If you are new to the topic of SEO you may have never heard of dmoz.org, otherwise known as the Open Directory Project or ODP. ODP is a human-run and edited online directory that has been around since 1998, making it quite the dinosaur in internet terms. The fact that it is still, to this day, completely human edited sets it apart from many large directories and just about all search engines.
Whereas Google has a massive system of “crawlers,” software that follows links around the internet to find and index new sites, ODP gains all of its content from user submissions. Those submissions are reviewed by a team of editors – a team of almost 100,000 at the time I’m writing this, according to their site – and, if they meet the requirements, manually added to the directory in the appropriate category.
Why is a 15 Year Old Directory Relevant to Today’s SEO?
The ODP website doesn’t look like much. Honestly, it doesn’t look much different than it looked 15 years ago. How can a site so dated still matter to SEO today?
It doesn’t matter as much as it once did, that much is true. Before it was discontinued in 2011, Google Directory ran on data from ODP, making inclusion highly sought after for a number of years. Now that Google Directory is a thing of the past the benefits of an ODP entry have lessened but that hardly means that they’ve disappeared. Google does still pull data from ODP, including using ODP for generating snippets in search results.
Likewise, a significant number of other directories and search engines pull information from ODP, meaning that inclusion on dmoz.org results in far more weight and authority than just a single backlink. The potential benefit from a small investment of effort makes it well worth submitting your site for consideration.
How To Get Listed
If you do any reading about ODP you’ll find people discussing the difficulty they’ve had getting a listing with the directory. Though there are many possible reasons for this, the most common one is fairly simple: it takes the editors a long time to wade through the sheer number of submissions they receive. Picking out the legitimate submissions from the spam alone must be extremely time consuming, and though its importance is not what it once was, inclusion in the directory is still considered an achievement, so the demand stays steady. Add to this that the editors work on a volunteer basis and you’ve got a process that can be fairly lengthy.
For those submissions that are never added at all, the most common reason for that is also fairly simple: the submitter did not follow the directions. When a team working on a volunteer basis is overloaded with a massive backlog of work, it’s hardly surprising that they would choose to reject submissions that don’t meet their requirements or follow their guidelines.
One of the most common mistakes is attempting to submit a site to the wrong category. ODP is meticulously categorized – there are over a million individual categories – and each category has extremely specific parameters. If you aren’t sure which category is best for your site, browse their directory structure until you find one that you think is a good fit, then click “suggest URL.” At this point you will see a page of directions, all of which you will need to read and follow if you want your submission to be considered.
In many cases you will also see more detailed information about the category you are attempting to submit to. This information will explain which sorts of sites should be submitted to the chosen category and will likely offer suggestions for other categories that may work better for you. Take your time to read this over, look at your options and choose the category that is the best fit for your site.
Though the category choice is the most important, make sure to read through all the directions and follow their guidelines for your site title, description and any other information they request.
And then … Let it Go!
Though inclusion in ODP can be a benefit to you and it is certainly worth the time to put in a submission, make your submission with the knowledge that there are no guarantees. This is not a slick modern process; this is, by many accounts, a bit of a chaotic jumble. Your site may not be included, and if it is included that inclusion may not come for months – possibly even years.
If you search for hints on guaranteeing inclusion in ODP one of the most common suggestions you’ll find is to actually become an editor. Is inclusion worth the time commitment involved there? If you have a genuine interest in the directory and the process, and volunteering for an archaic old internet institution appeals to you, then go for it! For most people, though, that drive won’t be there, and no, I certainly wouldn’t deem the benefits of inclusion to be worth that kind of investment of effort.
For the majority of people the best strategy is simply to do your best to put in a good submission, then let it go. Que sera sera and all that jazz. When dealing with a curmudgeonly old mess like ODP it’s best to be zen. Make your best effort, then move on to other, more reliable methods of improving your SEO.