Review Criteria for the Third Quarter of 2014
There won't be any large changes to the criteria between this quarter and the last, except in the area of Size, which was known as Content last quarter. Since "content" can mean a lot of things other than the number of links that a directory has, and it was confusing some people, I decided to refer to what was being assessed in this area as "size" instead. Generally, when people are discussing a directory, someone will ask how big it is, and they are referring to the number of links it contains. There are some other changes in this area that I'll discuss within that topic. Each of the other areas of assessment will remain essentially the same. In the course of my reviews, I have been making note of SEO metric statistics, as well as site submission costs, although these have not been considered in my ratings since the first quarter of 2013. Last quarter, I decided to quite reporting Google PageRank and Alexa Traffic Rank numbers because Google seldom updates its PageRank, and has asked people to quit fussing about it anyhow, and because Alexa Traffic Rank is so easily manipulated as to be useless as a metric. However, I have received a couple of complaints about this, so I suppose it doesn't hurt for me to report this information for those who might be interested in it. SEO metrics play no part in a directory's rating.
- +2nd Quarter Review Criteria
- The chief criteria that will be assessed in the Second Quarter of 2014 are Aesthetics, Size, Intuitiveness, Quality, and Usefulness. In addition, I may add up to five points for extra content, beyond what is generally found in web directories, or for other qualities of a directory that are not adequately covered in other areas of my evaluation.
During the course of my review, I'll be looking at other things that may be significance to submitters, such as results from SEO metrics and ranking tools, the directory's submission policies and costs, as well as anything else that I think might be of interest to my readers. However, the criteria that I will be using to rate the directories will be evaluated from the perspective of a potential directory user rather than a site submitter. SEO metric statistics, submission costs, and anything not covered under the areas of aesthetics, quantity, intuitiveness, quality, usefulness, or extra content will play no part in the ranking that a directory receives.
- +Aesthetics (10%)
- Aesthetics refers to beauty and taste, and is probably the most subjective area of assessment, which is largely why it is worth only ten percent of the total grade.
There is a documented link between aesthetics and usability. In 1995, a study was done with ATM machines, each of which were identical in their function, had the same number of buttons, which were operated in the same manner. However, some were intentionally designed so that the buttons and screen layouts were arranged attractively, and others unattractively. The results of the test was that the attractive ones were perceived to be easier to use, indicating a high correlation between aesthetics and apparent usability, and this was confirmed in subsequent tests.
Similar studies conducted using websites, rather than ATM machines, were less conclusive, largely due to differing expectations relating to certain types of websites. In other words, the aesthetics of a gaming site would, by necessity, differ greatly from that of a business site.
In all human interactions, first impressions are very important, as a user's first impressions may greatly influence their overall judgement of a website or directory. In fact, a first impression may persist even after strong evidence if presented to the contrary. In other words, when a person's first impression of a directory is negative, he is likely to dislike it even after he has learned that, in other respects, it is a good directory. The principle holds when a first impression is positive.
In my assessment of the aesthetics of a directory, I look at such things as the design, color choices, and overall look and feel of the directory. What first impression would it give to the average user?
In most cases, an index page that can be viewed without vertical scrolling is desirable, but I have seen several directories that are appealing despite the fact that scrolling is required, particularly when the main menu is above the fold.
Is the overall style and appeal good or bad? Attractive or ugly? Captivating or dull? Creative or unimaginative? Stylish or tacky?
Certain font-background color choices are difficult to read, which would be a problem, not only in aesthetics, but in the usefulness area of our assessment as well.
As a variable of good aesthetics, I'll look at the symmetry displayed in the directory, particularly the index page. While it is impossible for every category and subcategory name to be symmetrical, it usually helps when the main menu is symmetrical, so I will look at the upper-level category name choices.
Overall, what I will be looking for in this area of my assessment is to determine whether its index page encourages visitors to look further? I'll also look at the directory's internal pages to see whether the site's theme is effectively transferred to its subpages.
- +Size (25%)
- This area of my review was previously known as "content," and it refers to the number of outgoing links that a directory has. Some directories, such as DMOZ, are very large, while others, like Jasmine Directory, are fairly small.
Since "content" can refer to things other than links, I decided that "size" would be a more appropriate name for this area of my assessment.
It is, however, impossible for me to determine just how many outgoing directory links a directory has without paging through each category and subcategory, counting the links, which is not something that I have the time for.
Yes, some directories state the number of links they contain, but I have no way to know whether this number is accurate, and not all of them include this information.
I scan each directory domain prior to my review, to determine the number of links that are found on the site.
Since the scanning program does not differentiate between outgoing category links and internal links, such as navigation links, this number will be larger than the actual number of links that a directory contains. Nevertheless, it is a useful tool for comparison.
Many directories have hundreds of thousands of links, and the scanning programs is aggressive, which may cause difficulties with the server of larger directories, and the scanning program itself is prone to crash while dealing with some of the larger directories, so I will limit my scan to 500,001 links. This is 100,000 more than in previous quarters, and it will be enough to determine whether a directory is one of the huge ones, or something in between.
In response to concerns that new directories might be unable to compete, despite adding a large number of quality links each year, I am going to try a graduated scale in determining each directory's rating in this area of the assessment.
Because I am still uncertain of this scale, I will be using two individual scales this quarter, one based on on the total number of links found on the directory domain, the other on a calculation of the number of links added each year that the directory has been in operation, according to the Internet Archive or other documented dates. The rating that I will assign to each directory will be an average of the two, rounded to a whole number.
Based on Total # Links
- Below 50,000 = 0-5 points
- 50,000-100,000 = 5-10 points
- 100,000-200,000 = 10-20 points
- 200,000-400,000 = 20-22 points
- 400,000-500,000 = 22-24 points
- Above 500,000 = 25 points
Based on Link per Year
- Below 5,000 total links = 0-5 points
- 3,000-5,000 = 5-10 points
- 5,000-10,000 = 10-15 points
- 10,000-25,000 = 15-20 points
- 25,000-30,000 = 20-24
- Above 30,000/yr or above 500,000 total links = 25 points
As I start using these scales, I might find that I need to make some adjustments early on. If so, I will go back and make the same adjustments to any reviews that I have done prior, but during this quarter, so that every directory is being evaluated according to the same criteria. Once five or more directories have been evaluated, no more changes will be made until next quarter.
Some directories do not permit me to scan them, banning my ISP number when I try. As it is important that every directory be evaluated according to the same criteria, in the event that I am unable to scan a directory's contents, I will try to determine the average size of the directory by other means, but five points will be deducted from whatever value I might otherwise determine. For example, I know that the Yahoo! Directory has more than 500,000 links but, because it does not permit its contents to be scanned, it will receive 20 rather than 25 points in this area of the evaluation.
- +Intuitiveness (20%)
- Intuitiveness refers to the ease in which a user can navigate the directory. This will involve taxonomy and other navigational features, including category name choices and placement, as well as follow up.
Is its taxonomy clearly structured or confusing? The organizational structure of a directory has much to do with the ease in which a user can find something. Many directories have simply adopted the taxonomy of DMOZ or the Yahoo! Directory. Since this reflects a lack of creativity, I probably won't give full credit for this, yet these taxonomies are well considered, effective, and familiar to most directory users, so there are some advantages to it.
Follow through is also important. A directory might have an intuitive taxonomy, but if sites are not placed correctly within these categories and subcategories, users will be left confused. This often occurs when a directory begins with good intentions, after some thought was put into developing a sensible taxonomy but, in practice, sites are accepted into whatever category they are submitted to, or when a directory develops a policy of allowing sites to be placed in inappropriate categories in return for payment of a higher fee.
Are its navigational features predictable or unpredictable? This may involve category menu placement. When a user clicks from one page to another, will he be able to find the category or subcategory menus in the same place, or do they change from page to page? Is there an easy way for him to backtrack, or is he required to return to the index page each time he wants to change direction? A breadcrumb navigation is good for this purpose, although other methods might also be used.
Due to the limitations of some directory scripts, some directories will sort categories and subcategories alphabetically, even when it would make more sense to separate one type of category from another. For example, topical and geographical categories are mixed together in some directories, by default, while others have either modified the script, or are using scripts that allow for separating different types of categories, often using above or below the line features.
Other helpful features include the use of @links or See Also links when it makes sense to do so, although I have seen this overdone in some directions, which have established useless @link farms. Other means of referring users to related categories might also be used.
Lastly, a working search feature will help users find the content that they are looking for, using keywords or key phrases. Not every in-site search will work as indicated, however. Sometimes the problem is that the search application is simply not an effective one, but often is that the chosen search application is dependent upon finding the keyword or key phrase within the category name, site title, or site description. With fully descriptive site descriptions, this might work, but if falls down when the directory uses site descriptions that are less than descriptive. Some search applications do not work well with key phrases, since they return results using each of the words individually, without preference for the exact key phrase being sought.
- +Quality (20%)
- In assessing the quality of a directory, I will consider that a web directory is a website; as such, I will evaluate all of the qualities of a website, many of which may bleed into areas assessed in other parts of this review.
Are its pages updated regularly? Is there an "about page" that actually gives information about the directory and/or its administrative or editorial staff? Is there a contact page.
Is its content structurally separate from its navigational elements? Do clickable elements stylistically indicate that they are indeed clickable? Are there any buttons or apparent links that are not clickable, or which cannot be identified as such? In other words, are its links easily identifiable, valid, and active?
Are its scripts free of errors? Is the site free from server side errors? Does the directory load quickly? Are there any broken images? Is the directory reasonably free of bad links? In this regard, I recognize that directories that contain hundreds of thousands of outgoing links will probably not be entirely free of bad links.
Are there empty pages or categories? Does every page have content? In assessing this, I will be looking not just for outgoing category links but for other content, such as uniquely written and useful category descriptions, articles, or other textual content. In fact, a category page that includes a useful category description or other textual content, but no outgoing links, will not be considered to be empty.
Is the textual content of the directory well written, uniquely authored, and useful? This will include category descriptions and articles, as well as site descriptions, each of which should be proper grammar and full sentences.
Early on in the history of web directories, many of them adopted a model for site descriptions that includes sentence fragments rather than grammatically correct sentences. Generally, such descriptions are also not very descriptive. However, it is important to understand that web directories are websites, and websites are expected to use proper grammar and useful content.
The reason for adopting this failed model for descriptions perhaps had much to do with the fact that people were connecting to the Internet through dialup connections at the time, and resources were at a premium, but this is no longer the case. While I do not expect a dinosaur of the web directory industry, such as DMOZ or the Yahoo! Directory, to modify the descriptions of hundreds of thousands of site listings that have already been added, but I do not believe that directories should continue to use this model for new listings.
Site descriptions should be reasonably descriptive of the business or organization, as well as the site itself. While I prefer longer descriptions, at a minimum, a site description should include one sentence about the business or organization and another describing the features of the website itself.
Two sentence descriptions are adequate, but longer ones may be better. Truly descriptive site descriptions will include keywords and phrases that allow the site to be more easily found through a site search, provide information that a user can use to determine which site he may want to visit, and will provide textual content that will be indexed, and may prove valuable for search engine optimization.
Neither titles or descriptions should include promotional language or keywords that are not used in the proper construction of an informative sentence. In most cases, site titles should match the actual title of the site. However, many directories will disallow the use of titles that violate specified style rules set by the directory. These may include the practice of glueing words together (SiteTitle), the use of exclamation marks (Yahoo!), or the use of domain names as a title (About.com). Sometimes, these rules are set aside for well-known sites. I approve of these exceptions to the rule of using the actual site title, but I will not grade down for the use of the title found on the site or the browser bar.
However, I frequently come across directories where the domain name is often used in lieu of the actual site title and, when this is done in combination with the practice of using skimpy descriptions that don't describe anything, I have to wonder whether anyone actually visited the site before accepting it into the directory.
Other directories allow the use of keywords in lieu of the actual title, often in return for the payment of a fee, and this practice will not be considered to be of good quality.
The programs that I use to scan a directory are fairly aggressive and, at times, I have come across directories whose servers were unable to withstand a scan; one crashed, and others have slowed to a crawl or began returning timeouts. I scan directories a few days before my review so, if this occurs, I will give them one additional chance. If a directory's server is unable to withstand a scan, I will deduct five points from the quality area of my assessment.
- +Usefulness (25%)
- The usefulness of a web directory is a significant factor. The purpose of a web directory is to guide its users to other content on the Internet. This requires two things, which must work hand in hand: there must be content, and the user must be able to find it.
A new directory might be attractive and well organized, but it won't be particularly useful if there is insufficient content. However well intended, a new directory will not be especially useful until it has accumulated sufficient content. The amount of content that is included in the directory will be evaluated in the "size" area of assessment, but it will also affect the "usefulness" of the directory.
On the other hand, a large directory with hundreds of thousand of links won't be very useful if no one can find anything. The "intuitiveness" of the directory will figure in here, along with the "quality" of its category descriptions, site titles, and site descriptions. When site titles and descriptions are overly skimpy or poorly written, users will have difficulty finding what they are looking for, or recognizing it when they see it. Directory searches use keywords or phrases that often must be included within titles or descriptions so, when they are missing, the usefulness of the directory is adversely affected. Proper taxonomy is important also, and when sites are not listed in appropriate categories, they are not easily found by users.
Category descriptions are a standard feature in most web directory scripts, yet several directory operators do not utilize category descriptions. A well written, uniquely authored, category description can serve as an important resource, and it is one that should be used. Not only do category descriptions aid site submitters in locating the appropriate category in which to submit their site, but they can provide information to users, as well as content for search engine optimization.
An additional feature that I will be evaluating this quarter is how useful a web directory will be when accessed through a mobile device, such as a smart phone. Although this will not be a major component of my assessment, it is becoming increasingly important to serve that segment of Internet users, as well.
By its name, a web directory is supposed to direct its users to something useful on the Internet. In order for this to occur, there has to be something useful there to begin with, and it has to be organized in such a manner that users will be able to find it, and to recognize it once it has been found.
- +Extra Content (+5)
- The extra content section of my evaluation criteria is used to credit extra resources that may be offered by a directory. This criteria item differs in that it is used specifically to credit extra content items, some of which may be useful to site submitters as well as directory users.
These may include site detail pages, with genuine content, or opportunities for internal page links, or social media links, as well as thumbnail images, user-interactions, such as ratings, reviews, comments, etc. They may also include additional textual content like blogs or useful articles, webmaster tools, or associated forums. These are a few examples of what might constitute extra content; other content might be found during an evaluation that might also fit into this criteria.
Of course, I will also be evaluating the quality of this content. For example, many article directories are little more than SEO schemes, not offering anything in the way of useful content. This may also be true of inactive forums or blogs that haven't been updated in a long time. Such content will not be counted against the directory, but neither will it be counted in its favor.
- +In Case of a Tie
- In case of a tie on points, any points awarded as extra credit points will be disregarded. If this still results in a tie, we will then use the value assigned to the Usefulness evaluation criteria as the prevailing assessment.
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+ Directory of Directories
The WDR Directory of Directories is a comprehensive guide to legitimate web directories, including general, comprehensive, topical and regional directories, as well as blog and forum directories, and a wide variety of niche directories. Useful information is provided for each listed directory. Also include on this site are tips on submitting web sites to other directories. General submission guidelines, and information on choosing the most appropriate category for your site, and writing a site description will help you be more successful at getting your site listed in the better web directories. Please visit the WDR Directory of Directories.
+ Directory of Directories of Directories
The WDR Directory of Directories of Directories lists the directories that list the directories that list the sites. Just as the WDR Directory of Directories is a guide to web directories, there are other directories that serve the same purpose, and these are listed here, along with other resources. Please visit the WDR Directory of Directories of Directories.
+ Web Directory Forum
The Web Directory Forum is an interactive discussion forum on a variety of topics, including web directories, directory scripts, and directory editing, as well as search engine optimization, web hosting, web design, HTML editors, domains, and several other topics. Registration is required in order to participate in discussions, but there is no charge for registration and you don't even have to give us your real name. Please visit the Web Directory Forum.
+ Our Facebook Page
As of this date, October, 18, 2013, our Facebook page is fairly new, but I am trying to keep it up to date. Please visit our Facebook page, and be sure to "like" it before you leave. New additions to the directory are announced here, as well as new reviews and other information. Please visit our Facebook Page.
+ Our Twitter Page
Our Twitter page has been around longer than the Facebook page. While I may go a day or so every now and then without adding new tweets, it is generally maintained. New additions to our directory are announced here, as are new reviews, and other information that I think you might be interested in. Please follow our Twitter Page. We follow back all who follow us.
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At Web Directory Reviews Org, we are constantly trying to perfect the criteria we use in evaluating and rating web directories, and we frequently make adjustments to our criteria between quarters, often based on comments that we have received from our readers and directory owners.
Please feel free to comment on our criteria, or on specifics relating to any of our reviews. You may do so by email, in the comment areas following our reviews, or within our forum.
Please feel free to comment on our criteria, or on specifics relating to any of our reviews. You may do so by email, in the comment areas following our reviews, or within our forum.