by Larisa Thomason,
Senior Web Analyst,
It may not get a lot of direct search traffic and may not get much respect from some webmasters, but the Open Directory Project (ODP) is important nevertheless. ODP listings appear all over the Web at such diverse search sites as Yahoo, Google, and Netscape search. In fact, Google places such high regard for ODP it encourages sites to get listed in ODP before they submit to Google. The ODP truly is the important directory you've never heard of - and you can submit to it for free!
An All-Volunteer Community
The ODP is a directory, not a search engine (learn about the difference). Like Yahoo, LookSmart, and other directories, the ODP uses human editors to evaluate and catalog its approximately 3.8 million (to date) Web sites.
Unlike other directories, the vast majority of ODP editors are volunteers. They have a particular interest in some specialty, be it Maine Coon cats, vegetarian restaurants in Montana, or Mesopotamian artifacts. These categories - and many more - are all part of the ODP.
The ODP doesn't do any spidering: you have to submit to get listed unless one of the dedicated editors finds your site by accident and adds you to his or her category.
Join The Community
With 58,000 editors working on over 460,000 categories, there has to be a place for you! Becoming a volunteer editor is usually pretty easy.
- Find a category that interests you and where you have some expertise. In general, the smaller the category (farther down in the directory tree), the better your chances of being accepted as a first-time editor.
- Look for a notation at the bottom of the category page that announces "This category needs an editor."
- Follow the "Become an editor" link at the top of the page and fill out the short editor application.
- Within a few days, you could be an official ODP editor!
One thing to consider: the ODP is wary of people who have a direct business interest in the categories they edit. The reason is obvious: a category editor has a lot of power and could refuse to admit competitors or even remove existing competitors.
If you're rejected because of possible conflicts of interest, consider applying for a related category instead. After you have a proven track record, the other editors will be more likely to trust your judgment with other categories.
Submitting To The ODP
The key to getting listed in any directory is submitting to the proper category. Unless you're running a huge site like CNN.com, MSNBC.com, or any of the other major sites and portals, don't even consider submitting to a top-level category.
Once you've found the proper category, be sure that you're entering your site title, description, and contact data according to the ODP's Official Submission Guidelines.
Your best chance to get listed quickly is to find the narrowest possible category that fits your Web site. Suppose your Web site is about Klezmer music. That's pretty much of a niche musical interest, so you're likely to be turned away from a top category like
Arts > Music >.
Instead, drill down inside the larger Music category, all the way down to:
Arts > Music > Styles > World > Jewish > Klezmer
After you submit, your site should show up in the directory within about a month. Resubmit your site if you haven't been picked up within 4-6 weeks. Check your server logs to see if you've had a visit from an ODP editor. If one visits and doesn't list your site, consider yourself rejected. That's probably all the notice you'll get.
Remember that these editors are volunteers. They don't have time to clean up sloppy submissions or look for the proper category if you submit to the wrong one.
Go back and study the submission guidelines again and consider submitting to a different category. Of course, the guidelines and categories won't help sites that don't have good content. The ODP spurns sites that are nothing but a collection of affiliate links or mirror sites (duplicate content presented under different domain names).
A Key Tool In Site Promotion
The ODP began in under the name NewHoo in June 1998. In November 1998, Netscape (now owned by AOL Time Warner) purchased NewHoo and changed the name to the Open Directory Project. Netscape committed to offering ODP results under an open licensing arrangement - meaning anyone can use ODP results.
And a lot of search sites do use ODP results! That's why it's such an important component of Web site promotion. It's absolutely free to submit your Web site to a directory who feeds results to such search powerhouses as:
- Direct Hit
The ODP is a critical part of the network of search engine and directory alliances. In these alliance arrangements, search engines and directories agree to share results with each other. For example, Yahoo displays results from Google's index and Google displays results from the ODP.
These results sharing agreements make search engine optimization very important. It doesn't help you to be listed on every search site on the Web if you're at the bottom of the rankings. Optimize your pages for individual search engines (like Google) with the Page Primer tool that's part of Search Engine Power Pack.
Page Primer gives you search engine specific tips to optimize your page content and avoid spamming penalties. Then use Engine Starter to submit your site to the top search engines - including those that share results with other engines and directories.
Automated search engine submission tools don't help you much with directory submissions because those need to be handcrafted to appeal to human editors. However, a good automated tool streamlines the submission process and gives you the time you need to research and create a good directory submission.
A good ODP listing with an informative site description will spread your site information all over the Web courtesy of the ODP's many alliances. Use it to get a Web presence at search sites - like Yahoo - that have paid submission policies.
The ODP is important. Take your time, study your options, and get your submission right the first time!