Are Webinar Directories Useful?

September 8, 2019 ​- 2 Comments

Many webinar tools have added a directory feature in the recent past. The promise is intriguing: list your webinar in a public directory and you could get more traffic and attendees!

But does it work in practice? Should you consider webinar directories for your webinar marketing?

In this post, I'll explain why these directories are (currently) pointless.


The Webinar Directories

I came across the webinar directories in my recent, intensive testing of webinar platforms. Here are examples of the directories I'm talking about:

In each case, the concept is the same: there's a public directory in which many webinars are advertised. As a webinar host, you can choose to add your event to this directory. Result: more traffic, more attendees, more money! What's not to love?

For my reviews, this is one of the many features in these tools that I evaluated and I had to decide whether this would influence my final verdict or not.

Here's why I chose to dismiss these directories as useless and why I believe it makes no difference whether or not you list your webinar in such a directory.

The Missing Factors

For some platforms, the public directory is everything and entire businesses can be built on them. A prime example is YouTube. YouTube isn't just a place to host videos, it's also the world's second most popular search engine and it can be a formidable source of traffic. The difference between listing or not listing your video in the YouTube directory is night and day!

But YouTube and other popular platforms like it, are optimized in ways that none of the webinar directories I tested are. Here are the necessary factors, to make a directory useful:

Factor 1: Search

A good directory has to be searchable. Users have to be able to find webinars that they are interested in, so that the right kind of people can find your webinar.

Of course, all the webinar directories do have a search function. But if you look at YouTube, you'll see that the search function is not an after-thought. Search results have to be highly relevant and delivered extremely quickly. Otherwise, users don't bother with a search function.

Needless to say, search is very, very complicated and none of the webinar directories I tested have anything but a basic search function.

Factor 2: Discovery

Perhaps even more important than search is discovery. A fundamental factor in every successful social platform is that it serves its users with content that's interesting and relevant to them, without the users having to actively search for it.

Again, we can take YouTube as an example: if you go to the YouTube homepage right now, you will see something that's unique to you. If you're logged in, you will be shown content tailored to your interests, based on your subscriptions and your browsing and viewing behavior. If you aren't logged in, YouTube will still try its darndest to serve you relevant content, based on your location.

This is in stark contrast to the webinar directories, where everyone sees the same homepage. In some cases, that page isn't just poorly optimized, it's downright off-putting:

The Webinars On Demand homepage

Pictured: WebinarJam's extremely low effort webinar directory.

Nothing about this is appealing or made to help a visitor browse and discover what's interesting to them. But even if the webinar directory is well presented, it can be pretty damn useless, as shown in this example by Webinar Ninja:

Webinar Finder by Webinar Ninja

Chances any of this is relevant to me: vanishing.

Note the Chinese (I think) entry in the top right, neatly demonstrating how important it is to optimize for discovery.

What's more, a platform like YouTube or Amazon or any other platform with good discovery dedicates considerable screen space to "related" or "also bought" type entries. On YouTube, enticing suggestions for what else to watch take up more screen space than the main video. This is no coincidence. In the webinar directories I tested, such a feature is either absent or very poorly implemented.

Factor 3: Community

Another crucial factor is community: a good platform or directory has a large, active community. There's almost always some kind of a feedback, review or rating system as well, so that any given user can benefit from the wisdom of the crowd and can choose (or automatically be shown) content that other users have already vetted.

Again, such community features are either absent or only rudimentarily implemented in the webinar directories.

Factor 4: Traction

Finally, a factor I've found sorely missing is traction (and for creators: proof of traction).

A major reason for using a platform like YouTube or Amazon is that these platforms already have traction. If I upload a video to YouTube, it's likely to get more views than if I just put it on my blog. If I list a product for sale on Amazon, I can potentially reach more buyers than if I build an ecommerce store from scratch. That's not to say relying on such platforms is without downsides, but one of the major upsides is the traction.

And traction can only happen if the 3 previous factors are rock solid. For a webinar directory to be useful, it would have to be a place where many people go, on a regular basis, to look for interesting webinars to join. And for webinar hosts and creators, it would have to provide some search and insight tools. What are the most popular categories? What are people searching for? How many people are finding my webinars through the directory and what paths lead them to my content?

And - you guessed it - none of this is present in the webinar directories.


The conclusion of all of the above is simple: as it stands at the time of writing, webinar directories are a non-factor. Whether a webinar platform offers a directory or not doesn't matter. It's not something you need to consider when making a buying decision. And when you create your webinar, you can choose to list it or not, it will most likely make no difference at all.

As I mention in the video, I'm happy to update my opinion on this, if any of the webinar software creators can step up and prove that their platforms have traction.

About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Thanks so much for your insightful article. As someone who just started hosting online events (and doesn’t have many social followers or website clicks), I really hoped I’d get an initial boost from these event directories (stand alone ones, not ones created by webinar tool providers). Thanks to your helpful post I’ll skip this ineffective strategy and start looking for a new way to get initial traction for my events. I will be reading some more of your articles now.

  • Very well researched and presented. I got sold into watching your video till the end the instance you gave the four parameters that you used to evaluate the different platforms. I really got an insight into what I should be looking for when I list my webinar and why. I loved the challenge you threw at the platform creators in the end.

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