Jasmine Directory Interview

Web Directory Reviews Org was pleased to interview Robert G, the CEO of the Jasmine Directory, a general web directory that includes a regional tree, and which was highlighted as one of the top ten directories reviewed by us during the first quarter of 2013. As one of our top ten directories, the Jasmine Directory will be competing against the rest of the top ten field, as well as ten additional directories, during the second quarter of reviews, using new assessment criteria. Created in 2009, the Jasmine Directory uses a Tolra PHP directory script.

WDR: Robert, can you tell me why you decided to start a web directory?

Robert: I have been working with my partner for over ten years in the marketing and web development industry. Each website we created, whether for ourselves or for our clients, needed to be promoted because, as we all know, a website lacking in visitors is almost useless.

Certainly, web directories, or some, evidently, have been and are still, for us, a continuously solid source of building more, stable, elaborate marketing strategies. So, in 2009, we decided to create a different kind of directory, one that would be exactly how we would like a directory to be. This is how the journey began.

WDR: I agree that good, reputable web directories should be a part of anyone's SEO plans, and I am happy to say that some of my sites are listed in the Jasmine Directory. Other than yourselves, do you have any paid staff?

Robert: Ninety percent of the listings in Jasmine Directory were added manually. This means that an editor searches for relevant and informative websites, adding them regularly in their respective categories. At this time, we have four editors who work for us.

WDR: Are your editors paid according to the time they work or by the edit?

Robert: They are paid according to the number of listings they add to the directory.

WDR: Do you currently have an active volunteer program?

Robert: No, at this time there is no need. Maybe someday, when Jasmine Directory grows, we'll take this option into consideration, although I'm skeptical about it. In these days, time means money. Nobody will perform voluntary work for a "better internet" without any other kind of motivation.

WDR: I worked as a volunteer for the Open Directory Project since before it was known by that name, and have volunteered with Go as well as with Zeal, spending several years and many hours each day as a volunteer. But you're right, that was a different time, at least for me. I am currently listed as a volunteer with one directory but, to be honest, I've only added a few sites. None of them were my own sites, but I don't have the time to do some of the things that I'm being paid for, so I can't imagine ever spending the amount of time I once spent with the ODP ever again. Everywhere, people are having a much tougher time earning a living these days, so I would imagine it would be difficult getting people to volunteer.

Moving on, what are the submission requirements for the Jasmine Directory?

Robert: Well, we have a pretty strict policy regarding the types of websites we accept in our directory. Since the beginning, we established that pharmacy, adult, one-page sales sites, and strictly affiliate-based sites won't be included in Jasmine Directory. It's not a matter of having a personal quarrel with these kinds of websites, but many of them are of dubious value, many having illegal activities and materials that violate copyright laws, etc. We don't want to encourage or promote these kinds of websites, even if it means losing a well-known niche of the Internet.

A website should first offer information, and accomplish its goal, if you will. The payment of a fee is required for submissions to Jasmine Directory, and we have clearly stipulated that the payment of this fee was a review fee. There's no guarantee that a submitted website will be accepted. When time and resources permit, we manually add sites to Jasmine Directory, and we figured that webmasters who want to speed up the process can directly contribute to increasing our potential and helping to improve Jasmine Directory, while increasing the number of editors we can afford to employ.

WDR: On a personal note, I own about a hundred domains, many of which are purely informational sites that are not monetized, other than maybe an AdSense field. Most of them are not heavily promoted but, when I am reviewing a web directory, either for the WDR Directory of Directories or for Web Directory Reviews Org, I often submit a site, if I can afford it, so that I can see how the submission process goes. I just added a couple of additional sites to the Jasmine Directory a day or two ago; you probably don't know that because I used a different email address, one that corresponded to the sites that I was submitting.

I'll be honest with you. I've been an editor for many years, and I feel like I know how to write a site description, so it usually annoys me when a web directory changes the description that I submitted, and most often I do feel that they have made it worse in the process, since I am generally careful to avoid promotional or heavily key-worded language.

However, I now have three or four sites in the Jasmine Directory, and I have to say that the changes that you guys have made to my descriptions were an improvement on my own. Whether yourself, your partner, or someone else in your employ, you've done a good job with that, so I wanted to mention that before I moved on to the next question.

When a site is submitted to the Jasmine Directory, what are the minimum or maximum character limits on site descriptions?

Robert: People can input two types of descriptions. One, which will be displayed on our category pages, can be as long as two hundred and twenty-five characters. The other, more detailed, business or company profile is shown on the listing's page; this one can have four thousand characters, and may include images, etc.

Here is an example of one of our detail pages.

WDR: Are you optimistic about the future of the web directory industry?

Robert: Yes, I'm very optimistic. First of all, I have to admit that I'm really glad that Google is doing something about the directories that are merely databases of websites that no human editor has ever laid eyes upon. The webmaster simply pays ten dollars and his or her website is guaranteed to be accepted in any category whatsoever. It's nonsense, from any point of view.

It is well known that there was a time when a lot of people had their own directory - there have been hundreds of thousands of directories - but we have seen that there are only a few dozen that really count, and they will continue to count on into the future, as well.

Things are relatively simple. As long as a directory owner has a clear view of what he wants to do, and really wants to create something useful, this being the magic word, then he is on the right road. Otherwise, it can't be done.

WDR: I don't know if you remember "free-for-all" sites. They were directory-like scripts that anyone who had the webspace could install, and they would permit anyone to submit any website whatsoever, for free, and the site would automatically appear in the lists. At the time, this was a viable instrument for search engine optimization. That didn't last long though. The search engines banned them from the SERPs so they went away. Far too many of the "web directories" that you can find online are little more than free-for-all sites that are no longer free. As long as these are the ones that are being banned, I agree with you that it is a good thing for the legitimate web directory industry. I worry that some promising start-ups might be caught up in the purge, though.

What are your future plans for the Jasmine Directory? Where would you like to be in the next couple of years?

Robert: First of all, we intend to add a third layer of subcategories. Also, we would like to create some specific tools for each main category. For example, in the Arts category, we could have some feeds that will automatically detect the user's IP address and offer, in the form of feeds, theater plays, movies, book releases, etc.

We would like to see Jasmine Directory become an extension of what we would want a web directory to be, what we would enjoy seeing in a directory once we access it.

WDR: Other than creating back links for webmasters, what purpose does a web directory serve today?

Robert: First of all, I strongly believe that a directory's role is not that of creating a back link. It does that, but that is something collateral. However, webmasters are constantly spammed with information about back links equalling success, so they are not to be condemned for buying into the hype. At Jasmine Directory, we're constantly moving toward quality and utility. As I've said before, ninety percent of the websites added to Jasmine Directory are those that are carefully chosen by our editors. Clearly, for each of these websites, a back link was created, but that does nothing but confirm its quality.

Secondly, the trend in web directories is that they will grow into, before anything else, websites that offer more useful information to visitors. By this, I am referring not only to the directory's site listings, but to included tools, tutorials, articles, news, and so on and so forth.

WDR: Do you have any ideas as to what changes might be necessary in order for the web directory industry to remain viable in the future?

Robert: Well, it's hard to predict what changes might be needed, but the facts are that small players are certain to fail after one or two years. Google is stricter when it comes to web directories, and users suggest websites based on PageRank, which isn't good. There are so many projects that are more profitable than web directories, given the amount of costly advertising they require. So in this case, the only direction web directories can take is one of quality.

WDR: What does the Jasmine Directory have to offer that couldn't be found through Google or Bing?

Robert: Never will a robot or algorithm be able to analyze a website as a human would, especially when they are unnecessarily bombarded by a thing called search engine optimization. As long as quality is in the eyes of some mathematical formulae, there will be SEO professionals around to manipulate it. I believe that every serious directory offers far more than a few websites displayed on a page. At the same time, web directories may address Google maps integration, include relevant articles, tools, attached blogs, and other features that can improve the user's experience. A search engine cannot do this through the display of ten relevant search results on a page.

WDR: Robert, thank you very much for talking to us. For myself, I can tell you that the Jasmine Directory is on a short list of directories that I will be submitting to as I have the resources to do so. Without looking to be sure, I believe that the Jasmine Directory is the youngest of those making it onto our top ten list. You will be competing against the other nine directories on our top ten list, as well as ten other directories, during the second quarter.

Our evaluation criteria has changed considerably, so you might want to take a look at it.

The Jasmine Interview was published April 2, 2013.