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The Open Directory Project, or the ODP, is a directory similar in layout to Yahoo and Looksmart. ODP's biggest difference to its competitors is that it is run by over 37,000 volunteer editors, who do their work without receiving any monetary compensation. This uncommon operating model is both an advantage and problem to the ODP. Its reliance on volunteers enables the directory to process most submissions quickly, but can also create situations where an editor suddenly goes missing and causes sites submitted to his category to go unreviewed for a longer period of time.

While Yahoo charges for some submissions and Looksmart requires nearly all sites to pay, submitting your website to the ODP is completely free of charge. However, as I'm going to soon explain, the old saying "you get what you pay for" does not apply in this case.

Why the ODP?
A listing at Yahoo is usually hailed as the holy grail of website promotion, but that does not mean you should forget about submitting your website to the ODP. The ODP directory itself receives far less traffic than Yahoo or Looksmart, but because its data is used by several large search engines such as AOL, HotBot and Lycos, being in the ODP can produce a very healthy number of visitors to any site. However, as it often takes up to several months for these search engines to update their ODP data, you may have to wait for a while before the full benefit of your listing begins to show.

In addition to the traffic sent by the ODP and those who use its data, there are other advantages in being listed at the directory that are not mentioned as often but can be even more valuable. You see, the truth is that some search engines are using ODP listings in their algorithms and rank sites & pages that have been accepted into it higher than those who haven't.

This is a very sensible method, as a page that is able to get listed in a directory edited by humans has to be at least better than the average floatsam currently cluttering the web. Google has proven to be very rewarding to sites that are in the ODP, which should become quite clear to anyone who has read my article about Google's ranking algorithm. FAST also appears to be taking ODP listings into account, but perhaps to a somewhat smaller degree.

You've now heard just how valuable prize an ODP listing is and it's enough enough to make most search engine optimization professionals drool all over their keyboards. In order to spare valuable computer equipment from suffering any unnecessary damage, let us move on to the submission instructions.

Submitting to the Open Directory Project
From this point onwards, I assume that you've read "Boost your traffic with website directories" and understand the basic rules of directory submissions. I won't repeat those hints and suggestions in here, so if you haven't read the article yet, do so now.

Before submitting your website to the ODP, you should read through the official submission instructions. While they do not offer any secret tips or gimmicks on how to get listed, understanding them will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes made by submitters. Another very useful resource I'd recommend for everyone is the ODP's editor guidelines page, which offers some insight on what the editors want and don't want to see in the submissions they receive.

Just like with other directories, you should definitely submit the home page of your site first into the ODP. If you are able to get in, you might want to think about attempting to get one or two of your content-rich subpages listed in other categories. For example, the main page of this site has been accepted for a listing at /Computers/Internet/Web Design and Development/Promotion/Tips and Tricks/ and one of the subpages can be found at /Computers/Data Formats/Markup Languages/HTML/Meta Tags/.

Unfortunately, it is often difficult to get these additional links from the ODP, which is why only those who are convinced that their site has very good content should consider this option. Note that the editors don't look kindly to sites that over-submit or "spam" the directory, so it's usually best not to try submitting more than one or two extra pages at most. In extreme cases, excessive submissions can result in the site being completely removed from the ODP.

Some of you might already be listed in the ODP and would like to get another listing in the directory, but feel that the subpages of your site do not contain enough unique content to be submitted on their own. Creating more content is usually the best solution for the problem, but there is also another solution - offering your site in more than one language.

If you happen to be for example a Spanish web designer, you can make an English and a Spanish version of your pages, allowing you to be listed in both the English and the Spanish parts of the ODP. However, be aware that the translation must be of high quality, so using Altavista's Babelfish or similar machine-translation service to do the work will not cut it. This method does require quite a bit of work, but in addition to receiving another ODP listing, your visitors will appreciate you for making your content available in their native language.

I submitted, but didn't get in! Now what?

The ODP doesn't reject sites as easily as Yahoo, but people do occasionally run into problems while trying to get their pages accepted into the directory. If your site hasn't been listed in three weeks despite the fact that you've followed both the instructions in the "Directories" article and the ones given by ODP to the letter, it's time to take some action. Notice that the following only applies to situations where you have submitted the home page of your site. If you have attempted to submit a subpage but it hasn't been listed, I'd suggest that you simply forget the whole thing and move on to other matters.

The first step is to simply submit again. Of course, if you received a notification that explained why your site wasn't accepted, correct the problems pointed out in it first before doing anything else. If this second submission does not yield any results within a few weeks, you should at this point get in touch with the editor of the category you submitted to. You can find a link to contact him at the bottom of the page. Write a polite E-mail where you ask for the reason why your site hasn't appeared in the directory and send it. Remember to include the title, description and address of your site and also mention the dates of your first and second submission.

If you don't get a reply in a couple weeks, contact the editor of the category above you (ie. people submitting to /Computers/Internet/Web Design and Development/Promotion/Tips and Tricks/ should contact the editor of Computers/Internet/Web Design and Development/Promotion). Give him the same information you included in the first letter and explain that the reason you're sending the E-mail is that you haven't received a reply from the editor of your category. If nothing happens within a month, attempt to improve your site if possible and try to find another relevant category within the ODP where you could submit.

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