Archive for the ‘Running a Bidding Directory’ Category

Things to consider when choosing a template for your bidding directory

This is another useful post in my series of articles hoping to raise the standards of bid for position directories. I have been wanting to post this for while for two reasons. Firstly i haven’t made a blog post in a while, and secondly there has been many questions raised over bidding directory templates recently. There are few bidding directory templates around at the moment, and I have yet to see any designs I like other than a few.

Where can you get templates?

The easy option is to use one of the default designs. If your directory uses phplinkbid, there around around 5 templates that come free with it. These themes are pretty blank, used by many people, and will not get your directory many sales if you are using them. It shows customers that you haven’t spent a lot of time finding a better theme, and don’t care much about how your directory looks to potential submitters.

The next option is to use a free publicly released bidding directory theme. These are usually free, providing you keep the linkback to the designer and sponsor in the footer. These free themes are a great way to give your directory a good and fresh look. The only disadvantage to these themes are two things. The themes are free. this shows visitors you are not prepared to spend any money on your directory to make it unique, therefore why should they submit? Also, free themes get used a lot over the internet, so again, if someone has seen this theme around somehwere before, they are likely to realise that you have not bothered to invest in your directory. These templates are usually released on forums. I am in the process of releasing several phpLB templates each week, see my phplb themes section of the site for more info.

The final option is to get your directory a custom theme. This involves going to a design company, giving them details of your request, and you will have a template custom made for your bidding directory. This is perfect for serious directory owners. It shows you care about your directory, want it to look good, and are willing to invest in it. The only disadvantage to this option, if any, is the cost. A custom design won’t come cheaply. For example, I paid RealWd $300 for the custom theme for zorg links, its the average price for a theme of this quality. Searching webmaster forums like Digital Point, you can expect to find designers who are willing to charge anything over $100 for the design. Its best to make a thread and wait for offers.

Things to consider when choosing/ordering your template.

The color scheme. This is vital. Get it wrong and it could be your downfall. Why? Do you think large companies are going to invest in a directory whose color scheme involves yellow text on a black background? Pink even? There are of course exceptions, IndexQueen has a very nice pink template! Most directories involve a mix of around 2-3 nice colors. It usually involves a light background with darker features and text. An example of this is DirectoryDump. It uses a light background with orange and blue as its main colors. Another professional looking directory design using this three color rule is Alive Directory. Alive uses blue to contrast with white, and then a good combination of orange and blue text on the white background to give a professional and warming effect. If you prefer to have a dark background, the perfect example of this in use is AvivaDirectory. It uses a dark background, with lighter colors like green and orange. Always remember important web design rules when choosing colors for your template. Always choose something that looks professional. The more “wow” factor it has, the better.

The page structure. This is also the most important part. Not only does it make navigating, reading and using your site easier, it effects revenue. A bidding directory aims to deliver traffic, more notably to those sites listed on the home page with the top bids. Now think, why would someone bid high on your bidding directory? They do it mostly for the traffic. Therefore the template you choose should allow top ranked sites to get the best CTR (click through rate). This can be done easily. Just look at Zorg Links for example, the top ranked sites are shown above the fold (they can be seen without scrolling). This was an intended design feature. I wanted to show categories at the side for easier reading, and to give the sites on the homepage the maximum clicks. If your users have to scroll half way down the home page to be able to see the top bidding sites, you may want to think about a re-design to give them a better CTR.

Other things to consider is how you will display the listed sites. They need to be spaced out well, and iam to give the user as much information as possible. An example of a bidding directory I like that does this well is Ventedoy. It shows the sites nicely, they are easy to read and well spaced out. This is perfect for an end user looking for quality sites to visit.

Always remember these key things when choosing your template. Whats best for the users? Whats best for the submitted sites? Keep it professional, and don’t forget a good looking template can go a long way when wanting to boost sales.

~Mike

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Bugs to fix in your phpLB bidding directory

At the time of writing this post, phpLB is still only on its second release. As all scripts do, phpLB still has some bugs to iron out if you want your bidding directory to perform as it should do for users.

Bug 1 - Broken page after paypal payment This bug is incredibly simple to fix. Log in to your admin panel, go to site configuration, and edit your site URL. Make sure the url is in the following format : http://www.zorg-links.com/ - make sure you remember the trailing / at the end of the URL. Otherwise when your customer has paid for their listing, they will be sent to a broken URL such as www.zorg-links.comlink123.html - which is obviously an invalid page.

Bug 2 - Minimum Bid not showing up in the input box This bug was a mistake by the programmers, they forgot to remove some code during the building of the script. Even when setting a minimum bid-up amount, the text box where the user types the new bid amount will still show $1 rather than what you set in the admin panel.

In your file manager or FTP program, edit index.php.

Find :

if((!empty($_REQUEST['bid'])) &&

(is_numeric($_REQUEST['bid']))){

$bid_default = intval($_REQUEST['bid']);}else

{

$bid_default = 1;

}

replace with :

if((!empty($_REQUEST['bid'])) &&

(is_numeric($_REQUEST['bid']))){

$bid_default = intval($_REQUEST['bid']);}else

{

$bid_default = $cfg->getVar('minimum_bidup');

}

Save and upload the file. When you view the detail page of an existing listing, the text box to enter a bid should now show the price that was set in the admin panel rather than $1.

Bug 3 - Minimum bid for new listings has no effect This is probably the worst bug in the script. The admin panel allows you to change prices for newly submitted links, and existing listings that want to bid higher. The problem is that the minimum bid for new listings doesnt work, so new links end up paying what an existing link should be paying.

To fix this, go to your file manager or FTP program and edit index.php

Find :

$kForm->addRule('amount', 'bid');

Delete it.

Find :

$kForm->addCurrency('Bid Amount (minimum bid is$' .

$cfg->getVar('minimum_bidup') . '.00)',

'amount',$bid_default, 3, 4);

Replace with :

if(empty($rs->fields['bid_amount'])){

$kForm->addCurrency('Bid Amount (minimum bid is $' .

$cfg->getVar('minimum_bid') .

'.00)', 'amount', $cfg->getVar('minimum_bid'), 5, 5);

$kForm->addRule('amount', 'bid');} else {

$kForm->addCurrency('Bid Amount (minimum bid-up is $' .

$cfg->getVar('minimum_bidup') .

'.00)', 'amount', $cfg->getVar('minimum_bidup'), 5, 5);

$kForm->addRule('amount', 'bidup');

}

Save and upload the file. What we did here was write an if statement to check if the listing was new, and if it was apply the minimum bid for new listings, else use the minimum bid up for existing listings. We also used the addrule() function to validate the bid amount, which prevents people adding less than is allowed.

Bug 4 - Broken URL displayed after paypal payment This bug happens when a user has payed the bid amount at paypal, clicked the “Return to Merchant” button, and returned to your site. The users sees the bid success message, then sees a hyperlink that is supposed to take them to their site. This hyperlink is broken in version 1.2, and if not fixed will show “http://www.zorg-links.com/link/0.html” - which is obviously a dead link as it does not contain the ID of the submitted site.

To fix this bug, open your file manager or FTP program and edit index.php

Around line 107 find :

$bid_message .= ‘<p><b><a href=”‘ . $cfg->getVar(’site_url’)
 . ‘link/’ . $link_id . ‘.html”>’ . $cfg->getVar(’site_url’


) . ‘link/’ . $link_id . ‘.html</a></p>’;

Replace with :

$bid_message .= ‘<p><b><a href=”‘ . $cfg->getVar(’site_url’)
 . ‘link/’ . $this_id . ‘.html”>’ . $cfg->getVar(’site_url’


) . ‘link/’ . $this_id . ‘.html</a></p>’;   

Thats all! Fixing these bugs will cause less confusion to customers. It will prevent them from not submitting again in the future, and gives a better image about your site if everything works correctly. I tested and fixed all of these bugs on Zorg Links, and on a test site where no sites were listed, so everything should work ok.

~Mike

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What script should power your bidding directory?

Once you have decided on a good brandable and keyword rich domain for your bidding directory, the next step is to get a script installed. There 3 well known scripts, and custom developed scripts that could possibly power your site.

Firstly, lets talk about why the script you use will matter.

It will affect how easy your site is to view for visitors. Yes thats right, a badly designed script can cause navigation problems or slow down your site. This could cause your precious visitors to head straight for the big red X.

It can affect the amount of submissions you get. This could potentially be a big problem if you get it wrong. A script with no automatic payment processing, no form to submit site details, or giving little benefit/attention to listed sites and the top bidder will not do you and your sales any favours.

It is important to be as user friendly as possible. These include making payments automated and run smoothly, rather than the user manually sending you the payment. Giving listed sites good benefits such as their own detail page is another necessary feature. As the site is a bidding directory, one of its main features is to send traffic. This initiated by displaying top sites on the homepage. Part of this feature can be done through the design, however the script plays an important role in this. The link leader should be displayed on all pages of the site. It gives them the maximum benefits of being listed there, such as more backlinks and being displayed on every page.

Now i will go into more detail about different types of scripts, and their advantages and disadvantages.

The first types of scripts available are “on the shelf” scripts. These are available to the public both free and paid.

Firstly we have the newly popular “link bid script“. This can be downloaded at http://www.linkbidscript.com/. The advantages of this script are quite numerous. Its free; you can get it installed for free; you can get free furture upgrades; and there are many free templates to download. This script looks quite promising. Any downsides to this may be lack of support as the script is free, lack of development due to no sales revenue, and perhaps lack of user contributed modifications and templates as the script is new on the market.

Next we have the phpLD bid script. The script is based off the market leading php link directory script, which can be downloaded for free at http://www.phplinkdirectory.com. The advantages other than it being free include that it is based on the most widely used web directory script available, so there is an enourmous amount of mods, templates, support and help available out there. That includes a huge official forum with thousands of members to help you out. There are however some big disadvantages. Firstly the script is free so may lack future developments. Also, the biggest worry i feel is, the script was never made to be a bidding directory script. There are little advantages to be listed on the homepage other that you may be listed on a page with higher page rank. Bidding directories are supposed to give traffic to listed sites, and the way this script was built, this is not maximised to good effect. Top bidding sites are often shown towards the bottom of the page under a hughe amount of categories. Of course, this could easily be changed by re-arranging the design, however I feel as the script was never made to be a bidding directory script it does not offer directory owners the potential to maximise their earnings using this script.

The next script is the market leader in bidding directory scripts - phplinkBid. It is my personal favourite which is why i use it on Zorg Links. It is packed with features, and those it lacks look set to be added in the soon to be released version 1.4. The script can be downloaded at a tiny amount of $30, available at www.phplinkbid.com. The $30 is a small price to pay for what could ultimately earn you several thousand dollars a year. There are many mods and free templates around already, and the site includes a nice active forum to help new users get established.

The next type of scripts arouund are bespoke/custom “off the shelf” scripts. These are made just for the directory owner, specifically as to how they want the script to work. The advantages of these scripts are that your directory will be unique. It shows you have spent time and money trying to look different from other directory owners. Good examples of custom made scripts are the popular big web links and ventedoy. They look great and have all the features that other bidding directories have, plus more such as the ability to be notified when your listing gets out-bidded. The disadvantages of these scripts are few, mainly it will be quite expensive to get one made for you, and they are not publicly used so any bugs may not be found and fixed as quickly.

I think thats it for a longish post. Feel free to leave a comment with your feedback as usual, and let me know if i have missed anything.

~Mike

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Choosing a decent domain for your bidding directory

This article was written to help you choose a domain for your bidding directory, but can apply to any kind of directory, or even any new website, blog or forum you start up.

Once you’ve made the decision to start a bidding directory, the next thing to do is get a domain. If you already own a general web directory, you may decide its a lot easier to add a sub-domain. The advantages of doing this is any pagerank your main domain has will flow into the subdomain easily. It means no link building is required to get a high PageRank, as it will automatically be given PageRank if linked from your main domain. It also means the traffic your main directory is getting can be leveraged into the subdoain, benefiting the top sites listed there. Sites using a subdomain to good effect for their bidding directory include Blaze Bidding Directory, Ask Bidding Directory, and Voisd Directories Bidding Directory.

Next you have 2 options. To register a new domain, or buy an older aged domain. The advantages of using an old domain mean its more “trusted” so search engines will rank you high quite early on. It means you will get good search engine traffic as the search engines dont believe you are a newly created spam site. The disadvantages mean you are stuck with this domain, and it may be a problem applying a brand to this domain. More about branding is discussed later. Another thing to note is, don’t just get a domain name if it currently has some PageRank on it. It will may make you look like you are trying to make a quick buck if you don’t promote it well. Domains with PageRank will nearly always loose 60-100% of their PageRank as the backlinks to that domain have usually been removed, so there is nothing to support its PageRank any more. I advise getting a new domain. Its like a clean start and you can choose whatever you like, as long as its available to register.

Personally, i would get a different domain set, it just seems more professional than using a subdomain which won’t be promoted as heavily. If you are going to get a main domain, you need to find a cheap registrar. Don’t forget to check out the domain renewal fee- it may seen great that the domain only costs $4 to register, but it may cost $12 every year after that. My favourite registrars are namecheap, godaddy, domainsite and dynadot. They are cheap and offer good control panel options.

Once you have found your registrar, you need to find a domain for your bidding directory. Try and register a good domain, such as a .com or .net. They just seem more professional to many webmasters rather than the cheaper .info domains. There is also a debated theory that google gives more “power” to websites with .com and .net top level domains.

Choosing your domain is vital. Make sure you choose something with a bidding directory releated keyword in it, with something brandable in it too. There are far too many domains out there without a brand placed in it effectively. I chose Zorg as my brand, its easy to remember and nobody else has anything like it. A brandable domain name like dream2bid.com, friendlydirectories.com, used for a bidding directory can work well. It helps people distinguish your site from the rest. Try and do what i did, get a brand name in there, and also a keyword in there. These types of domains are the best. Don’t worry about your brand, if it sounds silly so do many others. 50 years ago people would have thought yahoo and google sounded daft.

Once your domain is chosen, and is available, register it. If you have the funds at the time, register it for many years to make it your own, and to ensure it will never expire any time soon. make sure you are happy with your domain. Its part of your brand now. Link building, theme design, banner design, promotion and branding will all depend on your domain name.

Hope this helps you when choosing yourself a new domain.

~Mike

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10 essential things you must do with your phpLB directory

Running a bidding directory can be however you like it. It can be complex, hard work and cost you a lot. Or it can be laid back and earn only a little. However much time and money you invest in it, there are 10 essential things you must do with your directory when you launch it.

  1. 1 : Fix IPN Bug - To enable “live” bidding and IPN, you must have your site URL set up properly in the admin panel, otherwise the instant payments and bidding will fail. To do this, log in to your admin panel, go to “Site Configuration” and type your URL in the “URL” box. Enter your address in the following format “http://www.zorg-links.com/” The URL must have a trailing slash “/”. If you don’t add the “/” at the end, when returning from paypal, your customers will get redirected to a dead link, and their bid will not be added to their link. This causes extra manual work for you, and can often lead your customer worried, annoyed or unsatisfied. They may never bid on their link again which means potential revenue lost for you.
  2. 2 : Improve SE Friendliness - The next step you must take is to make your directory more search engine friendly. Doing this won’t send you flying to the top of the Search Engine Pages, but it will make your search engine listing look more professional. Whilst still in your admin panel, add the keywords that describes your directory, each seperated by a comma, into the “META Keywords” box. An example of META keywords you could use are as follows : “bidding directory, bid directory, web directory, bid for position directory”. The next step is to add a META description to your site. This bit will be shown as the normal styled text under the blue title in a google listing. It gives potential visitors some info about your site. Add a 5-20 word description which describes your site in a professional and short manor. Do this by typing your description in the “META Description” box under “Site Configuration” in the admin panel of your bidding directory.
  3. 3 : Add a decent site title - Another vital part of optimizing your site for the search engines is you site title. This can be changed from inside the admin panel, there is no need to modify files. Its changed in the “Site Title” box on the same page where your META keywords and description were changed. Use a sensible title, such as your brand name followed by a keyword. The site title i us is “Zorg links Bidding Web Directory”. Zorg Links is my brand name, and Bidding Web Directory is one of my keywords. The site title gets displayed in the top of the internet browser window, as well as the main title/header in the search engine listings. A good title can help visitors find out about your site, and help Search Engines to rank your site higher. Stay away from using titles like “Bid now on this amazing page rank 4 site”. It is unprofessional and won’t help your search engine rankings.
  4. 4 : Increase minimum bid - Another step you can take will increase your revenue. if you are starting out a new directory, its likely to have a PageRank of 0. Therefore people will only be prepared to pay less than $5 to get listed. Having a minimum bid of $1 is fine, but did youknow that PayPal will take a fee of around 34 Cents for this small amount? Raising your minimum bid to around $3 still gives the customers a low value price to submit to your site for, and it allows you, the site owner to gain more revenue without being hurt badly by the paypal fees.
  5. 5 : Enable USD PayPal Balance - Whilst on the topic of Paypal, i have another point to mention which you should do when starting your bidding web directory. It is vital that the IPN, the automatic bidding takes place smoothly. Whatever currency, usually US dollars, you charge to be listed in your site, you should have this balance “open” in your Paypal account. Otherwise payments made will have to be accepted by you and converted into your own currency. Only when you click the “Accept” button will the IPN and automatic bidding take place. To add a balance in another currency, log in to your paypal account, go to the “My Account” view, then click the “Manage Currency” link in the box where your balance is displayed. Select the balance you wish to open (US dollars balance is essential if your bidding directory uses US Dollars) and click open balance. That should be everything to make sure your automatic bidding is working nicely.
  6. 6 : Add categories - The next step is done to make your directory more professional and attract more customers. PhplinkBid allows you to categorize listings by the category that relates to their site content, or in alphabetical order. Using categories ismuch more professional. It shows potential customers you have spent the time adding categories to your site. It also means that listed sites will be displayed among similar sites of the same niche. I would rather have my directory listed in a “web directories” category, with other related sites, rather than a letter page with totally unreleated outbound links and content displayed there aswell. Having a link froma category page means the backlink is more quality and valuable. It means you can charge extra for submission, and customers will see a backlink from your site as more valuable.
  7. 7 : Make Link Detail Pages more SE Friendly - The next section covers things that can only be completed by changing the php and HTML code of your site. Do this with great care. Backup all your files first to ensure no damage is done. First modification to be made is to change the title of the link detail pages. The phpLB default shows the page title of a detail page as “http://www.the-listed-site.com - your site title that you set in admin panel”. For a link detail page, this is not very friendly for the search engines. Search engine traffic won’t just be directed to the home page. It will get sent to the detail pages too, if a search engine matches someones search phrase with come content on your page. For this reason we need the page title to be more appealing to search engines. To do this, in your file manager or FTP program, open up the “index.php” file. Find the line containing “$cfg->setVar(’page_title’, $cfg->getVar(’site_name’) . ‘ - ‘ . $rs->fields[’link_url’]);” and replace it with “$cfg->setVar(’page_title’, $rs->fields[’link_title’]); “. This will change the title of the link detail page to the title of their website.
  8. 8 : Add deep links mod - The next step will give customers better value for their listing. It will help persuade potential customers to submit their link. It is the deep link modification. Deep links are hyperlinks that target the inner pages of your website. It will allow search engine robots to index a websites inner pages, and give PageRank “juice” to those inner pages. To install this mod, go to the following URL and follow the instructions there. http://blog.rakcha.com/2007/06/19/phplinkbid-deep-links-mod/.
  9. 9 : Change Google Hating Phrases - The penultimate modification you must do will help stop you from getting your bidding directory banned from google. Backlinks are vital as to how high a site ranks in the search engines, so google wants webmasters to stop buying and selling backlinks. Unfortunately, phpLB comes with some bad phrases. Links and keywords like “buy a link” should be replaced by “submit a site” or “suggest link”. This makes your site look more professional, and not like a link farm, text link seller, or general spam site.
  10. 10 : Change your design - The final thing i recommend you to do will help make your site more recognisable, and look more unique. It will help customers and visitors distinguish your site from the rest. It involves changing the visual appearance of your site in some way. This can be done by a whole custom design, or by using a free design, or by using a custom logo. An example of a custom design is seen on this site. An example of a custom logo and how simple yet effective it can be, look here http://www.bigdirectorybid.com/ . The logo helps you to remember the site and distinguish it from all the other phpLB sites out there.

I hope you enjoyed my first blog post, feel free to leave a comment if i have missed any other essential tips or advice.

 

~Mike

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