Friday, June 21, 2024

How to Optimize for the Open Directory Project

As the Internet and search technologies mature, one thing remains clear – Internet search is most effective when the user is presented with a hybrid of results from a spider-based search engine and a human-edited directory. My conversation with Chris Tolles of the Open Directory Project shows that he firmly understands the importance of having both crawler-based search services and human-edited directories. The bottom line is that search engine marketing does not work if one or the other is ignored; therefore, it is important to focus search-positioning campaigns on both. The blend in fact benefits the user and the search engine marketer.

The Open Directory (ODP) is a substantial target. The ODP has partnered with major players within the search landscape including AOL Search and Google. The list does not end there, the ODP boasts that an astounding 211 sites in total use ODP data. So what is luring all these sites to this single search directory? In our interview, Chris not only revealed why so many Web sites and users alike are utilizing the directory, but also what every search engine optimizer needs to know in order to be successful with the ODP.

• Why the Open Directory Project?

The ODP currently has 2.3 million URLs in its database, making it the single largest search directory today. Of these 2.3 million, 2.18 million, or 95 percent are top-level domains. The ODP is growing rapidly, at an average of 75,000 sites per month. While clearly this is rapid growth, Tolles claims that the ODP isn’t interested in creating an “exhaustive” database. Rather, he feels it is important that users find enough results to be useful, while not being overwhelmed with data. And that is exactly what the ODP does. The ODP provides open source content, which serves as a solid backend to a variety of engines. So exactly which engines are partnered with ODP?

• ODP Partners

The list of the over 200 sites across the Web using ODP data includes such industry leaders as AOL Search, Ask Jeeves, Direct Hit, Google, HotBot and Netscape Search. Obviously, getting your Web site indexed in the ODP increases your chances of having your Web site show up in another major search engine’s results. However, while the probability is increased, inclusion does not guarantee a ranking in an ODP search partner’s engine. Each and every search engine uses a different algorithm to decide which pages rank highly. Consequently, there is no single established methodology for acquiring rankings across all the partner engines. The search engine optimizer must be savvy to the ranking schemes of each search partner.

Furthermore, according to Chris, there is no set time requirement for the partners to sync up with the ODP database. For instance, AOL Search and Netscape opt to update their content on a biweekly basis, while other partners may delay syncing up for months. That being said, it is important to get an understanding of the criteria the ODP takes into account when selecting Web sites to index, since if your site is not in the ODP index, no amount of understanding the ranking algorithms of the partners will get your site ranked. The following helpful hints and suggestions Chris disclosed will boost your likelihood of infiltrating the Web’s largest search directory.

• Getting Listed

Construct Your Submission Carefully. You should take the same care in constructing your submission that you would in writing a job application. Your submission is your site’s application for admission to the ODP. As with a resume, spelling and punctuation count! You should keep in mind that a human is going to read your submission. It is important to write with clarity and to avoid ambiguity. In addition, include a safe number of keywords and phrases without overloading the submission with repetitive phrases. Take into account that the simpler you make the editor’s job, the more successful you will be.

• Choose Your Category Wisely

Time should be taken to select the “single most relevant” category for your site, not just the first pertinent listing. Chris recommends that you do your homework. Browse the directory! Look for competitors and similar sites. There is no maximum number of sites for a given category, so don’t be intimidated by a robust index. The extra time spent determining where your site best fits could be the difference between getting listed and being left out.

• Make Unique Submissions

There is a clear line between submitting various pages with unique content and blasting the directory with too many submissions. Chris revealed to me that understanding this boundary, although extremely important in all search engine submissions, is especially important with the ODP. The ODP encourages the submission of multiple pages as separate listings, if, and only if, the content is truly unique and is sensible for the ODP.

The above article, or portions of it, have been reprinted with permission from the MarketPosition Newsletter and FirstPlace Software, Inc. and is copyright 1997-2001. FirstPlace produces WebPosition Gold, the award-winning software product to track and to improve your search engine rankings. You may download a FREE trial copy of WebPosition Gold from:

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