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Are Directories Dead in 2016?

     
1:22 am on Jul 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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(Sorry if this has been answered earlier.) I am thinking of buying a domain, (which is not cheap) and has the keywords of; myniche + directory.com.au in it. On the domain I plan to build out a directory, probably using a word-press theme and word-press directory plugin. It will be an industry specific directory (only for that profession) and will be hand edited by me. It will be exclusive, that is, all listings will be manually approved and no spammy links or bots allowed with the hope that it add value to the user experience. My plan for the directory site is long term as I am qualified in the profession and I like SEO. It will begin with free basic listings, also hand edited by me and I will at some stage allow paid listings for reasonable fee.

Directories have a bad name currently in the SEO world, since Panda and Penguin and Poodle (only joking about last one) smashed many of them out of the park for good reason. That bad reputation may stop some in my profession from purchasing a listing or even wanting a free listing. But directories seem to have an influence on local search which could be the value that I add to the business that wants to list on the directory. e.g www.yellowpages.com.au has a PR of 7.

My question is: Are directories dead? Are directories good or bad for SEO in 2016 and moving forward if they are not spammy? Do directories add value to a business? Therefore should I go ahead with my plan?

Thanks in Advance :-).

[edited by: aakk9999 at 10:13 am (utc) on Jul 6, 2016]

11:44 am on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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i think directory and seo in the same sentence is probably the kiss of death!

as a user my view is that the 'classic' directory format is almost completely useless, both within my own business niche and other areas of personal interest to me, i just don't use them.

however the directory has actually in my view morphed into something else - 'review sites' ... and these can be very useful ... i'm talking from a user perspective of course. now most review sites are garbage but some shine out and they are very useful ... notably in the travel and entertainment sectors, also financial services and other niches too. [by review sites, i'm meaning those that rely on user input to review places, businesses, websites etc. rather than sites where the site owner reviews a product etc.]

in the new world of seo ... if it is good for the user it is good for seo. (please note i'm not suggesting that old school seo is gone)
12:29 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I think there's a place for niche directories on the web. I created a small one years ago and still maintain it. I like being able to give credit (and links) to deserving sites and directing people to them. There's no submission form but only an email address. When someone requests that I include their site, it's nearly always a poor site, and I usually don't even answer their email.

As for your questions, personally I would never buy an existing domain, especially one "which is not cheap". I've always been able to easily think up good domain names that have never been registered before. Also, I wouldn't choose a domain name that contains the word "directory", but on the other hand it should indicate the niche.

I also wouldn't use a "directory plugin" or any kind of directory software. Just design it yourself.
3:45 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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A directory to have value must have value of some kind. Merely maintaining a specific niche listing is not enough these days; hence, the review site mentioned above. There are also other variations such as"ratings" and "business to business". Some users like lists, most users like information and analysis better. Directories are not gone, but their heyday has passed.
4:17 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Some top directories are not dead and can help business (think of Yelp). But directory link building has been dead for years and is a quick link strategy mostly employed by no or low skill SEO wannabes. Avoid getting listed in hundreds of directories and focus on the ones that are good for your business. Places like Yelp, Better Business Bureau and so forth.
4:24 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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most review sites are garbage

you can't allow people to describe or review their own sites. That's a magnet for spammers. In my directory, I do the review and write the description myself. It doesn't take much time because I've already included all the best sites in the niche.
5:31 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Look from the other side. Is there any directory that you personally use? Or, option B: Is there a directory you would use, if only you could find it? If so, that's a useful directory to someone.

Don't make the submission method obvious. Better if your average user thinks the directory fairies compiled it by means known only to themselves. (Seriously. I'd been using The Online Widget Directory for years before I figured out that you can ask to have your own widget pages listed.)

The bad news is that I've got a strong suspicion some of the best directories don't make any money. They're people with day jobs filling a perceived need. One person tinkers with cars; another one maintains a curated directory.
6:52 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I think directories per se are dead (except possibly in a few niches). What works better, at least for users, is having relevant links as lists of resources on pages.

For example, if I created an encyclopedia about doughnuts and had a page on beignets, I might include half a dozen annotated links to the best in-depth resources about beignets. That would likely be more useful to beignet fanciers (and more rankworthy from a search engine's point of view) than an unadorned DMOZ-style page of beignet links in a directory.
7:53 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I guess it depends on what it's a directory of--and that's the part we're not allowed to specify. In one area, a useful directory is "best sites about widgets". In another area, you might really need "all sprocket sites in the world". (In the same way that sometimes you have to use The World's Biggest Search engine, because you're looking for every single occurrence of suchandsuch text.)
8:34 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Where directories have some plus points over a search engine is the close proximity of similar and useful RELATED information if the directory is geared in that fashion by categories and reviews. A directory structured as below would have far more value than a simple listing of Widget Makers or Dealers

Widget Directory
==========
History
Uses of
Manufacturers
Dealers
Repair and Service
Auctions
9:06 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Depends on how you build it. A few years ago, I built one better and more robust than Yellow Pages and had features not found on Yelp - but I couldn't sell listings. It had everything in it. First page results with no content for 5 months. I finally gave up. I could have auto-populated it, but chose to close it down.

Taking a wordpress theme with wordpress plug-in doesn't sound very sexy to me. You gotta make it unique and special in some way. Mine had A-level designer create the design with custom programming and ability for a business to add any review (with a link to the actual review) from any site, a business could upload an image or PDF of a handwritten letter or email. I created it so that businesses could use it as a portfolio piece, but they HAD to link to external 3rd party reviews. In addition to having 5 separate pages for a profile about section, testimonials, customer/clients with logo and name, plus a few other things. it was actually really good.

I don't think you can create something out of the box and make it special unless it is truly niche and unique where you can out-SEO online competition. You would have to really custom code the heck out of something that was originally out of the box.

Having said that, the experience of building my own comprehensive directory was really fantastic despite the failure (only a failure if you don't learn).

I didn't see how expensive the domain name was... I wouldn't pay more than $1,000 for a directory domain name nowadays.. that's just me.

2 types of directory branding - brand it by keyword phrase or brand a domain by creating awesomeness and value. The latter is very expensive and time consuming.
9:27 pm on July 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If you want good rankings in search engines, you should have some useful content. In my directory, for each category I wrote 4-6 paragraphs of background information about that aspect of the subject and put it at the top of the page. Also, I write at least one paragraph of inform,ation about each site that I include.
2:30 am on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I think there's a place for niche directories on the web.
I have been running an industry specific directory since 1999 and it gets about a million visits a year. I sell ads, the listings are paid for, and I make a few cents with very some discrete Adwords. But it is a niche, albeit a large one (world wide) and is well established with quality back links, no spammy listings (all manually approved) and usually ranks 1-4 in SERPs in its category.

My point being, if it is actually serving a useful purpose, preferably to a large and diverse audience, and is a quality directory, there is a place for it. But I also admit, I am not going to retire on the income it generates, though it makes for good vacation money. :)
6:44 am on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Thanks guys for all your great answers to my question. It is very much appreciated. Web Master World is amaze-balls!
6:51 am on July 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Andreas8

One thing that can help you out are modern visuals and proper user experience. This will help with the site gaining some extra mileage when it comes to inbound links and promotion efforts (if you choose to go down that path)
5:41 am on July 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It is a pity that Google plundered and murdered web directories. I've run a full web usage survey on all new gTLD websites (basically measuring how websites are used and which are parked/onhold in each TLD) and this data set could be used to build a good directory. As for the various Animal Farm updates, the problem with directories and Google is far deeper.

Google started off using Dmoz as a seed for its search engine, I think. However as many low grade web directories were also using a Dmoz feed, this led to these directories being hammered in the Google index. So using Dmoz as a feed is likely to cause problems.

There are loads of pro-Google FUDbuddies who will claim that directories are dead and everything is now Googly. However there are some directories that are thriving in spite of Google. All of them seem to be well maintained and carefully targeted. Most of these pro-Google people wouldn't have Clue Zero on how to build a web directory. it was a rite of passage for web developers a few years ago where they got the bright idea that they too could build a web directory and succeed where others failed.

The first problem with a web directory, once you've established the target niche, is the content. How are you going to get it?

Are you going to scour the search engines looking for links? Great way to waste time.

Are you going to whack other web directories in the same niche? Great way to get blocked if there are any such web directories in the niche.

Do you think that people will submit their sites? This is the mistake that killed a lot of directories. You will get a lot of submissions from low grade SEOs who are spamming their latest victim's site all over the splogs and directories.

Apart from content, maintaining a clean and active index is the hardest part of running a web directory. Just in .COM alone, over 2 million domain names drop each month and over 2 million new .COM domains are registered. The web is not an unchanging monolith and websites and domains disappear daily. Some of these domains and websites may be listed in your directory. So how do you keep your index cleaned and remove dead or lazarus sites (these are dropped sites that have been reregistered and now host PPC ads at best and malware at worst)? Some expensive web directory software includes a site checker for links so that dead sites can be pruned.

You will also have to deal with emails from flakey Google FUDbuddy SEOs who think that all links that they don't create to their victim's sites are "unnatural links".

And the toughest question: How are you going to fund it?

Regards...jmcc
12:36 pm on July 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The first problem with a web directory, once you've established the target niche, is the content. How are you going to get it?

Are you going to scour the search engines looking for links? Great way to waste time.

You should already know the niche thoroughly before you start. Then you won't have to hunt for sites to include, because you'll already know what the best ones are.

The other thing is that you have to maintain high standards for what sites you include. As I mentioned earlier, nearly all of the requests I get are for poor low-quality sites, and I usually don't even answer the emails.
10:19 pm on July 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Knowing a niche may not be enough unless it can be leveraged to provide good content in addtion to the listings. In this respect, a magazine type approach with directory listings might actually do better than a pure directory website.

Agree with the standards point. High quality is what keeps usage high. And the most important points for anyone considering building a directory are these: To Hell with Google and the mediocrities behind the Animal Farm kludges because you are building your directory for real people. Solve a problem that people have with finding good quality information.

Regards...jmcc
8:35 am on July 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Guys and I mean this, thank you for the fantastic answers. High standards and high quality is the way forward. Please keep the answers coming if you have something 'of value' to add. Honestly its like a connected collective mind that makes us all smarter. aka. "We are the BORG, we will add your technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile." (Hope there are some Star Trek fans here).
9:49 am on July 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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A few. We try to live it down these days. :)
10:17 am on July 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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There's another aspect to directories: They are useful as industry lists for research. If you're trying to sell something to a particular sector the directory can provide you a starting point. Niche directories are particularly helpful for this. That useful links page can often suffice, if only it were maintained.

However, the way directories used to work, the answer is, no, they just don't have value for the owner in the same way (who wants to pay to be listed!), and to the user (now there are search engines capable of listing all the businesses in a search).
12:46 pm on July 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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(now there are search engines capable of listing all the businesses in a search).

I'm not sure what search engines you're referring to, but a well-designed and well-maintained directory is likely to be much more informative and useful than a search engine list. A directory owner can weed out the bad sites that a search engine might include. A directory owner can also provide much better descriptions than search engine snippets typically do.

To Hell with Google

You should design any site according to your own standards, not google's. And your standards should be higher than google's standards
1:19 pm on July 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm not sure what search engines you're referring to,


A good search engine should be able to find everything. No specific engine, but if it's comprehensive, it should find the sites direct.

....but a well-designed and well-maintained directory is likely to be much more informative and useful than a search engine list. A directory owner can weed out the bad sites that a search engine might include.

Agreed, however, the vast majority of directories are out of date, or are poor. Unfortunately, the poor ones give the good ones a bad name.
A directory owner can also provide much better descriptions than search engine snippets typically do.

Agreed, in some instances. Sadly, the out-of-date entries can make matters worse, and no directory is 100% accurate.

As it happened, since my earlier post, I spend some time looking for directories, and, although many are difficult to fine, mainly because the search engines don't want to list them, a good number were pretty weak and feeble, and were little more than an entry with lots of ads. A number of directories didn't even have a direct link to the site in the listing.

Anyone considering a directory will have to ensure it's up-to-date, and adds value to a listing.
3:00 pm on July 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Speaking from experience ...

These days I would discourage anyone from trying to start a new directory unless the topic is something you're passionate about and you'd be willing to work on it for love not money.

A good directory takes a lot of work but there's just not the profit in it that there used to be.
7:53 pm on July 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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a well-designed and well-maintained directory is likely to be much more informative and useful than a search engine list. A directory owner can weed out the bad sites that a search engine might include.

One thing to remember is that a directory is usually about sites, while a search engine is nearly always about pages. Each has its advantages and shortcomings, and each serves a different purpose.

In theory, directories should continue to be useful, but theory and practice are two different things.
3:56 am on July 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm actually surprised directories still exist. I had thought their day had long gone with the turn of the century and the advent of Mr. Google.

If people find them useful then that is great if they still fulfil a need - though I certainly would not be investing good money in buying one.

Then again, I have never purchased a business, I have always started my own. Non tax deductible Goodwill always paid for a lot of tax deductible advertising and promotion.
11:32 am on July 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@EditorialGuy

I have to disagree, good directory is neither about page nor website. It is about the product. All the travel/review pages with hotels, they are nothing else then a directories with products: Hotels. Hotels do not need their own pages/sites as the directories brings them enough clients.

To hold a directory is very hard, but it is not impossible. The problem is that all the directory-wanna-be people together with Google creates a bad picture for them. When in fact are really good. In any search engine you will be not able to compare two products as each of their sites will be different, the information will be hidden somewhere else etc. Each time you visit the page from Google it looks different, have other structure etc. means you have to learn each time the website to even start to compare two products with each other. Directory on the other hand has always same structure, once learned you can easy compare the products you want.

Most important for a directory is to be up to date with freash information as many people before already have said but I do believe that directories are far better (specific for niche) then any search engine.

Point is from company perspective of any search engine, they will try to remove/destroy them as they are their concurrence.
1:09 pm on July 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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No I find good directories which also have reviews a lot more usefull than cruddy google for finding good wholesalers.
2:40 pm on July 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have to disagree, good directory is neither about page nor website. It is about the product. All the travel/review pages with hotels, they are nothing else then a directories with products: Hotels.

Sure, and the Bible is just a directory of verses, if you use a concordance as your entry point.

Getting back on track, the question posed by this thread's subject line is "Are directories dead in 2016"? As with most such questions, the answer is "It depends" (on the directory, on your definition of a directory, on whether you're talking about publishing revenue or SEO value, etc.).
6:53 pm on July 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Tangor:
>>A directory to have value must have value of some kind.

Buckworks:
>>discourage anyone from trying to start a new directory

These are the heads and tails of the problem. There are several directories we pay a few hundred dollars a year to participate in. The links are all UTM tagged and if at the end of the year they return leads or transactions (in some cases we can only truly track leads) for a reasonable amount of money, then we resubscribe.

But, we are constantly being pitched on new directories that have very few listings and clearly don't have the critical mass to make it worth managing (leaving aside whether or not they are asking for payment). In some cases, we give them a try and in most of those cases we find that they deliver no traffic.

In other cases, they have set up a system that makes it hard to actually track referrals.

So assuming you have niche that does not already have a really good directory, plan for a long, multi-year uphill slog and make sure you set it up so that if you do return value, there's a way to measure it. And if you are in a niche that already has two good directories that most people are listed in, ask yourself what it would take to motivate you to manage yet another listing?
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