Best of the Web, a directory of all the content on the web, turns 19 on April 20.
SEW spoke with BOTW president and founder Greg Hartnett about his company’s upcoming birthday, how the industry has evolved since its founding, and where BOTW is going.
SEW: Can you just sum up briefly what Best of the Web is, for those who might be unfamiliar with it?
Greg Hartnett: At Best of the Web, our goal is to review and categorize all of the information on the Internet. It's a pretty lofty project. Every day, our team of editors scours the web and places quality content into the most relevant category at BOTW. Users of BOTW can be assured that the sites they find are great resources, with no spam or irrelevant sites.
Each listing is reviewed by a human being to assure that the sites adhere to our quality guidelines. That commitment lends a certain authority to BOTW. This is an opportunity for site owners and online marketers to let users — both human and spiders — know that their site has met our editorial review standards and can be trusted to provide quality content.
SEW: How has the company evolved since it launched 19 years ago?
GH: We continue to introduce new offerings as the content on the web evolves. When blogs hit the scene, we launched the BOTW Blog Directory to help bloggers connect with an audience. As search became more localized, we built and launched BOTW Local to help users find information on millions of businesses throughout the U.S.
We built BOTW UK to bring our web directory services to users and site owners in the UK. And as social exploded, we introduced social networking profiles to the web directory listings to give site owners a broader reach to their online presence.
SEW: Where do you see the industry moving next?
GH: Authorship and authority continue to gain traction as quality indicators, and social signals are playing a growing role in search. Mobile and tablet use also continue to accelerate, while apps are pulling people away from the Internet completely.
None of these trends are going away, and BOTW plans on serving these new kinds of users. We continue to keep our eyes on these trends and decide how we can provide services accordingly.
SEW: Are there any new products in the works?
GH: We are undertaking an overhaul of our Local product. We need to step up our offering to stay competitive in the Local space, so we are redoing a lot of the categorization and making big improvements to the search functionality.
We have a few more changes in the works but they're not far enough along the development cycle to discuss at length. We will also launch a new product, as is our tradition, to celebrate the company’s birthday.
SEW: Tell me more.
GH: Each year on our birthday, we have a huge sale, and announce a new service timed around the birthday celebration. This year, we are offering 50 percent off all BOTW offerings. The sale is only good on Monday, April 22; our birthday falls on a Saturday this year, so we made the sale on the Monday instead.
As for the new product, we are also pleased to announce the introduction of the BOTW ProListing, which will enable site owners to add three pieces of featured content to their web directory listings.
Content marketing has grown in importance in today's search environment and even the best marketers know that just because you publish it doesn't mean people are going to engage with it. BOTW ProListing aims to help you get your content seen, crawled, and shared.
You can change content as often as you like, at one fixed cost per month. So each time you create a new piece of killer content, you can go in and add it to your web directory listing, to get noticed as quickly as possible.
By the way, users who sign up on Monday April 22nd will only pay $9.85 per month for the service, compared to a regular monthly price of $19.70.
SEW: What gave rise to ProListing?
GH: It was an idea we started using internally for sites added by our editors. After getting a ton of user requests for them, we decided to launch ProListing for everyone. Feedback from users thus far is great and we are very excited about the new launch.
SEW: Can you share some of the hardest lessons you have learned in this business?
GH: One thing I’ve learned is that shortcuts don't work in the long run. Building something that can stand the test of time takes time itself. There are no shortcuts that work, period.
Secondly, I have learned to stick to what I am good at. We have failed spectacularly in areas that are outside of our core competencies.
SEW: Can you give me an example?
GH: We launched the BOTW Media Network about seven years ago, a network of blogs publishing content on approximately 60 topics. It was a huge bust, and I personally had to fire almost 100 people in one day.
We tried doing a few different lead generation sites in some fairly competitive areas, a total fail that lost us hundreds of thousands of dollars. I'm pretty sure that we'll try and fail again. That's what business is about.
The lesson? Just because you see other people succeeding at something doesn't mean you are necessarily a good fit for that product. Stick to what you are good at, and make sure you surround yourself with passionate, intelligent people.
SEW: Thanks so much for your time, Greg.
GH: It was a pleasure!