Is Your Directory Past the “Use by” Date?

Best if Used by Dec 31
Anybody that’s ever shopped for milk knows the first thing you do before putting it in the basket is to check the date that says “Use by {insert date here}”. If the date isn’t right, it isn’t fresh, and you don’t want to pay for it. Unfortunately, directories don’t have a “Use by” date clearly stamped on them. Nonetheless, if they aren’t kept fresh, like milk, they begin to stink.

Hey… Let’s ‘Slap Up’ a Directory!
Two conversations brought this topic to mind. The first came when I was involved in a discussion about domaining. Somebody was asked about the pain of renewing domains that weren’t producing, and his response was something along the lines of ‘If I don’t have a specific purpose yet I just slap up a directory’.

Fortunately this took place in a forum, so he didn’t hear me blow iced tea all over my screen.

NOTE: He’d shoot me if he saw this, but I’m comforted in the knowledge that more people read the entire TOS on Microsoft Windows 7 than anything I put in a blog.

Doing a Directory “Right”
A directory can be the easiest bad work someone ever does or the hardest good work, and there just isn’t any middle ground. We have dozens of editors working on ours, and anyone that’s ever done a directory right knows you can’t keep all categories perfectly up to date, but if you apply enough manpower you won’t be AS behind as the other guys.

Anyone that slaps up a directory as a placeholder is wasting the time of anyone that submits a site there. Oh sure… you can put up a hierarchy of links and populate it with some out-of-the-can database which may have been around a while, but if it doesn’t take serious ongoing work, it’s a waste of bandwidth.

I know here the team that seeks out and adds sites for free just because they belong in the directory is bigger than the crew that handles commercial submissions. Given the price tag, that’s a really big commitment to keeping it fresh.

That brings us to the other conversation
A friend in the directory biz was talking about writing a post on what makes a good directory. That’s a pretty short list IMO, cause there are only a few differences, but they make a vast difference in the value of the product. That said, here’s my list.

What Gives a Directory “Value”?

-1- Editorial Integrity
Simply put, that immediately rules out any auto-accept directories and all directories where the titles and descriptions are left intact regardless of what they say, and sites where placement is determined entirely by the submitter. If a human didn’t review the site and make an up down call based on the value of the site, didn’t give it a realistic description, and didn’t put it in the right place, the directory is trash.

-2- Freshness
If a directory gives you a several year old snapshot of the world, it isn’t a directory, it’s an internet archive. Face it, if you opened Time magazine and the tech section was arguing the merits of VHR vs Betamax technology… you might decide to read Newsweek (or at least you’d take a good book next time you visit the dentist).

-3- Not ONLY Accepting Commercial Submissions
There are just too many categories that will not get commercial submissions, so if a directory contains those categories but only accepts sites that drop cash on them, quality won’t happen. That’s why we offer free non-commercial listings in the BOTW Directory, free adds in the Blog Dir (commercial or otherwise), and free “Jumpstart” listings in the Local Directory. The object is to find fresh material not tracked down by our edit team.

Someone could reasonably argue that a well built hierarchy is a fourth criteria, and sure, without proper organization you don’t have a directory, you have a list… but that’s just a nuts and bolts thing. In a directory edited over many years by many hands there are going to be overlaps to unravel and such, but that’s just the mechanical side of the job, time consuming, but like proper spelling, just an expected part of the task.

Investment Drives Value
I’ve had people mention that it can’t possibly take {insert $$$} worth of an editors time to review their site, but the reason this directory differs from others is the investment made well beyond the site review. The value added by the guys that add sites NOT submitted to the commercial queue is one of the reasons BOTW products have value to begin with. The investment of the owner drives the value. It could be an investment in time, or money, or manpower, but good directories don’t happen, they are built.

Yeah yeah yeah… “Content is King”, we’ve heard it before
Hey, it’s simple, but true. The big issue in a good directory is proper content, properly described, properly placed, and constantly added. That separates directories that offer value from the ones that hold a place until a URL sells.

Now I have to go compare notes with my friend who wrote the post about her criteria for a good directory and see how we match up. My guess is we’re probably pretty close.

Meantime, hope everybody has a safe time celebrating the New Year. Best wishes from the crew here. ~ Rob

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