I always have thought web directories should have backfill from a search engine when you search them.  Especially, general directories.

Yahoo (dubbed “Mighty Yahoo”) was the first directory to add a backfill provider on it’s search results. First Alta Vista, then Inktomi, then Google, then Inktomi again provided backfill results for Y!.  Snap/NBCi directory had backfill and so did Looksmart.

How backfill worked was somebody would search the directory, when the directory ran out of listings that matched the query, you would see search results from the backfill provider.  (Being Mighty Yahoo’s backfill provider cemented Google’s reputation and proved to be one of the biggest mistakes Yahoo ever made.)  What was important is the search portal needed to provide something in a search that would satisfy the person searching, otherwise they would start going elsewhere. And they could go elsewhere because there was genuine competition in web search back then.

It gets harder for niche directories.  For example: if you go to a Star Trek niche directory and search for “uniforms” it is assumed you are only going to get uniform sites that are related to Star Trek.  In this instance you don’t want a general backfill giving results for police uniforms or nurses uniforms.

For backfill to work on a niche subject directory you almost need a place to put in an extra search “slug” to bring it into context.  So in our example, you need to have a place in your admin panel to add “star trek” as a term to the backfill.  So that somebody searching for uniforms on your Star Trek directory are automatically searching for “star trek uniforms” on the backfill.  The “star trek” is always added to the backfill.

It gets even harder for a local or geographic directory.  Frankly I think backfill should not be used with a local directory.

I did some looking around, Google and Bing are way too expensive to get a search feed from.  Smaller engines like Mojeek.com (or Mojeek.co.uk) or Gigablast.com provide search results API’s.  Both are affordable, but Gigablast’s is really really affordable.

Of course, I don’t know how to actually code this.  That’s what coders are for.  😀

But the trick here is this:

  • The more listings you get in your directory the more users will use the search function.
  • You have to have a search function.
  • No matter how sophisticated your directory search is, you have a finite amount of listings.
  • Mobile devices make the search function even more important.
  • This is why most will need backfill.

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