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The End of DMOZ and the Evolution of SEO

Beware the Ides of March.

In case this is all Greek to you, it won’t soothe you to hear me say that DMOZ – the open directory project – the noblest directory of them all – once king of directories and championed by Google- will cease to exist mid-March. While some SEOs are taking this announcement as a final stab in the back from Google, others welcome it as a long overdue succession of SEO strategy.

The death of DMOZ brings with it the end of an era of SEO. As SEOs we are sometimes masters of our own fate (ok last Caesar quote I promise) and this change is no different. DMOZ represented the old way of SEO – even though it never should have. To understand this paradigm shift, what happened, and where we go from here we’ll need to jump in our wayback machine and understand what DMOZ was at its inception.

RIP Open Directory Project

In the beginning, search engines sucked. A lot. We’ve all heard the stories of keyword stuffing and meta tags run amok and white text on white background. These early SEO tactics in the pre-Google (heck, even pre-Alta Vista) days caused search results to just plain suck. In the circa late 90’s days of dialing into AOL or Prodigy with a 28.8 modem, most people didn’t use (or even have access to) search engines. In those days, directories were how we found and discovered new websites.

Google was created during this same time period, and the creators were focused on links – but not just any links. Valuable links from quality and authoritative websites. So when Google told us to go and get directory links, they were really saying “Hey, see these sites like Yahoo and DMOZ? Lots of people go there and use them and trust them, so that’s probably a good place to get a link.”

Unfortunately, all we SEOs heard was “get directory links” so we started creating directories that nobody ever visits so that we could fill them up with links. At one point we even created directories of directories. This wasn’t what Google was talking about in their directory link advice. While users still continued to use Yahoo and Dmoz, the only visitors to our new SEO directories were rudimentary bots that let us “power submit” our spammy links.

These days, the message has changed. Thanks to Penguin and other recent algorithm changes most SEOs have running around parroting advice about not getting directory links. Again, missing the point. It’s not the directory part that matters.

There Are Still Some Good Directory Links

Just like DMOZ links weren’t rewarded because they were a directory, search engines today most likely don’t penalize or discredit links for being a directory either. They’ve advanced beyond that. The goal of the algorithm (and we can argue all night about whether it’s currently achieving this goal) is to reward links from authority sites that people actually use. Having said that, places like Angie’s List, or A Place For Mom still remain quality directory links. Yelp and other local search sites are also technically directory links that still provide value.

Building supply manufacturers still maintain directories of certified professional contractors who can properly install their products. Retail brands maintain directories of places where you can buy their products from a certified retailer who’s been trained by them. All of these are directories and all of these are places where you would definitely want a link; not just for the SEO value, but because they send traffic and leads too!

DMOZ was once a useful and valuable part of the internet. Today it’s become a festering remnant of days gone by where corrupt editors still charge money and leave your submission sitting in limbo for upwards of years.

Will I miss it? Sure, it’s part of history and I’m always sad to see nostalgia go – but I’m also excited for the opportunity to put this “old style” of SEO behind us. Hopefully this time we can focus more on the message and strategy (get links where people go) and less on the tactics (get directory links.) Failing that, perhaps maybe we can convince some of those editors to approve our submissions – if only to provide some closure for the last couple of weeks.

Image source: wikipedia commons.labeled for reuse.
Featured image via Pixabay.

Category SEO Link Building
VIP CONTRIBUTOR Ryan Jones VP, SEO at Razorfish

Ryan is the SEO lead at Razorfish where he works from early in the morning until late in the evening. ...

The End of DMOZ and the Evolution of SEO

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