The Yahoo Directory

While the main results that Yahoo searchers see come from Google, Yahoo also maintains its own independent index of web pages. This index is built by human beings and called the Yahoo Directory.

Being listed with the Yahoo Directory poses advantages to site owners for three major reasons.

  1. Detour Traffic: Some searchers will "detour" from the Yahoo search results page into the Yahoo Directory via links in the Directory Category Matches section of the results page.

  2. Readability: Being listed in the Yahoo Directory can help your web site have a more legible listing in Yahoo's Web Matches results.

  3. Link Analysis Boost: Being listed in the Yahoo Directory may help your web page be seen as "important" to Google and other crawler-based search engine that depend on link analysis.

All three advantages to being listed in the Yahoo Directory will discussed further below, and the conclusion to this page will offer further advice on whether you should seek a Yahoo Directory listing, which requires payment for those listed in commercial categories. And if you do decide to submit, the Getting Listing In The Yahoo Directory page guides you through the process.

Before exploring any these issues, it's important to understand more about the Yahoo Directory itself. That means learning about Yahoo category pages, because the directory is simply everything that is shown on these pages.

Category Pages

As mentioned, Yahoo uses human beings to organize the web into what is called a directory. These human editors find web pages or review submissions, then place those pages in one or more "categories" that are relevant to them. Each category is a standalone web page, such as with the example below, which shows sites that sell stuffed toys:


Alphabetical Listings

The heart of this category page is the "Alphabetical" section, at the bottom. Any web page added to the Yahoo Directory will be listed in at least one category, alphabetically. If you sold stuffed animals, then you might be listed in the Alphabetical section of the category page shown above. If you instead had a web site about the history of toys, then you might be placed in the entirely different Toy History category, in its Alphabetical section.

This is a very important point, because people sometimes assume that because they have web pages appearing in the Web Matches results at Yahoo that those pages must also be in the Yahoo Directory. Pages are only in the Yahoo Directory if they can be found listed in the Alphabetical section of one of Yahoo's category pages.

If you are uncertain if you are already listed in the Yahoo Directory, see the tips on searching for your pages at Yahoo on the Checking Your Listings page.

Most Popular Listings

From a searcher's point of view, an alphabetical listing of web sites isn't always the most useful. Searchers often want to know what are the best web sites in a particular subject. To help them, many categories also have a "Most Popular" section. This usually happens in categories with 20 or more alphabetical listings and comes just above the Alphabetical section, as shown in the illustration above.

You can't ask Yahoo to place your site in the Most Popular section. Instead, Yahoo uses an automatic system to select from the alphabetical list of sites those it believes are most popular for that category. If your site satisfies the system's criteria, then it may appear in the Most Popular section.

Unfortunately, Yahoo won't disclose what this criteria is. However, Yahoo probably makes use of link analysis and clickthrough measurements to determine popularity. Given this, increasing your link popularity may be helpful. See the More About Link Analysis page for tips on this. As for clickthrough measurements, see the How Direct Hit Works page to understand more about the concept. Yahoo uses its own clickthrough measurement system, but the same general principles apply.

Sponsor Listings & Inside Yahoo

Obviously, web marketers would like to be at the top of any list, since it increases the chance that searchers will find their site and visit them. For this reason, Yahoo has a "Sponsor Listings" section near the top of its commercial category pages. This allows any site already listed in the Alphabetical section to essentially jump higher on the page and into the Sponsored section, in exchange for a fee. The system is fully explained on the Yahoo Sponsor Listings page.

Category pages may also have an "Inside Yahoo" section at the very top. This section contains links to any of Yahoo's own relevant content for the topic, as described more on the Inside Yahoo page.

Sunglasses, "Pick" Icon, Bold Text & The @ Symbol

You may notice some sites listed with sunglasses next to their name, with a "Pick" icon, shown in bold text or with an @ symbol at the end of their name. These are determined by how Yahoo's editors have listed your site. They are not something you can request.

Sunglasses mean that Yahoo editors think a site is exceptionally cool or excellent. Likewise, the only way to get them is to have an excellent site.

Pick icons mean that your site was listed as one of Yahoo daily or weekly picks. This is something you can request, as explained further below.

Bold listings indicates that there are sublistings for a particular company or site. For example, notice how "Action Products International" is in bold text, below:


The bold means that clicking on the link will take you to a Yahoo page about Action Products International, which in turn has information about the company and links related to it. In contrast, clicking on one of the companies not listed in bold takes you directly to that company's web site.

More about sunglasses, pick icons and bold listings can be found at the page below. This page also provides information about suggesting your site as a Yahoo "Pick." Being named as a pick of the day or week can generate substantial traffic, for a day or two.

How do I get the "new" icon, sunglasses, bold,
or editorial mention for my listing?

The @ symbol is used to indicate that a company has its own Yahoo page and that this page actually lives elsewhere within Yahoo's category structure. For example, notice how the German toy manufacturer Playmobil is listed:


The @ symbol means that Playmobil is really listed within the German section of Yahoo, but that Yahoo also wanted to make it available to those looking in other areas, such as among the sites listed in the illustration above.

You should note that Yahoo no longer creates company-specific pages as often as it did in previous years, so don't worry about not having one. They are also now reserved for publicly traded companies.

This page provides more information about the @ symbol at Yahoo:

Yahoo How-To Tips and Tricks

Commercial Versus Non-Commercial Categories

The Yahoo Directory has both commercial and non-commercial categories. In general, web sites listed in commercial categories generally are trying to sell products and services as their primarily role. Those in non-commercial categories generally are offering information for free.

To better understand the difference, look at these two categories:

In the first category, people are selling movie memorabilia, a commercial activity. In the second, people are providing information about movie humor.

Yahoo makes it easy to know when you are in a commercial category, because the words "Yahoo! Commercial Directory" will be used in the reverse bar at the top of the page. The reverse bar will also be in yellow. In contrast, non-commercial categories simply say "Yahoo Directory" in their reverse bars, which are colored blue.

The Getting Listing In The Yahoo Directory page will also revisit the importance between commercial and non-commercial categories, from a submitting perspective.

Directory Category Matches & "Detour" Traffic

Now you understand how Yahoo Directory organizes web pages into categories. But how do searchers ever find these category pages -- and thus your web site, if it is listed in a category.

One major way is via the "Directory Category Matches" section of the Yahoo results page. This section often appears near the top of the page, before even the paid "Sponsor Matches" or the editorial "Web Matches" results.

Because Directory Category Matches are given such prominent placement, some users may "detour" into them rather than scrolling down to see other listings. This means that if your web page is listed in one of the categories that comes up in a search, then Yahoo searches who detour into that category may find you.

How does Yahoo choose which categories to display? It looks at the words used in a search to see if there are any matches in the category name. If so, then it tends to list the most popular of its categories in response. For example, search for "toys," and these categories appear in Yahoo's Directory Category Matches section:


If you were to search instead for "stuffed toys," the Directory Category Matches results will change. Some new categories will be listed while others, such as the "Shopping and Services > Toys" category are missing, as shown below:


Why the change? The extra word "stuffed" means that Yahoo gave preference to categories that had both "stuffed" and "toys" in their names.

Another way people might detour into the directory is via the "More site about" link, an enhancement made to some Web Matches. The Yahoo Enhancements section of the Yahoo Web Matches page explains this more.

Browsing The Yahoo Directory

Searchers can also access the Yahoo Directory by browsing. From the Yahoo home page, they can select a general topic of interest, then "drill down" or "browse" by following links to a specific area.

For example, to reach the Toy History category, one could start by entering the Recreation & Sports category on the Yahoo home page, then follow the links downward, as shown:

  • Recreation & Sports
    • Toys
      • History

Obviously, browsing like this isn't the most efficient way to find what you are looking for. Nor do many people at Yahoo search this way. Instead, the vast majority of Yahoo's users perform a keyword search from the Yahoo home page.

Pure Directory Search

Some people may choose to see only Yahoo Directory matches, rather than Web Matches. This can be done by doing a search from the Yahoo home page, then choosing the "Directory" link that appears near the search box, at the top of the search results page. This link is highlighted in red, below:


Very, very few people are likely to be searching Yahoo this way, so it really doesn't pay to worry about how your site ranks for those who do a pure directory search this way.

Doesn't matter -- still want to know how Yahoo chooses which sites come up first? OK, historically, the most important factors about whether a site might show up in Yahoo's pure directory results have been the presence of the search terms in the title and description of the web site.

In short, if you wanted to be found for something like "shoes," then it especially helped to have that word in the title and description that Yahoo uses to list your site in the Yahoo Directory. Having search terms in your URL or in the name of the category where your page is listed could also provide a boost.

Even if you met all of the factors above, it could still be the case that other pages might get ranked better than yours. For instance, let's say you did have the word "shoes" in your title, your description, your URL and your category name. Then how come someone who has the word in only one of these places might rank better than you?

Yahoo has never disclosed any specifics to explain this. Instead, there is only speculation. Here are some thoughts about what may happening:

Clickthrough Measurements: Yahoo monitors what listings people choose from its search results pages and in its categories. By monitoring clicks, Yahoo can tell when someone seems to think a site is relevant for a particular search. Similarly, if someone didn't click on a site, Yahoo would learn that perhaps the site doesn't seem relevant to its users. Thus, Yahoo may use these clickthrough measurements to also influence whether a site might rank well.

Link Analysis: Another theory is that Yahoo may make use of its own link analysis data or even perhaps have a deal to get "PageRank" information from Google. A discussion on this can be found below:

Google PR directly influencing Yahoo directory results?
WebmasterWorld, Mar. 21, 2002

To help yourself with link analysis systems, be sure to follow the tips on the More About Link Analysis page.

Freshness: Some people have also found that freshness may be a factor, where new sites may get an initial ranking boost but then after a few weeks lose this benefit.

Sunglasses/Pick Factor: Sites that are awarded sunglasses or are written up by editors as top picks could perhaps be given ranking boosts. See the sunglasses section above, for more about this.

Readability & Link Analysis

Aside from detour traffic, there are two other reasons you might consider getting your site listed with the Yahoo Directory: to improve the readability of your Web Matches listing and to perhaps help yourself rank better with crawler-based search engines.

Readability: another benefit of being listed in the Yahoo Directory is that it can make your listing in Yahoo's Web Matches results more readable. As explained in the Yahoo Enhancements section of the Yahoo Web Matches page, sites listed in the directory will have human-edited titles and descriptions displayed, rather than those generated automatically by Google. If you dislike how Google currently shows your web site, then getting listed with the Yahoo Directory may help correct that problem -- at least on Yahoo.

In addition, should your page be awarded sunglasses or be named a pick by Yahoo, the appropriate icon will appear next to your listing, even in the Web Matches results. Also, your page will of course have a "More sites about" link under its description, along with a red arrow to call attention to this link. You may feel that distinguishes your page from other listings.

Link Analysis Boost: Google and other crawler-based search engines make use of link analysis to help them determine which web pages to rank well. Pages with important and contextually-relevant links pointing at them will often do better than those without (the More About Link Analysis page explains this in depth).

The Yahoo Directory is widely acknowledged as being one of the most authoritative guides to the web, and a link from the directory to your web page may be one of the easiest things you can do to help yourself in link analysis systems.

Conclusion: Should You Submit?

As you can see, there are some pluses to getting listed with the Yahoo Directory. The major disadvantage is that for commercial categories, Yahoo will charge you a $299 annual inclusion fee (this is optional for non-commercial categories).

Is the money worth it? Before Oct. 9, 2002, absolutely. When Yahoo used a "pure directory search" system, the vast majority of people found they received enough traffic to easily justify the fee within a few months, if not weeks.

Now that Yahoo presents Google results first and foremost, it remains to be seen whether site owners will still consider a Yahoo Directory submission a must do. For anyone with a fairly large budget, it probably makes sense to go ahead with this for the three major factors discussed above.

For those on a tight budget, you might decide to hold off on gaining a Yahoo Directory listing for a month or two after you launch your web site. See if it naturally does well on Google. If so, you'll should do well on Yahoo without paying the fee. However, if you find Google fails to rank you well, then a Yahoo Directory listing COULD perhaps give you a boost. At worst, it will be a $299 gamble. If you fail to see results, either via a Google boost or from detour traffic, then you can certainly choose not to renew when your annual fee comes due.

Remember, for non-commercial categories, a fee is not required in order to submit. Given this, you may very well decide it is at least worth the time involved to submit to Yahoo's non-commercial categories, if you have appropriate content.

Need another opinion? Here's a non-Search Engine Watch article on the topic:

Is a Yahoo listing worth the money?
Pandia, Dec. 2002

Now that all of Yahoo's results are powered by Google (in most instances), does it still make sense to be listed in the Yahoo Directory? Long-time search engine marketer Paul Bruemmer looks at opinions over the issue and adds his own thoughts.

Decided that you do want to gain a Yahoo Directory listing? The next page will take you through the key steps:

Submitting To The Yahoo Directory

Not interested in submitting or need other help about Yahoo? Then return to the How Yahoo Works page