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Anyone using it these days?
Nah. I find their editors to be complete idiots.
True story: 5 of my sites were turned down because our model uses a non-Adsense PPC feed for monetization. Each was submitted and turned down individually. As pathetic as that sounds, that was the EXACT reason cited in the initial denial and further conversations with the editor.
It also happened to be that the same editor was responsible for handling the submissions across the different topic areas.
These were strong niche content portals that offered message boards, user mailbags, the rest. The feed just looks different. The editor did take the time to complement the content, though.
I find it interesting that About.com, which is a similar model with twice the monetization (Adsense, FREE Icons, whatever else) splashed on-page, can be found in most of the Zeal directories.
Shame on you, Zeal.
I've got a bunch of Zeal listings, and it was great when MSN was using them, however now I get little to no traffic from them.
I also have a bunch of zeal listings which are distributed to looksmart.com
I noticed that several of my pages are 302 hijacked by Looksmart and they appear higher in serps than my original page. I suggest you too check out using your exact url in the search and find out if its been crawled under the looksmart.com url as well or not.
Their business model separates true information sites from commercial sites. It allows for multiple relevant on-topic pages from a site to be placed in other appropriate Zeal subdirectories. And it fairly and justly allows anyone to join and earn their way to permissions of editorial authority.
For those two reasons alone, it blows away the arrogant ODP/DMOZ which can address none of those important factors.
Because of the commerical/non-commercial separation, Zeal's free-directory-listing rules are that a site must not be commercial. Commercial sites have to pay, though, because they are capitalizing and can afford to pay, of course. But a non-commercial site is never in the position to pay, which Zeal rightly recognizes. (This compares to how algo-manipulated G$ is such a "do only evil" SE these days in that it even blackmails non-commercial authority sites into AW if they just want to be found, even though they cannot afford it.)
At Zeal, if any site that has anything commercial on it is submitted and approved, some other authorized submitter will likely come and remove the submitted site anyway. But then, not only will the site be removed, but the one who approved the submission could face penalties, which can affect their permissions to submit in the future. Because of that fear of penalty, it is very understandable why anyone at Zeal would be afraid to approve or allow a site through that has anything hinting of commerce on it.
As for Zeal in the marketplace, when M$ (as a customer buying use of the directory from Zeal for use in the M$ SE) then abandoned Zeal in January 2004, Zeal pretty much lost nearly two-thirds of their revenue. Accordingly, Zeal had a massive restructuring and I think I recall hearing that that even many of their employed Editors were "made redundant."
As for traffic these days, in a website's logs, any hits per Zeal will mostly come from Zeal's owner, LookSmart.com.
Of course, due to LookSmart's other business practices that annoyed webmasters in the past, that has unfortunately impacted what is otherwise an excellent product for the search-marketplace. The Zeal directory is a better product than many realize. But if no one is buying it or using it, its value is negligible in the meantime.
I wouldn't expect a lot of traffic directly from Zeal as it was never intended to be the destination site -- it was meant to be a place for people who wanted to build the directory.
Re: the frame thing, you can change that by editing your preferences.
Their listing approval should be based on the amount of useful content on a site, not whether a site tries to just cover the hosting costs with a few aff links or google ads.
However, as a Zeal editor, the commercial/non-commercial distinction can get quite tricky and arbitrary. I've had pages run by volunteers removed by other editors, yet sites that have second order commerce (such as harvesting and reselling mailing lists) are OK. Since non-profits often sell or buy stuff, the lines quickly blur.
And there will always be a gap between the sites that qualify as non-commercial, and the sites that will pay.
Thus Zeal is structurally incomplete.
But Zeal is grat for the expired domain hijackers -- those URL's stay in Zeal forever (even if they are 'unpublished').
The problem I have with Zeal is that pretty much all of my sites have at least adsense or some affiliate links on them, which they decided was too commercial.
My site had Fastclick banners on it, and they still included me... I don't sell anything though, it's an informational site. But they also included my another, dating site, and all dating sites are commercial by nature, even though they say they are 100% free ;)
Zeal itself doesn't send me any visitors, but Looksmart sends some, I included my sites to Zeal only because I wanted to be in Looksmart, but I didn't want to pay money to Looksmart.