy to identify the most common reasons for declining a submission, and to stick them in 3 or 4 broad categories. So here's my suggestion: develop a few different templates for rejection emails.
I've been using such a system for a while, and when it does get a response it's more likely to be positive than negative. Also, consider if this conversation could happen:
Client: I'm not happy. You promised to submit my site to 500 directories.
SEO: Yes, the work is done. You can see the responses in your inbox.
Client: Yes, and I'm furious. Half of the links were rejected for "keyword stuffing", whatever that is, and the other half for being off-topic for that directory. I'm not hiring you again!
SEO: Err... Can I fix your meta tags?
Rosalind, a bit more data might help drive a more helpful/useful dialogue.
Do you - or anyone else - have actual stats, such as the total number of submissions vs. rejections vs. email explanation vs. successful resubmissions? That would be illuminating.
Do you attempt to preempt BS submissions by IP blocking, keyword filtering, etc? Aggressively? IF so does that make for less work in sending out explanatory "try again" emails?
Does the target market/vertical of the directory (in your case) have some bearing on the burden associated with the proposal to "do a better job communicating"? In other words, wouldn't certain directories just attract more spammy, clueless, no real effort to think OR automated submissions? (Mind sharing your vertical. Not your specific directory but general vertical: travel, health, hobby, etc.)
Do you think courtesy, communication, attempts to educate needs to vary based upon the evidence of good faith of the submitter? Show good faith and respond in kind? Show no thought, no real regard/respect, show me a sense of entitlement - and there ends the communication?
|Do you - or anyone else - have actual stats, such as the total number of submissions vs. rejections vs. email explanation vs. successful resubmissions? That would be illuminating. |
I've been doing things this way for a while, but I don't have stats to be representative, particularly because it's an approach I introduced over time, gradually increasing the types of submission that get a specific reason for rejection. Also, my niche and regional directories are relatively small and well filtered. So although I've certainly had positive responses, I can't give any percentages.
Part of the problem is this approach isn't part of any of the scripts I'm aware of. There simply aren't enough directory owners who have tried this approach.
|Do you think courtesy, communication, attempts to educate needs to vary based upon the evidence of good faith of the submitter? |
Not always. Even if you're 99% sure the recipient will ignore the email, if it takes one click to send it, or to send out a batch of them, then what do you lose? It's more a matter of what can be gained in terms of the individual directory's reputation.
In the past I have run quite a few directories and the major issue directory owners have is the sheer volume of submissions. For a mid sized, decent PR directory 2000 submissions a week as a pretty close figure.
There is no way I was going to send a manual email to all the submissions I rejected. What I did was have one canned email that was sent out as a rejection email, the email its self described the main reasons the directory rejected listings, it also had a link to a page with detailed submission guidelines.
If a submiter took the time to write a reply then I would enter into a conversation regarding how and why and see what could be done, but to be honest most simply tried to submit again.
Another major problem is automated submissions, why waste time trying to talk to a bot :)
|If a submiter took the time to write a reply then I would enter into a conversation regarding how and why and see what could be done, |
YOu seem to have been lucky yet. After a few of those, I had to disband the email account associated with my directory account due the volume of spam.
When you tell people "No, that kind of website won't be listed here ever, due to the following reasons: ..." they tend to disagree with you and your policy. Up to the point that you obviously subscribed to some 100 newsletters all of a sudden.
My tries tought me, that submitters of unlistable sites mostly fall in three categories
1) those that won't believe you anyway.
2) those that don't read what you write
3) those that change their website to the better, just to change them back after their site is listed
Among those I contacted I didn't have a single one even trying to understand the implications. Which lead to "reduce workload by not contacting in any form".
Automated submissions don't make it through my filters. This might be one reason I've had a more positive experience with this approach.
This uncommunicative idea isn't limited to directories. I have an events calendar that folks can submit event notices to. It's limited to niche hobby events.
An amazing number of folks don't include the basic info even though it's requested right there in front of them! It's on the screen, just read it!
Anyhow, back to uncommunicative..... I quit even sending a reply asking for the rest of the basics because less than 1 in 10 would reply with the rest of the info.
These are all live submissions and they don't even get the idea that info such as city and state might actually be needed.
If they don't care enough to submit the required info, why should a webmaster bother trying to pry it out of them?
I own a directory, it's fairly big and filled with links I'd use myself. I had to get rid of all the tell-tale searchable signs it was a directory early on to keep the spammers at bay and have added a hidden box that when filled the application is rejected without me seeing it. People don't fill in boxes they don't see, bots do.
I reject the majority of links being submitted, I'd say 1 in 12 is about the number I currently find worthy.
I'm proud of the directory and I've never given a reason for rejection. I frankly don't care what anyone thinks, worthy sites welcome. Complaints, bribes, explanations, begging, promises, reciprocal link offers and excuses aren't.
1 in 12 is a good general figure and goes to show what a lot of directories are up against. As was pointed out the key is detecting and removing the automated stuff. Sometimes that's easier said than done. Regularly changing field names is one way. There are others.
Are there different rules of link-denial-civility applicable to non-directory websites?
What are your rules and procedures for handling the denial of a link request?
Has anyone ever benefited from explaining a rejection? How?
[edited by: Webwork at 1:54 pm (utc) on Aug. 16, 2009]
I run a niche directory so your site either fits the niche or not so I find no further rejection information necessary.
Example: "We only accept sites of widget makers and your site is not about making widgets".
Additionally, charging a nominal non-refundable submission fee cuts out all the junk.
It stops all automated submissions dead in their tracks when it requires paying with a CC to complete the process.
Another simple junk control method for free submissions is email verification of the submitter to activate a submission. This pretty much puts the stop to most, if not all, automated submission programs that target your site.
|Charging a nominal non-refundable submission fee cuts out all the junk. |
At least 95% of it. That is probably one of the best options in today's environment. And it is called a Review Fee, not a Submission Fee. ;)
|It stops all automated submissions dead in their tracks when it requires paying with a CC to complete the process. |
If I were to launch a directory today, which I probably wouldn't, it would be paid from the start. I don't care that there are hundreds of others that are free. Ever look at the listings in those? I surely wouldn't want to have my listing surrounded by most of the crap that resides in most directories today.
IBill and P1R - I get your point that charging a fee will reduce the number of inevitable rejections but the issue posed by this thread assumes/accepts the existence of the request/submission.
And even paid reviews can result in a rejection, so what's your protocol for handling . . rejection?
Years ago, when I was an assistant editor for a national magazine, we used boilerplate "Sorry, but this isn't right for us" rejection slips when bouncing unsolicited manuscripts that we didn't want to buy. When I asked my boss why our rejection slips were so impersonal, he said it was because anything more specific would get us into an annoying and time-wasting dialogue. I can see the same thing happening with directory submissions and rejections:
"I'm sorry, but we don't accept keyword-stuffed listings."
"What do you mean by 'keyword stuffing'?"
"The practice of [insert explanation]."
"Well, what if I say 'fuzzy and smooth widgets' instead of 'fully widgets and smooth widgets' or 'widgets and accessories' instead of 'widgets, widget covers, widget filtes, and widgeting aids'?"
"Look, pal, your submission doesn't pass the sniff test, with or without keyword stuffing."
"What's the 'sniff test'?"
And so on, and on, and on....
Sometimes it's better to just say "No" or "Sorry" and be done with it.
|So what's your protocol for handling rejection? |
I'll use my directory as an example. Since all payments are handled via PayPal, I am somewhat limited in the number of characters in my response. I'll try to summarize the why in that Refund message and if required, I'll reply to the original submission email with further details. I typically try to stay away from the email route.
We refund the full Review Fee, it's only fair. I put the fee in place to combat exactly what others have brought up in this topic, the auto submissions. You do not want a directory in the SEO industry that is free!
Over the years we have fine tuned our Submission Guidelines based on things found during the ongoing review processes. The guidelines are numbered and contain Fragment IDs so I can easily respond to emails (when needed) and provide a direct link (1 Click) to the reasons why.
|Is failing to explain rejections harmful to their reputation? |
I don't think that is feasible for many due to the sheer volume of submissions they are dealing with. Not unless they've got something set up where they can respond with 1 Click links to an FAQs, Submission Guidelines, TOS, etc. when they click that "Declined" or "Rejected" button. :)
It strikes me that this issue is very closely tied to the goal of creating a perfect form. Obviously when you don't know in advance what the right input will be there's never going to be a way to make it perfect, but there's usually room for improvement in the way forms are set up.
Getting it right can really cut down on an unmanageable volume of bad submissions.
|An amazing number of folks don't include the basic info even though it's requested right there in front of them! It's on the screen, just read it! |
People don't read, and it can be tough when you have a lot of rules for submission and you're trying to fit them all onto one page. Put too many and most will be ignored, put too few and you don't get enough info across, put it on a different page and people won't click through to read the guidelines at all.
|It strikes me that this issue is very closely tied to the goal of creating a perfect form. |
Ah, the perfect form. That phrase can be used to describe quite a few things. :)
I've found that using a two tier process has helped to cut back on the initial information being requested. Since there is an approval process involved, all we need to start is basic information. We don't want them completing a profile just yet. We'll review first after the initial submission and then if approved, the member then has access to complete their entire profile which is quite a bit more involved.
For the rest of you dealing with mass submissions in a free based directory environment, I envy you. I know IncrediBILL has some real nifty stuff going on with his directory in regards to the review and approval process. Now, if he'd get off his duff and package that thing... < Never happen. We all have our unique ways of dealing with submissions. I would imagine most of you folks are working with some sort of off the shelf directory script. I've seen them, and they do the job after some initial tweaks here and there.
|Now, if he'd get off his duff and package that thing... < Never happen. |
Help the competition? never!
I'll post ideas on how it works, raw code not happening.
Everyone can slug it out like I did ;)
|...a hidden box that when filled the application is rejected without me seeing it. People don't fill in boxes they don't see, bots do. |
Hello everyone, I have a number of forms on our site that are subjected to regular automated submissions. I have always dealt with this by heavily sanitizing / filtering input and then letting the bots get on with it.
The above solution is beautifully elegant in its simplicity and I'm going to implement this today, there are likely to be a number of scenarios where this might not be appropriate, but for us this will be a perfect solution.
I do not run a directory nor do I submit to them often, but have much experience with dealing with inappropriate user submissions. Before I owned my own company I used to work as a developer for other companies and have come across the problem of "bad" submissions quite often.
One technique I have found to be rather effective in dealing with this issue was to create a funneling / filtering process prior to the user being able to enter any data. I was hired by one company in particular that produced rather expensive, fantastically interesting widgets, that were – in reality – only appropriate for very specific people and uses, (even I would like one!) The problem was that they would receive hundreds of emails a week from people that didn't understand that this widget was in no way appropriate for them, mixed in with these emails were a minority percentage of emails that were potentially worth many tens of thousands of pounds in new business. The company was wasting dozens of man hours every week chasing up, rejecting, filtering, redirecting to appropriate departments and deleting these form submissions.
We created a form that dynamically built itself based on user input or eventually redirected the user to a page that helped the user understand why this widget was not appropriate for them. We tweaked it over a period of weeks based on feedback from the staff receiving these submissions and reduced the enquiries from hundreds down to 50< tight appropriate submissions. The questions were *very* specific requiring yes / no answers, the user could get to a dynamically built form in as few as 1 or 2 answers or as many as 10 answers or end up at an "Information page" offering a way of contact if they were still interested (They almost never get queries from those pages). We felt that it was important to explain or help the user to understand why this was not for them, perhaps this attitude should extend to directory submissions if it can be automated? It doesn't cost anything to be polite, but I can understand how you can become jaded if you are dealing with thousands of inappropriate / automated listing requests, or if you do not have to worry about public image in that respect.
There are a couple of points here:
-- The Q&A process could be lengthly, this in itself acted as a deterrent for users that were not really that interested, or users that took a while to realize that this widget was not for them, be careful not to put off genuine submissions.
-- For *real* users it needs to be an almost transparent process, fast simple and responsive, although generally we found these users ended up in the right place after just one or two questions though.
If you managed to filter out bots and inappropriate submissions, would it be viable for you to enter, or automate the entry of the data that the user is perhaps slipping up on?
If a site is rejected and you have to pay the 'review fee' you are entitled to an explanation.
You can be precscriptive over submission procedures but language can be interpreted across borders differently. A person submitting to a UK directory might be based in a country with a latin language structure. Therefore meaning could change or be based on incorrectly documented best practices (and let's face it, there's a lot of rubbish written on the web for unclear purposes, commercial rather than humanitarian purposes).
A fee is certainly a good starting point for inclusion filtering, but time should be taken to ensure that there is a clear and transparent process for recourse on the part of the customer so that if a site is not accepted the reason is clear, and has been presented to the user prior to the submission.
Stepping back from the Intenet for a minute and looking at the mood of the Internet, Ethical practice, transparency, customer consent, trust and privacy are going to be the key components of future successful business, and it's therefore in the interests of all providers of online services to take this to heart.