Assessing DMOZ: A Quality Review

DMOZ is the most popular directory among search engine marketers and professionals. This is because of its reputation for being a “quality” directory, the directory’s age, its authority among search engines, and the most important of all, the fact that it’s free. But is this popularity and reputation deserved?

Lots of webmasters dream of getting listed on DMOZ; some have even waited for weeks to months hoping to get a listing. Some acquire a listing, but the majority do not. This says DMOZ is really strict as to which sites it will list. One of the major reasons why a site is not listed is because it is of “poor quality” and not in accordance with DMOZ submission guidelines

This article attempts to measure the quality of the DMOZ directory by wearing the normal user hat, and not that of the search engine optimization professional. Let’s see if DMOZ really meets its promise of providing their normal visitors with quality websites by taking a look at the ones that are currently listed in their directory.

If the quality of the surveyed websites is indeed great, then it affirms DMOZ’s reputation as one of the best quality directories in the web. If not, DMOZ is just being USED as a milk cow for search engine professionals wanting to get a listing in DMOZ for the quality link juice they can earn from the listing. This is bad, because the primary purpose of DMOZ is providing a quality website directory for everyone (not only SEO professionals).

DMOZ is not a search engine governed by algorithmic (automatic) processes. Instead, it allows users to search for quality websites that are “manually reviewed” by human editors to see if the website really is of good quality in terms of providing information, trust and reputation.

This is an obvious advantage, because human visitors can ensure that the website listed in DMOZ has been sorted out in terms of spam and other illegal/fake activities that normal search engines (even Google) can hardly detect. DMOZ editors check a website’s integrity manually by visiting the actual website, reading your content in detail, examining your services and website objectives, checking your background (by reading your "About" page) and lastly checking your business address.

If the websites cannot pass the “integrity” and “quality” checks, a DMOZ listing will be denied. This is of course different from algorithmic search engines, because websites can appear on the top of the results without a concise “about page,” “background" and even “contact page,” as these search engines evaluate content quality and relevance differently from the way that DMOZ editors do.

A quick check: Looking for accommodations in Anchorage, Alaska

Say for example that I am planning a summer vacation to Anchorage, Alaska and I need to book a suitable and quality accommodation in advance. I will use DMOZ to look for trusted and quality websites that offer hotel and other accommodations in Anchorage, Alaska. This is my process:

Step 1: Go to http://www.dmoz.org/

Step 2: Use the DMOZ search function to look for websites right away. In the box, I type "anchorage alaska accommodation."

Step 3: DMOZ provided me with three relevant listings.

The way the description has been written matters a lot to me when selecting which sites to click (whether in DMOZ or in search engine results). DMOZ editors are known to frequently rewrite description submitted to them according to what they really find appropriate and relevant about the website. Since descriptions are also “manually” edited, we can say they are far more accurate than the ones that normal search engines show in their search results, although this should be considered on a case-by-case basis if the website is again updated and the description in DMOZ is no longer acceptable. This is why webmasters uses the tag <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOODP"> to prevent Google from using the DMOZ description.

The following are the actual descriptions:

1.) Boulevards.com: Anchorage – Guide to dining, attractions, and accommodations in Anchorage, Alaska.

2.) Alaska Backpackers Inn – Description and photos of rooms and amenities at this budget accommodation in Anchorage.

3.) Alaska Latin Tours LLC – Accommodation, reservations and itinerary planning. Custom tours in English and Spanish in Anchorage, Alaska and its boundaries.

Here is the actual search result URL

As to what I was actually looking for, based on the descriptions, the most relevant result would be the second one. Result number one is more of a guide, and the third listing is more of a travel agency and tour guide.

So I click “Alaska Backpackers Inn.” Now let’s evaluate this according to how well it answers certain questions:

1. Can I find the background of this accommodation? Some history and the name of the owners can be helpful.

Result: On the front page, I can see the company name, which is the owner of this website, “CAI LLC.”

2. Can I contact them by phone?

Result: They have a contact form, email address and a phone number.

3. What is the price of their accommodation?

Result: They have clearly stated the accommodation rates on their site. 

4. Do they have pictures of their accommodation?

Result: They have pictures too. 

5. Any past testimonials?

I cannot find any testimonials, though this is not a big deal; I can give them a call and find out more.

Overall rating: 4/5

It appears that if, indeed, I was planning a vacation to Anchorage, Alaska, then this accommodation would surely get my reservation.

 

Second check: Wedding planner in Italy

Say that we are searching for a wedding planner website anywhere in Italy. So we start by:

1. Typing "Italy Weddings" in the search box. Here’s a tip: I prefer typing broader keywords into the DMOZ search box because it provides me with more results.

2. The following is the screen shot of the results:

It is obvious that result #3 is clearly an Italy-based wedding coordinator, so I click that link.

3. The URL is  http://www.luxuryweddingsinitaly.com/home.php. I check the following:

a. Company background and contact information:

It’s stated here: http://www.luxuryweddingsinitaly.com/contact/index.php

b. Portfolio and samples:

I’m very keen to see this information; I find their work elegant: http://www.luxuryweddingsinitaly.com/creations/index.php

I think the website completely meets (and perhaps even exceeds) my expectations. If I were looking for a wedding planner in Italy, this website would be hearing from me. I give it a 5/5 overall rating.

Based on the two actual websites I have checked, DMOZ meets my expectations and standards. This shows that their editors are working hard to select “real and quality websites.”

However, as I have been using DMOZ as an alternative to finding good websites with search engines (like Google, Bing and Yahoo); I find a serious problem that could affect user experience.

The main problem is the lack of websites and updated results. Even though they claimed to have listed 4,532,616 websites, as stated on their home page, as of January 29, 2010, I still cannot find websites for other obvious queries. The number of current websites listed still not enough.

For example, if I search for common terms like: "Computer repair shop Florida" and "Car repair shop Dallas texas," DMOZ cannot provide relevant websites. It is much worse if I search for "tennis lessons New York." DMOZ only provided me with one result, http://yorkwestontennis.8k.com/, which is not even based in New York City. And the website is obsolete:

Here are my comments and observations.

First, DMOZ needs some mechanism to update and review the links. This might be a challenge due to the lack of editors or resources.

Second, DMOZ needs to add more quality sites in their directory, especially for regional listings, for which most people search.

Overall, DMOZ can still provide websites of quality in value, services and information, as I’ve observed throughout this article. However, although it can do this, it will not provide you with the answers to all of your queries and especially up-to-date results. Therefore, if you are searching for quality websites, a combination of search engines, DMOZ and other quality directories (like Yahoo! Directory) is recommended if you want to achieve the best results.

My overall rating for DMOZ is around 3.5/5, combining both website quality and user experience.

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