Web Site Promotion with the
ODP - Open Directory Project (dmoz.org)
July 2001 - Revised February
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
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,
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
- 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
- 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
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.