Having seen thousands of directories over the years, I wanted to share with you some of the common mistakes people make when starting out. Let me preface by saying that people who make mistakes often make money too, especially as they learn and get better.
# 1 No Clear Plan
It pays to have a plan for how you want to grow your directory. The first step to creating your directory is deciding what it is going to be about. Whether you want to start a local directory with information about your city, or a niche directory covering a popular hobby or subject. My advice is take a little time and make a document that summarizes what you directory is going to be about, as well as the sections you plan to cover. Then when you start building it will be organized.
#2 Lack of Quality Control
When you are starting out the traffic may be low, and when you get your first submissions (including paid submissions), its easy to want to be nice and list anyone who pays you. The problem with this strategy is that when you get bigger, you may not be able to attract the better paying advertisers in your directory lacks quality content or listings. So take the time to document what you feel your quality standards are going to be and stick to them. And remember that people are paying you for the review process, which includes your right to edit submissions so they fit the standards you set for your directory.
#3 Dead Links or Links to Malware
Invariably, over time there are some links that are going to go bad. They might become 404, or parked or even infected with a trojan. The very best procedure is to have a plan to hand review each category over the course of the year, and make sure you check the links to make sure they fit your editorial standards. However, as your directory gets larger, you may find a more automated too like the Invalid Link Checker simplifies your task.
#4 Too Many Categories, Too Little Content
A term coined by Wikis a while ago is Stub Pages, which basically means a page that contains no content. Creating a bunch of categories with no content, or using a big category dump, could be a mistake because both search engines and users may decide your site is lacking. You may spend hours adding lots of great articles and links, but the stub pages could be hurting you. If you are just starting, it might be good to start with 10-15 categories and make sure those are full of good content before adding more categories. And if you already have a site, you might want to consider deleting some of the categories that are empty (and it may help your pagerank too!).
#5 Reciprocal Linking Gone Wild
There was a very brief period as Google was getting big where people were able to do massive reciprocal link campaigns, exchanging links with hundreds or thousands of sites, and ranking really well. That time has passed! There are numerous blog posts from google employees, such as Matt Cutts, where they say this is a mistake. Exchanging links with a few sites that are helpful to users because they are in your niche is surely not a big deal. But if you exchange links with too many sites just for SEO, you will likely find the results are the opposite to what you were expecting, so be careful doing any sort of reciprocal links. And if you already have many in your directory, you may not be helping your “link partners” at all, and it might be a good idea to end the partnership. More
#6 Failure to Add Content
Waiting for link submissions to come to you make result in not enough quality. It is up to you to set the standard, so taking the time to write articles and add links, as well as build up categories so they are worthwhile is something you should have in your business plan. Sometimes as little as 20-30 minutes every week can a long way if you are consistent. For example, you might want to write a fresh article each week, and pick one category to improve.
#7 Living in a Bubble
There are lots of directories that are making good money. It is very reasonable to think that you could make hundreds or even thousands of dollars each month with a directory. However, you need to spend some time studying the market. The people that are making good money are probably not going to tell you all their secrets, but if you look around you can find some people that are doing well. For example, see how much they charge for link reviews and then see how many submissions they are getting each week. A little snooping around and studying the market can go a long way in getting you out of your bubble and moving toward profits. Local and niche directories are always a good place to start, and commonly you see local niche directories. Think about how you can get into a market, and don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask questions.
Good luck with your directory! We look forward to seeing what you can do with our script!
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