Surviving the Search Wars ? Local Directories

The pursuit of online information has become an increasingly dynamic and competitive marketplace during the past three years. Global heavyweights such as www.google.com, www.yahoo.com, and www.msn.com are backed by massive resources, making it nearly impossible for new companies to even attempt to compete. It would seem for new start directories it is almost impossible to aim for the "catch all" approach, as there are simply bigger companies out there with larger budgets ? who are going to dominate the market for years to come. However, there are still a number of innovative directories evolving which are capable of surviving in this ultra-competitive landscape. The key to this survival is undoubtedly focusing upon a niche and making sure your site stands out from others.

When performing a web search, users have the choice between search engines and directories. Directories tend to be categorised by webmasters or a group of subject experts ? such as the directory http://dmoz.com. When using such a directory, the user has the option to either type in a word to facilitate a search through the directory listings, or they can choose a subject heading, for example "travel". After clicking on this category, users are faced with lists of several subtopics such as "hotels" which would then be further split into geographic regions, then the individual hotel names.

In contrast, a search engine uses automated programs called robots or spiders to search through its database of websites. The user types a query into a provided dialog box in the form of a keyword, or string of keywords. The search engine then uses the robots to follow links and indexes of various websites in order to form an organised list of results in the user's browser. The world's most popular search engine, Google, currently has a database of 8,058,044,651 web pages.

With this colossal searching power, it is amazing that any directories are capable of surviving against the heavyweight search engines. The solution is perhaps to avoid trying to compete in the first place. For example, if a local directory run by people familiar with an area is marketed properly, then it can offer a real service for users, as one of the main problems people have with search engines is the difficulty in finding local services relevant to them.

Usually this problem stems from a lack of understanding of how to use search engines correctly. The majority of surfers searching the web for products/services will expect to find a local supplier just by typing a generalised term, and then cannot understand why they are faced with 300,000 results ? many of which are based in a foreign country. This is where a regional directory can offer more relevant results, without the searching knowledge required to make best use of the larger directories, and hopefully provide the information the person was looking for. Instead of performing a basic search, users are guided step by step through the categories.

One new directory which is taking a very innovative approach to the market place is the-best-of.com ( http://www.thebestof.co.uk/ ) which promotes itself as a "UK directory run by local people for local people". The idea is that individual people will take control of a geographical area which they know well and provide users with their "local knowledge" on local businesses and services. Although still in its early stages, this is an example of a directory which has found a niche in terms of the service it offers and isn't trying to tackle the big global players ? a strategy which has destroyed many directories before they have even started.

It is perhaps as a result of this market gap that Google has recently launched the beta version of "Google Local". Google Local's results are a combination of using business-directory information from third-party providers and integrating it with information about individual businesses from Google's existing database of website information.

When using this new service, users type both the product they are looking for and their geographic location. Results are then displayed in three columns, including business name, address, and URL (if relevant). Clicking on the link to a business name displays a business reference page with details about the business, a map, a button to get driving directions, and Web pages related to the business found in Google's main index. The new service also offers a degree of personalisation, allowing users to specify a home location, which is stored on a cookie set by Google.

Overall, it seems that that the ways and means we search for information on the web is set to continuously evolve over the coming years. This landscape is almost certainly going to be dominated by the big players such as Google and Yahoo. However, it is clear that as long as you have a quality, comprehensive directory that doesn't cast its net too wide then it is possible to survive and even compete in this dynamic marketplace.

Resources:

http://www.thebestof.co.uk/
(Regional entertainment and information in the UK)

About Peter:

Peter Scott is a researcher for the internet marketing company Optimiser and a regular contributor to discussions on search engine marketing and directory building.

About Optimiser

For further information contact:
Peter Scott
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 0845 130 0022

In The News:

Can SEO Be Made Predictable?  Search Engine Journal
What Does It Mean to ‘Do SEO’?  Search Engine Journal
Can SEO Have a Negative Effect?  Search Engine Journal
Your inside look at SMX East  Search Engine Land
What Is Forensic SEO?  Search Engine Journal
SEO Hamilton  Search Engine People
My experience with SEO  Practical Ecommerce
7 Coding Barriers to SEO Success  Practical Ecommerce
WeWork Selling Conductor SEO Company  Search Engine Journal
7 Free SEO Plug-ins for Chrome, and 3 Extras  JumpFly PPC Advertising News
What Is a Google Penalty in SEO?  Search Engine Journal
7 Things SEO Tools Can’t Tell You  Search Engine Journal
Google Shares Top 3 SEO Factors  Search Engine Journal
The High Cost of Ignoring SEO  Practical Ecommerce

Whats the Big Hurry?

Quite often I get asked what the magic solution is... Read More

Googles Trap, DMOZs Nap, And Yahoo!s Crap

On November 16th, 2003, Google commenced an update (the Florida... Read More

Anatomy Of A Top Ranking Web page

Optimizing web pages for high rankings in the search engines... Read More

Marketing Articles: Getting A Better Search Engine Rank For All Of Your Pages!

In one of my articles, I discussed how to market... Read More

The Myth of Rankings - Beyond Search Engine Optimization

What follows is a condensed version of a conversation that... Read More

Search Engine Optimisation - Getting Targeted Traffic

Getting SEO right is an art and it's based on... Read More

Achieving Better Search Engine Optimization

The search engine giants are locked in an all out... Read More

What Is Waiting for Us? Tomorrows SEO Industry

Today, SEO is swiftly approaching saturation point. More and more... Read More

The Biggest SEO Scam of All

While there are many ethical SEO firms serving Internet users... Read More

The Google Phenomenon: Greatest Hits Collection

As my readers know, I've been one of Google's harshest... Read More

Are You A Google Junkie

Google this, Google that, Google Google Google.......My name is Debbie... Read More

No Cost Search Engine Marketing

As a matter of fact, I recommend NOT wasting money... Read More

How To Find Good Keywords

Good keywords are frequently searched for (high demand) but not... Read More

Should You Be Linking for Traffic or Rankings?

Just for a change, rather than a technical article, I... Read More

Google Love - Five Top Tips To Make Google Love Your Site

1. Google love ...Google and all its programming is not... Read More

Google Rankings ? Achieving a Top 10 Position in Google ? Part 2

Achieving a top ranking position in Google is every webmasters... Read More

Optimize your Search Engine Placement Five Easy Ways

If you are like me, you created web site metatags... Read More

Are You Hung-Up on Page Rank and Back Links?

It's unfortunate that many website owners are so hung-up on... Read More

SEO Trade Secrets - 8 Great Tools for Search Engine Optimization

About 80% of website traffic comes through search engines. And... Read More

How to Avoid Being Dropped by the Search Engines

For websites, one of the most important things in their... Read More

Google?s Siren Call ? Is It Crashing Your Search Engine Marketing?

It's difficult to dispute the rational behind the rant since... Read More

Google Adsense Optimization Tips

There are plenty of tips to help you enhance your... Read More

Does The Number Of Links On A Page Affect Ranking?

Lots of research has focused on inbound links to a... Read More

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website - Step Seven ? Website Submissions

Welcome to part seven in this ten-part search engine positioning... Read More

SEO - Google Sitemaps Explained

Once again I seem to be writing about Google. The... Read More