26 October, 2007

Get Listed in DMOZ–Optimizing for the Open Directory Project

This entry was originally posted on the omnistaretools.com blog. It is reposted here for reference only.

Good SEO requires getting others to link to your content. But most such links will be from lower to mid-range pagerank sources, especially if you’re just starting out. Getting those all-too-important high pagerank sites to link you is the holy grail of SEO, and there are only a few places to get it without paying top dollar.
Open Directory Project
(For those of you just starting to venture out into the SEO world, it might be helpful to know what pagerank is. The easy explanation is that pagerank is the term Google uses that describes how important your website is in their eyes. In order to get a high pagerank, one must, among other things, have high-ranking pagerank sites link to you. The pagerank scale ranges from 0 to 10, with 3 being quite respectable, 6 being impressive, and 10 being google.com.)
Business.com is one of those directories with a high page rank (currently their internal pages are around 6 or 7), and it costs an arm and a leg to get included in their database. But some precious few high pagerank site actually give out links for free–if you submit your site to them in the right way. CSS Zen Garden is one of them, and I’ll be detailing in a future column how to get on this pagerank 9 site. But today I will be explaining how to get your site listed on dmoz: the Open Directory Project.
The Open Directory Project (internal pages at pagerank 7-8) is a human-edited directory of websites. Its use as an online portal is unrivaled on the ‘net, and even if it weren’t a high pagerank link source, the traffic you receive simply from being listed in the directory will be well worth your time getting on the list.
The problem is that because the ODP (sometimes referred to as dmoz) is so important, its editors are very picky about what websites they accept into the directory. Thankfully, you have Omnistar Interactive at your side; if you go along with the following suggestions, you can be sure of getting your site listed in the ODP in record time.
Make sure your site is listable.
Before anything else, you should check to make sure the site you want to submit is listable at all. The ODP guidelines do not accept sites with illegal content (copyright infringement, sales of illegal substances) nor sites with little to no original content (syndication sites or affiliate sites). Please note that the ‘little to no original content’ rejection does not apply to sites which include unoriginal content, but are, for the most part, a good source of original information. If you run an affiliate site, just make sure that a majority of your site has original content of some kind. Even a 60/40 original content to affiliate ratio should be enough to allow acceptance at ODP. Some editors will actually accept lower percentages, but you should not make assumptions about who will review your submission.
Technically, you could put up temporary original content during the submission and review stage at ODP, then remove this content after your site is accepted. I cannot recommend this procedure for a number of reasons. First, original content is always useful for SEO, not just for ODP submission review. Second, if it is found out that you have done this and a competitor reports this to ODP, then you may not only have your link taken down, but also blacklisted for acceptance at ODP. This is a big deal, because google’s directory is a hard dump of the ODP directory, and so Google will also be aware of your bad practices.
Check if you’re already listed.
Always check to see if your site is already listed before making any submission. To do otherwise is to risk the wrath of your assigned editor. Go to the ODP home page and do a search for your site’s domain name, minus the ‘www’.
If your site is already listed, use the ‘update listing’ link at the top of the page where your site is listed. Please be aware that updates on listings will only be carried out if they are necessary. A change of marketing terms or copy will probably not be accepted, whereas a correction of a misspelling or factual errors probably will.
Find the right category.
I cannot stress this step enough. Find the appropriate category for your site, and the appropriate level at which it should be listed. Take your time in doing this. Failing to find the correct category may increase your wait time by ten times or more.
The reason is that each category has a different editor in charge of submissions. If an editor receives your submission, you have to wait in the queue until your turn is reached; this may be a significant amount of time in itself. At that point, the editor reviews your site, and if it is determined that you submitted to the incorrect category, the editor is supposed to find the correct category and resubmit it for you, at which point you wait in the queue again for the next editor. But in reality, if you are too lazy to find the correct category to submit to, the editor reviewing your site will likely not feel obligated to find the correct category for you either, and so you will probably be resubmitted to yet another incorrect category. This process might go on indefinitely, although it is likely that at some point an editor will decide to just reject your submission, due to your inability to follow submission guidelines.
Fully 85% of submitted sites will be rejected. A large portion of these is due to submission guidelines not being followed. To make matters worse, when a submission is rejected, no notification is issued. Often, you will be unable to tell if your submission is still waiting in a queue or if you’ve already been rejected.
Really find the right category.
This suggestion is so important that I’m listing it twice.
Check to make sure you submit to the correct language category. If your site is in Greek, submit in the/World/Greek/ category; but if it is in English and about Greek, submit it to /Science/…/Languages/…/Classical_Greek/; and if it is about Greece, submit it to /Regional/Europe/Greece/.
Also, always submit to the most specific category possible. Move down the list getting more and more specific until you are unable to be any more specific. If your site is about everything that is soccer, then /Sports/Soccer/ will be fine. But if your site is about soccer for kids, you must click on ‘kids’ in the soccer section, and it will take you to the completely separate category of /Kids_and_Teens/Sports_and_Hobbies/Sports/Soccer/.
Note that since each page is its own identity, if you have a main page about soccer, and individual pages about certain aspects of soccer, you may be able to submit multiple pages to be accepted on the ODP. If you do this, try to submit each page one at a time, and make sure that each submitted page has useful original content sufficient enough to stand on its own as an ODP link. Please be careful with this, however, as if these other pages do not stand on their own, you may find all of your links taken down by a self-righteous editor who notices it.
Optimize your site.
ODP guidelines do not specifically restrict acceptance to websites with good spelling and that practice good design. Yet, in practice, if your site has more than two ads per page, poor grammar, long download times, pop-up ads, left-to-right scrolling, redirects, activeX, spammy keywords, hidden text, forced scripts, broken links, or anything else that may annoy websurfers, then you forget about getting accepted.
The general rule is that if your site looks professional, then you have nothing to worry about. If not, then you have some cleaning up to do before you submit to the ODP. Be aware that if you submit and are rejected, you must wait six months before submitting again, or it may be interpreted as spamming.
You may also want to check your meta tags. Many ODP editors try to actually use meta tags, and if you have well-written (i.e., non-spammy) meta tags, then that keyword-rich content will be copied onto the ODP. But beware: if your meta tags are sloppy, the editor will just write up a quick accurate description that may lack every keyword you were going for, and that’s a _huge_ loss SEO-wise.
And finally, the actual submission part.
Now that you have the correct category, all you need to do is submit your url, title, and description. You do this by hitting the ‘suggest url’ link while in the appropriate category.
The URL should point to a folder, and never a filename. In other words, point to http://dmoz.org rather than http://dmoz.org/index.html. Also, it should point toward the highest level possible to reach your site. Be aware that deep links to your site will likely not be accepted. If you want to link content that is deeply embedded, create a higher level folder that links to that page on your site.
For the title, use the official title of your site. Do not use “Welcome to…” or “Home Page of…” or anything that is not part of the official title.
For the description, write a short, well-written description. If it is too ‘salesy’, your text may be rewritten by the editor, or even summarily rejected. Don’t use the first person, and write the description in the appropriate language.
Hurry up and wait.
At this point, your part in the process is over. Either your site will be accepted or rejected, and you have no further input in the matter. In addition, if it is rejected, you won’t even be able to tell, because no notification is given. It’s harsh, but that’s just how it is. But believe me, dealing with all this trouble is worth it. A pagerank 3 or 4 site will generally go up a full pagerank just for being accepted on the ODP.
If six months pass with no acceptance, it is considered acceptable to resubmit. Resubmitting before this period of six months is considered spamming, and may get you blacklisted. That said, some categories are very active, and the queue may in fact last for as long as a year, so be patient.
A note on taking an expired domain…
I should note that some black hat websites recommend using software to find a domain that is already on the ODP, but has since expired, and then buying that domain so as to take advantage of the links already invested in that site. While there may be some possible value in this for a site you only intend to test with in the short term, I cannot stress how important it is not to do this for an long term site you plan. Google resets pagerank for any expired domain to zero, and even though buying an expired doman will benefit from the links on ODP and elsewhere, all the major search engines will know what you have done, and they could, at any time, decide to alter their search rankings formulae to take this type of behavior into account and penalize you for it. As of now, there is no such penalty, but search engines alter their ranking formulae almost constantly, and I would not recommend risking a long term project on an issue as shady as this.
Hopefully, these suggestions will help you to get listed in dmoz without too much trouble. And that’s just good SEO practice.
Posted by Eric Herboso.
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