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What are Web Directories?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Web directories are collections of links which are organized by topic for the convenience of people browsing the Internet looking for information and resources. Using a web directory, Internet users can find lists of websites on related topics which complement each other. For example, someone who is interested in a hobby like building dollhouses could use a web directory to find resources organized by type, such as hobbyist sites, suppliers, and so forth.

These directories are not search engines, although users can search a web directory to find the topic that they are looking for. Rather, they consist of static collections of links which are periodically updated to ensure that they are relevant and useful. Many search engines maintain supplemental web directories which users can take advantage of, with the search engine using the results of regular searches and user feedback to strengthen its web directory.

There are a number of ways in which web directories can be assembled. Some are built entirely by hand, with editors personally checking each link which is included in the directory, using submitted links as well as the results of searches. These directories can be established collaboratively, with people all over the world editing and updating the directory.

Others are built by computer, with the computer using a variety of methods to determine whether or not a link is useful, and where it should be placed. Computers can also be designed to set up weighted web directories, such as directories which allow people to pay for placement of their sites in a directory.

The organization of web directories has been a topic of debate. A directory's main page may not necessarily disclose how links are chosen, which means that people may not realize that certain links are sponsored through direct payments or link exchanges, and that more relevant links may have sunk to the bottom of the list. Failure to disclose this can bring a web directory's reputation and validity into question, as people may legitimately ask how useful the directory is when it is not neutral in nature.

Web directories can be immensely useful for quick research and information gathering, especially for users who manage to find a reputable web directory, ideally one which is primarily human-edited and which does not allow sponsored links. Users can often directly improve such directories by rating links up or down, submitting new links, or suggesting that links be recategorized.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By lonelygod — On Jul 24, 2011

@julies - I agree that learning how web directories are actually categorized can really save you a lot of time with your research.

If you are going to do any work with web directories it is a good idea to have a plan and place and to make a list of keywords you want to use for your research.

An interesting thing is that some of the largest search engines are currently disabling their web directories because they believe that a straight search is much faster. What does everyone thing? Are web directories a thing of the past, or are they just as relevant even with the big search engines available?

By MrSmirnov — On Jul 23, 2011

Getting your small business placed in the right web directories can really help you find more customers. Often web directories are set up by categories, so if you are at the top of the list for businesses that say, provide dog grooming in your area, then you are far more likely to get called first.

Often those that run web directories will sell spots through either outright fees or through a link exchange. In these cases it can really be worth making the trade or parting with some cash to get a high placement in your desired category. Just make sure the company running the web directory is legit first and don't pay for placement until you have checked them out

By julies — On Jul 22, 2011

One important thing to remember when searching through web directories or submitting your site to one is that they are organized by category.

Many time we are used to looking for something by keyword, so this can be a little confusing at first. When you are looking down a web directory list they will be organized by category, and the broad categories will be broken down into sub-categories.

Knowing this can make a difference in how effectively and quickly you can find something you are looking for.

By SarahSon — On Jul 22, 2011

There are a lot of free web directories out there where you can submit a website to. If you are going to submit your site to a large number of them, this can be a little time consuming.

I don't know how beneficial it is to be listed with a large number of web directories. I would think that getting listed with the main ones that are reliable and well known would be the most efficient use of your time.

By sunshined — On Jul 21, 2011

I can't imagine what it was like doing any kind of research without the convenience of using web directories.

The challenge is finding a reliable one that does not have a lot of sponsored links on it. Even though these are usually easy to spot and skip over, it can still be frustrating.

Many website owners will list their site with dmoz which is a free place where you can submit your site to. It is an open directory that is very comprehensive and may help your site be recognized easier.

By hamje32 — On Jul 20, 2011

@Mammmood - I think that you raise a good point.

Google, by contrast, is all automated. Of course there are people who work at Google and who review the links from time to time.

However, getting listed in Google doesn’t really require that you “submit” to them. If your web page is popular, and you have other people referring to it, Google’s algorithm will make sure that you get picked up in the search results.

Getting into Google is all about search engine optimization. I’m sure that matters in Yahoo, too, but the point is that you don’t really have to “submit” to Google.

By Mammmood — On Jul 20, 2011

I believe that Yahoo was first, though not the only, web site directory. The distinction between web directories and search engines is an important one.

Like many, I thought that Yahoo was a search engine. However, the Yahoo directory organizes information – it doesn’t just index it.

Actually, I think that they have gone to more of a search engine approach, where they use automation to link to web pages. However, real people are still involved in the Yahoo directory.

This is why if you want to submit your website to Yahoo for inclusion, you have to be prepared to wait. Someone will actually have to look at it before deciding to add it to Yahoo.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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