Search Engine Review:

The NetInsert web directory is a small (perhaps even one-man) outfit operating out of Sweden. Active since November 2000, it's still growing rather slowly, and has only recently come to the attention of many webmasters. NetInsert's "hook" is that it offers webmasters almost total control over the indexing of their sites, using HTML meta elements to control placement and description. Although NetInsert does require webmasters to add an extra meta tag to their sites, it's one of the few universal directories offering webmasters complete self-categorization. Considering how many webmasters complain about not being able to control Yahoo and the ODP, this strikes me as a fair trade.

NetInsert controls listing-spam by using strictly universal categorization model -- any given site is listed in exactly one category. Large sites can apply for exceptions to this rule.

The Users' Side

NetInsert is organized traditionally for a web directory: the home page features about a dozen major supercategories (not counting the regional supercategories) , each of which is broken down into a dozen or more categories. (NetInsert hasn't yet evolved to the point of needing third-level categories.) If you've used any other universal directory, you're familiar with the concepts.

NetInsert does add some interesting (and useful) touches in the actual site listings. In addition to identifying which sites are new (using the same new tag you've seen on a million other sites), NetInsert also identifies updated sites, and sites that may be having server problems. For sites using NetInsert's meta-tagging system, it can even provide short "news flashes".

All in all, some good innovations, but there is some bad news: NetInsert has almost nothing listed in it. Their tag-based indexing requires the participation of websites before those sites can be listed, and many sites (including all the major ones) are hesitant to jump on board. Therefore, many categories (especially the Regional ones) at NetInsert are completely empty. You won't find much at NetInsert you won't find anywhere else.

(Depending on your perspective, though, there's a silver lining: While large corporate sites refuse to list themselves in sites like NetInsert, that makes the directory a showcase for "indie" content producers and small-to-medium businesses. If you want to see what the megacorporations aren't showing you, directories like NetInsert can be the way to go.)

The only advertising running on NetInsert are some standard-sized graphic banners, so there's no worry about confusing advertising for content. NetInsert has no paid placements.

In summary, if NetInsert could get more webmasters participating, it could be a very nice directory. As it stands now though, it's a second-tier site filled with minor sites.

The Webmasters' Side

From the webmaster's perspective, NetInsert is every optimizer's dream: A directory that lets him pick the category, write the description, and update the listing whenever he wants. So why aren't more webmasters signing up?

Because webmasters are a notoriously stubbon lot who've let their issues with other search engines convince them not to cooperate with NetInsert. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Paranoia is not productive. If you want to suceed on a network, you have to learn to trust and share.

As I mentioned earlier, NetInsert requires sites listed in their directory to add an HTML meta element. (The mandatory tag uses the name value "NetInsert", and identifies which category the page is listed in.) The tag is only required on the top page of the listed site. Several other optional meta values (including the common "Description") can be used to further customize a listing. If you decide you want to be delisted, just remove the NetInsert tag, and you'll be automatically dropped.

I've seen a few webmasters insist adding a meta tag just for a search engine is an unreasonable requirement. I want to know what planet these webmasters are from. The only reason any of us put meta elements on our pages back in the 1990s was to improve our search engine listings. I would think we're all familiar with the idea by now.

All things considered, NetInsert's requirement for a link from them is pretty reasonable. They're not requiring a reciprocal link, and the tag is completely invisible to normal site users. There is no logical downside to including NetInsert's meta tag. This websnob recommends that you add it, get listed in NetInsert, and consider the fact that (at the very least) you've got one more link heading into your site for link popularity purposes.

Some webmasters might also object to NetInsert's "one category per site" rule, but it's not so bad (especially while the directory is small, and the category structure simple). Besides, if you decide you're in the wrong category, you just have to change your meta tag.

All in all, NetInsert is a very webmaster-friendly directory. Take advantage of that while you can.


Part of me really wants to root for NetInsert. It appears to be run competantly, has a straightforward design, a clear idea of what it wants to be, and manages to add some clever features to the usual directory format. On the other hand, I know it's probably underfunded, horrible at getting the word out about itself, and using an indexing paradigm that annoys many webmasters. They've got their work cut out for them.

NetInsert will never be one of the Web's Top Ten, but if it can convince more webmasters to contribute listings, it will be a nice way to find independent content and commerce sites.