The Directory Listing Advantage

Internet directories have become very popular search tools. There’s an advantage to being listed in a directory versus a search engine because directory listings are created by human editors from manual submissions. This eliminates the redundancies caused by automatic software submissions. But the major reason why directory listings are so valuable today is that they power so many other indices and portals. So it’s important to make directory listings a part of your search engine optimization plan.

Directories are also important because they get major traffic. Yahoo is the number-one global web site. Its web properties were visited by more than half of “active Internet users” in eight countries as measured by Nielsen/NetRatings in June, making it the leading global property. Nielsen/NetRatings’ international report on web use indicated that Yahoo drew 67.8 million visitors in June (followed by AOL’s sites with 57.2 million, MSN with 47.8 million, Microsoft sites with 39.7 million, and Lycos with 31.1 million). The most popular category of web sites was search engines and portals, drawing usage by 90 percent of web surfers.

A directory that is commonly overlooked yet powers many other databases is the Open Directory Project (ODP), a volunteer index of web site listings. It has several hundred conduits or downstream licensees, including Netscape, AOL, Google, and Lycos, which all use ODP data.

Open Directory does not rank sites in the same way as a search engine ranks sites; it is a cross between a reference library and the yellow pages. Volunteers are put in charge of a category and edit all sites submitted to that category. Actually, you can volunteer to work the directory under a relevant category to ensure your site gets in. As long as you don’t abuse your position, you can submit your site to your category, but you will be expected to do the work of a volunteer.

AT&T WorldNet Service, the largest pure ISP in the United States, uses ODP data on its member portal. Direct Hit applies Direct Hit technology to sites in the Open Directory. Google, a very popular search engine with many features, uses ODP. HotBot makes use of almost all Open Directory content in its directory section. Lycos, an international web portal with news, shopping, entertainment, music, and clubs, uses ODP. Northern Light, another popular search engine, uses ODP, as does Infoseek (GO.com).

LookSmart, a Media Metrix Top 50 web property, is also a powerful directory, providing web directories for Microsoft Network, AltaVista, Excite AtHome, Time Warner, and more than 370 ISPs. Snap references its Live Directory for secondary listings. Together with ODP and Yahoo, these directories bring many benefits to those properly listed in their databases.

One thing to remember when listing in directories is that the editors decide what appears as the title and description. They expect, and may insist, that your submitted title be the same as the actual page title and that it be short and accurate. Don’t try to spam the Open Directory, Yahoo, or any other directory because sooner or later, you will run into strong resistance.

Your best strategy is to include a short and accurate meta-description on each page, and submit that to the directory as your description. The description should be clear and concise, honest, objective, and descriptive. If you submit a description that reads like a leader ad, editors won’t use it, and they may end up writing their own.

Another key is to make sure you submit to the most suitable or appropriate category. Take time to browse and check that you really understand the category structure at the directory. Make sure you find the best category section in which you want your site to appear. If you can’t take the necessary time to do this, don’t expect the editors to do it for you.

It’s a good idea to search all the keywords that describe your site to find the categories where other sites similar to yours are listed, then consider submitting your site in these categories. For instance, if you offer health insurance, perform a search for the term “health insurance.” As you search in a directory, you will eventually drill into a results section and find web sites similar to your health insurance site. Take note of the categories and submit your site in the specific categories you’ve determined to be consistent and appropriate to your business offering.

Yahoo offers a business express listing service. For $199 you can submit your site, and Yahoo will get back to you in seven days letting you know whether or not it will list your site. It’s a small price to pay to get into a directory with as much traffic as this global leader.

LookSmart has a similar program for $199, and its rankings are incredibly valuable. LookSmart licenses its content to engines such as Dogpile, Go2Net, and all the portals and ISPs mentioned above.

Lastly, before you submit, read the ODP guidelines at http://dmoz.org/add.html and the “How to Suggest Your Site” at Yahoo at http://docs.yahoo.com/info/suggest/. These resources along with the above suggestions will provide you with everything you need to submit properly to the popular directories.

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