Greg Hartnett is one of the few individuals who has been in the online marketing space for quite some time. He is well known in the industry as a [blogger](http://greghartnett.com/), [speaker](http://www.pubcon.com/sessions.cgi?action=view&record=60) and [entrepreneur](http://www.botw.org). Due to the experience he has gained from running many successful companies I decided to do an interview with him.
- You have been on the web for quite a while now and you also own a few online companies, how did you first get started?
My business partner, Brian Prince, and I first got our feet wet online in the hyper-competitive travel market. We started our first company, Hotel Hotline, with approximately $40,000 of friends-and-family money and very quickly learned the benefits of SEO. After ripping through 75% of our cash on equipment and Goto.com (now Overture) we came to the realization that if we couldn’t figure out how to get our sites listed organically, we’d soon be back in corporate America. We learned promptly, and have never looked back (adios “real jobs”).
Our first year in business, we did approximately $500,000 in sales. The year following, close to $3 million. Over the last few years, we seem to have leveled off a bit, hovering between sales of $11-$15 million annually.
The key for us was never being complacent with our listings. If we were going after a listing, we didn’t stop until we were number one. And then we went after additional spots. So, we’d launch another site, and get that one in the top five as well. I can recall times when we’d have seven or eight of the top 10 listings for keyword phrases we were targeting. When you have that type of saturation, you can begin to focus on other elements of growing your enterprise.
Granted, it’s a different marketplace now, and the days of dominating the top 10 are gone. But without those early days, we never would have been able to grow to the size we are today.
- Best of the Web (BOTW) is one of the oldest directories on the web and there is a lot of history behind it. How was the idea born to start this directory?
BOTW got its start in 1994 at the University of Buffalo when a group of professors decided to classify worthwhile destinations on the fledgling World Wide Web. They opened up the project to let users vote on which sites were the best, and they sorted them by winners in relevant categories – and so the directory was born. It continued as such until 1998, at which point the project stalled.
Brian and I stepped in a couple of years later, and immediately saw the opportunities. At the time, there were very few general web directories focusing on listing quality resources. And those that did were either cost-prohibitive or took forever and a day to get a review. As an online business owner I knew that I saw value in having my sites listed in a directory that focused on quality, and figured that others would too. So, all we had to do was transform the previous architecture into a general taxonomy and spend a few years building out an authoritative resource. Piece of cake…
- There are a lot of directories out there such as DMOZ and the Yahoo Directory, how is BOTW different from any of the other directories?
Well, we are honored to be mentioned in the same sentence as those two directories. To be compared to directories as comprehensive and highly regarded as Yahoo and DMOZ is truly a testament to our commitment to providing the user with relevant resources for their topic – and that’s always been our core value.
We tried to combine the best elements of both Yahoo and DMOZ when we transformed BOTW into a general directory. There is some structure that we preferred from Yahoo, and many elements that we liked about DMOZ, so we put together our own directory with what we feel are the best attributes from both.
Now most other directories out there, with a few notable exceptions (GoGuides, JoeAnt, Business.com) aren’t what I would call comprehensive or quality. Most of them sprung up within the last couple of years, trying to capitalize on the popularity of link building. The vast majority of these are run only for the directory owner to take money from webmasters looking for an additional link ?