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It seems everywhere you turn on the internet today someone has started another low-quality general web directory plastered with Google Adsense ads in the hopes of making some easy money from other webmasters who are trying to acquire backlinks and traffic to their site. These directories have several things in common that dooms any possibility of them becoming a success:

poorly thought out or copied directory categories default script template installed and not personalized Google Adsense or other affiliate advertising is plastered all over the site site is poorly marketed and will never provide traffic to links in the directory site will accept any link to fill directory categories rather than focusing on quality listings

You can see these new directories popping up daily if you are a regular reader of any of the popular SEO forums. It seems that anyone who learns a little about search engine optimization gets the "original" idea to set up a website directory. With a market so saturated with bad content and greedy webmaster's it's hard to imagine that anyone is financially successful running a directory, but there are financially successful directories on the internet so it can be done. To Niche or Not To Niche There will always be a market for specialized directories who focus on one discrete topic and organize the resources within this topic logically. While search engine's are the internet user's first stop when trying to find resources, high quality website directories within any competitive industry can be found on the first page of results for popular searches at any search engine. If you are going to start a website directory the first thing you need to decide is "what is this directory going to be about?". If you want to start a general web directory of resources you will be in direct competition with internet search engines and several directories that are already well established. For the average webmaster that wants to start a web directory my suggestion is to pick a topic you are knowledgeable about and interested in and create a niche website directory about this topic. This approach has several advantages over starting a general website directory including:

you are knowledgeable about the subject and will know what categories are important to people in that industry

traffic to your directory will be targeted and industry specific benefiting the sites with outgoing links in your directory less competition since you are specializing your site making it easier for you to become an industry authority branding yourself is easier if you choose an industry to associate your directory with

If your goal is to make money with your directory make sure to consider this last, well after finalizing your directory topic, category choices, site layout and marketing plan. Your goal should be to gain credibility within your industry first not plasture your site with advertising in the hopes of getting a few site visitors to click on the ads you have placed there. Too many would be directory owners place affiliate ads ahead of their directory listings and above the directory categories on their main page. You have to stop and ask yourself, what does this say about your website? Are you more concerned that your site visitors see your paid advertising or your directory listings? What message does this layout choice send to businesses who may want to list in your directory? It's a safe bet that no one wants to see Google Adsense results listed above the directory listing that they have paid you for and you should keep that in mind when working on your layout. Paid vs Free Directory Type After selecting the main topic for your directory you should choose the business model that makes the most sense to what your goals are with the directory. There are several popular directory business models on the internet including;

Paid Only - as the name suggests, you are required to pay to have your site listed in a paid only directory. Generally, sites in a paid directory are of higher quality since the webmaster's of these sites care enough about their business to spend money on them. Free Only - you will not see this type of directory anymore as pretty much every directory script now comes pre-installed with a payment module. Paid & Free - the most common form of directory model. Free links can be considered oneway or reciprocal since technically a reciprocal link does not cost money. Payment will usually make your listing appear ahead of other listings or with bolder styling to make it stand out over the free links. Reciprocal Only - a common directory type but is getting a bad reputation. Some people view reciprocal only directories as link farms used to artificially drive up link popularity for a directory by forcing a return link prior to inclusion in the directory. While there are legitimate directories that are reciprocal only I would suggest going with one of the 3 previous options so your site does not get

confused as a link farm.

The choice is yours but I strongly suggest using either the Paid Only or Paid & Free model. If you choose the Paid & Free model, after your directory has been in existence for a while and has gained some reputation you have the option to switch to a Paid Only model so you don't have to wade through 100's of low quality submissions a day. If you want to keep a free option for webmasters you can make the free links "reciprocal only" in combination with your paid options. This will give your directory the added benefit of boosted link popularity from webmaster's "linking back" to your site which will help you become the authority site in your industry that you should be trying to be. Know Your Target Market The key to running a successful directory is understanding what a website owner is looking for in a listing from your directory. This is especially true if you are running a paid only directory and you want to attract listings. Most webmasters are looking for one or a combination of the following:

One way backlink from an authority website in their industry (increasing their link popularity an important factor in search engine optimization) A fully indexed site that is crawled by SE's regularly and can get their site spidered and indexed A combination of high Google page rank + a low number of outgoing links on a webpage within the directory that is relevant to their business. An overall boost to their search engine rankings from the increased link popularity a backlink from your directory will bring them (why this could help a website in the search engine rankings is beyond the scope of this article) Targeted traffic from your directory that leads to sales An attractive, easy to find listing on an authority site that is related to their main site topic Something for nothing

The key to having someone want to pay to be listed in your directory is to show up repeatedly for keyphrases they are searching for. This means doing keyword research and creating category pages, meta description tags and page titles that are keyword rich and provide you with a good opportunity to rank for the terms webmasters in your industry are searching for. If you don't do this keyword research and you set up your categories improperly webmasters will never find you. If they can't find you they definately won't be paying you. This is where creating a niche directory can be to your advantage. If you are knowledgeable on the subject you will have a pretty good idea of what categories to set up already and will only need to augment your experience with keyword suggestion tools. Once your directory starts to get listings the "content" is created by the webmaster's adding their listings to your directory. That's the nice advantage of running a web directory: the user's create

the content for you! You only have to create the framework for them to work with and approve their entries. Keyword Suggestion Tools:

SEO Book Keyword Suggestion - (free, recommended)

Overture - (free) Wordtracker - (free trial, then paid) Choosing a Directory Script There are a number of items to focus on when making a directory script choice (assuming you do not program the script yourself). You will need to decide whether you will want to run a directory consisting of static html pages or pages built dynamically from a database. If you choose to build your directory using static html pages be prepared to do a lot of work maintaining your directory as each page will need to be manually edited to add and remove listings. If you choose a pre-made directory script chances are you are buying a database driven directory script. While this introduces additional complexities to creating your directory the powerful features and abilities a database system provides should not be overlooked. Simple installation readme files are usually included with the directory script with detailed step by step instructions describing how to install the script. Make sure you read the script requirements prior to making a purchase and ensure your web hosting company supports all of the options required by the script. Directory Script Requirements (in general):

1 empty mySQL database with username and password (you must set this up yourself using your hosting control panel or phpmyadmin) PHP support on your hosting server MOD rewrite support - this is an absolute must as this changes database scripts from writing ugly URL's of the form [] into [] . This helps both internet user's and search engine's distinguish what your webpage is about and creates a much easier URL to remember. fast web hosting - helps with usability and credibility ftp client program installed on your personal computer - used to upload the directory script files to your web host and perform any permission changes required to make the scripts function. If any permission changes are required they will be noted in the installation instructions for the script.

Recommended Directory Scripts :

WSN Links or WSN Links Basic - (recommended) mySQL-PHP driven and highly customizable. WSN links is $58, WSN Links Basic is free and features a stripped down version of the admin panel. Reciprocal Manager - -paid only script $147. Unique in that it stores information in a database but allows you to create static html pages from the database entries. Static pages in general load faster making this an attractive script on slow hosts. Site Sift Listings - - mySQL-PHP driven that is fairly easy to understand and maintain. Great option for novice webmasters. Script is free with a $50 payment to remove the copyright link. PHP Links Directory - free and easy to use. mySQL-PHP driven. Script Installation Procedure (in general):

Download the script package from the script vendor to your local machine (or directly to your webserver if you have shell access) Read the installation instructions in full Create an empty mySQL database on your hosting server. Write down the database name, database username and database password. Edit the DB configuration file and add the database information from step 3. The installation instructions should indicate which file will need to be edited. Upload all of the script files to your web host in the httpdocs folder (folder may have a different name depending on your hosting company) using an ftp program. If you are not going to run the directory from the root of your domain you will have to create a new folder on your web host and upload the script files there. Run the installation script for the directory following the on screen instructions. If you have errors consult the installation guide and /or support forum for the script. Remove the installation script (so no one can re-install your directory maliciously) Log in to your admin panel with the admin username and password created during installation.

Please note these steps are general mySQL-PHP directory script installation instructions. Each directory script will have specific installation instructions that fall outside of the scope of what is listed above so be diligent when reading the instructions provided by your script vendor. Customizing the Directory Templates Now that you have your script installed you need to personalize the look and feel of the website template to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Too many webmasters feel that their job is done once the script has been installed and choose to leave the default template in place unchanged.

Adding a professional design to your directory helps give the impression that you are working diligently on your directory and will also help you gain credibility with webmasters who may be candidates for inclusion. If you download and install a free script, don't customize it and have the copyright link at the bottom of every directory page do you look like you care about your business? If you can't spend $50 to remove a copyright and another $50-$100 customizing the look and feel of your business then I'm afraid you are going to have a lot of trouble getting people to pay you for a listing in your directory. Most directory pages are built using php includes which is a fancy way of saying "build the webpage from these pieces". In general, each page in the directory is built using a header file, footer file and body content file. You can usually find these files stored within a folder called /templates or access them through your directory admin control panel. Since each script handles building of webpages differently, describing the procedure to edit the template files falls outside the scope of this article. Please consult the documentation included with your script for tips on customizing the look and feel of your site. Marketing Your Directory It goes without saying that webmasters are going to have to be able to find you before you can convince them that they need to be in your directory. Marketing your directory is where you will find out if you have what it takes to be successful. A great place to start marketing your directory is to acquire backlinks from other directory owners. From an SEO perspective it is best to acquire backlinks with varied anchor text and description but make sure the anchor text "keyword directory", "keyword website directory" or "directory of keyword resources" is used for your most important backlinks. Offering webmaster's an incentive to link back to your site is also a great way to boost the visibility of your directory. Typically, this incentive would be better placement or more links in your directory for providing the link back. Another great way to set yourself apart from the also-rans in the directory business is to add a unique feature to your directory listings template that other directories in your industry don't offer. This has two benefits:

you will be able to get other webmasters linking to your site more easily because it offers something original your directory will be more desirable to potential webmaster's because of the enhanced features. It may be as simple as adding a phone number with your listings or linking to a road map and driving instructions but this facet of directory building should not be overlooked.

In the Beginning The temptation to fill your empty directory pages with links can be great in the beginning. Resist this urge. The listings in your directory are all you have in terms of site credibility. Do you want your directory to be a valuable resource or a link dump? If you approve every site that applies or every site that links to your directory you will end up with a directory of lousy listings. If you have a directory full of lousy listings no one is going to use your site and acquiring unsolicited backlinks from other webmasters to your site simply won't happen. Strive to maintain a relevant, valuable resource in your chosen field and you will have success. How much success and how quickly you achieve that success is directly related to the amount of time and energy you put into the directory as with any business. Web Directory Tips Summary :

Choose a niche subject that you are knowledgeable about as your directory topic Use keyword suggestion tools in combination with your experience to craft directory categories Only approve relevant, properly categorized, quality websites Modify the default directory script template with your own design Try and figure out features that other directories in your industry do not offer that would appeal to potential submitters Remove the script copyright from your directory pages (pay to do so if required) If you are using a DB driven script make sure to get MOD rewrite working so you have SEO friendly URL's Make sure to include a Terms of Service, Contact Page and Privacy Policy (if you are running a paid directory make your refund /review policy as clear as possible to the user prior to the payment screen)

About the Author: Michael Lawrence offers search engine optimization services [] and runs a Paid Directory of SEO Resources

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