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Are Directory-type Sites' Days Numbered in Google Search Results?
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
We have seen a lot of change with Google over the past few years and especially in recent months with the various algorithm updates and such.  Fact:  Since the roll-out of Caffeine, Google results have not been the same.  Google Caffeine was supposed to improve results within their index... I'm not sure if this has happened yet.  One thing is for sure, Google's index grew by massive proportions and as a result we are seeing a lot of questionable results rising to the top for various search queries.  However Google is aware of this, which might explain the various algo updates we have seen in the past year.

There have been some other changes with Google's results pages that have had a significant impact on directory-type sites.  Last August, Google reported that they were beginning to show multiple results from a single domain for branded type queries.   This was in addition to the Vince Update as well as another update that appeared to occur in October of last year where preferential treatment was given to brands.  Try a search for "pizza hut" or for a brand that is of interest to you.  How many results do you see for that brand's domain?

What this has done is force other sites off of the first page of Google's search results thereby decreasing traffic to these sites by, in some cases, a substantial amount.  It was no coincidence that a lot of these sites were directory type sites.  Of course being found on the second page of results dramatically reduces click through rates so a lot of traffic shifted to these brands.  As a searcher, I'm not so sure this is a good thing.  I mean don't get me wrong as there are a ton of poor quality directories out there and as far as I'm concerned these directories should be banished to the purgatory of search results, but there are some great directories out there.  Directories that are useful in finding information that we, as users are looking for.  But here is the thing, wouldn't you say that Google is the ultimate directory?  Directory-type sites are competition for Google.  Why would Google rank a directories' results, specifically their search results within Google results?  Google as a search engine is still the dominant force so why would they present results from a directory within their top search results?  The answer is they simply won't.  Factor in things such as Google Places and other Google properties that have gained prominence within their own search results.  The days of directories may be numbered.  Of course there will be exceptions to the rule.  Sites such as urbanspoon, yelp, superpages, or yellowpages may continue to show up in Google's search results but the question is for how long?

Some of these directory sites are great resources.  As a searcher, I use a number of them and I use a number of their apps (see Yelp, UrbanSpoon).  So depending on the query that I use to find local information or to find business information, these sites may in fact be a better resources than what Google is presenting in their search results.  Having said that for other brand type queries, I would rather not see directory listings but see the actual brand.  I'm just not sure if 80% of the results need to be from that brand's domain.  Maybe I would like to see some reviews or check out their Twitter stream or visit their YouTube channel, or in some cases a result from Yelp might not be a bad thing.  Google you just need to show the best results for my query.  That is all I ask.  If not I will frequent other channels that will present me with the information that I am looking for.  I'll probably be doing this via a mobile device or perhaps via a tablet, or through my TV.  Google, I need you to improve your search results.  In some cases removing directory-type sites might be part of the solution, for other queries it might not make sense to do this.  Overall, I think that days are numbered for small, low quality and frankly useless directories.

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posted by Jody @ 8:56 PM  
  • At 8:59 AM, Blogger Rob said…

    I agree there are many useless directories but also many useful ones. So how do you distinguish the "good" from the "bad"?

    I think Panda did some of that - but not enough, which leads to my second point - one you also made in your article - why do sites like yellowpages rank highly? Especially when it's category listings - it's like you said - its a directory (or search result) within a search result. Google has said all along they want to remove sites that only display search results from their search results, yet that is exactly what yellowpages, superpages, 411, canpages are all about - getting people to their list of businesses. And as everyone knows -the ones at the tops of their pages pay for it, so now the bias that google removed is back.

    I think google needs to deal with yellowpages somehow - maybe move them down or off the first page and let better sites rise up

  • At 6:34 AM, Anonymous Nick Stamoulis said…

    There has been debate about whether or not directory submissions are still effective for SEO. The answer is yes, however that is only if the directory is of good quality and if it's only one part of a link building strategy. If you rely only on directory links, you're right- you will probably be in trouble.

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