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A Directory as a Brand or Brand Experience

Can a directory that doesn't offer a brand experience thrive?



5:41 pm on Jul 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

This is as much a food for thought post as it is a Q & A or "about me" (you and me) thread.

I was just listing to WebmasterRadio.fm, to a recent broadcast in the Domain Masters section, on domains and branding. I've got a few directory domains and thought it would be interesting to filter my work through brand analysis . . so I listened.


When I looked at the branding issues and applied the speaker's analysis to my own projects I was left with the question: "What, exactly, is my company's brand?" :(

I've got a UVP - Unique Value Proposition - that's built into the directory domains themselves. I've got a few that work well for vertical markets. I've got some ideas about scope and quality. Sure, maybe they're great web addresses, but . . so what? I could hear the voice of the market ask: "Yeah? So what? So, what else you got, kid?"

Argh! Again.

So I scrambled to dig out my notes and could see that "the brand" was "in there" - in the larger scheme of presentation and operation - but it lacked a certain "Umph!", a certain defined quality, a meta-clarity.

But I'm not quite alone. As I scan the directory horizon I can see the absence of distinction, both far and wide. So, allow me to ask, ye of the undistinguished and distinguished directory ranks . . .

As it applies to any directory that you operate, support or use allow me to ask you this: What makes your directory [i]or any directory you use so special? Got brand?[/i]

Do you really think so?

To cite a few - a very few - examples:

YellowPages.com? Man, if I could have a domain name . . . . but I sort, do of. Instant "brand as the name is the thing itself". With a website address like that you start out in the game well ahead on points . . so don't blow your lead in the game.

SmartPages? Eh . . yeah, it's like yellow pages, but . .

ODP/DMOZ? Man, I like their stuff, their approach . . but getting the word out? Does the "dragon" do it for me?

The Yahoo Directory has Yahoo! as their brand. However, as the years passed, Yahoo buried their directory. Good idea or bad?

BOTW? They've got the "age as endorsement" factor going and they use it. They've been around. They offer a nice clean interface. Greg, as the face or spokesperson of the enterprise, is effective, gets the job done. I've yet to hang with the BOTW boys but I read that they are a fun group. What's not to like about that, especially if you also run a referral program? I like to refer folks to people I know and they do a great job of getting to know people. (We'll get around to meeting some day. :-P )

Other directories? There are many that promote themselves - mostly in forums - but I think they degrade their message by allowing (encouraging?) an over abundance of forum links to be associated with their directory and semi-cheesey posts. 1 or 2 of the better known directory operators that rely on this technique (I'm trying to minimize "naming names") are operated by very smart guys, folks who've got their internet marketing game on. Still, when it comes to brand, I don't know. Maybe, in the effort to build a following, some directories compromise the strength of their brand by their very efforts to market their directory.

True or false: In the effort to build a directory's presence - it's recognition - can the marketing of the directory undercut the brand? How? How might one improve upon that?

What IS a directory's brand? Its link structure and presentation? It's directory name? The customer experience - loads fast, comprehensive, easy to search?

So, without naming names (mostly), what's:

a) Your idea or presentation of brand? What makes "your brand your brand"?

b) In the directory world what makes or breaks branding?

c) IF a directory cannot gain the gravity that brand has to offer can that directory thrive? No brand = another clone?

d) In the directory realm what is brand? Is it domain name? User experience? Editorial policy? Ya, all of the above and more . . but . . still . . is that it? Logo? User interface? What do you "add to your brand"?

Since we're in the Directory Forum, where some folks think that spamming is the way to go, allow me to spell out a few GROUND RULES: Anyone who has less than 25 posts to their credit OR who has been a member for less than a month - IF you post anything that even comes close to looking like a pump or a promo - that may result in your posting privileges coming to a halt. So don't go there. I don't want to know about your directory's name or URL. What I DO want to read about is how you approach branding: How you will stand out and attact loyal users. I don't want to read a sales pitch, see hotlink or directory name drop.

[edited by: Webwork at 6:06 pm (utc) on July 13, 2007]


3:53 pm on Jul 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I cruise other places where directories are discussed and I'm left with the overwhelming impression:
  • Most "forum talk" is 99.44% a link drop to the poster's fav directory - his or her own - and nothing of value whatsoever.
  • Most folks posting in most directory forums have a business plan that is stuck somewhere between utter nothing - feeble mimicry of what others are unsuccessfully doing - and something less than nothing, such as spamming forums as the best strategy to directory success.

From a certain point of view the absence of intelligent discussion and analysis is not all bad. From the perspective of a (possible) competitor who is also willing to act as an educator it's one part tragic and one part pathetic. I was about to say sad but any affliction is self-inflicted.

"My directory has a PR of a gazillion!" "Isn't that great!"

Thus endeth the lesson for many.

Got brand?

I doubt it. And I guarantee a certain slow sinking into oblivion without addressing the issue.

Comments welcome. Newcomers welcome. Spam and link drops die on arrival. If you can handle that then this is the place to actually work out some of the details and process of making a go of a directory.


4:53 pm on Jul 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Difficult to discuss this when the word "directory" covers such a multitude of sins (and sinning sites).

You seem to be referring to generalist directories, but of course, and as you well know, there is a thriving sub-group of topical and local niche directories, whose focus might well be defined as their "brand".

Additionally, just because you call a blog a "blog" or a directory a "directory" doesn't mean that it is exempt from being a website and from the recommendations and rules that apply to all sites.

So if you have no USP and you are not expert (or perceived to be) and you are not providing what your putative customers are looking for, then your site/directory/blog will have fundamental difficulties.


5:28 pm on Jul 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

If a engine can get away with charging for submissions, then it might thrive.

I see directories come and go so fast, they don't stick about long enough to develop or grow into something useful. So unless the directory sticks around, it's impossible for it to thrive, as there is nothing left to develop (it's not online anymore).

Even if we are talking about only the established ones, then to be of real value, would have to include massive development of promotional services and I don't see that these days. I see no promotion on behalf of directories, apart from the odd few doing PPC, and branding is not something easily affordable by 3rd tiers, it just isn't financially possible.

I only use a couple of directories, but that's because they are very strong brands, they do regular advertising and offer a pretty good service. I suppose they give themselves branding, but my company gets no branding from the directory at all.


5:42 pm on Jul 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

In my own experience, a directory develops its brand identity primarily by being useful.

A memorable domain name is a zero.


A great logo is another zero.


Attractive page layouts - another zero


Fast loading time is another zero.


Good navigation is yet another zero.


A good collection of listings - the useful content - is the "one" that makes all the zeros become worth something.



6:22 pm on Jul 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

A good collection of listings

And that would explain the "success" of the ODP as the next best thing . . after Google? Yahoo? Ask?

I see DMOZ as offering value . . but then what? And I don't mean to single out DMOZ.

Business.com, as a business directory, does a bit better job by branding itself as "the business search engine". Plus, it has partnered to expose its listings to certain channels. Business.com "as" brand helps a bit in my book, but I'm a biased domain guy.

I'd say Business.com, as a directory, is likely the best branded directory of the moment.

I'm guessing there are niche directories that have followings within certain user bases.

Anyone care to review what had lent to "the branding" of any niche directory? No need to mention specifics, but for this thread, I'm being a bit more open to discussing specifics - as you can see by my own postings. (I just don't care to see link drops or mentions of the lastest newborn bid-for-placement or "high PR" directory du jour.)

Buckworks, listings matter a great deal, but you can have a multitude of filtered listings - such as DMOZ - and still be a bit of a mystery to the world.


7:27 pm on Jul 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Niche directories probably have an easier time of it.

I'm not sure the world needs another general directory unless it's done well enough to rival DMOZ or Yahoo, but something like the best collection of widget-related links in the known universe? There's definitely scope for an identity in that.


9:07 am on Jul 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

something like the best collection of widget-related links in the known universe?

Definitely. That's the kind of directory that's extremely valuable to folks interested in widgets. ODP (and hopefully Yahoo) would be delighted to list it in its widget category.


10:50 am on Jul 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Anyone care to review what had lent to "the branding" of any niche directory?

This and what the couple of posts above mention was really what I was alluding to when talking about a directory being a site the same as any other.

One can think of a directory in the "classic" definition - in other words, a collection of links to other sites. But what and how much you add to that, and the way that you chop and slice it, *is* your brand.

I've done sites in topical and niche areas that you possibly would call websites. I would call them directories because that is fundamentally what they are. But they focus on what the potential user base of that niche wants to know and how they want to know it, whether it is factual, geographical, visual, user-contributed or expert-led.

For example, on one site/directory I have certain types of image that are highly useful and interesting to the user-base. They require a knowledge of the niche and are difficult for others to replicate without the same amount of knowledge and work. One of my upcoming projects is to add relevant video to the site. But it doesn't make it any less a directory in my eyes. (Or does it?)


11:02 am on Jul 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

as a webmaster who values links in web directories like anybody else the best links I have obtained are in directories that do not charge and often do not allow submissions but build the directory by hand . it is also surprising how much traffic some of these "small" niche directories can send over a period of time.

One of the best has been a small niche directory that could only be described as functional not pretty but the number of referrals that directory sends and the quality of the referrals exceeds any of the big named and well known



10:26 am on Jul 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ok, I know some of these directories make a load of money - but their not all brands and don't give an experience. The word experience suggests some sort of great way to promote sites, and it's just not true.

The only Brand experience I've seen is my cash being spent by them on Brand advertising including TV adverts. That's not the same as giving the sites within the directory branding, like transfering my company branding and promoting it. -- Their promotion of clients isn't that good.

If these 'directories' really knew what their clients were thinking, I bet they would panic like hell. They just haven't got the 'set up' or functionality that says to me "we are able to brand you" - "and this is how we are going to do that". If they could offer real value, then I'd comfortably part with $400, no problem there.

I guess this is the problem with directories that most people have.

Yet feel the directories are in a position to offer more than search engines are providing. They just aren't doing it - so why not?


2:25 pm on Jul 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

That post doesn't sound like realistic expectations to me.

A directory listing can't build your brand; the most it could do would be to serve as one piece of your own brand building.


5:26 pm on Jul 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Why is creating better adverts unrealistic. Google recently added images to adverts. Proof is on their engine right now.

So what's the answer then, because if current technology can't help build brands someone is making an awful lot of money for delivering zilch. Still doesn't solve the argument whether directories DO offer this experience thing, and saying they offer a partial service which aids the experience isn't true.

We require proof of what they are doing. For instance I saw one directory the other day, it had the usual listing of:

Company name

and it let advertisers add a logo or picture. Surely an improvement on these major brands, so at least that directory is having a go at delivering something better. But I wouldn't call it brand advertising.


11:16 am on Jul 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

If you don't love the directory topic and love the target audience, don't do it. It will show, directories are anything but low maintenance.

The directory topic is the brand. The exception to that rule is when the topic is everything under the sun, then a catchy name might help but you won't be getting any sun ever again.


12:09 am on Aug 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


Very interesting question, as I am in the process of building a high quality directory, had planning on building a few but its dawned on me there not set and forget, its a full time business, if you want to do it right.

Your thoughts are many, but on the mark have been there thank god 18 months ago.....

The brand/ directory in my opinion is the name. If you were to take the example of two google adds running side by side.... ones url describes an industry or sector, the others is a made up brander....from my thought process the url that describes what the lister is looking or has authority meaning has the advantage....problem with .coms is there all gone....so your down to a brander, which is a real pain, costs lots to build a brand.....and the brander name you come up with has to be a good one to distinguish itself from other words out there.....

Its all in the name......


6:35 am on Aug 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Its all in the name......

Before they became well known, would you have thought that such as Amazon, eBay and Google were good names?

It's a subjective opinion but I wouldn't. Those companies built their brands by out-competing, out-publicising and out-performing their competitors. Their names might have helped a little, but hard work and satisfied customers will have helped much more :)


1:35 am on Aug 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

I visited a forum recently and it was filled with directory spam posts, (which to me), sends out a rather ugly and cheap looking message about how they promote themselves, or more importantly how they will be percieved by the public - surely not a good thing.

It's such a shame when they do this as I feel they are wasting my time by giving me a bad deal. I don't expect miracles, but do expect a fair plug for adding to their database, and much much more if I'm paying for it.

What are folks expectations from a directory? (please don't mention PR) I'm talking other value, branding value to be precise.


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