Anatomy of a project – Oban and Lorn Online
Directory sites have become the bane of the web, clogging up Google searches and giving little in return. Millions of these abominations have been set up by people with a ‘brilliant idea’ who have just discovered the web. Usually the plan is that people will be so entranced by their genius that they will queue up to pay for entries or advertising on the site. Friends with businesses a get a few free entries, the site fails to perform in search engines and no-one else is interested. It gathers cyberdust.
For a directory site to be any use it has to be inclusive, not exclusive. If I want to look up, for example, bed and breakfast establishments in Oban, I want to be able to look through a complete list, not just those who have paid to be listed. I want some sensible information and if it interests me then I want to be able to click straight through to the establishment’s website.
But, I hear you say, who would set up such a directory? What is their motivation if not to sell paid entries?
Well, there is a business model – although I have to say it is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Firstly, spend dozens or hundreds of hours setting up the site. Research it so as many relevant businesses as possible are included. Code it all carefully by hand, optimise it and wait a few years for it to rise to the top of Google for lots of relevant search terms. Keep it up to date and make it easy for new businesses to contact you to add their listing – but keep editorial control, no automated submissions. Then try and sell some advertising.
So why would people advertise if they can have a free listing? Well, because with dozens of your competitors sharing a page or section of the directory – and with that page attracting lots of potential customers – it is in your interest to make your business stand out. Now make the advertisements so cheap it is almost a no-brainer and perhaps – just perhaps – you will start to make a tiny amount of money from the site.
We set up such a site – Oban and Lorn Online – in October 2000. Over the years it has made us a steady trickle of money – a few hundred a year at best – but it has also brought in some new web design business as well, so for us it has been worth it.
However, at the age of 11 years and counting the site was looking dated to say the least, so it has now had a complete update.
A total of around 60 hours has been spent creating a new look, converting the old HTML-only layout to a new CSS-powered model, integrating the site with social media, transferring the data manually to the new format, checking all entires for validity and adding lots of new sites. We hope you will like the result – a shiny new fully inclusive Oban business directory listing over 400 businesses that will continue to perform superbly in Google for all manner of relevant search terms. Help us to keep it up to date and let us know of any businesses or organisations in the area with a website that is not included.
We do not expect to get rich any time soon . . .