Directories - What the Web Should Be

June 14th, 2007 | Categories: SEO, marketing, markets, networks, search, social media, strategy

Directory structureI know I rant about certain topics to no end, but there are certain things I feel passionate about. The semantic web is one of them. I glorify links and a static web. I’m boring and lame. Call me Mr. Web 1.0. Having said that, I focus on simplicity and a stream-lined user experience. Practicality and logic are two ideals that I admire when perusing a site.

Directories are a great business model. They have a built-in:

  • revenue model (i.e. premium listing)
  • marketing mechanism (i.e. SEO)

The hierarchical nature of the system makes it easy for users to find what they are looking for. Furthermore, this set-up also facilitates search engine crawling, ensuring that all pages are indexed.

Directories fulfill all the requirements of a site well-optimized for search engines. Page titles, URLs (in many cases), META tags, headers, page content, and anchor text are all well-described by default.

Directories are also ideal for anything ‘local’. Regional sites have proven the model. The YellowPages and online classified ad sites, like Craigslist, function much in the same way. They are useful to the non-techie and provide offline value.

I find directories to be similar to forums and discussion boards from a user-participation stand-point. They both rely highly on social media and “crowd-sourcing” to aggregate content and data. Users and site visitors are submitting info to add value to the site or discussion, or to provide exposure for a given cause. In any case, the directory ’system’ takes care of the work, leaving little human labour to deal with site functionality. This allows the site to scale with very little additional manpower or resources needed. It is automatic.

So next time you’re conjuring up an idea for a web business, forget the ’sexy’ social networks and web 2.0 hype. Think simple, think straight-forward, think directories.


  1. Elijah Says:

    Hi Aidan, been reading your work for a while now, but haven’t commented. So, hello! =)

    Being someone who grew up in the pre-web 2.0 era (even now I’ll state I dislike the term) of static pages and directories, I entirely agree. It seems more and more new startups are attempting to follow web 2.0 trends, especially in the social realm; ie, social bookmarking, Digg-clones, etc.

    I visit several forums - this alone gives me plenty of usernames to deal with. Often I have no interest in chatting with other users of a page, but in certain cases this is necessary for full access to content, or it *is* the content. I have enough in my inbox, let alone personal projects - there isn’t enough time in the day to keep up with the hordes of web 2.0 pages.

    The only point that I disagree with on this post is the following statement: “I glorify links and a static web. I’m boring and lame. Call me Mr. Web 1.0.”

    Well, honestly, I find nothing boring or lame about well structured, here-is-the-info style pages. When I need to know a bit of information, I could care less if it’s Caturday.

    Excellent blog, Aidan. Keep up the good work, I’m looking forward to reading more of it.

  2. Aidan Says:


    Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. It’s refreshing to know that others think along the same line.


  3. John Kenney Says:

    Hi Aidan:

    I came to your site via TC and your comment on SimpleSpark and liked your post above. I share your views about organized data and the built in revenue and SEO benefits of directories. I also share the sense that directories are very web 1.0, if even that.

    I’m in the middle of planning a new online directory for a specific B2B sector that’s very web centric. I’ve been hunting around for good web 2.0 directory examples and likewise thought SimpleSpark seemed to have a good handle on it. There are others, but surprisingly most directories look very dated even if they’ve only been around for a few years.

    So I have a question is, what software/platform is best to create a great web 2.0 directory? Is there something open source that I can use? Do CMS’s like Joomla/Drupal support them? Can you do them in WordPress? Or do you just build them out in PHP/AJAX/MySQL?

    Any thoughts would be welcome and appreciated. Feel free to email me directly if you prefer.


  4. Talgat Says:

    Hello, it is a great post but I’ve never heard before that “directory” means old, static, and so on.
    Where can I read about it? I’ve developed a shopping directory which combines whatever I hear these days,
    and will be organically accommodating just whatever in future. Please have a look at I would appreciate if you could point me at where it is missing Web-2 (because i do not know what it is, really). Thanks!

  5. Aidan Says:

    Hey Talgat,

    Nowhere in particular is it mentioned that directories are unsexy, old, static, lame, and web 1.0. This is simply the feeling I get from the overall mindset of a new-age web user. Directories are great. I love them. I totally think that they should be integrated into the ‘web 2.0 mindset’. But crossing this threshold is one heck of a challenge.


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