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|Keeping directories in Google|
we all know they are being hit so .......
How do we keep a directory in Google these days, what criteria do we need to ensure its survival and what criteria are getting penalties.
Genuine User submitted content
No Empty Categories
Good Category Descriptions
These have been talked about for some time but in my experience do not seem to be enough on their own to ensure the survival of the site.
Multiple Empty Cats
Numerous PPC Listings
No Category Descriptions
Cloned Content generally from SERPs
No doubt there are more but I can't think of them off the top of my head.
So are these correct, can you keep a directory performing well in Google these days or are they doomed to drop in the listings as soon as they are found? (i.e. Is this a hand penalty for being a directory)
I think a directory would have a lot of incoming links from a lot of different sources.
This could indeed become a problem if the major SE's decide to do something about the "faux directory" problem (and i agree that it's a problem). I don't see them being hit hard right now though, but perhaps i haven't looked close enough. My primary directory site still perfom as i suppose it should, and there are still "faux directories" with me (over, as well as below) in the serps.
Lately, i have seen some specific quality site rankings drop a few places, while some "faux" have risen (not only for my directory - i also have quality competitors), but overall traffic patterns do not suggest a widespread problem to me.
>> can you keep a directory performing well in Google these days or are they doomed to drop in the listings
>> as soon as they are found? (i.e. Is this a hand penalty for being a directory)
I don't see a hand penalty, either now or coming, as there's simply too many of them. But, i think a distinction should involve human judgement in order to be successful.
While i'm not keen on giving out specifics, the main thing that distinguishes "faux directories" from real directories is content. Content is simply different. Real directory content is high maintenance - the others have low maintenance content. Trained human eyes can see this instantly, while machines have severe difficulties recognizing the difference (eg. the "faux" might be updated even more frequently than the real ones, or have more "on topic" textual content, or have a large amount of backlinks).
Imho, most "faux directory" content is either dmoz clones (not a great problem in my area, though), scraping of serps, yellow pages, scraping of other sites, or pure PPC+affiliate+adsense. Also, there's a lot of directories that are "perhaps real, but not very good" - eg. the PFI ones with lots of blank cats. Although they perhaps deserve the benefit of the doubt, they rarely add value where they turn up, imho.
Added: A few comments on the first three points you raised.
>> Genuine User submitted content
Nono. User submitted content is not allowed with me. They can easily suggest all kinds of stuff, but never-ever submit it or have any influence on the page, the words used, or the overall priorities of the site.
>> No Empty Categories
Of course not - the directory is built for users, what use are empty categories to them?
>> Good Category Descriptions
I don't see the value of these to my users. Perhaps to search engines, but that's a trade-off i have taken. I used to have them a few years ago, but abandoned them entirely due to user considerations. Now i cut directly to the stuff my users are interested in, ie. the listings. They don't need to read a description about what "widgets" is, as they know it already - all they need is to find them.
Good listing descriptions otoh, is very important, imho. But... not in all categories, only for some of them. Eg. say you link to the BBC or CNN - you don't really need text to describe what that is, as your users will probably know that already; all they need is the link.
[edited by: claus at 12:19 pm (utc) on Feb. 15, 2005]
> Cloned Content
I would consider content to be the main issue with a directory, compared with other types of Web sites.
It's easy to see why Google might consider a unique collection of listings in some niche to be more valuable than yet another ODP/Overture/scraped/etc. site.
In terms of the changes that Google have made to their software over the last year, sites with near-duplicate content have been most affected IMO.
|It's easy to see why Google might consider a unique collection of listings in some niche to be more valuable than yet another ODP/Overture/scraped/etc. site. |
Absolutely! Let's get shot of all of these useless sites. I am not Google's biggest fan but if they can get rid of them they will win some Brownie points from me :)
I'm not sure about Google's criteria, but I think directory listings need to go beyond link, anchor text, description, to be useful.
Even if you have a carefully selected set of sites and well-written descriptions, all you are really doing is helping people who do not know how to properly issue queries at the search engines.
If you really want to stand above the faux directories, your listings should have fields unique to the subject matter. If you have a restaurant directory, your listings might include best dishes, hours, section of town. If you have a general directory of websites, maybe you want ratings, usability scores, etc.
Maybe don't use the word "directory" anywhere on the site?;)
>> all you are really doing is helping people who do not know how to properly issue queries at the search engines
Not to take this off topic, but that's one of the reasons that there's always a need for directories. The other side of the coin is that the directory way of selecting and organizing entries is simply something that can't be done by the SE's.
Value added services could be a way to differentiate you from the rest, i agree. I'm not too sure it will do you any good in the SE's, but it can actually benefit your users if you do it right. Still, quite a few good directories have ruined themselves by playing the portal game, so one should always think.
Also, these automated "gadget-things" like rankings, comments and so on are easily reproduced by the faux directories.
|all you are really doing is helping people who do not know how to properly issue queries at the search engines |
Good directories do much better than that. Nor does the value come from rating mechanisms and etc. Good directories add value by contextualizing, sorting and analyzing infomation better than a search engine does. They come from not merely *describing* the site, but describing it better than it describes itself. One good way is to really *evaluate* it, based upon domain knowledge your reader may not have. I don't know a whit about German history, but I know it's a rat's nest of opinions. A cool-headed and knowledgeable web directory is the best bet.
Directories are particularly valuable where search engines fail. I see two main categories, (1) high-commercial topics that get infested with SEO junk, and (2) troublesome topics where link-building dynamics fails to predict what *your* users want.
The latter is my main interest (alas, not a very commercial one). For example, take an adult interested in a "kid" topic, like dinosaurs, hieroglyphs or explorers. Google is nearly useless. High-PR educational are one problem. Their content might be good, but it's not for adults. A larger source of distortion is the school resource page and the school report. School resource pages are, of course, geared to kids' sites, a kids almost invariably link to one of the top sites, no matter how wrong or old. I'm fine with links being votes, but kids shouldn't be able to vote!
More generally, spartan directories are like annotated bibliographies. More full directories are like book reviews. The existence of library catalogs hasn't put either of these genres out of business. Search has certainly gained in use as search engines gained in usefulness, but they will never eliminate other ways of finding information on the web. After, what are the majority of blogs but focused, unsorted, highly-annotated site reviews--directories by inches.
A good directory therefore provides human-evaluated, structured, knowledgeable and well-written alternative to SERP soup.
|Good directories do much better than that. |
The overwhelming majority of directories are created not to help surfers but to generate ad revenue for their owners. The Internet is stuffed with these at present and anything Google can do to get rid of them would be most welcome in my opinion. Inevitably there will be collateral damage and some "good" directories may be lost but ...
|Directories are particularly valuable where search engines fail |
... if all of the useless directories were removed the search engines would be less likely to fail. These directories are one of the main reasons for the problems we are facing at present.
Directories are more than just for the SE challenged. A good directory will give the user the information he is looking for in a nice package . An example is yourtown weddings. In mytown there are just to many vendors for any perspective bride to wade through the serps and find what they need. The quality directories, however, not only list the vendors but also give more information than a search engine would as well as pictures and reviews. Not only do they point to the sites that the bride is looking for but also point in new directions or present new ideas to the bride. It gives the bride the opportunity to request information from all vendors in one form. A proper directory also won't link to any defunct businesses as search engines often do.
Very true. My eyes lit up when my competition sent emails to all their vendors asking them to submit site descriptions for their "view details" pages. I watched as one after the other cut and paste content from their homepage there. The only way to make sure your content is unique is to control it completely yourself.
|Nono. User submitted content is not allowed with me. |
I dont have directories, so I see this from the user side. A good niche directory is an invaluable tool for finding related items in one place, as opposed to having to make multiple searches on an engine.
For instance, an outdoorsman type directory that allows me to search or research camping gear, boots, survival equipment, food, etc. is useful and saves me time. The problem is that without a hand review, a SE has a problem determing scrapers running adsense from a truly valuable resource.
The challenge for the SE is to not throw out the bay with the bathwater.
Empty Categories - Really empty "Subcategories" and hundreds and thousands of them is a problem. Having an empty top level category is not an issue for me. It may be too general.
There are still a number of Directories accepting free submission. They just aren't the ones spending thousands on Text Link Ads. Look, they are out there.
Directories serve a very real purpose for all search engines. If you have a new site, it is the first place to get listed. It helps create a theme for your web site.
I will argue that a good directory does amuch much better job of returning relevant results for a user for a general theme. Let's take this topic. If I searched for web directories, I would undoubtedly get a list of sites not relevant to my search, but if I were to go to one of the Directory List sites - or "Directory of Directories", I get much better results. Same can be said of cetrain B2B directories, and other topic specific directories.
Well Planned Taxonomy
Off the Shelf Script (unmodified)
Similar and/or Same Taxonomy
Many of the directories springing up out there share common footprints because there are a handful of scripts that everyone appears to be using. Those types of directories have taken a hit from the search engines and continue to disappear from the indices. It is very easy to wipe out entire userbases when everyone is using common out of the box scripts with no customization.
Personally I feel the cut and dry directory model of yesteryear is a dead business model. Let's face it, most of the directories out there are built for one thing, to influence the SERPs. It's the ones that have gone beyond the current mindset and have decided to take their directories to the next level.
What's wrong with a Portal/Vortal?
From where I am sitting there is not much to be said in defence of directories. For the last couple of years, and certainly since the launch of Adsense, those that were sitting at the top of the rankings were, in general, hopeless. Blank pages everywhere, links that took you to places you didn't want to be and generally no useful information at all. There demise can only be a good thing for the Internet as a whole.
My main point was that directories need to go beyond just having link, anchor text, and a small description.
|The quality directories, however, not only list the vendors but also give more information than a search engine would as well as pictures and reviews. Not only do they point to the sites that the bride is looking for but also point in new directions or present new ideas to the bride. |
That's exactly what I'm getting at. For those of you who feel a directory's value-ad is just better information categorization, I still say people just need to form better queries.
I agree with the folks who say search engines would be better off just dumping all simple direcotries (link, anchor text, description).
If you want your directory to stand out from the faux ones, add information fields not covered by search engine snippets.
It depends at what level you are at and the expertise of the editor(s). A directory with an expert in the field the directory covers can be very useful. It drops off from there. The larger directories in many cases have lost this interaction with the categories they list. DMOZ is severely lacking in experts for most of its categories. About.com claims to have experts, but in most cases the pages I see are affiliate laden scraped junk. There are many directories in which the listees enter their own site information and these in general act like serps anyway so they lack unique content. And of course there are the ever-present scraper directories that buy up any domain name remotely related to a keyword and regurgitate adsense and other ppc with no content whatsoever.
So what would this tell Google about the likelihood of a directory being useful.
1. A directory with a top level category having to do with keyword. What I mean is if you search for 'mytown' then a directory with a top level cat being 'mytown' would probably better satisfy the surfer than a directory where mytown is a subcategory because there is more likely to be expert info regarding mytown.
2. A high unique text to outbound link ratio may be indicative of quality.
3. A high unique text (and image kb?) to adsense code ratio could indicate quality.
4. And the aforementioned use of unchanged basic scripts could be a red flag for lack of quality.
>> The overwhelming majority of directories are created not to help surfers but to generate ad revenue
>> for their owners. The Internet is stuffed with these at present and anything Google can do to get rid
>> of them would be most welcome in my opinion.
Even though i run a specialist directory, and imho one of the best there is, i agree 100%. These "faux" constructs and the massive amount of them give directories in general a bad name, just like the massive amount of carbon-copy review sites makes it close to impossible to find any kind of product information you can trust.
Still, being in the directory sector i know that there are plenty of very good and very useful ones around, not only in my small field but also in other fields. And people use them too - a lot of people follow links and bookmarks, and my repeating visitors rate is quite high. I have seen figures for other directories, and this is not uncommon for the quality segment.
All this only to say that i have no doubt whatsoever that quality directories are very useful for their particular target audience. 50% or more of the directories out there may very well be utterly useless (especially relatively new ones) but the rest fill a real need and does so very well.
...uhm, new ones...
This might in fact be an area where age of site has something to say. In general, the directories that have been around for some years tend to be higher quality than the new ones, as they invariably close after a year or two when links start to deteriorate and the routines of maintenance begins to bore the owner. Then again, a fully automated junk directory will just run and run, and always seem fresh to the spider.
We badly need human judgement from the SE's here - it's so easy to spoof a valid directory to the spiders, and it's even easier for a properly informed/trained human to recognize a spoof. I bet you could even make humans train some AI filters quite easily.
>> Many of the directories springing up out there share common footprints
Those were good points pageoneresults. In the areas i watch it's not common to use off-the shelf scripts, so perhaps that's why i've only noticed minor changes.
BeeDeeDubbleU - I agree with a lot of what you say a poor directory is really of little use to anyone and I agree that Google (and other search engines should remove the chaff)
However the real point of this question was more to identify those qualities in a directory that Google (and other SEs) will use to identify a quality directory.
claus - I like the idea of writing descriptions for sites from scratch or at least seriously editing user submissions. This would immediately increase the site quality and benefit users.
pageoneresults - I agree that a pure directory business model is probably DOA these days, what I am trying to do is identify what makes a directory have that little bit extra, which will make it a valuable resource both from a user and an SE point of view.
|Which will make it a valuable resource both from a user and an SE point of view. |
From an SE standpoint, any resource that provides human reviewed data or citation data is of value. Typically human reviewed content is unique in nature and offers a depth of quality that cannot be achieved through normal algos.
Personally, the global directory concept is flawed for a startup directory. There is no way that you are going to compete in that space at this moment unless you have an army of paid editors.
I see niche directories being King of the Hill now and in the future. The only way you can really start something in this space is to do it differently than everyone else. And, you better have the time and patience it takes to get your directory seated for future growth. If you've got the finances, you can speed the process but not by much. ;)
If you have a passion for something, whether it be a particular region in the world or a certain industry etc., developing a directory around that passion is a great start.
My "Widgiting History Directory" does quite well. It has a good PR, comes up #1 in the serps and gets midrange # of visitors compared to other pages on the site. It's divided into several pages according to subject matter within the overall theme. The description of the linked sites are brief but give the reader an idea about what they will find.
There is no link trading involved in the directory. That might help with Google. Whenever I find a decent site in the field I add it. Google must be able to tell somehow that it isn't just a link exchange.
I did take AdSense off of it though. Since people coming to a directory are usually searching for something specific the click through rate was quite low.I figure even though it doesn't make any money for me it adds value to the overall site which indirectly brings profit. I'm hoping it helps set my site as an authority site which is exactly what it is though in a very niche topic.
|However the real point of this question was more to identify those qualities in a directory that Google (and other SEs) will use to identify a quality directory. |
Yes, but I don't want to encourage them. We have more than enough already.
Perhaps I should start a thread on keeping Viagra suppliers in Google? What makes a good Viagra supplier? :)
>What makes a good Viagra supplier?
Lack of stiff opposition?
|The overwhelming majority of directories are created not to help surfers but to generate ad revenue |
What, you think we're running charities? I have a dedicated server and bandwidth to pay, those 1,000,000+ page views a month aren't free. Only Yahoo should profit from a directory? Please...
|Nono. User submitted content is not allowed with me |
I have nothing but user content, a few get the edit, but I can't keep up with 700/month or 18,000 older listings unless I made it a full time job. It's crazy over here..... I'd have to hire someone or go full time to keep up with the edits.
|I agree that a pure directory business model is probably DOA these days |
DOA? <checking traffic> 30 people online @ 1:30AM PST, they must be reading the obituary.
|What, you think we're running charities? I have a dedicated server and bandwidth to pay, those 1,000,000+ page views a month aren't free. Only Yahoo should profit from a directory? Please... |
You should pause for a moment and listen to what you are saying. We all know what you are "running".
|I have nothing but user content, a few get the edit, but I can't keep up with 700/month or 18,000 older listings unless I made it a full time job. It's crazy over here..... I'd have to hire someone or go full time to keep up with the edits. |
As above. You should remember that this thread is about what makes a GOOD directory. Clearly this is of no consequence to you.
|Lack of stiff opposition? |
ROFLMAO! I suppose V-I-A-G-R-A sites must be very hard to erect nowadays.
|We all know what you are "running". |
Bee, tsk tsk, and I thought I was glib :)
And what would that be I'm "running"?
|Blank pages everywhere, links that took you to places you didn't want to be and generally no useful information at all. There demise can only be a good thing for the Internet as a whole |
I agree that the demise of these types, the directories Ian deems to have "Ejection Features", would be a great thing.
|As above. You should remember that this thread is about what makes a GOOD directory. Clearly this is of no consequence to you. |
Just because I offer a differ perspective of your concept of a GOOD directory doesn't mean don't care about quality.
On the contrary!
What makes a GOOD directory? Perhaps one that works it's butt off and manages to provide value and gets used? One that has enough clout to get referenced in the industry trade magazines as a resource site? Maybe sites like Ask Jeeves listing the site as a #1 relevant key site for many keywords in my industry since '99 which was back in the day when they hand reviewed all the sites by hand? Or maybe all the feebacks I get from visitors that call it a "indispensable reference"?
While I can't provide all the direct edits due to time constraints, I'm a programmer and did what programmers do and made technology to add value to the contents. I collect all of the searches performed by users and when patterns emerge create methods that allow surfers to easily locate topics with single click pre-written complex searches that give them the best results possible. Considering 13% of my traffic appears to come from bookmarks I would say it's safe to assume I did a reasonable job at this.
So I guess the way I've been doing it all these years is making a BAD DIRECTORY?
>> Or maybe all the feebacks I get from visitors that call it a "indispensable reference"?
If only the SE's could factor that in somehow.. user opinion that is. PR and inbound links simply don't reflect that measure anymore. It would make a huge difference in the SERPS of my sector. I'm still dreaming *lol*
>> There is no link trading involved in the directory
Good point, although in my experience you will always have some of the sites you link to linking back to you once you become a trusted ressource on a niche subject. They just do this, without being asked to do it. That percentage would be small though, perhaps less than 5% of total in+outbounds.
>> Personally, the global directory concept is flawed for a startup directory. There is no way that
>> you are going to compete in that space at this moment unless you have an army of paid editors.
People donating quality free time usually choose among a very limited set of projects/playgrounds - dmoz is the current magnet for people with editor potential/skills. Of course, if they don't let new editors in, others can take over that slot. Still, others have a very long way to go, as it will take years (literally) to get anything close to the dmoz status, even for a niche. Zeal is the biggest contender, but even for them it's just very very difficult.
As for innovation, Furl (Looksmart) and del.ici.ous could both be promising, but they could also go down the drain. Both are personal tools though, and not "real" directories in the traditional sense.
>> What's wrong with a Portal/Vortal?
Nothing wrong, it's just not a directory. It's a different game, different business, that's all.
Imho, many good directories have stopped being good directories and have become mediocre "portals" in stead. Some have become good portals as well. Regardless, they're no longer directories, as they've lost the focus on their former core business and core users. For all i know, they might do very well in their new shape, but effectively they have left the building... well, one competitor less is never bad ;)
|While I can't provide all the direct edits due to time constraints, I'm a programmer and did what programmers do and made technology to add value to the contents. |
Well done, if you have done this you must be the first. I have yet to see an original directory using these methods that has any value.
|>> What's wrong with a Portal/Vortal? |
Nothing wrong, it's just not a directory. It's a different game, different business, that's all.
When does a directory cross over to being a portal?
>> When does a directory cross over to being a portal?
When "added value services" become more important than the stuff it's added to (core product) - it's hard to define in exact terms.
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