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Is BOTW Selling Links?

I came across a video on YouTube that purports to be an objectionable analysis of the Best of the Web (BOTW) Directory.

It’s a compelling video. After all, how can you not trust someone with a British accent? Is it true, though? Is BOTW selling links?

Although the video goes on for quite some time, the gist of it is that:

1. Google doesn’t like sites that sell links.
2. BOTW is selling links.
3. Therefore, Google should not like BOTW.

By seoguyswebmaster
Published on Dec 8, 2014

BOTW.org claims its fee is not for listing in its directory, its not for the link provided that Google might follow… its for the yearly review it applies to sites in the directory in order to ensure its directory remains as a quality directory.


As proof, the anonymous critic picks out two sites from among the millions of listings in the Best of the Web Directory that are not good links, then goes to the WayBack Machine (Internet Archive) to prove that BOTW is not actually conducting yearly reviews of the sites listed in the directory.

How is it relevant that a directory with millions of sites contains two bad listings? Well, according to the anonymous analyzer, BOTW states that the fees that they charge for submitting a site are for an initial and yearly reviews of the site, and are therefore not paid listings. So if these sites have been bad for a couple of years, yet are still in the directory, BOTW could not be doing yearly reviews, as they claim.

Ergo, BOTW is selling links. That’s the argument.

Best Of the Web is among the oldest of the well known web directories. Although some of its listings may be a little dated, new sites are added to it every day, and the directory holds a venerable position in the Internet community, being one of the few that has been specifically pointed out by a Google spokesperson as an example of a good web directory.

Surfing through the listings in any of its many categories and subcategories yields many websites of very high quality content. For those of you who are unfamiliar with web directories, this is a different way of finding information than the usual Google or Bing search.

Like any other legend, BOTW receives its fair share of criticism. Some of this criticism stems from people who have had a site rejected by them, or who may resent the comparatively high submission fees that are charged. On the other hand, there are people who have legitimate criticism and, of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion and to express that opinion.

However, when the criticism made sounds personal, one has to wonder about the motives behind it. This is especially true when one of the BOTW staff responds in a polite way and it is not met with a respectful dialog such as the case in the comments found beneath the YouTube presentation of this video.

The originator of this YouTube video is contending that Best of the Web pays for links because he found one link to an outdated website and another link to an old website that now redirected to another domain. From this, he jumped to the conclusion that BOTW must be accepting money for listings, but is not reviewing them to ensure quality year after year.

Greg Hartnett, from BOTW, politely responded to this claim by explaining that the two links described on the YouTube video were not paid links but were links that BOTW editors had originIs BOTW selling links?ally found on their own and included in their directory for free. He further explained that out of the millions of website links that the directory contains, only about two percent of them are user submitted links, in which BOTW is paid to review the site to see if it meets with their quality standards.

In these cases, if BOTW staff finds that the site meets their quality standards, the link is included in the BOTW directory. If it does not meet their quality standards, the website is not included in the directory and BOTW does not refund the money for the review. This is because the money paid by the submitter goes toward paying the time of a staff member who actually reviews the site for quality, not for the link itself.

Best of the Web retains a paid staff who actively seek useful sites to add to its directory. These sites make up approximately ninety-eight percent of the links in the directory. BOTW makes no claim that every site listed in the directory is personally inspected annually by directory staff; rather, the claim is that paid submissions are reviewed for appropriateness, and re-reviewed each year. Neither of the two examples given by anonymous critic were ever submitted to the directory.

When a paid submission is received, BOTW staff visits the site to ensure that the submitted title and description are truly descriptive of the site, and may edit either the title or description when indicated. Sites that are submitted to inappropriate categories are moved to categories more representative of the site’s content. Not every paid submission is accepted, and sites are removed from the directory daily.

It is unreasonable to expect BOTW to hire enough staff to personally and continually check each and every website that has been included in their directory since 2003. Best of the Web does employ some automated 404 “page not found” checking but this cannot be run continually on all of the websites listed in their directory, as this would bog down the servers and require too much processing. Rather, the directory is scanned according to aIf he found two cigarette butts on a beach, would he assume the beach was made of cigarette butts? schedule, and unresponsive sites are made inactive up until the time that a human editor can review the listing. Unfortunately, the automated script does not catch everything.

Regardless of a few problem pages, the BOTW directory is still, by and large, one of the best ways to find quality sites for any particular subject that have been chosen by a human editor. Web directories serve functions that are similar to search engines, but they are not the same thing.

Nevertheless, who among you can honestly say that you have never seen a bad result from a Google search? If you’ve seen two bad results in Google searches, if Google were held to the same standards that this guy would hold BOTW to, then Google would have to be banned.

Of course, that’s nonsense. Search engine algorithms make mistakes, and so do human beings. Short of God, nothing is perfect.

In the specific case made in this video, the criticism is simply not justified. BOTW rejects a high percentage of user submitted links, despite the fact that the time to review these sites is paid for by the one who submitted it. regardless of the very real fact that this may anger someone who has just spend some money hoping to get a link in the directory, Best of the Web does this because it is striving to maintain a high quality.

If they were selling links, anyone with the money in hand would be able to have their site listed. That is not the case. BOTW is not accepting money for links, and they never have. The critic is wrong, despite the compelling accent.

If he found two cigarette  butts on a beach, would he assume the beach was made of cigarette butts?

Tagged: , ,

Ken Anderson was an early meta editor for the Open Directory Project (DMOZ), as well as an editor with the Go.com and Zeal directories, and several other web directories, both short- and long-term.

'Is BOTW Selling Links?' have 2 comments

  1. December 15, 2014 @ 6:30 am Is BOTW Selling Links? - Web Directory Digest |...

    […] Is BOTW selling links? This article answers a YouTube video that claims that Best of the Web is selling links.  […]


  2. February 28, 2015 @ 5:51 am Are Directory Submission Fees Worth It?

    […] Is BOTW Selling Links? […]


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