Alternate title: Lessons I learned from BlueFind
Webmasters in SEO forums often complain that there are too many web directories on the Internet. It could be true, but I fail to see how the proliferation of web directories could be a bad thing for link-starved SEO’s. It should be obvious from the title of this post that I’m not here to deter folks from creating web directories. And why should I deter people from creating web directories? Quality directories are good places to start when creating links.
Lesson #1 – PR8 is Dangerous
Friends warned me about high PageRank. They warned me that all kinds of nutjobs would come out of the woodwork to assail any commercial enterprise that achieved such a high PR.
I didn’t listen. Mainly because I figured Google was too busy with search engine stuff to be concerned with my little web directory. I also underestimated the pettiness (anal retentiveness?) of Google.
But once PR8 was realized, people came out of the woodwork with what appeared to be huge amounts of (government subsidized?) free time. We received email almost daily threatening and promising that the sender would “expose” us to Google. In the minds of many, only non-profit organizations like Google should have high PR.
Lesson: Keep a low profile. If possible, email Matt Cutts when you buy links and explain that you’re buying them from the traffic, not the PageRank.
Ok, that’s sarcasm, but seriously be careful with the link buying. It’s easy to throw out $10,000 a month in link-buying when you’re bring in $50,000 a month in submissions, but these days it might just get you in hot water. A smarter, more organic link building approach is needed.
Lesson #2 – Promote Like A Madman
If you promote like crazy, the word will get out. It’s a snowball effect. The promotion we did was so aggressive that the promotion itself created buzz (and linkage). And by promoting, you’re proving to your customers that you’re serious about giving them value for their money.
Lesson #3 – Editorial Integrity
Reject submissions. If you aren’t rejecting and refunding submissions on a regular basis, something’s amiss.
Lesson #4 – Send Traffic
Most folks submit to directories for the link juice. But it’s always a pleasant surprise when you check your logs and find actual traffic from those submissions.
How can you send traffic?
Second, place your search box all over. Banners are nice, and on related sites get decent click-throughs. But in my experience, nothing compares to a search box placed on high traffic sites with a plain search box next to it, or even a “Search The Web” button.
With the V7N Directory, we placed our search box on literally thousands of high traffic pages, and I can say with confidence that it is one of the highest trafficked web directories because of it.
Third, use keywords. Whenever you hear somebody say they aren’t getting any traffic from a web directory, it’s a fairly safe bet that they didn’t make full use of the keywords field. Professional submission companies know that keywords make a huge difference in web directory submissions.
Lesson #5 – Social Networking
Aaron Wall is a horrible dresser. Seriously the guy is to fashion what politicians are to honesty.
But that’s neither here nor there. Aaron Wall may be a horrible dresser, but his social networking skills are second to none. And there’s an extremely valuable lesson there. People who haven’t even read his superb SEO Book recommend it simply because they consider Aaron a friend. (I’ve read it twice and my recommendation is based on reading it.
Social networking is an extremely powerful marketing tool. Use it.
Lesson #6 – You don’t need SEO’s
Know thy market. I used to think that most submissions came from SEO’s. It’s not true. Most SEO’s are tightwads. They’d rather spam blogs than pay $49.95 one time fee for a quality link.
The truth is most submissions come from website owners, or marketing departments of Internet based companies.
Knowing this changed how we marketed our directories, and increased submissions many times over.
Lesson #7 – Unique-ness
Most folks do “submission runs”. That is, they submit a site to several web directories in one day. To make things easier, and to devalue each listing, they use the same title, description and keywords for all of those submissions.
If you accept and publish the submission “as is”, you’re most likely end up with very little unique content in your directory. The solution: rewrite the submissions. Unique-ness is of vital importance.
Another thing directory owners can do is to write unique descriptions for each page of their directories. For example, in the V7N Regional Directory we include unique tidbits of information about most locations. For instance, Kentucky:
Kentucky – Birthplace of Muhammad Ali
The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness – Official State Motto
Texas – Where capital punishment is a leading cause of death
Who says a web directory can’t make political statements?
Lesson #8 – Affiliate Programs Work
Some webmasters would recommend cyanide to their own mothers if it earned them a commission.
In the olden days, I was staunched opposed to affiliate programs for just that reason. I saw hundreds of website owners recommending web hosts simply based on the possibility of a commission, even though said host was a crap host.
I recently re-thought my stance, and now I enjoy giving back to those folks who’ve been kind enough to send submissions my way.
Our best month was over $50,000 in submissions. Short term, you can be immensely successful through promotion alone. But in the long run, the thing that makes a successful and profitable directory is quality + promotion.