In the wake of moves by the Open Directory and Go to allow more user participation in constructing their directories, Snap has unveiled a new "LiveDirectory" system that allows sites to be added within minutes to its guide.
It's a significant move, because crawler-based search engines such as AltaVista and Go have moved away from the "instant add" features they once offered, due to abuse by spammers. But Snap's implementation, within a directory structure and with some submission tracking features, might prove more resistant to abuse and perhaps ultimately beneficial to webmasters and users.
"This is aimed at getting the newest sites in fast," said Paul Wood, Snap's Senior Product Manager for Search & Directory.
In the past, submissions were placed into a queue, for review by Snap editors. If approved, they were added to the Snap directory. Under the new system, submissions are made available nearly immediately in the "LiveDirectory" area of Snap. Over time, sites listed in this area that come to attention of editors are reviewed and, if deserving, promoted into Snap's "main" directory.
For instance, if you look for "coffee research," you'll see how the new LiveDirectory data fits into Snap's other search resources. First, you are shown any matching hits from the editor-reviewed main directory, under the heading "Top Web Sites." Next, any matching selections from the LiveDirectory appear in the "LiveDirectory Web Sites" area. After that come results from Inktomi's crawling of the web, in the "All Web Pages" section.
In the search above, examples from all three data sources appear on the same results page. In contrast, most popular searches will continue to be dominated by results from the main directory. For instance, a search for "coffee" brings up 11 pages of results just from the main directory alone. For this reason, spamming of the LiveDirectory system is likely to be more limited, as it offers far less chance of ranking well for popular terms.
On the other hand, for very specific queries, the system is now more likely to fall through to LiveDirectory information. As this has an element of human involvement, I suspect it will result in better relevancy than the former dependence on pure crawler-based information for backup. It's an interesting compromise between making the most use of your editors, allowing user participation and still providing comprehensive crawler-based coverage when needed.
As a searcher, you needn't do anything special to access the LiveDirectory information. Just search as normal, and if the main directory has no matches, relevant hits from the LiveDirectory will appear, as explained above. Snap may also offer a link at the bottom of the results page to "Find the latest listings" for your topic within the LiveDirectory.
If desired, you can bypass any main directory results and go straight to LiveDirectory answers. Simply do a search, then choose the "LiveDirectory" link in the navigation bar that appears just below the search box, on the results page. FYI, you can also use the other links to access results from other data sources. "All Web Pages" takes you to Inktomi-powered crawler results. "Pictures," "Audio" and "Video" take you to multimedia search results powered by Snap's editors, image search engine Ditto.com and Inktomi.
Why would you go directly to LiveDirectory information? You might wish to see the very latest entries for a particular topic, which haven't yet been reviewed by an editor. Just be aware that because they haven't been reviewed, the quality may be less than main directory listings. Also, at the moment, there is no way to browse LiveDirectory listings in the way you can browse main directory listings. They can only be accessed via the search results page.
For webmasters, getting into the LiveDirectory is easy and fast, but there are new options and features that impact how you are listed. One key change is that you need to be registered as a Snap member to submit or alter LiveDirectory listings. That's a simple process -- just use the "Membership Info" link near the bottom of the Snap home page.
Next, as with all directories, you need to find an appropriate category to submit to. The easy step here is to search for your key terms from the home page, then go into the most appropriate category that appears in the top results. Scroll to the bottom of that category page and select the "Submit Your Site To to Snap" link.
The submission form that appears is fairly straight-forward, asking you mainly for a title, site URL and a description. You are also allowed to provide up to five keywords for your site, separated by commas. These can be multiple word phrases, and Snap says the best advice is to choose some specific terms in addition to general ones.
"Don't repeat the same word over and over; be different," Wood said.
So this would be bad:
shoes, shoes, shoes, Shoes, SHOES
while this would be good:
running shoes, tennis shoes, sneakers, basketball shoes, sports footwear
Next, you'll come to an area for optional information about site ownership and location. In particular, you'll be asked whether you are the site's owner, an agent (paid by someone to handle submissions), or a third-party submitter (someone who just thinks the site should be added to Snap). Answer appropriately, though practically speaking, it doesn't make much of a difference, as you'll see when I cover issues about modifying a listing.
Finally, you'll be asked questions about the type of content your site or page offers, such as whether it has MP3 or QuickTime files. Again, answer appropriately, then push Submit. Within an hour, if not sooner, you should then get an email notification that your site will be added. The site itself will appear within 24 hours, if not within minutes.
The procedure above is only for sites that are not currently listed in Snap's main or live directories. To change sites in the LiveDirectory, there's a special Update form that must be used (for sites in the main directory, request changes using Snap's normal feedback form).
To locate and change a listed site or web page, either search for it by name or URL from the LiveDirectory home page, not the Snap home page. That should bring it up, complete with small "Update" and "Show Details" links near the title.
Choosing Update brings you to a much shorter form than when doing a new. It lacks the options to indicate the types of features your site may have, such as audio and video files, nor can you alter previously submitted keywords. There also appears a new Comments box and a "Use Meta Information" option.
If you enable this meta option, Snap will automatically spider the URL you are updating. It will use information contained within the title and meta tags on that page to describe it within Snap. It also updates the hidden keywords information with that from the page's tag.
Once the meta option is enabled, it cannot be disabled. Sound a bit odd, maybe scary? Let me get you a bit more paranoid before calming you down. Anyone can lock your listing to your site's meta tags in this way, whether they identify themselves as the site owner or not. In fact, anyone can use the update form, change your listing and even claim to be the site owner, even if they have no connection with the site.
What? Someone can change your listings without permission? Snap better get some safeguards in place, immediately! Well, there is a good one -- the meta tag lockdown. Enable it, and you've permanently linked Snap to your meta tags -- which remain only in your control. This provides you with protection and allows Snap to neatly sidestep the issues involved with having to verify and administer site ownership details. It also means you can easily update your listings at any time.
"The thing that we want to do the most is give people the ability to update their sites. You could see at the conference people were already struggling with that," Wood said, who also spoke at the recent Search Engine Strategies conference in San Francisco.
To update, just change the tags on your site, then search for your page within the LiveDirectory and select the Update option. If you've locked the page to your meta tags, then the fields for Title, Description and Keywords will no longer appear. Instead, scroll down past the Comments box, then push Submit. That makes Snap automatically spider your page and pull down the latest information, which should appear within a day or sooner.
What about that Comments box? This is a way to communicate with Snap editors about important issues relating to pages in the LiveDirectory. Use it to tell them if you feel that a site or web page should be listed in multiple categories, or if you need to have changes made that can't be done using the Update form (such as linking the page to new media types). Don't use it to thank Snap for listing your page or non-issues of that nature.
Wood also said that it's perfectly fine to bring an editor's attention to the fact that your site may be very significant. For instance, imagine a situation where Nike wasn't listed in Snap's main directory's Running Shoes category. It would be appropriate for Nike to submit to the LiveDirectory, then use the Update form to add a (polite -- always polite!) comment that they are one of the world's largest shoe manufacturers and so would benefit Snap's users (always the search engine's users, not how it would benefit you!) if they were promoted quickly into the main directory.
Similarly, if you have an exceptional or unique site, then you can use the Comments box to make your pitch to Snap's editors. Just be short, to the point, and most of all, have a strong case to make for promotion.
Having covered the practical tips, let's look at some more strategic issues you should consider. First, Snap allows you to submit multiple pages as long as you stick to these golden rules: it's one unique page per category, and the page you submit ought to contain some substantial content relating to that category. So feel free to submit specific pages from your web site into relevant categories.
Next, while you'll still need to submit your home page itself to the most relevant overall category, recognize that it's not likely to rank well for any popular term, as sites already listed in the main directory will get top billing for these. Instead, you need to identify areas where the main directory lacks listings, then submit your relevant inside pages to do well for those terms.
For instance, let's go back to coffee. If you were an online coffee retailer, ideally, you'd love to be ranked well for that term. So, you submit your home page to the main coffee category. Now you are listed, but because the home page is within the LiveDirectory area, it's buried behind 11 pages of main directory results for the search "coffee." Your traffic for that word will be minimal, if anything at all.
Solution? Be specific. In addition to your home page, you also submit a page about the various coffee grinders that you sell to the Kitchen & Housewears category. This is smart because the main directory lists only three sites for "coffee grinders," then shows LiveDirectory listings right below them, on the first page of results. This greatly increases the odds that people will find your page when they search for that phrase, even though it resides in the LiveDirectory.
This leads to the second key detail. Snap uses technology similar to Direct Hit's to measure clickthrough and popularity of its listings. Sites that are ranking well for particular terms and attracting clicks from the LiveDirectory will be flagged automatically for the attention of editors. So placing well for a specific term might more easily help you eventually receive a promotion into the main directory, which in turn should lead to even more traffic.
I'd point out that this strategy works well for Snap's users, also -- by focusing on the specific terms, you are helping to flesh out the directory in areas that it lacks relevant listings.
By the way, Snap's technology also keeps track of submission details. So, it's possible for Snap to know if a site is being updated abnormally, which might bring it to an editor's attention to check on possible spamming attempts. Similar, Snap says that in the future, it might also consider rewarding those who consistently submit good sites with some ranking boosts.
Now remember the meta tag lockdown option? Because anyone can enable it, it is imperative that you consider making use of meta tags on all of your pages. Otherwise, it is possible that a competitor could come in, resubmit one of your pages listed in the LiveDirectory and cause it to appear without a description. In fact, I'd recommend that you take the lead, check if you have pages listed with the LiveDirectory already, then enable the meta lockdown for all of them. Or, when submitting new pages, update the submission as soon as the site appears to use the meta tag lockdown.
Also, should you be promoted to the main directory, worries about your meta tags go away -- no one but a Snap editor can alter those listings.
The usage of meta tags brings up another issue. Crawler-based search engines don't care about comma usage in meta tags, so there's no need to use them and some advantage to dropping them. Snap does care about the commas -- it will read your keywords tag, look at all the words until the first comma, register that as your first keyword, read the words to the second comma, register those as your second keyword, and so on.
So if you really want to please Snap, you'd ensure that your keywords tags began with your five most important terms, separated by commas -- then do whatever you'd like after that. You should also avoid having any of those words be in all capital letters.
My advice is not to worry about this. Factors such as finding the right niche for your inside pages, as described above, are far more likely to make you rank well than your keywords information. I also suspect that Snap will be changing the system to perhaps let you lockdown keywords in someway, given the various styles of meta tag writing used by page authors.
Also, don't worry if you exceed Snap's 128 character title or 255 character description lengths -- it just will ignore any excess information. Of course, if you do exceed these limits, it makes sense to ensure that what it does use is readable in its shortened form.
By the way, Snap says that many sites which have been submitted to it in the past few months but not accepted may reside in the LiveDirectory, and I found this to be true in some spot checking I did. So take a look -- you might be surprised to discover you are already listed.
Finally, any pages you've submitted should appear in the "My Sites" area of the LiveDirectory home page, if you've logged into Snap. By clicking on a page's link, you can see when it was submitted, modified and the terms it is ranking well for on Snap. This information is also available for any site, even if you didn't submit it. Just search for the site from the LiveDirectory home page, then select the "Show Details" link that appears near the page title.
Be aware that LiveDirectory was just recently integrated into the main site, so formatting and other ways of displaying the data may alter from as described in this article, as Snap fine-tunes the system.
This is the LiveDirectory's home page, where you can search for any sites already listed and access the Update feature.
I don't need commas in my meta tags? No, you don't -- this article explains in more depth.