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What is happening to Open Directory?

Every search marketing expert will tell you that one of the best things you can do for your site is to submit it to Open Directory (DMOZ), the free directory service whose link to your site is prized by Google and other search engines. A listing in DMOZ is an imprimatur of your site’s quality and value. But is DMOZ slipping? Can your new site get the imprimatur it deserves? Recent events call the position of authority DMOZ holds into question.


First, the basics. DMOZ is important mostly because search engines think it is important. Most sites get relatively little traffic crossing the link from DMOZ itself, but because search engines value links from authoritative sites, and DMOZ is considered an authoritative site, a DMOZ link can raise your site’s organic search rankings.
And it is free. So why not submit your site? Well, there’s no reason not to submit your site, but many submitters are not getting any response. It is not uncommon for sites to wait a year or more before being listed. And submitters are even more upset about the recent move by DMOZ to simply stop status reporting on your submission request. Now, you send it in and you hope for the best.
But there is even more bad press coming the way of DMOZ. Allegations of bribery of DMOZ editors have begun. There is even a blog that regularly regales stories on corruption at DMOZ.
Whether or not the corruption allegations are true, the lack of “freshness” in DMOZ (as search experts like to refer to the slow pace of DMOZ updates) is undeniably the case. The DMOZ submission backlog has been getting worse and that means that the links are less reflective of today’s Web—they look more like the Web of 2003 or 2004. Eventually, the search engines will not ignore this.
Search engines place high confidence in DMOZ as an authority because it is perceived as unbiased and up-to-date. The minute that perception of authority begins to erode, because editors are corrupt rather than unbiased, or because the directory is old rather then current, the search engines will begin to devalue the impact of a DMOZ link.
Some observers see signs of a lessening of importance for directories, although no one is saying that the importance of DMOZ is waning yet. But the writing is on the wall. If DMOZ continues to get bad press about its glacial pace of responding to submissions, along with lovely anecdotes about editorial favoritism, expect that the search engines will eventually reduce the importance of its links.
What does this mean to the search marketer? In the short run, not much. If you are already in DMOZ, be happy, but know that you need to be doing many other things to help your organic rankings because DMOZ may not always be as valuable as it is now. If you are not in DMOZ, submit your site. It probably won’t do you any good, but it can’t hurt. If you are in the long bedraggled line of folks waiting for DMOZ to act on your submission, just hang in there. There’s nothing you can do, so spend your time in other ways and hope for the best. If you have heard nothing after a few months, you can try submitting to a different editor if there is a second relevant category for your site.
The short story is that DMOZ is important, but you have lots of things you can do besides getting a DMOZ link. And if DMOZ does not shape up, it will be less important in the future than it is now.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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