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Renewed ZEAL: Web site promotion with Zeal.com

November 2001

(Note: Zeal.com closed down in 2006)

There are LOTS of web directories out there, and getting into them can be either very difficult, very expensive or both.

Zeal is a another volunteer-supported web directory, similar to the Open Directory in approach. Zeal has been around for a couple of years, but until recently it was a complete backwater generating very little traffic and was hardly worth bothering with, despite the efforts of the editors.

Well, times have changed and Zeal has become one of the more interesting directories on the web, and one that anybody promoting a non-commercial web site needs to be aware of.

Put simply, Zeal merged with Looksmart, took a long, hard look at the way it worked and reinvented itself.

The merger is important because Zeal now feeds non-commercial sites into the Looksmart directory along with others - to quote Zeal itself: "additions to Zeal can be seen on LookSmart, Microsoft's MSN, Excite@Home, AltaVista, media companies such as Time Warner, and more than 370 Internet service providers. Zeal-LookSmart content reaches 77% of US Internet users through the expansive LookSmart network. "

When you realize that getting your web site listed in Looksmart costs a cool $299, getting your site listed in Zeal suddenly becomes very interesting indeed.

The process to get listed is unusual, and a little time-consuming (but remember, we are talking about something worth $299 here so it's worth the effort). In order to add a site, you first have to register and then pass the Zealot Quiz, which should be done after having a good look at the editing guidelines. The quiz has recently been made easier, as it used to be very, very tough indeed.

Once you are registered as a Zealot, you can submit sites to the directory for review. Some categories are listed as "Commercial" so you can't submit to them, but a large quantity are "Non-Commercial", and these are the categories Zealots maintain. Submissions are normally processed within a few days - a much more reliable system than the Open Directory. It takes about 24 hours to get into Looksmart after that. Zeal is also pretty conservative when it comes to nudity, adult material, inciting hatred and illegal activities - basically everything needs to be suitable for a family audience.

Zealots gain points from making submissions and edits. Once you have enough points and a high enough quality rating you can edit non-commercial categories. As a Zealot you can do as little or as much as you like. 

How does Zeal compare to the Open Directory? Well, both are fine directories. ODP feeds into Google and many other search engines and portals. Zeal/Looksmart feeds into most of the rest, so the two are complementary. (Dynamoo wrote about submitting to the Open Directory in July 2001)

Most of the difference lies in the way the sites are edited. ODP has a huge army of editors, each responsible for one or more categories. Zeal has a much smaller number of Zealots, some of whom don't edit categories at all but submit individual sites across the directory for review by others. ODP editors therefore tend to concentrate on their own categories, but Zealots are encouraged to add good sites wherever appropriate.

In ODP more emphasis is placed on building up the number of listings - as a result, many categories can be utterly comprehensive, but with varying quality of sites. Zealots are rewarded for submitting high quality sites and thus tend to avoid bad ones, as a result the listings can often be of a higher quality but less comprehensive. Both directories are good, but with a different emphasis. 

The biggest advantage ODP has over Zeal is that it will list commercial sites for free, assuming that the category you submit to has an active editor - but for most commercial sites the $299 Looksmart fee shouldn't be a problem.

From an editor perspective, ODP is fun because it's such a huge project, but Zeal has much better editor tools. Many Zeal editors are also ODP editors, but Dynamoo's advice is to avoid editing the same category in both directories for copyright reasons. And in both Zeal and ODP abuse of the system is not tolerated and will get you booted - so read the guidelines carefully!


If you want to learn some more about web marketing and search engine positioning, try some of the following links:

How to Get the Domain Name You Really Want - Dynamoo's guide.
Web Site Promotion using ODP - the Open Directory Project

World Wide Web Marketing from Amazon.com
101 Ways to Boost Your Web Traffic from Amazon.com




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