26 September 2005

Parasite Directories

Monday morning begins with the usual small collection of link exchange request emails in my in-tray.

"I have found your website travel-lists.co.uk by searching Google for "luxury villas and country inns in tuscany italy". I think our websites has a similar theme, so I have already added your link to my website...." blah blah blah.

Of course if they HAD actually looked at Travel-lists they would see we have a clear reciprocal links policy, because Travel Lists is a REAL directory for the benefit of internet users, not a link farm.

It's not a big deal. All such emails are instantly deleted, so they hardly waste any time!

But I mention it again now because I've become more aware in recent days of how parasitical the 'directories culture' is, after spending some time looking around a tech/SEO/webmaster forum.

I'd never really given much thought to the reasons for the huge number (thousands) of junk directories online. They are all very similar. They look similar, they use the same open source or paid for software scripts, and they are all seeded with listings from Dmoz.

I assumed they were just created by naive enthusiasts. What I found on the forum were lots of exchanges from the people who create these things, and actually they are quite shrewd and analytical about what they do. Most of these webmasters run several directories and are exchanging ideas about the merits of new niche directories they are planning and how efficient they will be. Their purpose is not to provide a useful index for surfers, but to tap maximum revenue from Google Adsense and possible submission fees from punters.

The whole trick is to generate as many reciprocal links as possible to increase search engine rankings for the site - more visitors means more ad revenue and when you have several such sites that revenue begins to add up. Ironically, the targeted adverts from Google are even more attractive (likely to be clicked) if the listings on the page are poor.

(What a contrast! I check Google ads displayed on my pages to make sure that all the good companies are already in my listings - that there aren't any quality companies I've missed! The general result is that the Google ads are always LESS useful than the page they are on.)

It's a self-perpetuating world of income-generating Internet junk. The losers are surfers who get caught up and waste time in it, and advertisers who pay for it.

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