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July 17, 2006

Just Say No to ODP

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Matt Cutts confirms what Vanessa Fox told us on Thursday: It is a time for celebration! The era of Google inserting non-descriptive and inaccurate ODP titles and descriptions for Web results is over.

Site owners have been given back control over the “page snippets” that appear on the Google SERP thanks to the now Google-supported META NOODP tag. You may remember MSN began implementing the tag in May of this year.

By using the tag, site owners can tell Google NOT to use the description and/ or title found in their (usually outdated) DMOZ listings. Site owners can also direct Google specifically from using this information to describe a page by using the following:

Quiet. Do you hear that? It’s your clickthrough rate improving.

The new stay-away-from-ODP Meta tag will be music to many site owners’ ears who have long complained about Google using descriptions they have not authored themselves. Believe it or not, they felt the titles and descriptions they created more accurately portrayed what their site was about. Crazy, huh?

Site owners had even complained their sites lost ranking once Google started using ODP titles and descriptions because their keywords were not listed as prominently in the editor-generated snippets as they were in their own. Who knows your site better than you?

Why does this even matter? Well, if you’re not listed in DMOZ, it doesn’t. You can stop reading this and go on with your life. Maybe even go outside.

But if you are listed, let me ask you this: When is the last time you made changes to your ODP listing? You know, updated it. Oh, that’s right — never, because DMOZ won’t let you.

Think I’m exaggerating? Take Ryan. His blog was always listed in Google as a “homepage of a team” because in 1999, when the site first started, it wasn’t a blog. The site was about a hockey team he played on. We’re betting Ryan’s not the only one to have that problem. I bet there’s a whole bunch of memorabilia sites still promoting those Limited Edition Beanie Babies they used to have a hard time keeping on the shelves.

We always found it puzzling that Google would revert back to old DMOZ directory titles and descriptions. Sites are constantly changing and sometimes that change brings a shift in direction. Google must know that and realize DMOZ updates its directory… well, never.

Ryan’s site changed from a hockey team site to a blog, but what about a site that was once information-only and is now an e-commerce site? Assuming Ryan doesn’t make a living off his blog, that outdated information is probably going to hurt you a lot more than it hurt him. If customers don’t know you’re selling what they’re looking for, why would they ever think to visit you? Simple. They wouldn’t.

If you had been relying on OPD titles and descriptions, we recommend opting-out and constructing new titles that accurately describe what you do and incorporate all of your major keywords. If you’re too lazy to do that, at least take a look at your ODP listing and make sure it’s accurate. Do you still sell antique furniture? Or do you now lead the market with your endless supply of firewood? If it’s the latter, it may be time to go banging on DMOZ’s door demanding they give site owners more control over their own listings. Not that they’ll listen. Personally, I think it’s easier (and much less stress on your fists) to just opt-out.

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