17 July 2009

Web Directories and Specialized Search Engines

SEO experts spend most of their time optimizing for Google and occasionally one or two other search engines. There is nothing wrong in it and it is most logical, having in mind that topping Google is the lion's share in Web popularity but very often, no matter what you do, topping Google does not happen. Or sometimes, the price you need to pay (not literally but in terms of effort and time) to top Google and keep there is too high. Maybe we should mention here the ultimate SEO nightmare – being banned from Google, when you simply can't use Google (or not at least until you are readmitted to the club) and no matter if you like it or not, you need to have a look about possible alternatives.

What are Google Alternatives
The first alternative to Google is obvious – optimize for the other major search engines, if you have not done it already. Yahoo! and MSN (to a lesser degree) can bring you enough visitors, though sometimes it is virtually impossible to optimize for the three of them at the same time because of the differences in their algorithms. You could also optimize your site for (or at least submit to) some of the other search engines (Lycos, Excite, Netscape, etc.) but having in mind that they altogether hardly have over 3-5% of the Web search traffic, do not expect much.

Another alternative is to submit to search directories (also known as Web directories) and specialized search engines. Search directories might sound so pre-Google but submitting to the right directories might prove better than optimizing for MSN, for example. Specialized search engines and portals have the advantage that the audience they attract consists of people who are interested in a particular topic and if this is your topic, you can get to your target audience directly. It is true that specialized search engines will not bring you as many visitors, as if you were topping Google but the quality of these visitors is extremely high.

Naming all Google alternatives would be a long list and it is outside the scope of this article but just to be a little more precise about what alternatives exist, we cannot skip SEO instruments like posting to blogs and forums or paid advertisements.

"Web Directories"
What is a Web Directory?
Web directories (or as they are better known – search directories) existed before the search engines, especially Google, became popular. As the name implies, web directories are directories where different resources are gathered. Similarly to desktop directories, where you gather files in a directory based on some criterion, Web directories are just enormous collections of links to sites, arranged in different categories. The sites in a Web directory are listed in some order (most often alphabetic but it is not necessarily so) and users browse through them.

Although many Web directories offer a search functionality of some kind (otherwise it will be impossible to browse thousands of pages for let's say Computers), search directories are fundamentally different from search engines in the two ways – most directories are edited by humans and URLs are not gathered automatically by spiders but submitted by site owners. The main advantage of Web directories is that no matter how clever spiders become, when there is a human to view and check the pages, there is a lesser chance that pages will be classified in the wrong categories. The disadvantages of the first difference are that the lists in web directories are sometimes outdated, if no human was available to do the editing and checking for some time (but this is not that bad because search engines also deliver pages that do not exist anymore) and that sometimes you might have to wait half an year before being included in a search directory.

The second difference – no spiders – means that you must go and submit your URL to the search directory, rather than sit and wait for the spider to come to your site. Fortunately, this is done only once for each directory, so it is not that bad.

Once you are included in a particular directory, in most cases you can stay there as long as you wish to and wait for people (and search engines) to find you. The fact that a link to your site appears in a respectable Web directory is good because first, it is a backlink and second, you increase your visibility for spiders, which in turn raises your chance to be indexed by them.

Examples of Web Directories
There are hundreds and thousands of search directories but undoubtedly the most popular one is DMOZ. It is a general purpose search directory and it accepts links to all kinds of sites. Other popular general-purpose search directories are Google Directory and Yahoo! Directory. The Best of the Web is one of the oldest Web directories and it still keeps to high standards in selecting sites.
Besides general-purpose Web directories, there are incredibly many topical ones. For instance, the The Environment Directory
lists links to environmental sites only, while The Radio Directory lists thousands of radio stations worldwide, arranged by country, format, etc. There are also many local and national Web directories, which accept links to sites about a particular region or country only and which can be great if your site is targeted at local and national audience only. You see, it is not possible to mention even the topics of specialized search directories only because the list will get incredibly long. Using Google and specialized search resources like The Search Engines Directory, you can find on your own many directories that are related to your area of interest.

Specialized Search Engines

What is a Specialized Search Engine?
Specialized search engines are one more tool to include in your SEO arsenal. Unlike general-purpose search engines, specialized search engines index pages for particular topics only and very often there are many pages that cannot be found in general-purpose search engines but only in specialized ones. Some of the specialized search engines are huge sites that actually host the resources they link to, or used to be search directories but have evolved to include links not only to sites that were submitted to them. There are many specialized search engines for every imaginable topic and it is always wise to be aware of the specialized search engines for your niche. The examples in the next section are by no means a full list of specialized search engines but are aimed to give you the idea of what is available. If you search harder on the Web, you will find many more resources.

Examples of Specialized Search Engines

Probably specialized search engines are not that numeric as Web directories but still certainly there is no shortage of them either, especially if one counts password-protected sites with database accessible only from within the site as a specialized search engine. As with Web directories, if there were a list of specialized search engines it would be really, really long (and constantly changing), so instead, here are some links to lists of search engines: Pandia Powersearch, Webquest, Virtual Search Engines the already mentioned The Search Engines Directory, etc. What is common for these lists is that they offer a selection of specialized search engines, arranged by topic, so it is a good starting point for the hunt of specialized search engines.
contributed by, Abhishek SEO

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