They were supposed to be the next incubator for Internet millionaires. People were spending thousands of dollars a month on promoting the business, general, and niche web directories. Then suddenly Google, and probably other search engines, wielded their might and changed the entire scenario.
This, certainly, knocked the wind out of people who were considering making a living from selling listings. But, in the long run, this is a good thing and the best directories will actually emerge stronger, some day. Let us try to understand this.
The first type of directory person is one who sees it as much more than a phone book for the web. This person will develop unique content, arrange for intuitive navigation, create customized and relevant category structure, offer multiple and well thought out payment options and plans. On the other hand is the fly by night owner who will take a basic script and make a little noise and get paid entries and then just let the site languish.
In the gold rush period, there was significant in-breeding by directory owners paying each other for listings. So, what you had to do was make a directory, make some noise on some popular webmaster forums, and then have all your competitors rush and buy listings. And once that gravy train reached its station, you start all over again.
Not surprisingly, recent market participants started believing their good luck was actually as result of business acumen. They somehow start thinking that there is serious merit in buying a listing for four figures in a bid based directory site.
Manipulating search results as the sole purpose of a directory listing is a thing of the past. With major search engines targeting paid links, it is tough to gain much link benefit. Certainly not four figures worth. But I am unwilling to acknowledge that there is nothing other than link juice to be gained from a listing.
The traffic that directories can redirect to listed sites is not insignificant. For tiny sites this might not amount to much. But when you are a serious webmaster, this makes all the difference. Then come to think of it, these sites that are sending me traffic account for less than 1% of the total number of similar sites that have listed me, one way or another.
So that is it!. The secret is that only the best of directories will survive. But that one will certainly survive. And is that not what we want?
non-listing revenue will be a big driver for this industry. That means that some of them might actually see submissions as a way to enhance the editorial and content quality of their sites. On the whole, I think that all of this is positive.