is one of those directories that everyone has heard of, but most people know little about it.  Even being in the directory industry myself, I knew very little about this premium directory.  I wanted to know more, and fortunately, Jessica Bowman, the Director of Search Engine Optimization at answered all of my questions.

1.  Please provide a brief biography so that my readers know who you are.

jessica.jpgI joined the Internet bandwagon in 2000 as a usability architect and made my way to search engine marketing in 2002.  After nearly 10 years at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, I moved to Los Angeles last fall and started working for I’m an in-house SEO and write for Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Journal.  In the few non-working hours, I love the theater and foreign travels.

2.  How long have you been working at  What is your role at  How did you end up working there?

I joined in November 2006 as the Director of Search Engine Optimization.  How I got here is a prime example of how well professional networking works.  At a conference I met someone from St. Louis who said, “When I come back to visit, let’s meet for drinks.” Six weeks later he was in town and we met to chat about search.  Half-way through our conversation he said, “I just interviewed you. We’re going to fly you out for an in person interview.”  Within two months I moved to Los Angeles and started working for

3.  Can you give us some idea about the size of  How many listings does have?  How many employees?  How many editors?

At a high level, is the leading business search engine and pay-per-click advertising network serving more than 30 million unique users and thousands of advertisers every month.  Our site is organized around a directory structure of more than 65,000 business categories to
which we’ve linked 3+ million keywords to help our users quickly find the products or services they need for their business.  We currently have five editors and one editorial manager out of a total staff of nearly 100 employees, and all listings, whether pay-per-click Featured Listings or internet directory Standard Listings, are reviewed by a member of our Editorial Team.

4.  Why should people list their sites at  What are the advantages?

The main reason to list with, whether pay-per-click or internet directory listings, is to reach business decision makers online.  Our pay-per-click ads are distributed on and across the Advertising Network of premier online business destinations such as BusinessWeek, Forbes, The Wall St. Journal Online, and our business expert community and how-to site, Internet directory listings are displayed on in one of our over 65,000 business categories. Our concentrated business buyer audience results in high quality leads for our business-to-business advertisers.

5.  What about makes you the proudest?

Honestly, my proudest moments working for are when I speak at conferences and people actually wait in line afterward to come up and meet me because they love  I even get stopped between sessions by raving fans who speak highly about their sales representatives and talk about their traffic growth.  I’ve been with for less than a year, so it was a shock at first, but every time it happens I feel proud to work for a company that can ignite that much passion into customers.

6.  How do you go about maintaining editorial quality in a directory the size of  What sort of quality guidelines do your editors follow?  What sort of training do new editors receive when they join

Our dedicated editorial team reviews all new pay-per-click ads and internet directory listings based on our editorial guidelines.  Both types of advertising products are held to the same editorial standard.  Internet directory listings are reviewed each time they come up for annual renewal or when a client upgrades to a pay-per-click campaign.  We also conduct periodic checks to make sure the advertiser landing pages are still relevant to the listing.  New editors receive extensive training on the processes, systems and editorial guidelines we use at

7. charges an annual fee for websites to be listed.  If a site passes editorial review and is a quality resource, why should it need to pay a fee each year to remain in the directory?

We require a nominal fee to be listed in our internet directory due to our stringent editorial review process during initial sign-up and renewal. This helps to maintain the quality of our listings by having one of our editors personally review each listing for business relevance, active links, grammatical errors and landing page relevance.

8.  The type of links in seems to change regularly.  For a while, some links were “nofollowed,” at another time the links seemed to go through a redirect script.  What is’s policy for links? Is this policy likely to change in the near future?

The way we treat links on the site is actually very consistent when you understand the three different types of links we have on our site:

*  Pay-per-click Featured Listings – the href address always goes to our redirector first because we need to be able to track and charge for the click regardless of browser type or whether or not the user has JavaScript enabled.

*  Annual paid inclusion Standard Listings – the href address always goes to the website paying for inclusion in the directory.  We want to track visitor activity on these listings so we use a JavaScript “onclick” event to dynamically redirect the click to our director for tracking purposes.  This means that our Standard Listings have search engine friendly, followable links because visitors, bots and crawlers that don’t run JavaScript will only see the final website destination address, not the redirector address.

*  Editorial Listings – these are unpaid listings our editorial team has added to the site and do not use the JavaScript “onclick” event to go through our redirector for tracking purposes.

“Standard Listings” and “Editorial Listings” are included together in the “Listings” section users see on our site.

While we don’t use “nofollow” now, there was a very brief period in mid-2006 where we used “nofollow” tags in a way that we thought made sense – tell the bots not to follow links on paid pay-per-click, directory and editorial listings that were currently under editorial review.  This created a confusing situation for anyone not intimately familiar with our listing types and editorial review practices, and there were also widely varying opinions in the community about how “nofollow” should or should not be used.  To avoid confusion, we stopped using “nofollow” within a week or two of launching it.

9.  How do you do SEO for a site the size of  What sort of ranking priorities does have?

It’s definitely a challenge. I wondered how I was going to tackle it in the beginning, and found you just have to pick a section of the site and dig in. Page-by-page we’re making our way to the top of the SERPs.  As for ranking priorities, I have found that it is really no different than what you do with smaller sites, we just have a much larger volume to go
after so prioritization of your time and effort is more important.

10.  Does submit to other directories?  How do you go about evaluating the quality of a web directory?

Yes, we do submit to other directories.  We evaluate the quality of a website with many different factors such as quality of the site, content, links, etc.  There are now so many things that an SEO needs to think about that we created a directory evaluation checklist to help people understand what makes a great directory.

11. has a lot of ads prominently displayed on it pages.  Doesn’t this significantly reduce the traffic that businesses receive from their listings in the directory? is organized around more than 65,000 business categories.  Our pay-per-click Featured Listings do receive the most prominent placement and are listed above internet directory listings. However, internet directory listings are still an effective means of gaining exposure for companies trying to reach a business audience given the breadth of our directory categories.

12.  Other than SEO and PPC, what sort of marketing does do?

Beyond SEO and PPC, uses various marketing channels to build brand awareness and attract new advertisers including participating in industry trade shows and conferences, other online advertising and more.

13.  With improving search algorithms and the rise of social bookmarking sites, is the job of building a quality directory like becoming irrelevant?

The job of building a quality directory will always be relevant when thinking about the needs of business buyers actively searching for relevant products and services for their businesses.  As a recent study by search marketing agency Enquiro shows, 70% of business buyers start their online research with a general search engine (77% prefer Google) or start with a business-to-business search/directory site (73% prefer  The use of B2B search sites increases as business buyers progress from becoming aware of a general need for their business to wanting to find a clean list of vendors that can meet their business requirements.  Improving search algorithms and increasing use of social bookmarking sites by business buyers should only make more relevant as an efficient means for finding relevant vendors.

14.  Could you give me one concrete recommendation as to how to improve Aviva Directory?

Exceed user expectations. Do your research to figure out what people want and ensure your site meets their needs so much that they feel compelled to tell everyone about you.

15.  Are you able to offer my readers a discount for submitting to

Yes. We would be pleased to offer your readers a 20% discount off of  our $199 internet directory listing product. Just use promotion code AVIVA when you submit your site to receive the discounted price of $159 per annual listing.

16.  Are there any developments for coming in the near future that you can reveal?

We’re always working to improve better understanding of the needs of business users and advertisers, and to improve the user experience.  We recently completed a major design update to the site.  More to come, so keep your eye out!

Thanks so much Jessica for your time and also the discount code!

Interviews of other directory owners:
Greg Hartnett of BOTW
Dimitris Kessaris of 2yi
Shawn Walters of UTN
Terry Bytheway of LinksJuice