Human Edited Directories vs Google

I am looking at Curlie.org, which is the continuation of the human edited Open Directory Project (dmoz.org), and my conclusion remains the same: unfortunately, big static meta directories are obsolete for daily web search.  It pains me to say that because I was a directory owner for many years.

Google has the Curlie’s of the web beat on every point save one big issue: Quality.  A good human editor can say, “this site is quality on the subject, and it deserves to be listed and it deserves to be found.” It’s a bit like a librarian recommending a book: you know it’s going to be on topic and probably pretty good.

The Limits of Google

Google can’t do that.  Google can really only measure, popularity and that is not quality.  Despite all the 200 Plus ranking factors Google claims it still can’t distinguish quality.  You can have authorrank, pagerank, domain authority, encryption, mobile friendly, metatags, title tags, on page factors but they still can’t tell you that one page is brilliantly written and the other not so much.

Theoretically, the brilliantly written page will eventually gain more links back, more notice, but how long do you have to wait: months, years?

We first discussed this back in 2000 on the old Searchking.com forums, and even though Google has improved in so many ways, that central fact remains true.

Does it Matter?

Well actually, it can.  When Google was young, it used listing in dmoz.org as a factor in it’s ranking calculations.  Pages listed in the directory got into Google’s index a bit quicker as well.  There is no reason a new search engine cannot do the same.  I’m making these numbers up, but let’s say Curlie has 4 million URL’s listed. While 4 million is small in search engine terms, it still helps identify the cream and in effect say - “These are the ‘warhorses.’”

Old School

Of course there is the old school (Web 1.0) way of incorporating a large meta directory into your Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs): include  those directory category breadcrumb links that might match the search query into either the top or the bottom of your SERP.  It’s not very satisfying to the searcher, but it can help as a stopgap.  Yahoo did this with their directory, NBCi did it with theirs and (old) HotBot, Lycos did it with domoz.org.  A user preference switch to turn that feature on and off might work.

Anyway, the answer is yes, human edited directories can still have value if they are used right. A fountain pen is a perfectly good writing instrument, we just don’t use them much everyday for writing.

Feel free to tell me what uses am I not seeing.

Brad Enslen - Thoughts from my stylish, mysterious, perilous mind. @bradenslen

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