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Open Directory Project guide

| by David Callan

The Open Directory Project (ODP) based at http://www.dmoz.org is perhaps the most important directory any webmaster can submit a site to these days. Even more important than Yahoo? You might ask. Well yes in my opinion anyway, you see the ODP, formally known as NewHoo not only operates its directory from its headquarters at dmoz.org but also supplies its directory data to such big player engines as Google, AOL search, Netscape Search, Lycos and Hotbot to name just a few. In addition to these 'mainstream' engines hundreds of other sites also use ODP's data.

This means that a listing in the ODP directory will enable your site to show up for searches done on any engines or sites which use the Open Directory Projects data, provided of course your title and description are optimized for the searched terms. The fact that lots of third party search engines and sites use ODP data is the main attraction of applying for a listing with them. The main attraction is not as one might think to be found at searches done at dmoz.org. Dmoz.org itself receives only a tiny percentage of the traffic that sites such as Google and Lycos receive.

In particular, a listing in the ODP directory can be very advantageous for sites wishing to rank high in the Google search engine. Google not only uses the Open Directory Projects data for the Google Directory located at http://directory.google.com but it also 'mixes' the data with its own to determine where sites should be ranked in the search results. A listing in the ODP will help boost Googles view of how important your site is (ie. boost your Pagerank) and hence help to increase your ranking for your chosen keywords and key phrases.

Presumably you now know that getting listed in the ODP is very important. Getting a listing is not hard, it does sometime take a little time but it's not hard and what's more it's completely free. This article is your guide to submitting to the Open Directory Project.

A few pre requirements


Before I continue on and tell you how to submit your site I'm first going to tell you not to bother.. IF your site doesn't meet a few pre-requirements that is. I believe these pre-requirements to be very important to the ODP and almost all other directories.

Firstly your site must be finished. That means no fancy 'under-construction' graphics with smiling builders waving their hammers back and forth on them, ODP editors don't care if you know how to use a free animated GIF's directory, either do I for that fact. That means no broken links, how do you expect an editor to review your site if he or she can't first view it. That means fast or average page loading times, editors are busy editing their chosen category, they don't have the time or the patience to wait for an eternity to see your site load.

Secondly your site should be unique and contain useful content. This means that your site should not be a mirror site with the exact same content as another site listed already within the directory. This means that your site should not be simply an affiliate farm designed specifically to promote products of other companies.

Thirdly and finally, your site should not be an illegal underground type site, ODP editors will simply move on to the next submission if they come across a site like this. Remember the ODP is a directory just like Yahoo and Looksmart so real people will visit your site, these people are experts in their chosen fields and can spot quality sites when they see them. If your site is of poor quality then I'm sorry but your rejected - "Next!!!"

Which category?


The Open Directory Projects data is organized into 16 top level categories each with many many subcategories, however only 15 are visible from dmoz.org as the adult category can only be accessed direct from its URL, this is of course for the protection of minors.

It's imperative that you submit to the most appropriate category for two main reasons. These being the fact that if you submit to an inappropriate category the editor will most likely reject your site and move on and if you don't submit to the most appropriate category you may have lost some valuable keywords from your category name. This last point is important as the Google directory and indeed dmoz.org themselves not only search titles and descriptions for keywords but they also search within category names and paths, so having your keywords in your category name will help you be found.

Deciding on which category to submit to isn't that hard, what I suggest would be to visit dmoz.org and enter in your primary keywords and or keyphrases and see what results come up. Categories which contain returned websites will be listed at the top of the page, one of these categories will be the one you should submit to. Start by eliminating those categories which you know are not right for your site, for example foreign language categories and other categories which although they contain websites returned from your search do not fit your sites theme and hence keywords very appropriately.

Imagine why don't we that there are three categories which seem really right for your website and your submission, how do you decide which one to submit to? Well when I'm submitting any site and come across the same problem there's a couple of things I do to help me out.

I always check if there's an FAQ and description page associated with a particular category, within these pages are specific category guidelines concerning what sites the editor deems highly fit for his or her category among other things. If you submit to the right category your much more likely to get accepted and this information will help you decide on the 'right' category. Not all categories have FAQ and description pages however.

I always check if there is in fact an editor for any categories I'm considering submitting to as editors of parent categories are often too busy to deal with subcategories of theirs without their own editors. I also scroll to the bottom of the category page and check out the 'Last update' date, if the date is fairly recent obviously there's an active editor for this category as opposed to an editor that rarely updates and looks after his or her category. I do both of the above as I'm a businessman and time is money, if these checks return unsatisfactory results chances are I'm going to be waiting months at least for a listing in that particular category so I might as well submit to another one.

Often I use the handy 'little green ball' feature on dmoz.org to help me decide on my category. Let me explain, the 'little green ball' feature as I like to term it is simply a graphic (the graphic is of a little green ball) hyperlink from a dmoz.org category to the equivalent category in the Google directory. ODP does this as it provides users with the chance to see a categories sites listed in order of decreasing Pagerank instead of dmoz.org's standard alphabetical ordering. I use this to see what the competition in a category is like, Pagerank wise that is. Googles directory displays listings in order of decreasing Pagerank by default, so sites with high Pagerank will be displayed at the top and hence get considerable more traffic than sites listed near the bottom. Taking this into consideration I would always try to submit to an ODP category which hasn't got too many high Pagerankers as I would most likely be buried in the listings and hence receive very few visitors from Googles version of the directory. Remember the Google directory does get used an awful lot too, even though Google search is very accurate and powerful. The green ball link is located at the bottom right of each category page.

Now for a note regarding regional operations and category Pagerank. If your business is region specific you should always submit to a category dedicated to that region as this will help you get very targeted visitors from dmoz.org, Google and the other sites which use ODP data. As for category Pagerank that refers to the actual Pagerank of the ODP category in dmoz.org which your considering submitting to, remember a link from within a category with a Pagerank of seven, is more valuable than a link from within a category with a Pagerank of five, in Googles eyes anyhow.

When you've decided on your category the submittal form is found through the 'add URL' link located in the top right corner of each applicable category page. Now I will discuss each aspect of this form.

URL


In the URL field type the full address of your website. This may seem obvious but always spell check your address, this means not just the domain name part but also the http:// and the TLD. Numerous sites have been rejected by the ODP for not bothering to fix mistakes like using http:/// instead of http:// and similar mistakes. This is downright unprofessional and in my opinion editors are right to reject sites based on URL field mistakes.

ODP title tips


During your submittal the ODP will ask you to enter a title and description for your websites listing, these are the most important elements of your submittal, do them right and you could be in for some good traffic courtesy of the Pagerank boost Google usually assigns sites listed within ODP, however do it wrong and you could be rejected immediately.

Regarding the title you submit ODP stats you should "Always opt for the official name of the site". This backups another ODP quote from its official editor guidelines page located at http://dmoz.org/guidelines/describing.html "The title should identify the site, not describe it. It should be both informative and concise."

Using your official business name or website name will indeed identify the site and hence it'll be informative and concise. Always do use your official business or website name (often the two are the same) instead of including some keyword filled promotional hype with a junk of alphabetically high characters located at the start in a bid to get near the top of the listings as if you do this the editor reviewing your submission will reject your site.

Don't forget that the primary benefit of a listing with the ODP is not traffic from dmoz.org itself but from third party sites which use ODP data. One of the most prominent sites using this data is the Google Directory and by default Google directory displays listings arranged by Pagerank so there really isn't much point to including characters like AAA at the beginning of your title anyway.

Having included your official business or website name in your title, you may be tempted to add something like 'Welcome to', 'Homepage of', 'Website of' and other similar phrases, however don't do this as editors are advised to remove phrases like these so it's just a waste of time.

Nearly all titles I have looked at in the ODP have all the first letters of all noun words capitalized, this is obviously the way Open Directory Project editors like it so if your title is a couple of words long I would suggest you do this. Be careful here not to capitalize everything, but just the beginning of noun words, don't capitalize words like 'and', 'at', 'of', 'on' and the like. This tactic will make life easier for the reviewing editor which helps greatly towards a final acceptance of your site. I'm about to move onto discussing the description but first here's a page I recommend http://dmoz.org/erz/sites/title.html it gives examples of good and bad titles and explains why they are so.

ODP description tips


Writing a description for your submittal to ODP is much more tricky than writing your title. Descriptions are regularly changed by editors often with many of your important keywords and keyphrases removed and since it's next to impossible to have an original description changed it's vital that you write your description correctly the first time. Correctly in this case means that you follow the guidelines exactly but in such a way that your important keywords and keyphrases are included by the editor.

The important thing is to follow the guidelines that ODP themselves publish.

"Descriptions of sites should describe the content of the site concisely and accurately. They should not be promotional in nature. Submitting a promotional description rather than an objective, well written description may significantly delay your site from being listed or prevent your site from being listed at all."

"Good descriptions ....
Are concise, informative, and objective, to let end-users know what they will find when they visit a web site."

These two quotes taken from http://dmoz.org/add.html and http://dmoz.org/guidelines/describing.html respectively provide a great insight into what the ODP wants. Based on these guidelines your description should be clear, concise and should accurately describe your website on an objective basis. If you describe your site and or products as being 'the best', 'the greatest', 'the cheapest' you're not being objective at all, in fact you're being subjective meaning that your using your opinion which is obviously biased because you own the business/website and all the profits are going to you. ODP editors don't want biased descriptions, they want hard facts about the services and products your website offers so leave all the promotional advertisement like sentences to your sales copy as you'll stand a much better chance of getting in if you do.

Include your services and primary functions of your products and website as your keywords but make sure your description sounds natural, also include your state or province your business operates from, if you are in fact a regional specific operation. Remember that the Open Directory Project will not search the content of your site for keywords so including them in your description is vital. Never include pricing details in your description, that is the function of your site not the directory.

Don't repeat your title in the description, remember the title is for identifying a site and the description field is for describing a site, the two are different and shouldn't overlap. As with the title, don't include any phrases like 'Welcome to', 'Homepage of' as these provide no benefit to end-users who determine relevancy by looking for specific terms, not meaningless phrases like the ones above.

Try to keep your description brief and to the point as although ODP claims on its submission page to allow descriptions of 25-30 words, in practice a description of this length would nearly always get edited with many of your important keywords omitted. Check all your grammar and spelling is right.

Email address?


The ODP submittal form also has an optional email address field. Although optional according to the ODP you should always, always include an email address in my opinion anyhow. The reason for this is that even though editors are usually really busy, many of them will contact you letting you know your accepted. What's more useful however is the information they could send you if your site gets rejected, this could include reasons why your site was rejected which you could immediately act upon and then resubmit. If you don't leave an email address an editor doesn't even have the capability of emailing you, never mind the time.

Finally press submit and there you have it, you have just applied to the ODP. Note and store the date, as you may need this for reference purposes if you have to write to an editor in the future.

Wait and if needed respond


After submitting wait a few days and then check regularly if your site becomes listed over the next few weeks from the ODP search box. Do this by typing in your company or website name (the title you submitted) and viewing the results. I suggest searching rather than browsing to your chosen category as often editors will locate your site in a category different to the one you asked to be listed in as this was an inappropriate category considering your sites content, searching will enable you to determine if your listed in the directory as a whole.

If after a month your site is still not present in the ODP and you're sure your site meets all the pre-requirements outlined above it's time to submit your information again. After this resubmittal wait another month, when this time relapses you should write to the editor of the category you are trying to submit to, sometimes a category will have no editor in this case you should write to the editor of your chosen categories parent category. Links to editor profiles are found beneath a categories listings.

Write the editor an email detailing your plight, tell him or her the date you submitted on and also include the details of your submittal such as URL, title and description. Ask for the reasons your site was rejected, do this in a polite way stating that you'd like to bring your site up to standard and then resubmit to the directory. Tell him or her you appreciate their time and hope to hear from them soon.

You will hear from some editors soon, but the simple fact is that many will never write back and your aim to be listed might appear to be stuck in limbo, however this is not the case, I would suggest you simply find the next most appropriate category for your site and submit there. Make sure however that this category is not edited by the same editor that edits the category you originally submitted to as he or she will most likely reject you again.

Multiple listings?


Multiple listings, deep-linking whatever the editors are calling it these days doesn't matter. What matters is that multiple listings are very valuable to webmasters. A listing of one or more of your websites sub pages as well as your homepage could do wonders for your Pagerank and hence your Google ranking for your chosen keywords and keyphrases.

The important thing to remember when applying for another listing is that the page your submitting must be of very high quality, it must be unique and fit into your chosen category very well. If this describes your page well then you should try to get an additional listing for it. Keep in mind however that the ODP will in most cases list only one page per site, so don't hold your breath waiting for this extra listing to appear.

If you can try to submit to a category which has a different editor than the category your home page is listed from. Try also to find a category in which multiple listings of sites are present, do this by searching for the titles of sites listed within a category from the main dmoz search box, if more than one result comes up then obviously the editor of the category does in some cases give multiple listings. This is important an many editors simply refuse to give additional listings straight out.

Follow the title and description tips given above, however since you will be submitting internal pages you do not need to use your official company or website name as the title, this allows you to include related keywords instead. I read elsewhere that putting the page your submitting into a different sub directory on your server will lend more credibility to the idea that the page contains material different than the rest of your site and hence merits its own listing, this is an interesting approach and I suggest you give it a try. Translating your site into a different language will give you the opportunity to list your site in both the English directory and the directory of the language of your translation.

If after a while you notice that you haven't got your additional listing move on to something else, don't resubmit or contact editors regarding a second or subsequent listing as this may be pursued as spamming the directory.

There you have it, a complete and very comprehensive guide to submitting to the Open Directory Project. Hopefully you can now get your site listed and if your lucky get a couple of sub pages listed too.

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