Achieving Website Visibility with Directories or Portals

Directories are not search engines, and the distinction is very important from a web site visibility point of view.

Unfortunately, the fact that many search engines also host directories on their sites and the fact that some directories host search engines has led to a not unreasonable degree of confusion between the two.

Directories are Humanly Edited and Hierarchically Organised Indexes

The distinction is, however, simple: free text search engines merely index the content of all the web pages they know about, whereas directories select content and organise it in categories (usually hierarchically). Search engines focus on searching page content for keywords and phrases. Directories emphasise groups or categories of information. The most popular search engines today are Google and MSN Search. The most popular directories are Yahoo and The Open Directory Project (Dmoz).

Human editing promises some degree of selection and, hence, quality control over content. If this makes the listings more useful to the directory’s users, it is also likely to be more effective for the sites listed.

Hierarchical organisation of categories is something humans are used to. Computer users who don’t have the time, inclination or ability to learn the effective free-text searching techniques are often happier browsing such categories than they are using search engines.

Paid for Presence, Ranking and Categories Cripple Generic Directories

Commercial pressures and/or wishful thinking has led many directory owners to restrict accesss or position to paying websites. They often labour under the misapprehension that their selection procedures add enough value to users, for the loss of comprehensive coverage to be overlooked. This is rarely true for generic web directories.

The most common result is that content is so reduced and so skewed towards fee-payers that users no longer find it useful. Which is why almost all the big directories have had to buy in additional support from true search engines, and why most Yahoo users actually get their search results from Google rather than from Yahoo’s own directory.

Most advertising spend on general-purpose, non-specific, directories is therefore self-defeating.

Increasing Knowledge Makes Narrowly Focused Directories More Effective For Users and Advertisers

Over time PC and Internet users, have begun to understand how to find stuff using search engines, and how to filter out the noise from keyword search results by cleverly constructing their query expressions.

Since users now edit their own queries, generic directories have lost the most of their advantage in human editing. The same is not true of subject specific directories.

No amount of clever search technique will ever be faster than asking a direct question to someone who is already an expert in their field. Comprehensive, well organised directories on specific subjects are very good value to their users and advertisers.

Getting A High Profile On The Best Directories Is Easiest

The best directories give their users the information they want, when and where they want it. Being driven by use-value, they have to give you prominence if you are leaders in your field.

In short, if you provide useful goods and services which your customers can access easily via the net, you will automatically be included and well-ranked on such directories.

As so often, the key to visibility is, therefore, good design and coding on your own website.