>>How do you guys that use Zeus, keep a handle on it?<<
The first thing is to customize everything. All e-mails, etc., should read the same as you would have written had you never heard of Zeus. Directory pages should definitely be customized. The old Zeus theme pages were both ugly and instantly recognizable; the newer software lets one fully customize them.
The second thing is to be selective on the sites that you contact. Zeus will definitely suggest sites that have your keywords but that don't fit your site or your directory. Idiot users just create a new directory category when they encounter these, or stick them in a "Miscellaneous" category. This is not attractive to site owners who get e-mails. On the other hand, if your directory is highly targeted, and if the sites you contact fit well into a directory category, they will welcome the opportunity to participate. Face it, if you run a soccer club in Phoenix and get an e-mail asking if you want your site to be in a directory of "Soccer Clubs in Arizona", you will be far more likely to reply than if the category is "Misc Sports Health Medical".
Third, the Zeus user should spend time in seeking out the right e-mail address. Zeus is surprisingly good at coming up with one or more good addresses, but it's worth taking the time to check the actual site to verify that the address you are going to mail to is really the webmaster or site owner, not a buddy, a retail store, etc.
Finally, it's a good idea to watch for commonly owned sites (as indicated by common e-mail addresses, similar domain names, identical appearance, etc.) and NOT mailing a bunch at one time. I usually contact one first. Often the site owner will come back with a positive reply and suggest his other sites. Clearly, if someone gets 5 nearly identical e-mails, all of your careful customization efforts will be in vain - one well-written e-mail is great, five of them look like spam, no matter how great your prose.
In short, it's all about targeting your link partners (and, similarly, your directory themes) and using common sense. Doing it right definitely takes more work, but the results are worth it. I've sent thousands of link requests, and can only think of one or two hostile or critical replies. On the other hand, I've had hundreds of positive replies, and a fair number of replies from site owners who took the time to express their delight and gratitude at being included in the directory. As I noted in my other post, once a directory reaches critical mass, it will actually get a stream of requests from sites wanting to be included.
On another note, good to see you back, BK! The idea about not indexing sites with a Zeus exclusion in their robots.txt file is interesting, but it might have to be qualified. I have no problem with parts of my sites being spidered by a Zeus robot, or with being contacted by an owner of a relevant, on-topic Zeus-generated directory for a link exchange. I just don't want them to harvest my links in one orgy of intense spidering. Maybe people who want to completely ban Zeus contacts could exclude the fictitious file "nozeus.htm" in the Zeus exclusion listing? If the spider encountered this, it would know to leave the site but mark it as "visited" so that it wouldn't go back. Perhaps we can suggest this to David if there are no obvious holes in the idea.
(edited by: rogerd on 5:13 pm (gmt) on June 14, 2001)