|Deciding What Info or Data Fields To Place In Your Directory Listings|
Making a directory user friendly by incorporating what they are looking for
Most directories look the same because they list the same information: A hotlinked URL followed by a short sentence, or less, describing the website.
Other than the assumed "editorial quality vote" of listings in select directories I see the "short snippet or 1 sentence website description" as a bit of a value added fail. If al your directory really does is scrape and republish meta-descriptions why bother using your directory when search will do the same?
OTOH, IF you choose to "list more information" in your directory listings how do you know that the added info/data-fields are really what someone searching the topic is "looking for"?
Do you just assume "more info is good"?
Do you check your logs and referers? That's a good idea, but you won't have access to that info if you are building/launching a new directory.
Do you ask your friends? What happens where there's no uniformity to their answers? Give up? "Hey, search wins!?"
Do you look at existing directories, ones that might be "a little better" than the rank-junk multitudes? If so, aren't just you cloning (if not outright copying) what's already available? Hmmm . . Big value added there . . :-/
If you've been around long enough and searched a bit yourself do you just go with your personal searching experience? That is, list that information that you think is driving search behavior? "I know that I go looking for x-info, so I will include x-info in my directory listings."
If you're not an industry insider or topical specialist what are some ideas for coming up with the database fields - the information - to include and list in your new directory?
One thing to be wary of is including a lot of information that will be a hassle to maintain. Simply keeping URLs and company names up to date can be a headache in some sectors, let alone extra details. So be careful not bite off more than you can chew for adding details that need to be kept accurate and up to date.
As a user, I like minimalist listings that I can scan easily to see what's available in the category. So that's the kind of directory pages I make.
|If al your directory really does is scrape and republish meta-descriptions why bother using your directory when search will do the same? |
Search doesn't come anywhere near doing the same, not in the topic areas I work in, anyhow. Only a minority of sites are well enough SEO'd to be easily found in a good range of relevant searches.
Even fewer have titles or descriptions that can be used as is, so spidering to obtain meta info is only a way to begin, certainly not adequate on its own if you want to create something coherent. Whatever info you might obtain by spidering will need to be checked , sometimes expanded/sometimes trimmed, and re-written to suit your house style, the vast majority of the time.
If a directory, especially one with a local component, is or will soon be expected to play and compete on the same field as search + G Place Pages I'm hesitant to believe that the future is one where miminalist directories will remain viable, in any sense of the word.
To whatever degree a directory does now or in the future intend to rely on G for it's daily bread I think we have passed the point in the information highway where there's any doubt what the "roadside signs" -> that is, the intention and direction of the SEs - are saying.
From what I've seen, now that the SEs have disemboweled the YPs (with their numbskulled participation) the SEs, especially G, are starting to build a local search paradigm that will largely replicate what the former print offering of the YPs - (detailed company info, photos of building, directions, etc.) - with a bit of online special sauce in the form of (dubious / anonymous) votes and reviews.
It's soooo interesting to watch the local search evolution in play, knowing that all along the dumbass YPs could have make this very same online play a decade ago. DOH!
So, while I agree that there are headaches to be had in offering deeper information my sense of what's to come is that the "search results within search results" comment portends more bad times for directories, even ones with editorial controls but otherwise thin on content or added user value.
How much longer will "editorial control" hold sway in the granting of G-love (rank, visibility in the SERPs), when G is moving towards GPlacePages and towards a model where "voting/reviews matter . . . maybe more than your 1-person editorial controls"?
"GPlacePages gives users (AND especially G=user) more UGC (much wanted by G, automation has its limits) AND more G=destination places/pages (much wanted by G) AND more engagement (G now says if you don't provide/confirm your PlacePages data you won't appear or rank) AND more reason for business owners to be myopic about discovery=search=G".
Very interesting times.
|If a directory, especially one with a local component, is or will soon be expected to play and compete on the same field as search + G Place Pages I'm hesitant to believe that the future is one where miminalist directories will remain viable, in any sense of the word. |
This one's chicken and egg all over the place. I think your instincts about depth of data and differentiation are correct.
The question is whether it's possible to start a new directory that is likely to be helpful enough to a business to motivate them...
(a) to list at all, and...
(b) to fill out your form.
Google Place Pages are inescapably there, and those who don't claim and maintain them do so at their peril... but most businesses don't have a clue. While Best of the Web has been giving their own local place-type pages a try, I also see a great many blank categories... which is too bad. Maybe they need to seed the listings more to get things started.
But there are also a huge number of listings on a great many late-to-the-game local restaurant guides, professional guides, etc, which have been seeded and are nothing but stubs. How many "be first to add your review" listings have you seen on review sites? How many invites to the latest professional or personal networking site have you deleted? In truth, the abundance of these sites has unfortunately turned into a major PITA.
So, you've got that hurdle... attracting and motivating those who either have incomplete listings or no listings at all.
If you can do that... guided form fields, I think, are a good way to go. I've suggested them in lieu of (or in addition to) a blank description window for several clients, in a variety of areas where User Generated Content is being used or considered, and present UGC is lacking or deficient. All clients I've suggested this to have hesitated because they feel that large form inputs will discourage response, or because it's too much trouble to set up such a system.
I recently responded to an email customer feedback request on an ecommerce site because I really liked the product and because I wanted to evaluate the experience. The onsite input page presented a sequence of short input fields that had if/then type inputs... somewhat interactive... so I was initially presented with a smaller number of blank fields then I ended up with. The task was short enough to be manageable in this fragmented world, and the resulting description, which was shown to me before I submitted, was surprisingly OK. If I liked or disliked a product enough, I'd do it again.
On a directory site, you might want to give the user the option of doing things in stages, much as Linked-In does with its profiles. I know I will never "finish" that profile, but I might get around to adding to it.