Find out what online directories are and how they have changed in this short Silkstream video. Randal and Ria briefly discuss the origins of them and how they have evolved with the way that people use the internet.

This video is the the first of our three-part series about online directories and the role they play in current online and search marketing practices.

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Video Transcription

What Are Online Directories?

Let’s explain what online directories are and how they are generally used.

The Oxford dictionary defines a directory as: “a book or website listing individuals or organizations alphabetically or thematically with details such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers.”

The “websites” that this definition refers to is what we mean by online directories. They exist for many reasons but those that search marketers interact with share a common goal of fulfilling some type of niche online search demand.

For example, if you wanted to find a list of people who were selling second-hand cars online then you’re likely to use a website like Auto Trader, which is a directory of second-hand car sellers.

Even Google is a website directory in its most basic form because it finds and indexes loads of websites and delivers what it believes is the most relevant web pages to answer its users’ search queries.

Business directories are another popular type of directory that had print origins but have mostly moved their efforts online to stay current. Companies like Yellow Pages and Thomson Local have online versions and there are plenty of other niche websites out there who focus on attracting people who seek for specific businesses in specific markets.

How Have They Changed?

Web directories have certainly evolved over the years to become a lot more social, in my opinion. And I don’t just mean these Twitter directories that keep popping up that look and function the same way as old-school web directories do but link to Twitter pages instead.

More than ever now, there’s an emphasis on natural links that have been legitimately earned and with the advancements of social media, website discovery is a lot more spontaneous and natural.

Rather than, I remember quite a while back, I’d use Yahoo’s directory to discover new websites within my interest. No one really does that anymore. Instead we have social bookmarking websites like Digg and Reddit, which allow for user discussion and sharing. Which is the direction in which Google have been encouraging us forward, avoiding the previous emphasis on link building and focusing more on link earning.

Like web directories, link submissions to social bookmarking sites are still categorised and sub-categorised and some still allow for sponsored listings etc. But unlike web directories, they inspire active community and become people’s choice of content rather than editor’s choice. And I think that’s what Google are pulling us towards.