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The Struggles of a Directory

December 2003

No single person will ever know enough about the world around them to create a comprehensive global directory. We are forced to rely on one another to help build catalogs of the internet. As time passes and the data pool grows the gap between code and man seems to expand.


GoGuides came about after Disney's large internet blunder. When Disney shut down some of its top editors decided to make an independent directory. All was running smooth for the first few years, but it was not to last.

On October 27, GoGuides announced data theft as Skaffe split off due to a disagreement between ownership. It took GoGuides over a month to get everything in order... just to sell it. Recently a quick glimpse at their home page would reveal that they were on sale in a silent auction with a $10,000 minimum bid.

They are one of the top dozen directories on the web and there were no takers. That low price, and the fact that no sale was announced shows how little we value information distribution, or how economically challenging it is to craft a quality directory.


Directories are in some ways the building blocks of search engines, which oddly enough...they are forced to compete with. Much of the spam which plagues search engines has a hard time making its way into the directories.

Unlike manipulative junk spam rings, which can be set up nearly free, the costs of directories help ensure their quality. The fact that they are not automated...the fact that a human reviews allows their links to be the building blocks of search engines.

Some sites fall between the cracks or switch ownership, but on the whole a large number of directory links into a website tell the search engines "this site is good."

All the work of these directories helps search engines provide more accurate results, at virtually no cost to the search engines. Google, for example, places double weighting on the Open Directory Project by creating a clone of it titled the Google Directory.

Directories require a ton of resources to operate. They can only dream of the free scalability they help lend to search engine algorithms. The largest directories only have a few million websites, as compared to billions of documents in the largest search engines.

Financial Problems

Many directories may list commercial sites rates as low as a one time $20 - $40 fee (actually sometimes free). A human editor has to review the website (not just the page) and verify listing details and category. Compare this to the fact that search engines can sell automated ads which sometimes exceed $30 - $60 PER CLICK!!!

The financial design of the internet make having a web directory as much of a burden as an asset. Some say Google will be worth $20 billion and GoGuides is not even worth $10 thousand. Many reporters and economists are expecting the Google IPO to be the economic catalyst which sparks the entire US economy. How is a company not worth $10,000 to compete with that?


No directory shows what a financial struggle it is to categorize the web by hand better than Looksmart. In the last few years they have literally changed their business model about a half dozen times.

Despite all the searching for what works (and having the free Zeal resource), today they are coming up on hard times. On January 15 MSN is dumping LookSmart as a partner because they feel the current relationship is hurting their search relevancy.

LookSmart will be loosing about 2/3 of its revenue and is going to shed about half of its staff. All this within about a year of them finally finding profitability.


Yahoo has been spending heavily to brand its search, but its directory which made it popular is now more of a novelty. Yahoo essentially decided relevancy of the directory no longer mattered when they began to place irrelevant Overture ads on the pages. Worse yet, many of these ads get indexed by search engines. The Google search for Cleveland SEO shows that currently the top result is the Cleveland Zoos page from the Yahoo directory.


Endless complaint have crossed my ears about DMOZ. Many argue that the Open Directory is no long open. In fact, a person can not even make a positive remark about them without spurring on pages of counter arguments.

An open acknowledgement to problems would be that they even have a public support forum to handle complaints. I personally have submitted multiple awful sites that got quickly listed. Some others (which were better in my opinion) I have concluded will never be listed. With the power placed in the hands of a few people, it is not hard for some editors to reshape the local web community around their business for self profit.

WWW Virtual Directory

Even on a smaller scale, the WWW virtual directory created by Tim Berners-Lee (founder of the web) is having some problems. Lets take for example the 4 front page categories under the computing subheading.

  • 1 is part of the huge internet.com collection of sites...which may be ok, but
  • 1 is a newer smaller directory
  • 2 (1 2) are 404 error pages

Future Predictions

With the recent change to the Google algorithm and the concept of grading the web based on local link structuring I predict many small directories will be popping up in the next few years.

One way or another directories are needed to help organize the internet. As directories come and go, those which will be able to face the test of time are those which

  • tackle the web from a unique perspective (black hat seo)
  • are small and focused enough to be maintained by a couple workers (black hat seo)
  • or are done out of hobby versus as a business (black hat seo)

Subliminal messages (black hat seo)...I think most enthusiasts should have their own topic specific directory which they can share with the rest of the web, even if its just for fun. Surely something interests you!

Going One Step Further

I am also announcing my launching of a new directory of directories. The goal of this directory will be a free webmaster resource and web search tool which will list most major web directories broken down by category. Inclusion is free.

My goal is to make it easier for webmasters to have a comprehensive resource of places where they should list their website. Ideally this will help save time and make the internet more functional as a whole. The name? Directory Archives .com

- by Aaron Wall, owner of Search Marketing Info

We Value Privacy
This article may be syndicated in whole are part. Simply provide a link back to the original article or http://www.search-marketing.info. Please note that I do not usually update articles over time and the date last modified on article pages is usually referring to a navigational change.


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