High-Quality Directories and How They Add Value to the Web

I am in the industry long enough to have witnessed both the growth and decline in the popularity of “web directory” phenomenon.

Web directories emerged prior to search engines as the means to help people discover websites online. During Google times, web directories were used to build backlinks and extra visibility for a website. Then they became popular among link builders – from where the concept abuse started.

There is an argument that link building hasn’t killed web directories. What happened instead is that directories were no longer needed (search engines did the job) but is it really so? To me, it’s the same as to say that Wikipedia is not needed thanks for Google Knowledge Graph (yes, I realize the knowledge graph is being built based on Wikipedia, hence the sarcasm)

The difference between web directories and search engines is that high-quality web directories are heavily moderated. The purpose of today’s web directory is to provide the well-structured database of high-quality websites.

Hence good directories can still be useful:

  • To build your site co-citation signals
  • To put your site in the most relevant immediate contest
  • To build more brand name mentions and awareness (to help build digital footprint)

Below I am listing selected directories that are still driving value to your website (if you are listed there) but more importantly, provide valuable user experience.

Featured sites:

 

Requirements to be listed

Why is it here?

Dmoz

No “mirror” and non-original-content sites”, no sites with illegal content, no sites with mostly affiliate links

The fact that Google still trusts Dmoz enough to show “anchor text or listings from” it is pretty self-explanatory.

Business.com

“Sites must serve as a resource for businesses or business professionals”. They actually have very strict guidelines listed here

Listing your site there actually drives traffic and brings trust. Note: I did find a few a bit forced “exact-match anchor text listings there” which I’d avoid if I were them

Dir Journal

No sites with broken links, only family-friendly sites, sites with cross-browser support, no sites with pop-ups,

Each site has a separate page listing * some stats, helpful links as well as description and most useful pages from that domain. That could become a powerful brand name asset! They also offer free webmaster tools and have a separate “local” directory

JoeAnt

“Our users expect relevant results with appropriate ratings”: sufficient content and contact info (for business websites) are required

I actually LOVED the site search feature ** showing different features of each website: It shows the site is very-well curated!

Yahoo Dir

Cross-browser support, no sites with “under construction” pages

It’s hard not to mention Yahoo when talking about directories. They say it’s too expensive to justify it though.

Jasmine

No pharmacy, affiliate-only, redirected sites (The guidelines are rather vague: “it is difficult to name the exact websites we reject”)

Best results are labeled. Category pages have lots of content beyond links. They provide 100 / 300-word review for each site (So they write the copy themselves: Neat!)

No websites with illegal or pornographic content, no affiliate or MLM sites, no mirror and non-original sites

The site overall is very user-friendly. I liked the individual listing pages: They have “related articles” and the ability to comment and rate

Isoosi

I actually couldn’t find clear quality guidelines on their submission page (I can assume it’s located elsewhere)

Positions itself more as a “human-empowered” search engine (they claim to have a crawler of their own), has a great focus on community

*Dir Journal listing screenshot:

Dir Journal

**JoeAnt search results:

JoeAnt

Honorable mentions:

I wasn’t able to find any arguments pro or against the below directories (or something worth noting in the “Why is it here?” column above), so I am just listing them because I know they have a very good reputation:

  • Aviva directory: One of the oldest, best-known directories out there. They say it’s trusted and can even drive traffic.
  • Alive Directory: Interestingly, it shows number of clicks on each link (A good sign it’s actually able of sending traffic)
  • Skaffe: I like that they show Google Plus button and have “Address” and telephone. I wish they supported that more (most listings provide no telephone; I couldn’t find a zip code that would have any search results)

Further reading:

What are your thoughts about web directories nowadays? Please share your thoughts!

Google removing author pictures from search: Your input?

Last week Google announced removing author pictures from search results while keeping the author name. Seeing author pictures within search results was a huge competitive advantage, so no wonder this step was criticized by many authors who were participating in Google Authorship feature.

From the good news: Participating is Authorship has been easier…

  • If previously you could never be sure if your author markup will make it to the SERPs, now all you need is to have your authorship correctly set-up (which may be a bad thing too as, let’s face it, it’s easier to have for anyone now)
  • If previously you could only have ONE authorship snippet per SERPs, now you’ll all of them (if several of your articles have been ranked, all of them will have your name)

I have been discussing this issue around the web and have collected some opinions. My Google Plus thread has lots of great insights, please check it out:


 

 I especially liked this one from Shelly Cihan:

I support the removal. Knowing what a person looks like should not impact whether or not you click on a result in the SERP. It accentuated an already too vain society.

[Hard to disagree: Having an advantage in SERPs because your headshot looks nice doesn't seem fair at all!]

I have also collected some opinions from MyBlogU below:

Our interviewees were answering the following questions:

Let’s see what they think:

Q. Do you believe Google has done that to optimize for mobile devices? Why not? :)

David FaltzA. David Faltz (Founder White Rabbit Marketing. Search Engine & Branding Optimization (SEBO) Marketer)

I do believe that mobile probably did play some part in their decision to remove author images, but that is not the whole story for sure. They have been toying with author images for while now, and they have not gotten people to conform as they wanted. With low adoption rates by what Google would consider “real authors,”  and more people using it as a marketing tactic to stand out from he crowd, Google decided “enough was enough!” 

Swayam DasA. Swayam Das (Social Media Marketer)

Umm.. I really don’t think so ! Google always has a reasonable logic working behind their each and every move. So I’ll just wait and see how things work out on the mobile space! Mobile searches results tend to be location oriented so I don’t see much of a movement without any Authorship pics.

Marc NashaatA. Marc Nashaat (Enterprise Marketing Consultant)

No, that’s not very likely. Google uses device detection to decide whether to serve up their mobile layout vs. desktop and they could just as easily style mobile to exclude authorship snippets. I don’t think it’s a matter of consistency as Google has been preaching the importance of different user experiences for mobile vs desktop for years now. 

Paul ShapiroA. Paul Shapiro (SEO Director at Catalyst)

I was a bit baffled at the decision to remove the author images from the SERP. I was a found believer that when Vic Gundotra left Google, it was not the end of Google+.

This change however, had me second guessing the future of the platform. Surely, the author images were a HUGE incentive for Google+ usage. Why in the world would they choose to remove one of it’s most significant features?

I have a number of theories beyond the typical answer of it helping pretify the SERP or creating a better mobile search experience:

  1. Maybe it was negatively affecting AdWords CTR.
  2. Google wants more eyes on knowledge graph.
  3. Now that x number of people are using authorship, they care less about incentivizing it’s use or perhaps it started to lead to spammy usage.
  4. It detracted from the CTR of the ranking algorithm. Shouldn’t position 1 get more clicks than position 2? What if it weren’t the case due to an author image?
  5. Google wants to push personalized searches even more and the inclusion of images in those searches actually detracted from this. People would click on personalized search results much too often compared to regular results. They want them to be “blind” to it, by making it visually more integrated.
  6. Google is making big changes to Google+ and how it is integrated with other Google products. There are more big changes coming! 

Dave RekucA. Dave Rekuc (Marketing Director)

Probably not, if it were a mobile only difference, Google would only roll the change out to mobile devices, they’re smart enough not to treat their entire search audience as one unit.  I think what’s happened is a feature with good intentions wound up driving results that didn’t actually favor a better search experience, plain and simple.  Mediocre articles with author mark-up caught the eye in search results and good sites that were ignoring the mark-up got passed up.

I’m sure there are 1,001 conspiracy theories that believe that Google rolled out such strong authorship mark-up in their SERPS to lure contributors to Google +.  Totally possible, completely unprovable.  Whether it did or didn’t I think it’s fair to assume that Google + is here to stay and that ignoring authorship mark-up, even after losing the author’s image, is a fool’s errand.  We know the web is getting more social and we know Google is paying attention now, it’s easy to implement, I can’t see why an author should ignore it.

Q. Do you believe @JohnMu that will not affect click-through? Why not? :)

David FaltzA. David Faltz (Founder White Rabbit Marketing. Search Engine & Branding Optimization (SEBO) Marketer)

Absolutely not! Google is always trying to convince us they are not the big bad corporation, whose interests are aligned with ours. Though I respect John Mueller, I do believe this is just PR. There has been all kinds of testing done by 3rd parties already, that already confirmed author images increase CTR. How could it not have?! It was a fantastic equalizer in terms putting less emphasis on where you ranked on any particular SERP. 

Swayam DasA. Swayam Das (Social Media Marketer)

I do not believe in the fact that CTRs won’t be affected. Primarily because if I place myself in the Searcher’s position I would definitely click on results that had images beside them. To my eyes they serve as a signal of being genuine,  someone that holds authority.  For example, if I search for “diet pills” and amongst the 10 results I see a doctor’s pic beside a site then I’ll definitely click on that ignoring others. The reason is for a normal user he/she won’t be knowing which is an authority site.

Marc NashaatA. Marc Nashaat (Enterprise Marketing Consultant)

Not particularly, putting aside the case studies, common sense tells us that a result with an image is going to stand out more than a plain text result. When things stand out, they get more attention. Pretty simple. I’m also curious what these observations were based on; whether they were SERPs where all (or most) listings had authorship images. If so, it’s possible that you wouldn’t see significantly higher CTR’s than on a SERP with all plain text listings. 

It’s hard to come up with alterior motives for Google on this front, maybe they’ve found that authorship detracts from ad clicks, but that’s just entirely speculation. 

Paul ShapiroA. Paul Shapiro (SEO Director at Catalyst)

The first thing I thought when I heard John Mueller say that the removal of author images in the SERP wouldn’t affect click-through rate was “Okay, that’s easy enough to test”. I doubted that Google would want to make a false claim about something that is so easily tested. Someone will release a study on this subject and we’ll know the truth soon enough.

Dave RekucA. Dave Rekuc (Marketing Director)

I don’t believe that even a little bit.  On a relatively clean search results page, you’re going to tell me that an author’s image doesn’t catch the eye?  In eye tracking studies, human faces come up all the time as one of the first places the eye goes.  We’re definitely going to see a drop in CTR on our articles.  Everyone is losing the article picture at the same time and that may soften the blow, but not every search result contained the mark-up and that’s where we lose our competitive advantage.

Q. Please share what you feel about that? Will you still care to verify your content after this change?

David FaltzA. David Faltz (Founder White Rabbit Marketing. Search Engine & Branding Optimization (SEBO) Marketer)

Setting up authorship is not really not complicated, and less so if you are working with Worpdress. There are plenty of plugins that make it even easier to implement. I would imagine it will affect adoption and participation rates moving forward. I think for the most part author verification has been a failed experiment that has mostly been used by internet marketers. Google knows that and wants to take away yet another edge from us ;) G+ make be next! lol

Anna FoxA. Anna Fox (Blogger)

Google seems to be still showing up pictures in personalized results: Which means you need to seriously work on your G+ following!

The big news for personalized (logged in to your Google account) search is that _author photos may still show for Google+ posts by people you have in your circles. (h/t to +Joshua Berg). Every other authorship result now looks just like those in the logged out search example.

Swayam DasA. Swayam Das (Social Media Marketer)

This move by Google kind of coincides with the recent Google+ update! Personally I was wondering if this move is directly signalling a cancellation of Google Authorship in the near future. If that is so then I won’t be verifying my content. Has Google just removed author pics from search results or the entire authorship program? Depends!

Marc NashaatA. Marc Nashaat (Enterprise Marketing Consultant)

I don’t agree with the change, but I’ve learned to adapt to the whims of Google. I will definitely still be using authorship markup. If you believe in the future of the knowledge graph, there’s no reason not to. At the very least you’re creating structured data for your content, and that’s never a bad thing. 

Paul ShapiroA. Paul Shapiro (SEO Director at Catalyst)

I’m going to continue to apply authorship to all of my writing. It still gives me a sense of ownership (especially within search) beyond a simple byline. I also think there are advantages beyond the author image. People can click to see other things I’ve written write within the SERP. It affects personalized search results (probably more important than author images honestly), and it open a world of future benefits in semantic search and the possibility of agent rank, should it ever be used beyond indepth articles (which is also a benefit).

My gut is telling me this isn’t the end of Google+, but rather one change of many to come in how Google will interacts with Google+ and how the Google+ team functions as an organization. Interesting times are ahead of us.

Dave RekucA. Dave Rekuc (Marketing Director)

I honestly think it’s crazy to consider not verifying your content just because the short-term benefit of the author’s image has disappeared.  Google has proven a commitment to making Google + work and to making it’s search results more personalized.  They’ve created a way to structure your contributions across the web and personally build an authority that transcends domains.  I think any content creator would still be foolish to ignore authorship at this point.

Now, what’s your input?

5 Useful Facts About StumbleUpon Traffic

StumbleUpon may have been around for awhile, but marketers have been mixed in their advice about using it. As far as social media tools go, it is much different than most. Rather than allowing for interaction, it is used as a discovery tool. You introduce people to your website through this randomizer, increasing the chances of your users finding you based on how many pages you have to share.

***Take part in the thread: Is SstumbleUpon any good for building traffic to my site?

They also have a paid advertising program. StumbleUpon Paid Discovery service links people directly to your pages without any clicks-through from ads. It is supposed to remove the most difficult step, as so many users are jaded about following real advertisements thanks to an increase in shady pop-ups and sidebar ads.

How StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Works

Using the Paid Discovery tool is simple enough. You sign up and then pay a rate per Stumble, so you are only paying for the people who see your link. There is a base pay, and then you add ala cart based on specifications.

For example, the base Stumble is $0.10 each. Adding things like location and age targeting are between $0.02 and $0.06 each, upping the price of each Stumble to as much as $0.35 a piece.

What you are ultimately paying for is traffic that comes directly from StumbleUpon. But is it worth it? Here are five facts about StumbleUpon traffic that you can use to decide if it is the right tool for your campaign.

  1. SU Is Still a Social Platform: Don’t make the mistake of assuming just because it is a traffic driver that StumbleUpon is just another marketing tool. It is still a social platform, and one that is increasing its user base by the month. People like a content driven social network, as it provides a unique formula that takes it out of the usual micro or connecting spheres (think Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn). It is more comfortable among the category of Pinterest and YouTube, as it is there to push traffic through content itself, and not engagement. While you have to change your tactics of interacting, you still have to look at it through the same lens. For example, sharing your own content is fine. But it is not likely to get you a large following on its own. Instead, you have to engage socially by sharing third party content relevant to the interests of your target demographic. This will ultimately increase the numbers of users who regularly return to your stumbles, and so your site.
  2. Mint Has 180,000 Unique Visits From SU Alone: In probably its most enticing case study, Mint is a primary success for StumbleUpon. The financial site itself stated that SU was the most effective and cost-efficient form of advertising they had used, including an unnamed social network (ahem, Facebook) they had used for PPC. That number isn’t in total, it is per month. They managed to both increase traffic on a consistent monthly basis that continues today, while increasing their user demographic to include the elusive 18: 25 women category they had wanted to more strongly influence into using their product.
  3. Only a Percentage Of Traffic Will Be Paid: Looking at the Mint example again, all of the primary traffic came from free campaigns. Only 44% came from Paid Discovery. An additional 20% came from shared Paid Stumbles, so when they said it was cost efficient, that was obviously very much the case. SU’s other case study, the Wisconsin Milk Board, saw an addition 60% traffic increase from Paid Stumbles. So while you use Paid Discovery to increase your traffic boosts, there is evidence to suggest a fair amount of what you see will come from free Stumbles.
  4. Good Content Provides Increasing Traffic Over Time: Nicholas Tart of Income Diary presented an interesting look into his own use of StumbleUpon. He said that he had submitted a single, high quality piece of content that was “content StumbleUpon users like”, and measured the results. Case studyOn that single piece of content, he got an astonishing 158,000 Stumbles over time. Most of this started to happen five months after it was initially submitted, which teaches an important lesson: timing is different for SU campaigns. Where with other social networks you would hope to see a quick increase in shares, and possible viral status once in a blue moon, SU is a more patient form of marketing. It has to be planted and allowed to grow. Be sure to check out Tart’s article for some interesting advice on improving your results. Here’s also a very actionable article on getting traffic from StumbleUpon (supported by my own case study).
  5. SU Might Be The Best Hidden Treasure On The Social Web: Check out this post by Shareaholic. In the beginning of 2014, SU saw a 30% increase in referrals. In fact, it saw the highest increase of all of the social networks, along with Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+. Sites like Twitter, Youtube, Reddit and LinkedIn saw a fall in referral rate. Granted, the numbers for SU could be because marketers started to really catch on to the platform’s potential in the last two quarters of 2013. But it doesn’t change the potential seen in those gains. StumbleUpon might be the best hidden treasure on the social web, and really worth a shot if you are failing to see the traffic or influence you hoped on more saturated, less content focused social networks,

Conclusion

Nowadays StumbleUpon may not be the most talked about social tool out there. But it is one of the most promising, and it is growing by the day. The statistics speak for themselves, and seeing the progress made by sites like Mint using it is nothing short of inspiring.

If you are looking for a traffic driver that will be based more on content than on links, you might want to try it out. Less focused on building through clicks-through, you can see how it might be more appealing to the average social user. Plus, the competition is less fierce, thanks to its status as being under the radar.

Have you used StumbleUpon for marketing? How did it go? Let us know in the comments!