Will Niche Directories Survive?

With the fast approaching Social-mobile era is a new opportunity for niche internet directories to become the preferred locations for focused content. Surprisingly this arrises from the incredible success of everyone’s favourite behemoth search engine. Now that Google has been the place to go for so long the SEO’s have polluted it by learning how to manipulate their search placement. As awareness of search manipulation increases, trust of a Google search will continue to decrease. Currently 50% of searches that are not handled well by Google are taking place on “non-search” sites like Wikipedia, Match.com or Realter.com. Another major challenge for Google search is that in a few years the majority of computing will occur on mobile devices which is currently only 1% of Google searches. Considering that already half of all the internet connected devices fit into the palm of your hand, Google is very quickly becoming much less important. So, unless Google figures out how to offer a better search experience than focused apps offer, they will be left in the dust. Meaning, niche internet directories that have achieved their traffic from occupying top placement on Google searches are at risk because there will be less searches on Google due to decreasing trust and relevance as we move into the mobile era. But that does not mean there is no opportunity for them, rather they just have to find a new way to be found…Enters social networking features.

If a niche directory can offer value for joining their community, and sharing their community and content with others, then they can become the known and trusted place to go search for that specific content.Why would I go to Google to look for a retirement home when I can go to RetirementHomes.com? Only because I don’t know that it exists. But, once I’m aware that there is such a place I won’t waste my time with Google. The challenge for a lot of directories is that people only look for what they index once in a while, like retirement homes, or schools. These are decisions that are made only a few times in someones life time. As opposed to a local restaurant directory that someone could use 3 times a day. So if your only way of gaining traffic is via Google SEO then your days are numbered. However, that challenge totally vaporizes if you can create a community of industry stakeholders that connect about and around this specific industry. Those that are regularly affected as a stakeholder could have a reason to be active in a community very often.

So how is this done?

Step #1. Continuously give stakeholders content that helps them with their challenges in the industry.

Step #2. Build a social community that connects stakeholders to each other so they can benefit from each other’s knowledge and experiences.

Step #3. Constantly offer incentive for stakeholders to bring more stakeholders into the community.

I think it’s safe to say that Google search is going to be around for a while. That said, long gone are the days that a directory can keep growing by simply occupying good search rankings. You can’t ignore the social thing anymore. What Facebook does is what users expect. If Facebook decides to put their main navigation bar along the site of page, guess what, in a short time the entire world will be used to that and then you will only benefit from doing the same. There is a reason why Google+ and now Twitter look almost identical to Facebook. So, why aren’t you creating social features? The whole world is used it… what are you waiting for?

Now, you might be asking yourself, “why would someone connect with a community on my site when they already connect with people on facebook?” To answer that question, you have to ask another… what is the purpose of Facebook? By no means do I think it’s time for you to invest in a product that competes with Facebook. That would be stupid. The social networks are created and there is no room for another Facebook competitor. Leave that feature fight for Twitter and Google+ who are trying to fulfil the same purpose as Facebook. As long as you are solving a problem that Facebook isn’t solving then there is no competition. Two websites can have identical features but if they have different purposes then there is no competition happening. Take Linkedin for example. People go there to network on a professional level. It’s an online resume, job fair, and networking event all wrapped into one and given a healthy does of steroids. It even has some very similar features to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ but none of the big three can fulfill the purpose that drives over 150,000,000+ people to Linkedin. It’s too specific for them to touch. Have you ever given someone a job reference on Facebook? Probably not because it would be totally useless, and potentially harmful to someone’s career.
If you are a niche directory you are by definition fulfilling a unique purpose and social features, if done well, will only help. Oh, ya… and make sure it is accessible on a mobile app too!