Web directories have been with us since the early nineties when the Internet really began to take off with the birth of the World Wide Web (the graphical portion of the Internet).
Yahoo! was one of the original directories and although they have now evolved into a full blown search engine, they still have their directory in place. In the last year we have seen
what seems to be an invasion of new directories popping up all over the place. This leads one to question whether directories are still useful? Do people still use them to search? Can they provide any
marketing benefit to your web site? These are some of the questions we will explore.
Web Directory vs. Search Engine
First a quick refresher on the difference between directories and search engines. Directories differ from standard search engines in that a search engine will query a database of indexed websites before it produces results and a directory is a database of websites that have been arranged by subject or category. Most directories have search functionality but the websites are still listed in specific categories.
As far as inclusion of your web site, typically a search engine will find your site on its own whereas with a directory, you have to submit your site for inclusion. Sometimes the process of getting into a search engine's index results from their crawler finding your site listed in a directory.
Do People Search By Directories Anymore?
Should we worry about making sure our sites are listed in directories? Do people still use directories or go straight to a search engine such as Google to find what they are looking for? To answer this question, I went to my server logs which track all activity on my sites. As I expected, the majority of traffic coming to my web sites was from search engines, but to my surprise I did see some directory referrals as well. They were not in great numbers but all the same they were still there.
Therefore I would say directory inclusion, at least in the free directories, is important because they may send you some traffic. It may not be in great quantities but with the ever increasing competition on the web, I'll take traffic from wherever I can get it. Besides if it is free, why not take a few moments to submit your site?
The Disappearance of Free Directories
Free directories are becoming more scarce all the time. Most are now requiring some kind of fee for inclusion whether that be a one time fee or some kind of recurring fee. We have to ask ourselves then if it is worthwhile to pay these fees or should we just forget about paid directories altogether?
For the little bit of traffic they may bring you I would say no. However, there are additional benefits a good directory can provide. The first benefit would be to brand new sites that are trying to gain inclusion into the indices of the top search engines and the second is that they will contribute to your site's overall link popularity score.
Directories Help New Sites
It is often asked if one should submit their site to Google, Yahoo and MSN, all of which have pages where you can submit your URL. However this is not the most effective way to get a brand new site into these top engines. In fact, I personally believe that the only reason these three engines have an 'Add URL' page at all is simply so they will not get bombarded with e-mail requests for inclusion. Ask Jeeves doesn't even have an 'Add URL' page. Neither does the smaller search engine WiseNut.
What is one of the most effective ways then to get listed in the top search engines? Get listed in one of the top directories. All the major engines I mentioned beforehand crawl directories and when they crawl them, then find new web sites to add to their index. This is their preferred way of finding new sites.
So if you have a brand new web site, submit it to some of the top directories, both free and paid and you will find that your site will soon afterwards be included in the top search engines as well.
Directories Help Build Link Popularity
What is this "link popularity" anyway and why do you need it? Link popularity is a score that is accessed to a web site based on how many external and internal links are pointing or linking to any particular page. External links would include those that come from any other web site other than your own whereas internal links would be those that come from within the same domain name. Link popularity is also based not only on the "quantity" of links but the "quality" of those links as well. Therefore to have a good link popularity score, it is not necessarily required to have a large number of links pointing to your site but rather a good number of quality links.
This is where directories can help. Many of the top directories that I will mention shortly have good link popularity that can be passed on to your site. They also have specific category pages that are related to the nature of your site. In a day and age where link popularity is becoming more important in order to be found in a search engine, directories are a fairly inexpensive way to increase your own link popularity.
"Can't I just ask other web site owners to link to my site or exchange links with me?" Sure you can but this can be a very tedious and cumbersome task. First there is the time-consuming task of finding other quality and relevant sites to seek links from. Then there is the reality that most link requests go unanswered. I get tons every month that are simply deleted. "But if I build a great site, won't others naturally link to it?" Maybe they will but how does one get to the point where they have a great site and to where it is "out there" so people can find it? A lot of hard work!
Therefore I firmly believe that directories can be foundational for building link popularity and a very important reason why a web site owner should make sure they are included in them. It is a step in your marketing that you can easily control. It is a task that can be completed quickly and then you can move on to other things.
There are not many free directories left. Some of the ones I am listing below require that you become a volunteer editor in order to submit sites for free. Otherwise they charge a fee. Here they are.
There are many, many directories that you can pay for inclusion but I am only going to list what I feel are the current top twelve. These directories have good PageRank on their main index pages and on many inner category pages. They also have a wide range of categories so that it is easy to find one that is relevant to your business. Here they are.
In summary, directories are still a very viable aspect to successful online marketing. Take advantage of them and you will soon realize their benefits. If you would like to learn more
about how to submit to directories, I would invite you to read Proper Directory Submissions, a two part series I authored a
while back on the process of submitting to directories.
Postscript: Updated list of directories shown above - January 2006.
Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
April 7, 2005
David Wallace is CEO and founder of SearchRank, an original search engine optimization and marketing firm based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is experienced in search engine optimization and marketing, pay per click and pay for inclusion management, directory submissions and web site design usability. David is a frequent contributor to various search engine related forums, an active editor of popular directories such as GoGuides.org, Joe Ant and Zeal and has had several articles published on industry related sites. Since 1997, David along with his company have helped hundreds of businesses both large and small increase their search engine visibility and customer acquisitions.
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