Search 101: Understanding Directories

The majority of Internet users are familiar with the idea of Internet search engines and use them almost daily as they navigate their way around the Web. Internet directories on the other hand are often overlooked, misunderstood and under appreciated by searchers looking for just the right site. Often mistaken for search engines, because users can conduct searches of the sites listed on them, directories are actually databases of hand selected and human reviewed sites that have been arranged into a hierarchy of topical categories.

Popular directories serve as excellent starting points for navigating the Internet. Even search engines themselves view directories as valuable starting points, sending their spiders to the directories to get started on their journey through the Internet. By starting at a directory, a search engine is able to find high quality, hand selected sites to add to their database. The search engines then “follow” the links on those sites to find a second set of sites, and so on and so forth as they journey their way through the Internet.

Humans visit directories for a number of reasons. Directories tend to display high quality sites that have been pre-screened by a human editor. Editors check to make sure that a site is active, that a site contains unique content, that it is not under construction, and that visitors can actually find their way around it. Sites that crash browsers, contain no content, or are simply duplicates of other sites are rarely listed in directories, therefore, searchers can click on a listing and be assured that the Web site they visit will likely be of reasonable quality.

Directories are also useful for the structure they give to the Internet. Searchers that are looking for a business or organization in their region often have a difficult time locating a site via a search engine. A directory on the other hand nearly always contains regional categories that can be easily browsed. A searcher looking for a real estate agent in their area of the country can locate multiple, relevant listings without having to sort through page after page of search engine results.

Users that are searching for a variety of sites on the same topic will also find directories helpful. In additional to regional categories, directories are organized topically. Using your favorite search engine to look for Web sites about classic TV shows may turn up thousands, or even tens of thousands of listings that you’ll need to carefully sort through, visit and reject as you look for the site that has exactly what you need. Browsing a directory on the other hand, will provide you with a list of pre-screened, human selected Web sites that cover the exact topic you are looking for. Better yet, the descriptions assigned to the listings have been screened for accuracy and were written by editors, not marketers.

Find out more about search directories in Search 101.


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