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Directory Survival

For profit or passion?



2:01 pm on Jul 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

What's the survival expectancy for new directories vs the established? And are they built to serve and go on to do better things these days, or is this about greed for profit... Personally, I feel the majority of directories are built to make cash for the owners and nothing more.

Many directories out there are merely shells, built for profit and provide little ROI benefits for their clients - regardless of status and budget. The client must come first, be given outstanding advantage for them to return and advertise again. Unfortunately you can tell through coversing on forums, that this isn't the intention of some directory owners. What then does this say about the service they provide, and if that's the case, then will exisiting clients return to purchase again. I say no, they won't.

Are you guys and girls doing this for passion or just profit? And if clients suffer bad service, results etc, what are the steps to remedy the situation?


9:24 pm on Jul 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

For me, it's both passion and profit. At the moment, there's more passion than profit, but I believe that will change over the next year or two.

I've put hundreds of hours into this site, which right now only brings in about $1200 to $1500 a month. It's my goal to have it bring in at least four times that much.

The toughest part is getting subscribers on the site: I have to call them, which is very time-consuming.

A couple of industry publications have done articles on my site, which has provided immeasurable publicity. I also have a major distributor urging their dealers to try out the site.

For the subscribing retail stores on the site, I go the extra mile by giving them as much service as possible. For example, I have many visitors who contact me via the link on the site, looking for something hard to find.

When this happens, I'll call some stores I think may have the item in stock. If they don't, then I keep the visitor's email in a "wish list" file, and ask every store owner I contact if they have the item.

I've been very successful in connecting the buyers with the stores, and for some pretty significant purchases. The store owners really appreciate this.


11:48 pm on Aug 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

Mine was originally for passion, but have realised over the years that if it doesn't turn a profit, then it's sunk anyway and the passion goes with it.


7:55 am on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Profit, pure and simple.


The directory must provide a useful service to be profitable. This requires constant maintenance, link checking, keeping advertisers happy and so on. There must be an amount of passion to keep the directory up to scratch and profit making.

Should 'passion' be read as 'greed' when you have built the directory purely as a money maker?

I personally am not passionate about the niche I target with my directory but I am happy when it turns a profit. It is the profit that keeps me working not the subject.



4:12 pm on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

It turns into both. Being passionate about profit.


5:25 pm on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I think big thing that stops many from being successful is being able to handle a larger volume. Sometimes the category structure gets out of hand, or the number of submittions per day is unmanageable. It's important to have a plan for growth.


8:28 am on Aug 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

It's important to have a plan for growth.

yep! right on!

For me...

It is about discovering a hole in a niche industry and filling that gap with rich content, resources, and listings. A passion for a niche directory is important in order for the directory to be a success. Without passion there won't be as much conversion in my opinion.

Today, even more.. I feel people have lost the true intention of a directory, and Google Adsense has poisoned directories. When Adsense was born, people realized you could toss up a directory, slap Adsense into them, and make money.

True organic directories will always succeed!

My thoughts for the early AM..


9:39 am on Aug 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

Agreed. I love fantastic resources like Uncover the net and Yahoo, Gimpsy etc etc, and they are an actual pleasure to look at. But although good, helpful info is useful, it's just not enough these days to run a proper directory as a business.

Adsense directories are well, just get rich quick schemes, and have little value attatched to them. Those types will just never be used or taken seriously. Shame the web has come to this eh. But as long as Google keeps paying these shell directories, then people will keep knocking them out I guess. These adsense directory owners aren't trying to serve anyone and I think by now that everyone on the web knows these directories by name/url, and will stop using them as the value isn't there.

Sad isn't it. It really annoys me that much time is wasted visiting these jobbies. Oh well.....


12:54 am on Aug 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I have a passion for the technology, not the subject matter of my directories. They have turned out to be quite profitable as well.

It's important to have a plan for growth.

I'll third that. I run a general directory which started at 200 categories and now has 600. I decided that I would add categories as they are requested, and now that there are 600 categories, most of the requests are for categories that already exist. People can't find the category they are looking for because the stucture wasn't planned out. I almost need a search function just to find the right category!

I have a new design that will greatly simplify my categories, but I'm afraid to implement it because it will change the linking structure. With 130,000 pages indexed by G, that could be disasterous.


12:39 pm on Aug 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

It might be worth a redesign. If users have trouble in finding stuff, it could turn them away. Sounds like a problem I wouldn't want anyway.


5:19 pm on Aug 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

This is why I have kept my directory strictly within its niche thus constraining its size. I am the only person that does any work to it so I need to be able to use it without thinking. The way I see it is if I can visualise the structure at any one time then my users will have no problems find the information they are after.



2:42 pm on Aug 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

It takes a crazy amount of time to maintain a directory, if you are building a extensive one.

If you are in it for the dollar, I bet you would be easier off setting up a niche site.


3:48 pm on Aug 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

Most are set up for adsense. But they lack content to be any serious threat, so the problem is what to do with these shells of nothing when Google removes adsense.

Might not happen for a few years, but you've got to think about these things.


6:35 pm on Aug 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I really cant belive these useless directories have get an interesting revenue from AdSense.


1:38 pm on Aug 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

Well, they won't. People won't return visit unless there is reason to regularly return for. I'd agree that they make only a few pounds/dollars per year. People won't pay for big listings unless the traffic is there in the first place - and regular big traffic too.


4:04 pm on Aug 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

EK, you make such sweeping statements! There are obviously some success stories if there are so many new directories popping up. A few dollars per year wouldn't cover hosting, I would think that most directories make much more than that.

We agree that a directory (as any viable web business) would have to serve a useful purpose to be profitable in the long-haul, but the Internet is so young that there are many useful purposes yet to be filled. Why be so negative?


11:17 am on Aug 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Okay, there are a few things about me that you need to know.

1. I have a list of EVERY directory on the web - so I know exactly what quality these directories are built around.

2. Mine has quite a good ranking, has a pretty good show of companies in it's database, yet it only makes a few pounds per year from adsense. So any directory that can't match my design, technology, usefulness and has a lower Alexa Rank below mine is considered either an adsense effort or non-starter because it's not unique.

For a directory to be successful, it needs to specialised and focussed towards a niche audience. We have too many of those UK Generals out there, which leaves the age old problem of 'standing out'. How the hell are you going to beat the likes of ODP and Mirago, with cash from Adsense lol. Even if you had 5000 a month coming in - that's not enough to cover the advertising needed to mount a serious attack plan.

Everyone on webmaster world (that owns a directory) seems to think there are 1000's and 1000's of directories out there. I can tell you that there aren't, and most have such a bad Google PR ranking (below PR 3) and poor Alexa Rank, (most around 1'000'000 mark) that they can't be getting the traffic required to turn into adsense clicks.

Unless of course, they are spending vast amounts on adwords, which is going to cost thousands a month anyway - I can't see logically how they get all this cash. SEO work won't do it for them either, or they would have much higher Ranks anyway, plus higher SERP rankings too. I think there are a lot of dreamers out there with massive inflated egos trying to be something their not. I'd say that 90% of the directories I've seen are so bad, it's a wonder why someone would bother designing them - most are just ugly, and are feeds, the rest have hardly any content (not businesses held in database) visitors just don't have a good enough reason to return. This isn't made up by me, it's true.

I can't believe people actually think how these can be successful - even with potential adsense earnings. Now, if these were redesigned and each were in a niche area with oodles of unique content, then they could stand a good chance of making it, but UK general directories, that use results from other sources with no content, that compete with 50'000 other directories. That's just being silly to think that it's going to work. Who's going to visit a clone and return time after time.

Okay, put another way, how are you going to stop me from using a major SE, and come to you instead.... Why should I stop using Google that sends me tons of traffic and gives me damn good results - suddenly start using an unknown directory with an ODP feed. It's doesn't make sense and won't work, unless you think I'm stupid and can't tell if a website is a brand new effort or that it uses a feed.


2:57 pm on Aug 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have been into the developing and operation directories for a good number of years now. A directory is like any other business, most will fail within the first year. Others will stagnate and never develop or grow and in vary rare instances one will become a top directory.
The defining factor is a little luck and experience. Most of the directories I consider successful have been started by persons who were volunteer editors for a long time and knew the ins and outs of directories well. They also had the financial resources and business experience to devote to a long term project. A good directory is not built overnight as so many seem to think. It takes years of work and considerable financial resources.


3:10 pm on Aug 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

1. I have a list of EVERY directory on the web - so I know exactly what quality these directories are built around.

Thats nice!

2. Mine has quite a good ranking, has a pretty good show of companies in it's database, yet it only makes a few pounds per year from adsense.

If you are expecting to make an income from adsense you are doing something wrong. If not, so what. My directory has adsense as an aside to the main listings. If the user can't find what they need in the directory then hopefully google will serve them what they are after and I get paid. Bonus.

So any directory that can't match my design, technology, usefulness and has a lower Alexa Rank below mine is considered either an adsense effort or non-starter because it's not unique.

That is a very bold statement and matches exactly what you were saying about over inflated egos. My directory has pr3, Alexa rank above 1000,000, is NOT designed for adsense, has unique content and turns about 10,000 uniques a month.

I can't comment on your design because I don't know your site but if it is as ugly as your comments then you must be the proud owner of a non starter.

I will admit my directory averages 30 per day profit, has entirely free listings and a nice base of registered users.

Maybe you do know a bit about directories but I think perhaps you are the one with the inflated ego. And YES I do take this as a personal afront. You have nothing to base what you are saying on.

To conclude, my site is 4 months old, gets a nice amount of TARGETTED visitors, uses SEO and basically blows everything you are saying out of the water.



4:44 pm on Aug 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Alexa rank above 1000,000, is NOT designed for adsense, has unique content and turns about 10,000 uniques a month

Na, mines not some adsense setup either, but a site with 10,000 uniques every month, I would have expected a higher Alexa and PR with that. Only makes $30? with 10K of visitors? That's a little poor. I would have expected a better return than that and I personally wouldn't be proud of it.

I have a list of EVERY directory on the web - so I know exactly what quality these directories are built around

Yes, it's very nice thanks! It means I keep track of what's happening in the directory world, so I can make informed judgements as I have the info at hand and not talk a bunch of crap. It's great when I see these 'efforts' and can laugh at the wasted time and money that's invested - in totally wrong niches. But it's also quite sad at the same time knowing which ones will fail or as you said "Non Starters", except I will get mine Started and off the ground.

I hope others are successful, and prey that they don't lose too much cash building non starters. But they will, they will. Sad how some never learn isn't it.....


4:56 pm on Aug 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

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

wasted time and money that's invested

Unless you have personally talked with the directory developer, you have no idea what their goals are so you are not competent to say whether their money was wasted, or is in fact being very productive in ways that you're not informed enough to recognize.

There can be a great deal of competitive market intelligence to be gained from operating a directory that covers its niche well, whether or not it has enough bells and whistles to impress an outsider, and whether or not it generates much income directly. For some players the value of market intelligence can far surpass whatever cash the directory might yield.


5:23 pm on Aug 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Christopher I see you are making friends with your comments as per all your prior user ID's maybe due to your wealth of knowledge and major success running internet bussiness . and helping us poor useless webmasters who have no success in visitor numbers of financial reward



5:32 pm on Aug 29, 2005 (gmt 0)


All I'm saying is that a large percentage of directories that I've seen, are making some basic mistakes and I wasn't talking about or meant anything near bells and whistles.

That's all.

Now if you wish to read something else into that, feel free.

I wish you well and success.


7:04 pm on Aug 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

All I'm saying is that a large percentage of directories that I've seen, are making some basic mistakes...


This is precisely my point. You're getting people riled up (myself included) by making such all-inclusive statements, and I don't think you're really in the position to be making such statements.

How can you say that it's nearly impossible to make a profit with a directory and then sit in judgement saying that most directories are making some basic mistakes? Maybe your directory isn't making a profit, and I'm sure many here would be happy to help you with that, but you're not going to get any help by telling us that our directories are fundementally flawed.

For the record, my directories are not specialized, and they don't rely on SEO nor AdWords for traffic. Many lists of directories show at least one of my directories in the top 10-20, yet my oldest directory hasn't even been around for a year. And profitable? Right now they are supporting 4 employees. This means that they function almost exactly opposite as you recommend, yet you are the one handing out advice.


7:54 pm on Aug 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hey, I'm just pointing out that many businesses on the web fail, and the directory area is no different. There are some good directories and SE's out there, but these are few and far between - that's MY opinion and all you need to do is visit a few bad directories and see for yourselves, but it seems like I'm not allowed to express that here on webmasterworld.

WW doesn't allow web urls to be posted right, so how can I give examples of how to improve certain directories, without sounding like a personal plug/advertising? That's my point behind this thread - to avoid self-serving advertising, and get down to some hard realities.

This post was supposed to be about directory survival, and I pointed out that many won't survive. That's my opinion and right of free speech, plus there are figures to prove that only 1% of web businesses make it at all. This is my thread, and if anyone wishes to discuss directories in a friendly manner, we'll do that - but if not, then don't join in. The problem is that people are so guarded about their sites, certain of it's success etc, it's all too easy to get carried away and really think a web idea will make you rich - but they've got to be realistic about the level of success that is going to be had.

This is about levels here. And I think I'm correct in the assumption that level means 'money'. Why people get so heated up over a web site is beyond me - it's gotta be unhealthy stress-wise in the long run. Life's too short people.........


12:22 pm on Aug 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

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

that's MY opinion . but it seems like I'm not allowed to express that here on webmasterworld.

You're perfectly free to express opinions, within the board's TOS, but you sometimes need to be more careful in how you word things so that you are indeed expressing opinions, not making statements of fact.

You said some things in this thread, stated as fact, that you could not possibly know. It's the "stated as fact" aspect that causes the problems. If you said the same thing but made it clear that it was opinion or assumption or speculation, you wouldn't end up with unsupportable statements and sweeping generalizations.

Critiquing unsupportable statements or logical errors does not infringe on your freedom of speech; it's a vital part of other people's freedom of speech.

Careful writing can head off a lot of problems.


1:07 pm on Aug 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Well said, buckworks. Thanks.


1:57 pm on Aug 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

Cool. No probs.


9:44 pm on Aug 31, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Just to try to clarify terms here: when everyone is talking about a directory, are we talking about a site links to other sites and perhaps a short description? A site that companies or individuals can simply submit to?

Or are we talking more than that?

My site, for example, offers a lot of information about the stores that subscribe to it. Don't know if you'd call it a directory or not.

As far as success goes, it's a long-term effort.

However, I've seen some sites similar to mine in other niches--restaurants, golf courses, etc--that appear to be making a very good dollar. That's what keeps me going.

EK, I don't think you're being negative. Reading your posts helps me keep my own goals and progress grounded in reality.


11:40 pm on Aug 31, 2005 (gmt 0)

(dickbaker - Thanks for your support)

I'm wasn't being negative - just realistic. I'd hate to see anyone fail, and in particular useful sites.

In answer to your question, I see it like this.

Directories are built for all manner of reasons and motives - some good and some very very wrong. But basically directories are built as businesses themselves or helpful link dumps (I think link dumps could be accurate term) - ie somewhere to put link exchange links...

But any site that provides mass info is really a portal (a window to other sites), but I fear most directories are set up to cream cash from other sites, and I feel these aren't proper, dedicated businesses for users - ie Adsense creations and nothing more. For instance, I recently came across the same directory, but with about 20 different domains, and every one had an adsense block on it.

I tend to like the larger more established directories and portals as you can see straight off that the owner has put a great deal of time and effort into developing something worthwhile and I'd much rather pay and get listed on that, than some made for adsense effort. People want usefullness and ROI, not feed the growth of some self serving entity.

But, directories are getting better and the more useful they become, the easier it will be to survive in the longer term.

This 70 message thread spans 3 pages: 70

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