Review Criteria for the Second Quarter of 2013
During the Second Quarter of 2013, my web directory reviews will be focused on the usefulness of the directory to the directory user, rather than the purpose it serves to the webmaster or search engine optimizer.
It is my belief that a web directory that meets the needs of the directory user will eventually accumulate page rank and authority, human viewers, and everything else that will make it an asset to webmasters and search engine optimizers as well.
In conducting directory reviews, I will be setting the bar high, so I do not anticipate any web directory scoring one hundred percent, although I hope that the revised criteria will result in good directories coming in at eighty to ninety percent.
- +2nd Quarter Review Criteria
- The criteria that I will be rating directories on during the Second Quarter are aesthetics, content, intuitiveness, quality, and usefulness. Many of the same things that I looked at during the First Quarter will be incorporated into these items.
During my reviews, I will observe and report on matters of interest to webmasters, including results from the various ranking tools, submission policies, costs, and anything that might trigger suspicion, but the criteria that will be used in rating the directories will be assessed from the perspective of a directory user.
- +Aesthetics (20%)
- The general look of the directory being reviewed will continue to be one of the criteria assessed during the Second Quarter round of reviews, as I believe it to be important.
There are thousands of web directories on the Internet, and the first impression that a directory gives the user may determine whether or not he ever bothers to look further.
However, whereas in the First Quarter, I looked only at the index page of the directory, in respect to aesthetics, in the Second Quarter I will be considering this as I browse through the directory's subpages as well.
I realize that this item is highly subjective, but nevertheless, first impressions are generally aesthetic.
Do the directory's colors, images and other design elements go well together? Is the text easy on the eyes?
While the directory's main menu of top-level categories should be sensible and intuitive, has this been accomplished with an eye toward symmetry and design as well, or does it appear that top-level categories were simply added as they were needed?
The mixed use of ampersands and the complete conjunction detracts from the aesthetics of the directory's page. For example, the use of "Word & Word" or "Word and Word" is equally appropriate, but when the ampersand and he conjunction are mixed within the same category menu, the appearance is haphazard. It's not a big deal but it detracts from the aesthetics of the directory somewhat.
Although I will view such matters as symmetry, color and design under the aesthetics criteria, I will also consider distractions, such as advertisements and other things that might get in the way of an enjoyable browsing experience.
This does not mean that a good directory cannot have any advertisements, but it does reflect the fact that ads are a trade-off. Google AdSense blocks and other ads may provide income to the directory owner but they do so as the expense of the user.
Some ads are more or less obtrusive than others, of course, and this will be reflected in my reviews.
- +Content (20%)
- Primarily, this criteria item will pertain to the number of listings that are included in the directory. A well managed web directory may nevertheless score low in this area if it doesn't have much in the way of content, while a poorly managed directory with a lot of content may still score high.
Directories which employ editors, volunteer or paid, who are actively engaged in adding content to the directory will do well in this criteria item, as may those that accept free submissions, while directories that never add anything for free will probably fare poorly here.
For the purposes of my review, I don't care whether the content was paid for or added for free, as long as there is something there for a web directory user to find.
If the purpose of a directory is to direct the user to an online resource, the resources have to be there in order for the directory to be worthwhile.
- +Intuitiveness (20%)
- This criteria item includes taxonomy, which has to do with the way in which the directory's categories and subcategories are set up.
How easy would it be for a user to find what he was looking for by browsing the directory's categories and subcategories? Does the directory's category structure make sense?
Directories that are able to use related links or @links may have an advantage here, as are those that are able to separate different types of subcategories above or below the line, but a clear taxonomy should do well on its own.
- +Quality (20%)
- In this criteria item, I will be assessing the quality of the links in the directory. In reviewing this criteria, I won't be grading a directory down just because it contains low quality links, but I will be looking at the balance of good versus bad quality links. If a directory is going to be worthwhile, it will need to have useful links.
I will also be looking at the quality of site titles and descriptions.
Titles should reflect the actual title of the site, when it makes sense to do that. In other words, if the actual title of a site is ThE bEsT cOmPaNy, I wouldn't grade a directory down for using that as the title, but neither would it reflect poorly on them if they were to change it to something more sensible.
Descriptions should be descriptive. In fact, I believe that's why they are called descriptions. A description should adequately describe the company, organization or product, when applicable, as well as the content of the site.
During the First Quarter of directory reviews, I made frequent reference to my preference for the use of complete sentences and longer descriptions that are truly descriptive of the site, but I didn't grade down for skimpy sentence fragments, on the basis that this had become the de facto industry standard.
However, I have become convinced that this is a standard that has to change if web directories are going to remain relevant and competitive. When a site description doesn't describe the site, it is unreasonable to consider it to be a good description.
It is not length, per se, that I will be looking for, but how adequately the description describes the site. If it can be done in one brief sentence, that's fine, as long as the sentence is grammatically correct.
Obviously promotional language and lists of keywords used in lieu of an actual title or description will be viewed negatively.
Are there a lot of dead links? Rather than simply spot-checking a few links here and there, during the Second Quarter of reviews, I will be running a check on the entire directory using a program that will give me the total number of links, as well as the total number of dead or misdirected links, so that I can determine a percentage.
Does everything work? When I click on an internal link or navigation item, does it take me where it is supposed to take me?
- +Usefulness (20%)
- Looking at the usefulness of the directory as a whole, this criteria item pulls in facets from some of the other criteria items, but it may also include other useful features such as webmaster tools, relevant and useful text files, or perhaps a forum.
Does the directory have an in-site search? If so, does it return useful results? In assessing this item, I might locate a topic that I know to be in the directory and see whether or not the in-site search includes this item when I am searching on a topic pertaining specifically to it.
Category descriptions may also be used as a resource for users rather than simply to provide directions to those wishing to obtain a back link. If I am in a topical category, why not tell me something about the topic? If I am in a regional category, why not provide the history and an overview of the country, state, county or town?
If web directories are going to remain relevant, or become relevant again, they are going to have to provide something apart from the outgoing links. A question that I will ask when assessing this criteria item is whether there is any reason to go to that directory other than to submit a site for SEO purposes.
A directory should serve some purpose other than as a repository for back links. That's what differentiates a web directory from a website selling back links.
Search engine algorithms are designed to return useful results based on keywords, so if a web directory serves its purpose for the user, this will eventually be reflected in the SERPs.
- +Extra Credit (+5)
- In the event that I come across something in a web directory that warrants credit, but which cannot be fit into one of the other five assessment areas, I will reserve the right to add up to five extra credit points.
- +In Case of a Tie
- In case of a tie on points, the points assigned to the Usefulness section will prevail. Since we are focusing on the usefulness of a web directory to an end user, it makes sense to consider its usefulness to be the more important criteria.