Those of us who were involved in Search early on learned a lot of good lessons from the Web’s leading human-edited and -compiled directories, including the Yahoo Directory and The Open Directory Project, also known by its URL, Dmoz.org. The Yahoo Directory held great value for me and my company for a couple of reasons:
- We got very good at creating titles and descriptions to upload to that directory’s categories so that our clients were highlighted appropriately, thus receiving more organic traffic for them and more renewals and referrals for us.
- Equally important, if not more so in the early years, @Website Publicity was listed within the Search Engine Positioning or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) category as the first listing. Every time. Without paying for the click. One can only imagine now how much qualified traffic that drove to our website and how many times it got our phones ringing. I had named the company with the @ sign as the beginning of its legal corporate name intentionally to grab that top position. It paid off for many years, introducing us to strangers who became long time clients and friends.
Now, Yahoo is letting its directory go dark. According to a recent post by Yahoo: “Yahoo was started nearly 20 years ago as a directory of websites that helped users explore the Internet. While we are still committed to connecting users with the information they’re passionate about, our business has evolved and at the end of 2014 (December 31), we will retire the Yahoo Directory.” The other human-edited directory that influenced many searches over the years is The Open Directory Project (OPD). That is still in existence, though its popularity has plunged. At one point, it allowed hundreds of smaller directories to scrape its site to build their own databases. Most of the ODP editors were volunteers: some were passionate about their work and brought great value; others were lousy, rarely checking in to update their categories and reply to submission and change requests from marketers like you and me. I was one of the volunteer editors and learned so much from the process. Today, Search is more highly automated than ever, with increasingly complex algorithms to sort through billions of pieces of content in order to match up a searcher’s query with the best results it can. I’m sure it’s a better system than the human editors who could never keep up with the explosive growth of a global Internet. But I, for one, feel some nostalgia for the two directories that helped build my business and were fascinating, if often subjective, clusters of rich information relevant to every area of our world.