I was recently accepted as an editor of the ODP (Open Directory Project) at dmoz.org. Given the significance of the directory, its historical connection with Google, and its prominence in SEO discussion, I want to share my experience to help others understand the project better. I don't speak for the ODP. This is very much a personal article about my own experiences.
First, I must warn that if you're looking for a way to trick the ODP into admitting you as an editor in order for you to disadvantage competitors, or to list spammy websites, then you're wasting your time. The editor of a given category does not have the final say over what is listed there, or the manner in which each site is listed. There are strict rules and the editing history of the directory is scrutinised by a huge network of editors whose powers increase up the hierarchy. They are a very active and very experienced body of people and they do not tolerate abuse. The directory is under constant, human review. That's what makes it so special.
If you take anything away from reading about my experience then it should be these points:
- If you have expertise in a particular niche and are prepared to help the ODP establish a definitive, high quality category in that niche then there might just be a place for you as an editor.
- If you have a good site in that niche then you may even be able to get it listed very quickly - by approving it yourself as an editor of the category.
- If your only interest in dmoz.org is to get sites listed for you or your clients, or to try to disadvantage your competitors, then you will fail because other editors will undo your work. Don't waste your time.
Having been in digital marketing for many years, for me becoming a small part of dmoz was like being admitted into the mysterious inner sanctum of the internet. I had never tried applying before - I thought there was no point: surely they wouldn't accept me, because I'm a digital marketer with possible vested interests. (Even if they did accept me they surely wouldn't let me submit a site I had any affiliation with. Wouldn't that be some sort of conflict of interest?)
But over time my attitude towards dmoz was transformed and I think it was that transformation that helped me succeed in becoming an editor. Having spent a lot of time exploring certain categories in the Open Directory, it became clear to me that it was by no means definitive. Dmoz.org was not perfect. Some of the sites in the categories I'm interested in no longer existed on the internet. At the same time, some of the latest, most relevant and useful sites weren't yet included.
Something was missing. The ODP needed help. They needed somebody who knew what made a good website in those categories. They needed somebody who cared about the quality of websites about those subjects. They needed me!
I applied to become a category editor, disclosing my affiliation to a website in that category. Within a few days I was accepted as an editor and the site I disclosed and submitted was there waiting for me to list it in the directory. I call that a good user experience provided by dmoz.org - but particularly so when compared to the experience of people with more selfish motives, whose subconscious line of thought probably goes something like this:
I want this site listed. I haven't bothered to try to make it useful for people - in fact it's just a mirror site stuffed with ads. But here's the site - along with a spammy, keyword-stuffed title and description. I haven't bothered to look at what makes a good listing either. Just list it.
"Become an Editor"? Why would I do that - except to get this site listed? I don't care what's in the directory - just list this site now. If it's not listed by tomorrow I'll probably try submitting it another few times.
This is hardly quid pro quo. There's no give and take in that approach and so it's less likely to benefit anybody.
Getting your site listed on dmoz.org
Most people have a topic they're passionate about and that they have some expertise in. Whatever yours is, you're no doubt eminently familiar with the best websites on your subject. In fact you probably operate or are affiliated with at least one of those sites in some way. As an enthusiast, like me you care about the information and resources that are available to other enthusiasts. You would not recommend a bad, spammy website about your passionate interests to another enthusiast. So hopefully you wouldn't want to try to use the ODP to unfairly favour a pointless site in search results - right?
Blogs and forums are awash with complaints about how long it takes to get a site listed on dmoz. But the reason it sometimes takes so long to get a site listed may be largely due to volume. There are a huge queue of worthwhile sites waiting to get listed. The queue of poor sites submitted by spammers is at least as large. Somebody has to go through all those sites. That's a big job and the ODP needs help from people who can recognise a good site in the context of its niche.
At the bottom of most categories there is a link that says, "Become an editor". That's because the ODP needs more editors. If you have an area of expertise and an interest in building a really good directory then that could mean you.
Which category should you edit?
The most important consideration is which category you have the most expertise in. But you won't get accepted as an editor of a huge, high level category right away. First you need to prove your expertise and good intent by editing some of the smallest categories in the directory. So rather than editing Regional : UK you should be looking to start with something like Regional: Europe: United Kingdom: England: Hertfordshire: Arts and Entertainment.
Dmoz editors are actively looking for good websites about their subject category. I've seen several websites get listed on dmoz without anybody even submitting them. The editor knew their category and found the site themselves.
So the first and most important thing you can do to get your site into dmoz.org - and keep it there - is to aim to build one of the best websites in your niche, with unique content and resources that are of value to people interested in the topic. (Follow that up by promoting it in all the usual ways).
If the "build quality content" approach sounds familiar perhaps that's because the pursuit of quality, relevant, original content is also the only sustainable approach to search engine optimisation and other digital marketing campaigns. The bottom line is that quality content makes it easier for you to get links - including a link from dmoz.org.
How important is a listing on dmoz.org?
Maybe not as important as you think and not as important as it used to be. Not every dmoz listing has value and some are more beneficial than others. But obtaining a listing is potentially very important. In many cases it is the most important link you can get. Your competirors may have a link there already, constituting a potential advantage to them. And if they haven't got a link there yet, you need to assume they will do. So it must be your goal to build a site worthy of a listing on dmoz.org, and to get it submitted or noticed by an editor and listed. (A dmoz.org listing may be particularly beneficial to young websites that have yet to attract other good inbound links.)
Here are two good reasons why a link on dmoz.org is likely to be a good link:
1. A listing on dmoz.org means a link from a page on that domain and dmoz.org has enormous authority in its own right. The dmoz.org index page has a page authority of 94 out of 100. That's like saying it has a Google PageRank of around 9 or 10. Domain authority is also 94/100. There are almost 50,000 domains linking to dmoz.org - with more than 1.5 million links.
2. As mentioned above, ODP listings include anchor text - potentially including relevant keywords (usually the real title of the site). The site description also helps search engines determine the keywords that are relevant to your site, although to a lesser extent.
The Open Directory Project draws a lot of negative comments. But before you evaluate what dmoz.org has done for you, ask yourself what you have done for dmoz.org. Have you submitted only the best websites and taken care to find the most relevant category? If you're so unhappy with the directory then why don't you make a genuine attempt to make it a better place by applying to become an editor - working in the interests of the directory and users of the internet, rather than just your own interests?
If you can contribute positively to the ODP in the spirit of quality, pride and teamwork, then you might just get more back than just having your site listed. You could take pride in helping to build the world's largest and arguably most important online directory. And you get to help other people who care about your interests to find the best websites when they search using Google and other search engines. Because - rightly - the Open Directory can have a significant impact on search results.