Review Criteria for the Third Quarter of 2013
The Second Quarter reviews looked at the usefulness of a directory to a prospective directory user rather than a directory's benefits to a webmaster or SEO professional.
I believe this worked well. However, it was pointed out to me by one of our forum members that aesthetics was not really as important as the other criteria, particularly usefulness and content. In response, I have decided to use his suggested changes, and have tweaked the assessment criteria slightly.
Although I'll be looking at all the same stuff that I looked at during the Second Quarter, they will be weighed differently. Usefulness and Content will count for 25% of the score each, while Intuitiveness and Quality will be worth 20% each, and Aesthetics will be valued at only 10% of the total score. Other than these scoring changes, the criteria will remain essentially what it was during the Second Quarter.
- +3rd Quarter Review Criteria
- As in the Second Quarter, the criteria that will be evaluated in the Third Quarter are Aesthetics, Content, Intuitiveness, Quality, and Usefulness.
During the course of my review, I'll be looking at other stuff that may be important to submitters, such as results from the various ranking tools, the directory's submission policies, submission costs, and anything else that appears to be of interest. However, the criteria that I will be using to rate the directories will be evaluated from the perspective of a potential directory user.
- +Aesthetics (10%)
- Aesthetics refers to the general appearance of the directory. This is important, I believe, because a lot of people won't look beyond that, particularly if the appearance is bad, or if the directory is marred with a lot of advertisement or other distractions.
As there are a lot of web directories on the Internet, the first appearance of a directory can be important, but the appearance is not as important as other criteria, such as the usefulness and content of the directory. Additionally, any assessment of the appearance of a directory is subjective.
For these reasons, during the Third Quarter of 2013, the aesthetics of a directory will be worth only 10% of the total score.
In the Aesthetics portion of the evaluation, I will be looking at the index page of the directory, evaluating such things as the symmetry of the directory's top-level categories, its design, color choices, and other matters.
The mixed use of ampersands and the complete conjunction that I see on many directories detracts from the overall appearance of the directory. As an example, the use of "Word & Word" or Word and Word" is equally appropriate, but when the ampersand and the conjunction are mixed within the same category menu, it lends a haphazard appearance to the directory.
Symmetry may not be a big deal as far as the usefulness of a directory goes but it helps the overall appearance of the directory. Generally, a directory looks better when the top-level category choices are either the same general length, or when they each consist of one word or two words separated by either an ampersand or the conjunction.
I will also be looking at the design and color choices, images, and other design elements to see if they go well together, and if the text is easy on the eyes.
I will also consider such things as distractions. At times, gaudy design elements can serve as distractions. Advertisements, such as Google AdSense blocks, frequently serve as distractions, as well. While advertising can provide needed income for the directory operator, the trade-off is that they do so at the expense of the user. Some ads are more or less obtrusive than others, and this will be reflected in my assessments.
Additionally, I will be looking at subpages of the directory.
- +Content (25%)
- Content refers primarily to the number of listings that are included in the web directory. A well managed directory may 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 content will score high.
Generally, directories that employ editors, whether volunteer or paid, who are actively engaged in adding content to the directory will do well in this area, as may those that accept free submissions, while directories that never add anything that hasn't been paid for will fare poorly here.
For the purposes of my assessment, I don't care whether the content was paid for or added for free, as long as there is something there for the directory user to find. If the purpose of a web directory is to direct users to online resources, then the resources have to be there if the directory is going to be worthwhile.
- +Intuitiveness (20%)
- In this area of the assessment, I will be looking at the taxonomy of the web directory, which is the manner in which the directory's categories and subcategories are set up.
Will it be difficult or easy for a directory user to find what he was looking for by browsing the directory's categories and subcategories? Does the category structure and category name choices make sense?
Web directories that are able to use @links, related links, or below and above the line features will have an advantage in this area, but a directory with a clear taxonomy should do well with or without these features.
- +Quality (20%)
- The quality of a directory may seem like an all encompassing term and, in fact, some of the things that I will be looking for here will overlap some of the other assessment criteria.
While assessing the quality of a web directory, I'll be looking at the quality of the links in the directory. In grading this criteria item, I won't grade a directory down just because it contains some low quality links, but I will be looking at the balance of good versus bad quality links. In order for a directory to be worthwhile, its categories and subcategories will have to have useful links.
I'll also be looking at the quality of site titles and descriptions.
Site titles should reflect the actual title of the site, when it makes sense to do that. Sometimes it doesn't. For example, if the actual titles of a site is "ThE bEsT cOmPaNy," I wouldn't grade a directory down for using that title, but neither would it reflect poorly on them if they were to change it to something more sensible.
Site descriptions should be descriptive. That is why they are called descriptions. A site description should describe the company, organization or product, as well as the content of the site. Over the years, a de facto standard has developed within the web directory industry of using sentence fragments rather than full sentences in site descriptions, and I do not consider that to be a good practice.
This is a standard that has to change if web directories are going to continue to be relevant and competitive. A site description that does not describe either the business or the site is not a good description.
I won't be looking for length, per se, but for how accurately the description describes the site. In rare cases, this can be done in one brief sentence, but that sentence should be grammatically correct, and complete.
Of course, obviously promotional language will be viewed negatively, as will lists of keywords in place of an actual site title or description.
Does the directory include a lot of dead links? As sites go up and down, most directories will include some dead links, but I'll be looking at the overall percentage of bad links versus good ones. Rather than spot checking, as I did during the First Quarter reviews, I will be using a program that will give me the total number of links, as well as the number of dead or misdirected links.
Does everything work? When I click on an internal link or navigation item, does it take me where it is supposed to take me? If there is an in-site search, does it work?
- +Usefulness (25%)
- As this criteria item looks at the usefulness of the directory as a whole, it will take in facets from most of the other criteria items, resulting in some overlap. For example, poor site descriptions make it difficult for directory users to find what they are looking for, which reflects poorly on the directory's usefulness as well as its quality.
Does the directory include an in-site search? A working in-site search will make the directory more useful to a directory user. In evaluating this item, I may locate a topic that I know to be in the directory and see if I can find it using the in-site search field.
Category descriptions may also be a significant resource for directory users. If someone is sufficiently interested in a topic to browse its category tree, then why not provide information about the categories within a category description? If I am browsing a regional category, for example, why not include the history and an overview of the country, state, county or town?
If web directories are going to remain useful or relevant, they are going to have to provide something apart from listing paid outgoing links. One question that I'll be trying to answer is whether or not there might be any reason to visit the directory other than to submit a link for SEO purposes. A directory should serve some purpose other than as a repository for back links. This is what separates a web directory from a website selling back links, although they both might use the same directory script.
- +Extra Credit (+5)
- In the event that I come across something in a web directory that warrants credit, but which cannot be fit into one of the other five assessment areas, I will reserve the right to add up to five extra credit points, although I am pretty tight with the extra credit points.
- +In Case of a Tie
- In case of a tie on points, the points assigned to the Usefulness section will prevail. Since we are focusing on the usefulness of a web directory to an end user, it makes sense to consider its usefulness to be the more important criteria.