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Raise Your Hands If You Are Frustrated With DMOZ!

Aug 17, 2007
If you ever had the pleasure of trying to submit your website to DMOZ (also know as the Open Directory Project - ODP) you probably found the process frustrating and riddled with certain arrogance and a lack of communication. Yet, it is one the more important directories for listing your website. You cannot help but wonder if this directory is there to assist website owners for mutual success or purposely trying to become an antagonistic netizen resource!

DMOZ is a web directory which was originally created in 1998 by employees of Sun Microsystems. The directory was sold to Netscape which is now part of AOL/Time Warner. They supposedly have over 5.2 million sites listed, over 71,000 editors, in over 590,000 categories. These statistics are hard to believe if you think of the frustrating process to get your site listed - IF you are so lucky. One would almost have to believe many of these sites were actually grandfathered. Certainly in the past 3 years listing your site or becoming an editor for a specific category has been a nightmare.

The importance of DMOZ has increased despite the Internet trend of using search engines to locate websites faster than navigating through a multitude of categories in a web directory. One value that has been closely associated with the ODP is Pagerank, which is a value Google places on web pages. One of the most important factors that will raise your website's Pagerank with Google is the number of inbound links to your website and the Pagerank value of those linking web pages. This directory is important not only because it is a great web directory, but because many search engines adopted it as a de facto directory due to the ease of importing the whole directory data and reusing it as their own. Google's own web directory is based on that of the ODP. The estimated number of web sites that use this directory are not known, but it can be argued to be in the thousands. AOL Search is certainly one of the many resources that use the ODP. This number translates to a huge number of inbound links to websites listed in the directory. This alone makes this directory very important to any serious webmaster in their internet marketing strategy, contrary to what the editors may say in their public forums.

Having a very valuable Directory at their disposal, the editors have a great deal of power at their finger-tips and the arrogance is quite evident. There is an attitude of take it or leave it expressed at the forums. Many webmasters depend on their websites for a living and hence they try to market their websites with everything available to them in order to ensure a steady stream of income. Whether these websites are successful is dependent upon if they are listed within a great resource like the ODP. It becomes hard to accept that an editor has so much power as to determine the financial fate of a business.

There are many stories and complaints about DMOZ. The most important one is undoubtedly the lack of communication to webmasters. There is no formal method to let a webmaster know if the listing was accepted or declined, and if it was declined what the related issues may be in order to correct them. Let us take for instance ZEAL. Zeal's editors have a great method of communicating to you any issue related to your submissions. You know exactly what the problem is with your listing and you have a chance for corrections by communicating with the editors. Unfortunately for the commercial community, Zeal is only good for non-commercial purposes. If one could use this format from Zeal at the ODP, the complaints and frustrations would be greatly reduced.

The list of complaints regarding DMOZ is fairly substantial and include the manner in which the editors run the directory, the refusal to listen to suggestions for improvements, their lack of sensitivity to webmasters, the length of time it takes to review a website (even though they supposedly have thousands of editors), and their inability to use current technologies to better control and run the directory while minimizing abuse.

Let us take for example a direct quote from a frustrated webmaster that asked to become an editor. Mel Atwood is respected as a top Multi-Level Marketing Consultant and founded YourSolutionsNet, LLC in 1997 to provide solid MLM Solutions.

"DMOZ is focused on providing a directory edited by real people; however, for many key words an average person has no expertise in judging the value of one site over another. For example: MLM Software is a particularly important key word phrase for my website. Having submitted my site for this key word on several occasions, it appears they are overwhelmed with managing all categories and have been unable to list my site. In this particular category example there are 10 websites listed for MLM Software, a perfect category for a new volunteer editor. So, I applied. I was told that my application to become an editor was rejected because I was also interested in listing my site in the category, a site I might add that is extremely relevant to this category is SimpleMLMSoftware.

It dawned on me, how do they expect to secure volunteers of any professional nature for a particular category if they reject them on the basis of also wanting to include their own site in the category they are experts in? The quandary: they can't get enough editors to quickly and efficiently get sites listed, and they won't accept professionals to do the editing because an expert might also want to list their site in that category. Ultimately that leaves them with unskilled, inexperienced, and unprofessional editors for a category. Thus, editors with no experience regarding a category are evaluating what sites should and should not be allowed. I fail to see how this improves relevance in searching a key word or category. Yet to my dismay; Yahoo, Google, and AOL along with other search engines see DMOZ's directory as highly relevant. I've got to be missing something!"

There have been many suggestions to the directory and its editors. Most have been dismissed as unworkable, or too much of a burden on the directory and its army of editors to handle. They forget that they have a lot of responsibilities to the general web users and webmasters. The editors will claim the directory is here to serve the public and not the webmasters, yet the webmasters are the ones who make the content available to the Internet and their content is what the public is seeking.

While we can certainly carry on with more frustrating stories about DMOZ, let's focus our attention on suggestions for improving the ODP process.

First and foremost, a method of communicating with the webmaster and an opportunity to correct any problems with their listing.

Secondly, set expectations that will inform webmasters how long it is taking to process listings within a certain category. Perhaps there is an editor who is truly inundated and is unable to keep up with the listings in a reasonable time (within 30 days). Just like customer service phone systems can now tell you how long you will be on hold, we can certainly measure date of submission to date of response to determine length of time. This may actually help the ODP to identify problem category editors and provide methods of assisting them.

A third improvement would be implementing a system of better control over editors and their power in accepting and rejecting websites, especially those that directly compete with the editor's own websites or websites that are affiliated with the editor.

For the moment, this webmaster has no intention of continuing to battle with the DMOZ editors and is certainly not recommending his clients to journey through this frustrating process. There are enough other methods of marketing websites on the web and if the ODP was no longer available it certainly would not cause any significant damage to the web or the public searching for information. If webmasters banded together in a boycott of the ODP, I believe someone would eventually listen. Don't you think so?
About the Author
Melih Oztalay is the CEO of SmartFinds Internet Marketing. Internet marketing is not only about knowledge and experience, but also about imagination. Visit SmartFinds Internet Marketing.
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