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Two searches described "professional service providers". The other search was the name of a healthcare industry.
Guess what the top search results included?
Ya, websites that were either a directory OR websites that featured a directory "of the subject matter" prominently on their homepage.
So, riddle me this: Many people are prepared to "pooh pooh" directories yet search engines routinely serve up directories - first or foremost - in response to many many searches.
Why is OR should that be the case?
Why should it not be the case?
What might it mean that a search engine algo finds websites that feature a directory "appealing"? Does your answer or explanation make sense? Why?
Are these big-name directories, low-profile niche directories, or low-quality spammy sort of stuff? If it's the latter, then it could be a black-hat thing that's currently eluding Google. If it's a big-name directory then the high number of inbound links may be boosting it.
whereas, the authority sites in the categories you've mentioned are probably maintained by techies who've no marketing nous or interest, an probably never given www more than a passing glance
tis what i used to be like till i stumbled upon this site
As an example, i am routinely outranked in some off my categories by webpages from sites that only just barely refer to my sector, but the main site they belong to carries great weight with the SE's
For example, I've found that techie things and popular culture things get links like crazy. But not many people will link to a business service site.
As such, the directory, which is as previously mentioned, SEO'd and promoted, can easily beat out the business service site.
I don't know the keywords you were searching on, but I've certainly encountered this scenario before.
can a search engine determine quality editorial work, against a directory that simple admits any site?
I will always argue that a quality niche specific directory is a great authoritative site, and have no doubt the the search engines think the same.