What do You Call Yourself?

Google can't catch most paid links. They can't even catch large malware networks that have existed long enough to be reported in the mainstream media. But they can go after business models they do not like.

As Google tries to shift the web to improve user experience AND extract as much profit as possible, certain classes of information and information formats are rendered useless and/or unprofitable.

Web Directories

There are a lot of web directories that recently got hit, and those hand penalties are not the only way directories are being penalized. Google has been fighting off parasitic (or low value) link sales web directories for years by crawling them less deeply and caching their pages infrequently. Cache date is the new Google PageRank.

You can analyze changes and beg for forgiveness from Google, but they don't care about you or your site. They are only interested in improving general web trends, search usage, and their ad driven profit. This is not to say that analysis is bad, but sometimes we chose to analyze the wrong things rather than shift our approach to marketing.

An Alternate Name, Classification, & Approach

Domain names are worth so much because people tend to refer to you using what you call yourself.

Google's recent hate toward directories does not indicate that all directories are junk, but if you were to start a new web directory today what benefit is there in calling yourself a web directory? What if rather than charging $20 or $50 for a link, you charged much more and listed a real formal review on the site? Why not be a web review guide or a social bookmarking service or something else that is more in tune with the general direction of the web? Mahalo is worthless, but due to the different classification "human powered search" and associated public relations hype, it is much stronger than most directories.

Leverage New Information Formats

Ebooks are another concept that has got abused. So are many of the other classes of sites Google is going on record as saying you should avoid. The same types of information that appears in ebooks can be displayed using something like Sketchast, and be called something different, that is yet to be abused.

If you are in a competitive market your site should not be static. Even DMOZ created a blog.

Not All Arbitrage is Made Equal

If you are starting a new business it is best to tie your name and brand to a memorable, likable, and press-worthy topic. If you run a thin arbitrage type business the name and labels you use to describe yourself may be more important than the quality of your user experience. Spend upfront or pay later with limited exposure and/or a risky rebrand.

Published: September 26, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


September 26, 2007 - 1:40pm

I like the site, KillerStartUps.com, it basically a web directory of new startups. Each start up has a dedicated page that has a lot of relevant content pertaining to the startup, and with a link back to the startup's homepage.

September 26, 2007 - 1:54pm

Good example Tom

They focused on a high attention, easy to like market segment. The one hard bit is that there are already many competing channels, but that name might be strong enough to help merit some attention.

September 26, 2007 - 2:06pm

Thanks for the insightful post Aaron. But I'm having trouble seeing the business model behind some of the suggestions you make. You say:

Why not be ... a social bookmarking service or something else that is more in tune with the general direction of the web...

How do these types of sites make money? While del.icio.us is cool, I don't even see any ads.

You also say:

Why not be a web review guide...

Do you basically mean a service like ReviewMe? The web is littered with "made for payperpost blogs" that hardly add any value to the web, and I would think could be as easily devlaued as any web directory.

September 26, 2007 - 2:33pm

I think Del.icio.us sold for $30 million. I don't think any web directory ever got that big of a buyout offer.

Sure the blogs that are nothing but paid post after paid post are probably garbage. I am not saying any post needs to be paid for directly.

September 26, 2007 - 2:42pm

Thanks Aaron!

September 26, 2007 - 4:13pm

Does this mean I shouldn't submit to Joeant then? :-O

September 26, 2007 - 5:27pm

I actually like JoeAnt, and submit there regularly. While my web directories and SEO post is about 1.5 years old I still think it is fairly relevant to the current marketplace.

September 26, 2007 - 10:54pm

I recently bought your eBook and you still indicated the value of submitting to paid directories, along with DMoz, which has now gone ape poop insane. I must have submitted a hundred times to that directory in different categories and nothing ever gets accepted.

But if Google is targeting paid directories now, how can it still be safe to submit my site to them, even one like Joeant?

I'm just trying to understand what exactly is going on here. :-|

September 26, 2007 - 6:13pm


Your comment about changing what you call your site sound like a cynical remark, as if Google is just going after the word "directory". But what they are really going after are sites that charge money to have your site listed, without any thought that the directory will have actual visitors. The sole purpose of such directories is to make money for the directory owner while passing PageRank to the sites willing to pay. That's what Google is going after---the pure SEO tactic with no value added.

You can call Mahalo or our site Bessed worthless, but the goal of our sites is to provide something of value to the end user, not just the Webmaster who's looking to boost his/her PageRank. There's where the difference lies, not simply by calling it a different name.

September 26, 2007 - 6:27pm

Hi Adam
If your site was called a directory and offered any paid review services it might have just got hit, and then you would understand what I am saying. Many of the sites that got killed deserved it, but I bet a few did not. But my judgement and your judgement are not what defines the limits of spam.

Value is subjective and open to perception. After one of your well cited websites (referenced by government institutions, educational institutions, mainstream media, etc.) gets hit by a Google hand edit and they pay an AdSense spammer to steal all your content you better understand the concepts of "relevancy" and "spam".

It is not something you can truly appreciate until they nuke a legit site of your own just because who owns it or because it looks similar to sites they don't like.

If you were a Google engineer who reviewed websites all day long looking for spam you would get pretty good at thin slicing spam. And you would make mistakes. Every human does.

As a webmaster it is easier to grab a different name than to risk getting categorized as spam.

September 27, 2007 - 2:15am

Could you send me an email at tsenseless06 [at] yahoo dot com? I have an offer I would like to make you that you might be interested in.

September 27, 2007 - 5:41am

you can email me if you like

Carlo Selorio
September 27, 2007 - 4:55am

Nice insight Aaron.



October 3, 2007 - 2:37am

Hi Aaron it's my first time posting here but I read your content all the time and trully admire your insight! My question is, I have a bunch of sites all based on the same type of service but broken up by region and each site has a link directory within it that only has categories that either relate to the industry or that are specific to that particular regions e.g. "Seattle Shops, Seattle Clubs, etc." and within the directory I offer local businesses or businesses anyhwere in the world thats relevant to the service add their link without a link back but I mention that if my site can provide information to their site viewers then a link back would be appreciated. Also I have a featured link (5 for each category) that costs $40.00... In your opinion would you say that I'm doing anything wrong?

October 3, 2007 - 6:32am

I don't think selling advertising or premium placements is wrong. Though if you can get recurring that would be more profitable than one time fees, but that depends on market leverage and market demand.

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