Draft of the Second Quarter 2013 Assessment Criteria

During the Second Quarter of 2013, I will be using a different set of criteria for my web directory reviews, hoping for results that more accurately reflect the numbers that people expect to see in a numerical assessment. By this, I mean that a good directory should score in the 80s or 90s rather than in the 60s and 70s, as was the case in my First Quarter reviews. I will set the bar high however, and doubt that any directory is going to score a hundred.

I also hope to simplify the process somewhat, and to focus on the usefulness of the web directory to the directory user, the idea being that if I were to focus on such matters as page rank and the costs for inclusion and placement, that would be a description, not of a web directory, but of selling back links.

Knowing that such matters are important to webmasters and search engine optimizers, I will be including this information in my reviews, but they won't reflect in the ratings.

This is what I have come up with as a draft of the new criteria. I would appreciate your comments as, once I have reviewed the first directory in early April, I will be locked into that criteria until the end of June.

Aesthetics

The general look of the directory will continue to be one of the criteria assessed during the Second Quarter, 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 will often determine whether or not that user ever looks any further into it.

However, whereas my First Quarter criteria looked only at the index page of the directory, in respect to aesthetics, I will be considering this as I browse through the directory's subpages as well.

Although I will consider such matters as symmetry, color and design, I will also consider distractions, such as advertisements and other things that might get in the way of an enjoyable browsing experience. This doesn't mean that a good directory cannot have any advertisements, but it does reflect the fact that advertisements are a trade-off. Google AdSense and other advertisements provide income for the directory operator, but they do so at the expense of the user. Some advertisements are more obtrusive than others, and this will be reflected in my reviews.

Content

Primarily, this criteria item will pertain to the number of listings that are contained in the directory. A very 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 of web listings may still score high here.

Directories who employ editors 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 those directories that never add anything for free will probably fare poorly here. For my purposes, however, I don't care if content is from from free or paid submissions, or whether it comes through editor additions to the directory, as long as there is content there.

A directory needs to have something to direct users to. Otherwise, it is merely selling back links.

Intuitiveness

This criteria item includes taxonomy. How easy would it be for a user to find what he was looking for by browsing through the directory's categories and subcategories? Directories that are able to use related links or @links might 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

In this criteria item, I will be looking at the quality of the links in the directory. In reviewing this criteria, I won't be grading the directory down if it contains some low quality links, but I will be looking at the balance of good links versus bad ones. If a directory is going to be worthwhile, it will need to have useful links.

I will also be looking at site titles and descriptions.

Titles should reflect the actual titles of the site, when it makes sense to do that. In other words, if the actual title of the 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 to change it to something more sensible.

Descriptions should be descriptive, adequately describing the company, organization or product, when applicable, as well as the content of the site. In the First Quarter of my assessments, I frequently commented on my preference for complete sentences and longer descriptions that were truly descriptive of the site that it is supposed to be describing, but I didn't grade down for skimpy sentence fragments, on the basis that this has become the de facto standard of the industry. However, I am becoming more and more convinced that this standard has to change if web directories are going to relevant and competitive. It is not length, per se, that I will be looking for, but how adequately the description describes the site that it is describing. If that can be done in a brief sentence, that's fine, as long as it is grammatically correct. Obviously, promotional language and lists of keywords used in lieu of the actual title of a site, or an adequate description, will be viewed negatively.

Are there a lot of dead links? Rather than simply spot-checking a few links here and there, I'll run a check on the entire directory that will give me the total number of links, as well as the number of dead links, so 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

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 then see whether or not the in-site search includes this item when I am searching on the topic pertaining to it.

Category descriptions may also be used as a resource for users rather than simply to provide direction to those wanting to submit a site. 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 state, county or town?

If web directories are going 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 there other than to submit a site for SEO purposes.

The Mathematics

Each of the above criteria will be worth twenty points, or twenty percent of the whole. Additionally, I will reserve the option of assigning up to five extra credit points when I consider that to be warranted.
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