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Updated
February 2004

Dynamoo 2004

 

 

 

 

Web Site Promotion with the ODP - Open Directory Project (dmoz.org)

July 2001 - Revised February 2004

The Open Directory Project (ODP) at dmoz.org is not the sexiest looking portal to the web by a long shot. Many people never visit the main ODP site directly either, but virtually everybody who uses Google or many other major portal and search services use Open Directory data.

Why is the Open Directory so important? When I first wrote about using the ODP for web site promotion, it was one of the top three big directories, the others being Yahoo! and LookSmart. In the part three-and-a-half years though the Yahoo! directory has faded and LookSmart is struggling financially and is loosing traffic all the time. This leaves the Open Directory as being by far the biggest and most important directory, with four million entries and thousands of volunteer editors.

There are many thousands of downstream users of ODP data, but by far the most important is Google, the search engine that now accounts for around 80% of all search engine traffic. The ODP's relationship with Google is a very important one for both organisations, and the bottom line for webmasters is this - while it's possible to get great results in Google without being listed in the Open Directory, it's certainly helps a lot to be listed.

Of course, it's a directory too, and the way the ODP organises data makes it an easy and powerful tool to look up a range of sites on a particular topic. This directory is also used by Google, Alexa, AOL and Netscape, plus many others, so that probably the majority of people using the ODP data don't every actually visit the dmoz.org site. The combination of a huge directory, with half a million categories, and the influence it has on results in major search engines, is one of the reasons that the ODP is a hugely important resource.

So, how much does it cost to get listed in this important directory? Nothing. The ODP is almost entirely run by unpaid volunteers, so a listing is free - if your site is eligible - but unfortunately this can some times take a little while.

There is no guaranteed way to get a listing in the ODP, but the following tips should make life a lot easier.

Step One - Housekeeping and Content

Keep your site polished and up-to-date. Make sure that you have some recent content on the front page and all the copyright notices are current. Check that your links are working properly. Check your spelling. If you've stuffed the pages full of advertising banners that don't generate any revenue, then get rid of them. Imagine that you were inviting a potential buyer to come and see your house - you'll want to clean the carpets, put a new lick of paint down and get some fresh coffee brewing.

Never submit a site "under construction" and assume that by the time the editor looks at it, then it will be finished. Often the site will be reviewed and rejected very quickly. Also, don't submit a "vanity URL" that redirects to another site (e.g. on Geocities) as this will usually be removed and can delay your listing. If you have a domain name, then host the site properly.

The site will be rejected if it is a copy or substantially mirrors the content of another site, acts as a doorway to another site, is not content rich or is primarily aimed at driving traffic to affiliate links. Keep the content unique to your site and provide plenty of it.

Step Two - Finding a Home

Take some time finding the correct category for your site. There are hundreds of thousands of places to try to list your site, but it's very important that you choose the correct one. The ODP tends to split commercial sites from information ones, so for example, a site selling collectable widgets would be listed in a quite different category to a site with information about collecting widgets. Usually there is a link in each category to help you find the right one.

Identifying the correct category for your site is probably the single most important thing you can do. If you have a site that is a competitor, or is closely related to the content of your own site, then find where they are listed in the ODP. Broadly speaking, the following top-level categories carry the following types of sites:

  • Adult - this part of the directory is not visible from the main dmoz.org page but can be found at http://dmoz.org/Adult/ - this covers sites that are sexually explicit in nature or carry other adult-themed topics.
  • Arts - primarily information sites, nonprofit organisations, individual publications, TV shows, films or other events. Generally not for shopping or business sites.
  • Business - Business-to-business sites, financial institutions, real estate, manufacturing, and other non-shopping commercial sites.
  • Computers - Almost anything to do with computers, including hardware, software, and the internet. A mix of reference sites and commercial organisations, although not general retailers of consumer electronics who are listed in Shopping. Weblogs are listed here.
  • Games - primarily reference and noncommercial sites relating to all sorts of games, electronic or otherwise.
  • Health - a mix of reference and commercial sites covering a broad variety of topics.
  • Home - strictly noncommercial and reference sites.
  • Kids and Teens - an area of the directory with sites safe for children to visit.
  • News - all sorts of news sources and publications.
  • Recreation - almost all noncommercial sites covering everything except sport.
  • Reference - another noncommercial category with material such as maps, dictionaries etc.
  • Regional - an important category broken down into regions and countries. The main area of the directory is for sites that are either of global interest or for US categories. Sites that deal specifically with, say, UK shopping, should be listed under Regional. This category continues all the way down to individual towns and communities.
  • Science - mostly reference materials covering a broad range of themes.
  • Shopping - for all consumer-orientated retail outlets where purchases can be made somehow through the web site. Usually this is through an online shopping basket, but as long as products are listed and there is some way to purchase them, then sites may be eligible for a listing. Sites listed here either serve a global/international market, or a US/North American one. Sites that don't allow some sort of online purchase should be submitted to a Regional category. Affiliate sites are never acceptable into this part of the directory.
  • Society - including religion, politics, law, relationships and sexuality. Personal Homepage are listed here.
  • Sports - everything sports related except shopping.
  • World - The main part of the Open Directory is for English language sites only. For non-English languages, sites should be submitted in the World categories which mirror the main part of the directory.

Be prepared to spend at least 30 minutes to an hour looking through the directory, and also be aware that you can only be listed once (if you have a bricks-and-mortar shop, factory or office then you can also apply to be listed in your hometown). Excessive multiple submissions may result in your site being permanently banned.

Why is choosing the correct category so important? Simply put, it might delay your acceptance into the directory by months or even years if you mis-submit. A badly misplaced site may be passed between several categories with different editors before it finds a home.

Step Three - Write a Good Description

The vast majority of submitters simply do not understand how to describe their site, and are usually disappointed when it comes out differently from the way they expected. ODP descriptions are purely descriptive of the site and are not promotional in any way. You need to write one or two sentences describing the important parts of your site or business. Look at the other sites listed in the category you are applying to, and you should get an idea of what is acceptable. Spend some time on this.. for a business site you might want to consider consulting with others on how you wish to describe your business.

There is no guarantee that your description will be accepted by the editor, but it is much more likely if the site fits in with the ODP guidelines for describing a site. Changing the description of a site after it has been added is possible, but any attempt at "hyping" your site will be rejected.

If you don't write a good description for your site, then the editor will have to write one for you, however it is unlikely that the editor will spend much time on this, so it might not be as fully descriptive as you might like.

Step Four - Submit and Wait

Once you have submitted the site without any timeouts or error messages coming up, then your site is in the queue for that particular category. Most sites are reviewed in date order of submission, and resubmitting your site will typically move it down the queue. Despite the ODP's guidelines suggesting you should re-submit the site after a month or so, in reality this may just move you further down the queue.

If you are not listed in a month or two and you feel that your site might not be in the queue or may have been rejected, then you can ask about the status of your site at the ODP Public Forum - make sure you read the guidelines properly, though. This should give you some feedback about the status of your submission. Editors will often not respond to site status requests if you make them directly.

It can take anything from ten minutes to a couple of years to get your site listed. Usually, it will happen within a few weeks. Some parts of the directory are badly backlogged and it can take many months for your site to be reviewed. There is really very little you can do about the waiting time, but if you have found the correct category and written a good description then at least you site will be dealt with promptly when the editor reviews it.

If you want to learn some more about web marketing and search engine positioning, try some of the following links:

Choosing a Domain Name - Dynamoo's guide.
Renewed ZEAL - Web Site Promotion using Zeal.com

 

 

 

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