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Site pictures - been done
Reviews - done
sponsored listings - done
News & Articles - also done
Whatever niche info - done
done done and done.
All done hundreds of times over. I have the list of every worthwhile directory there is - that's how I know. Don't waste cash or time on building a directory, if you can't beat the Thomsons/Yell.com of the world. You're more than likely going to get crushed by the majors. You gotta think like a major investor would think. What questions would they ask, when considering buying a directory. Also (like another post) nothing is free anymore, and to stand any chance of 'making it' is to have something so unique - people will kill each other to get a listing in yours, and I don't mean niche directories either. That isn't enough anymore to make it on the web.
That's reality ok. Do something original for once, and then if it's good enough, it'll get some press interest. But press interest don't mean you'll be stinking rich, so just be careful.
Hope this answers your question
Where I disagree is that you can't compete with the monsters already out there. That is only true if you are talking about a directory of the entire web. Don't bother.
If you are talking a niche directory you can compete. In my niche there simply isn't a decent niche directory. My niche directory is less than 6 months old and it's already driving 10-15% of the traffic on the site. I attribute this to a combination of a fairly good domain name, fairly good SEO and an underserved niche.
It certainly isn't due to bells and whistles. My only feature (besides the listings) is priority placement.
I've made mistakes when deciding on what web design to have, and this costs me every time I need webby work done. Directories and SE's aren't cheap to set up, despite what others on here will tell you. I'm telling you as a non-designer, it's very expensive indeed. You don't necessarily need bells and whistles to make something good (dmoz.....), but sometimes a little glitz can add a nice touch - just don't over do it though. I see money in travel in some way, I could be wrong.
Let's take a look at what's been done to death:
On the SE front we have Yahoo, Google and MSN. Ask, AOL and Webcrawler. The searcher is more than catered for here, without even looking at the 2nd Tiers and Vortals. And not forgetting PPC! Shopping Portals have been done to death - I feel. Some majors were bought up, need I say anymore.... Travel sites, same as above. What does that tell you.
Even Women portals are done and dusted. I must say that this is really about the Generals though, perhaps niche is the answer - and once again, I don't think directories are the way to go. I seem to remember though that some time ago a major womens insurance company started up........ That's the kind of thing I'm talking about, a real wanted service. Hobby sites, new kinds of forums or info sites (non SE).
If i am looking for something in particular and i have absolutely NO idea "where to look"....first stop..major SEs
If i am looking for a niche product, i will always (if it has substance) go to a niche SE first, and if no luck.....what the hell, the major SEs are always in the background rubbing their hands.
Otherwise, it is difficult to suggest any innovative features without actually knowing what your directory is about. And if your like me, you won't disclose that information until you have a good solid/meaty directory (in my case, circa 2009!)
"Good luck mate" or "You own a directory, ok so what's so special about it?" Others laugh, or take the mickey - which is why I don't bother to mention it much. Because I know if it were to fail, people will only say "I told you so" etc - the fact is many will fail, run out of cash, aand never get enough exposure, so it can be as niche as you want, but it's just not enough to be niche anymore, it has to get millions of visitors per month to be considered worthy of investment or stand a chance in selling it to advertisers.
I could beat Yell's technology in a second, but they are established and would kill me in terms of reach and distribution. People will go for the reach every time, as this gets them eyeballs/visitors, then they can charge £500 per year. Niches just don't have that reach (apart from 1). That's the whole show.
It takes mountains of cash or a great idea, none of these niches or generals have either. This is going to be funny to see who's still around in 7 years time. Mine's in it's 3rd year already - and I'm thinking about calling it a day, as nothing prepared me for what's involved. I ran out of cash, have no investor and can't continue to run it. This is exactly what I'm talking about! But people are just so hypnotised with the ease of the web, it just totally screws you one way or another.
I just developed a machine that can carve a bust of "Larry King" (insert your favorite celebrity here) out of butter for only a dollar. I plan to sell the butter busts for $9.99 each on my web site. I go to as many forums as possible and say, "I really need to find a place where I can order a bust of larry king. It needs to be made of butter and cost less than $10."
Of course, everyone wants to help so they all rush to their favorite search engine and punch in the obviously relevant keywords from your post and voila. A bunch of people finding your site and a bunch more saying they found exactly what you need at example.com
That is what I meant.
Would indirect linking be a couner productive in terms of SEO. IE would it be better to let google know to which sites you are linking.
The other option would be collecting the stats from the logs ...
The date when the page was last updated would be good as well, I notice DMOZ implements that.
Think about 'Pulling Power', and this will get you back on the right track. Bells and Whistles are okay, but ultimately people will visit for useful information. Stats will only work if you have thousands upon thousands per listing/entry or whatever.
Once you have that - then you have something to shout about. Until then concentrate on quality content.Lot's of different types is required as you need to make your site sticky. What about some tools? News, A to Z something or other, Comparison software? use your imagination and get creative. Using Stats is only copying someone else, ain't original or particularly useful unless the stats are attatched to tons and oodles of content. Better to have lot's of types of content with say 500 in each, than few content areas with tons of stuff. Go for quality over quantity.
Sticky, sticky sticky.
Usage stats are only good for site owners personal monitoring. Having them won't entice punters to spend money nor be enough of a tool to rake in the visitors.
As a webmaster who is submitting a site -
Page Views: I will know how many exposures my listing will get if I submitted my site.
Search Engine bound Traffic to Page: I will know how many of the page views are as a result of search engine queries, and thus targeted (vis-a-vis e-mail promos, banners etc) and how good the website is faring in search engines which is again a signal of quality.
Date of Page Creation: If I see a PR zero for the page, I will know if the page has gone through a pagerank updation cycle or not.
Content, Tools all fine but if the usage stats can benefit in someway and can act as a USP that makes webmasters talk about it in forums, why not provide it?
Added: cicru, I don't know how to go about implementing it for am not a programming man. But, it should be fairly easy to customize and integrate the website to provide stats from web analystics.