A web directory is a database of websites, arranged in such a way that they facilitate navigation. These links to web addresses are classified according to specific criteria, such as alphabetical order. This helps users search for information in a specific way. Before search engines appeared, web directories were the only way to search for websites on the internet.
How a Web Directory Works
A web directory organizes websites by topic and is usually managed by humans rather than software. A search engine searches sites organized into a series of categories and menus. These collections of links are generally much smaller than search engine databases, as the sites are viewed by human eyes rather than spiders.
There are two ways for sites to be listed in a web directory, either when the website owner submits the site by hand, or when the directory editor comes across that site and decides to list it.
The registration in search engines in SEO
Web directories were long ago one of the main strategies to promote a website, since they were a relatively simple way to get links to a page to reinforce its positioning. However, after the arrival of the changes in the Google algorithm with Panda and Penguin, the Indiscriminate high in directories is a discouraged practice that can have very harmful negative effects on positioning SEO,since, while the presence in thematic and quality directories is not harmful, many of them are considered as link farms. That is why, currently, one of the first tasks that are addressed when starting an SEO project is a link audit to detect harmful links.
The History of Web Directories
With the growth of the Internet and the proliferation of web pages, which grew exponentially, a tool became necessary to group and order all this information. In this way the figure of web directoriesemerged, gigantic databases that thanks to their great utility quickly became popular.
It was from 1995 when some of the most important web directories, such as Yahoo! or DMOZ,were founded and began their growth. During this five years, web directories were undisputed kings of the Internet, however, with the arrival of search engines, the operation of the Internet changed radically.
The appearance of search engines,led by Google, propitiated that the use of web directories as search methods for web pages was progressively becoming disused. However, during the first years of Google it encouraged the use of directories as a positioning tool in the search engine. The result was the proliferation of a massive link building that multiplied the number of directories, causing a loss of value for the user since these did not focus on generating quality content.
To solve this problem Google decided to punish this type of practice with the launch in 2012 of Google Penguin, a powerful update of its logarithm that marked the beginning of the end of web directories. From this moment, these were declining and losing millions of users, with many currently closed their doors (the last DMOZ in 2017).
Types of Web Directories
We can classify web directories in different ways according to their typology:
- According to the cost: si these allow us to include the link to our website without any cost, we will talk about free directories,if on the contrary it is necessary to pay to register our website we will refer to paid directories. The latter are usually much more beneficial for SEO as a general rule, since they are less saturated and transmit greater authority, while with free ones the opposite happens in many and can even be as webspam issuers. There is a variant within the payment directories known as bid directories in which this payment method is used to define the visibility that our website will have within the directory.
- According to the correspondence: there are numerous directories that are free, but in exchange for including our website they demand in return a link to it, which is known as reciprocal directories,normally these are more relevant than free non-reciprocaldirectories.
- According to the geographical area: if it is a web directory that includes only web pages from a certain geographical region, we are talking about a local directory,if it does not have any type of geographical limitation it is a global directory.
- According to the specialization: if it is a directory that is not specialized in any specific topic, it is called a general directory, when if it is it is a thematic directory. Thematic directories are as varied as disciplines exist and we can find directories of sports, news, health, technology, shopping, etc … Within the thematic directories we can highlight the academic directories that focus on certain subjects as support for research or teaching.
Advantages and disadvantages of Web Directories
Among the main advantages and disadvantages of web directories, we find:
- You may transmit some authority to our website.
- They include descriptions of the websites.
- They present the classified information.
- They organize websites by theme.
- They bring visibility to our website.
As for the disadvantages of web directories, we can highlight:
- In the vast majority of cases they do not represent a significant benefit for the increase in traffic on our website.
- They are not usually updated too often.
- Their databases are much smaller than those of search engines.
- The descriptions they provide about websites are usually quite generalist and do not offer too detailed information.
- Many of them are in disuse.
Main Web Directories
Although many of the most notorious web directories have fallen into disuse, it is worth mentioning some of the most prominent:
- DMOZ:Born in 1998 as a global collaborative project, this directory that closed its doors in 2017 was one of the most successful with more than 5 million links to websites and almost 100,000 collaborators.
- Yahoo: Originally conceived as a web directory, the brand expanded rapidly by opening a web portal and becoming the most popular search engine in the late 90s and early twenty-first century.
- Hotfrog: this is one of the most popular free online directories, aimed at business profiles.