Shimon Sandler

Interview with Greg Hartnett – President BOTW

I’m privileged to conduct another interview with Greg Hartnett, the President of Best of the Web, otherwise known as BOTW (pronounced BotWah). My 1st interview with Greg was back in April 2006. So much has changed in the Search Industry and Social landscape since my last interview with Greg.

Q. Hi Greg, thanks for joining us today. For starters, there might be some people who don’t know what a “web directory” is. How would you describe a web directory.

A. A web directory is a classification of the web’s content. All day, our editors search the web for quality websites and then list them in the most relevant category within the directory. Each listing is human reviewed, so users can be sure that all the sites are relevant and not spammy.

Q. Does BOTW have any relationship with Google’s Larry Page & Sergey Brin other than being the 1st reference mentioned in their college thesis paper Anatomy of a Search Engine?

A. None whatsoever- there is absolutely no relationship. They just referenced the site on building a quality search product.

Q. What makes BOTW different from the other web directories? How can we determine a quality web directory from a spammy one?

A. BOTW is really, really focused on the quality of our listings and our commitment to building a great resource for users. We reject listings all the time because they don’t meet our editorial guidelines. We have a staff of editors that we pay to go and find great sites and then add thousands of them on a weekly basis to build a directory that users can trust. The quality of our listings and our singular focus on that quality is what really sets us apart.

Q. . For websites that are geo-targeting a specific local area, people use Google Places. What benefit can BOTW offer, that is different from Google Places and other directories? What about businesses with multiple locations? Do you have a bulk upload of sorts?

A. Local business owners have multiple options with BOTW. We have an entire regional branch in the web directory where you can list your website. Additionally, we have BOTW Local (, a local directory where you can list your brick and mortar business and provide users with all the details about your business. The key difference is that our offerings require unique content – businesses can’t just put up the same stuff that has been loaded onto 40 other sites across the web. Both options are great choices for businesses with multiple locations, and we do have a bulk uploader to help businesses get us the information. Of course, it all needs to get reviewed by editors, but it certainly helps with the process.

Q. In today’s fast and furious search environment, what are some of the biggest challenges for a Web Directory?

A. There’s so much noise out there now, it’s getting more and more difficult to just stay in front of people. And let’s face it – we’re not that sexy. Fortunately though, we have continued to evolve our offerings and by staying true to our commitment to quality, we have never lost our audience of users who trust BOTW as an authority resource.

Q. Has BOTW been impacted by the last year of Google algorithm updates? It seems a lot of directories got hit hard.

A. The directories that got hit hard probably deserved it. Now, I’m no Google engineer, and I certainly can’t speak for them, but in my opinion those sites were probably linking out to a disproportionately high number of low quality sites. They were probably accepting almost any site that paid them for a listing, and added little to no high quality sites on their own. In essence, they were probably building a link farm to manipulate search rankings, and not building for a good user experience.

Q. Is it more important to get a link on a relevant niche directory, than a comprehensive directory like BOTW?

A. Most importantly you should be trying to get links from great resources that will provide some traffic and relevancy signals. I’d recommend looking at both niche and general directories that meet quality standards.

Q. How is the shift to social signals affecting the importance of sites like directories in SEO?

A. They’re both really fantastic, right? Both rely on human beings to verify the quality and accuracy of the information, and then vouch for it by sharing it, or listing it in a relevant category.

Q. How much clickthrough traffic should someone expect to receive from a authoritative directory like BOTW?

A. That’s such a tough question to answer – traffic varies widely depending upon your category. Obviously sites in categories like travel get much more traffic than a site listed in a reference category. But regardless of that, site owners should expect just a fraction of the traffic that they would expect to receive from a listing in a top search engine. However, our traffic is highly targeted and relevant.

Q. What is the best strategy in choosing a section within a web directory for a link. Should we look at PageRank, Number of listings on the page, Inbound links, and Relevance? Or are there other factors to take into consideration?

A. This an easy one – relevance. If you have decided to submit to a directory, then the only thing you should be concerned with is the relevancy of the listing. I wouldn’t over think the rest of it – if it’s a good resource, you should aim to be listed in the most relevant area for your site. The rest of it has little importance.

Q. You have a huge amount of pages, and local data. How do you ensure that everything gets indexed in the Search Engines?

A. We work at adding quality content on a continual basis. We really have a symbiotic relationship with the search engines – we need them to help drive us traffic and they need us to gobble up our good content. We provide them awesome content that they can’t find anywhere else online, so they come back frequently to see what we are doing. We check our webmaster tools frequently to make sure that everything is in proper working order, and then we do what we do.

Q. Do you have any advice for people that have just built a website?

A. Patience – it is going to take a long time to get some traction. And always be building for the long term – don’t do things that will jeopardize the long term viability of your project.

Q. What do you see for the future of Web Directories, or more specifically what’s the future for BOTW?

A. We need to continue to evolve with the internet. As the needs of users and marketers change, we need to continue to expand our offerings to meet those needs. When blogs became the rage, we built our blog directory. We added all the social button stuff to the listings when social took off.

Now, content marketing has become very important so we just launched our ProListings ( ) which are an awesome way for marketers to get fresh, quality content out there. You get to add three sublistings to any web directory listing for a low monthly cost, and you can change them out as often as you like. So whenever you create a new piece of awesome content, you can attach it to your web directory listing and get instant exposure. We’re really excited about it. It’s a natural evolution for us, and it will prove to bring incredible ROI for site owners.

Q. What trade shows are you planning on attending this year?

A. There are so many different trade shows now that we had to pull back a little. We were starting to get stretched pretty thin by trying to be at them all. This year, we are doing some SMX shows, MozCon in July (my first, so I am pretty excited), PubCon (of course), SES and some smaller niche shows. Hope to see you at one or more of them – Brian is buying drinks!

Sounds great! Here’s an old photo from March 2009 from SES NY (i think) . It’s always a good time in the BOTW suite.
Brian Prince and Shimon Sandler

Thanks for spending time with us today. Looking forward to seeing you and Brian again real soon.

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  1. Wow – it’s been seven years since that first interview.

    Man, I’m feeling OLD.

  2. irasplinky says:

    Great article. Nice update to the older interview.


  1. […] I have come across Shimon’s interview with Greg Hartnett, the President of Best of the Web, otherwise known as BOTW (pronounced BotWah). I’ve known […]

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