Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Back to the Future with Static A-Z Directories

Static A to Z Directories Work.

The Rosetta Stone was a Directory of Sorts.
Call me a "flat-page" reactionary, but, along with good Website Navigation, Cross-Linking, and an Internal Search Engine, I prefer looking at static A-Z directories to allow quicker navigation to relevant webpages.

A-Z listing offer a superior and more efficient experience compared to using flash-enhanced, clicky, interactive "Alpha Adventures" that do not allow broad A-Z scanning, and often result in frustrating dead-ends.

I'm not saying don't use interactive directories, but low-tech flat A-Z pages are very effective, from our experience. Use them both!

With a one-view flat A-Z directory, a visitor can quickly drill-down and find what they are looking for. Website visitors seem to prefer this approach, as these flat A-Z pages enjoy the lowest exit rates on the entire website and have strong traffic flow. In effect, for us, visitors have voted their preference with their mouses. Results were so good we scrapped our complex interactive flash option to find countries... it was not being used.

These mini A-Z pages also benefit us by acting as Site Maps for focused website services and locations sections. They increase link exposure for lower tier service pages, helping our organic search engine rankings. Often these A-Z pages are themselves ranking in top organic search results, based upon on their own merits. These are tremendous benefits for a B2B lead generation website.

As our large B2B website was rapidly growing in services and locations, the expanding complexity of the site demanded further classification, drill-down and navigation tools to help visitors find what they wanted, when they wanted it. We beefed up our website with a better search engine, but needed more. A-Z listings are of course long familiar, in print. I concluded that if this approach has thrived these hundreds of years and was still a durable, popular and common standard, it was good enough to try on the web.

Daring to go Retro, we built a collection of focused and
hiearchical static .html A-Z Services and Locations webpages in key folders and sections of the website... with relevant listings linking to niche webpages focused on a particular service or location.

The idea of A-Z Listed Webpages is simple and effective:

An A-Z High Level Directory page for a "Wild Animals" Website for example, could include:
Top Level A-Z Directory:A
Aardvarks (linked to Aardvarks main webpage)

Badgers (linked to Badgers main webpage)

A person looking for Aardvarks can click on the Aardvark link. Once on the dedicated Aardvark section in the website.... another more focused Aardvark A-Z directory webpage helps the visitor further drill-down:

Second Level A-Z Directory:
Abyssinian Aardvarks (linked to Abyssinian Aardvarks webpage)
Albanian Aardvarks (linked to Albanian Aardvark webpage)

Bengal Aardvards (linked to Bengal Aardvarks webpage)
Bulgarian Aardvarks (linked to Bulgarian Aardvarks webpage)

... and so on. An Aardvark-searching visitor has reached Aardvark Nirvana in terms of information.

Low-tech, retro, flat, html A-Z directory pages have worked very well for us and more importantly, for our B2B website visitors.

A to Z Lists on Websites Really Work

CROSS-LINK IT - For Better Sales and Leads