Discussion in 'Questions & Answers' started by Converse, Oct 28, 2014.
The question is this. What makes a web directory useful?
At one time, a web directory was pretty much the only way to begin a search online. You would find sites that related to whatever topic you were researching in a web directory. At that time, before Google began penalizing them for linking to other sites, webmasters were pretty free about linking to sites in the same genre, so you could begin with a web directory and find additional links found within the listed sites.
Today, most people use search engines as their first resort while researching something online, and many have never even had the experience of using a web directory. Of course, there are a whole lot of people who rarely leave Facebook. I equate them with the people who once thought that AOL was itself the Internet.
I often hear that web directories are dead, and that no one uses a web directory anymore. This isn't new, as we were hearing that before the turn of the century, when web directories were just getting started. Mostly, the people who are repeating this fall in to one of two categories.
There are those who hope to leave you thinking that the only way that you can promote your site is by buying into whatever SEO scheme they are selling. The very nature of a reputable web directory encourages people to submit their own sites, which leaves the fly-by-night SEO firms out in the cold. As a result, they latch on to every word uttered from the mouth of Matt Cutts or anyone else that might say something that could be construed as detrimental to the web directory industry, then the twist it all out of proportion, spin it, and use it to promote the idea that a web directory listing is somehow dangerous to your site. Interestingly, after taking your money, most of these SEO firms will then submit your site to web directories, as they remain one of the most effective early steps toward building traffic to your site.
Then there are those who hope to appear smart by repeating the mantra begun by these SEO scammers. You'll recognize these people in a forum by the fact that they seldom post more than one line of text. If you ask them to defend their statement, they will either repeat themselves or ignore you.
The truth is that web directories are hurting right now. They are not the only choices that people have when they are looking for something online, as they once were. But then, horses are no longer the only way that people have of getting around, yet there are still horses. For that matter, there are still buggy manufacturers.
I have several sites that are listed in a whole lot of web directories, including many that I do not consider to be particularly good. When I check my site statistics, I can see that I do receive visits from web directories. If I look further, I learn that those who visit my site from a web directory will spend more time there, and are more likely to return, than those who found my site through Google or another search engine.
Why? Because web directories deliver targeted traffic; at least, the well organized directories do. Eighty percent of my traffic comes from Google, but most of these visitors never look beyond the first page. Perhaps ten percent of my traffic comes from web directories, but these visitors nearly always look beyond the first page. If I were selling something, they would be more likely to buy.
When I am looking for something online, which is what I do for a living, by the way, I always begin with a search engine. For my purposes, I don't care for Google's results since they've begun trying to decide what I was looking for rather than letting me decide what I'm looking for. Startpage will render Google results without the personalization that gets in the way of good search results. I usually use Bing though, because I've come to enjoy the Amazon.com gift certificates that I can earn from using Bing.
The changes in search engine technology over the past few years have done much, I suppose, for enhancing the revenue collection of the search engines, but they haven't produced better search results. When I am looking for some obscure topic, such as sites relating to some small town or locality, I can find what I'm looking for in one of the larger general web directories often, when I can't find it in search engine results.
So when someone repeats the mantra about no one using web directories anymore, I know they're wrong because I do, and because other people use web directories to find my sites.
Scam SEO firms and self-professed SEO professional would have you believe that a link to your site from a web directory is somehow bad for your search engine positioning. What nonsense.
First of all, more than ninety percent of the links found in reputable web directories were added there by directory staff, and without the permission or knowledge of the webmaster or company represented by the site. A search engine that would penalize your site because someone else decided to link to it would be making a mockery of its own results, as sites linking to sites is what the Internet has always been about.
If it were true that a listing in a web directory was harmful to a site's position in the SERPs, this would be an opening to a new cottage industry, paying someone to submit competing sites to web directories. The web directories could then start charging more to remove a site than they do to list it, and there would be enough business to go around for everyone. The fact that this isn't happening points to the lie in that statement.
When I am submitting a site to a web directory, I pass by the garbage directories, which make up the bulk of the sites posing as web directories. I do this, not because I am afraid that a listing in a garbage directory will hurt me, but because I know that it isn't going to help me.
The largest threat to the web directory industry today is the prevailing idea that the industry has died. This threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There are still matters of usefulness. Seeing that web directories are not the only choice that someone has when they are looking for something online, it is essential that the industry take steps to remain relevant, to evolve, and to offer quality content that is not easily found elsewhere. Some of them are doing that, but others are still operating on the idea that all they need to do is put up a web directory script, create a bunch of empty categories, and wait around for people to submit.
Web directories don't have to die, but they may have to evolve.
Wow, very informative post @kfander ! I always start with a search engine too, and even though I hate to admit it, I rarely use web directories. Although they look like if used correctly, they would be massively helpful to me. I may just have to try some out and try submitting my website to some.
Also, this is one of the few times I've even heard of web directories, which most likely contributes to the fact that I rarely use them. Thanks to your post though, I will start using them a lot more in certain situations.
Hearing about Directories being dead (some of them dead... on arrival) is really old news.
The new one is, SEO is going to be dead (I'm not making this up) See it for yourselves
For some time now, effective search engine optimization has been more about content than anything else, but I think there will always be a market for people whose business is to help the clueless figure out how to better market their site. As it is, too many people want to spend fifteen minutes building a site with no original content, then look for some SEO guru to help it reach a number one position in Google.
I didn't set a time limit on this one because I was just testing out the question and answers plugin. There can be two Best Answers. In the event that someone wants to take a stab at it, let's put an end date of two weeks from today - November 18.
Separate names with a comma.