So one thing before we even get into the topic of DMOZ is it’s hard to tell sometimes why a site is ranking. Historically, Google has the link: operator, which returns the backlinks or some sub-sample of backlinks to people. But we don’t show every single backlink that we know of in response to link:, because we show that more on the webmaster tool side. So you can see your own backlinks, but we don’t give a full list of all the backlinks to the people who would compete with you. And I think that that’s a pretty good balance overall. So just because if you do link:, you might see a link from DMOZ, and as a result, think that’s why it’s ranking, It could be that there are other links, high quality links, that you aren’t seeing, that are coming from CNN, New York Times or something like that. So don’t just automatically infer from looking at the backlinks that you have, either from Google, or from Yahoo or even a third party tool, that that’s really all the links or all the links that Google trusts or anything like that.
But let’s get into DMOZ just a little bit. So DMOZ, also known as the Open Directory Project, has been overall really, really great in terms of being a really good resource for people. But it is starting to show its age a little bit. And so there are two or three updates I can give you on how Google thinks about DMOZ and how it treats the Open Directory Project. There was a version of the open directory that Google had, so like the Google Open Directory or something like that, which would take Open Directory data and add value by sorting the stuff by page rank. And not as many people were using that. So even though it was one of the very first things we introduced, other than straight web search, I think recently we took steps to sort of turn that off. Now it might still remain in a few properties.
So we don’t promise we’ve turned that off everywhere. But we have turned it off for a lot of different Google properties. The other thing that Google sometimes uses DMOZ for is computing snippets.
So for example, if you block your page out with robots.txt, we’re not able to crawl that page. So we might see the anchor text or the anchors, the backlinks that point to a page. But we can’t actually crawl that page and see what it’s about. So we don’t know the title of the page or anything like that. And in those kinds of situations, it can be helpful at times to rely on DMOZ. Because if it’s a well known page, then an editor of the Open Directory Project might have said this is what the page is. So that could be a useful snippet.
At the same time, we always try to go back every so often and test our assumptions. And so, it is the case that we’ve been doing a test where we say, what if we turn off using DMOZ for snippets? And it’s a little early to say whether that will break one way or the other. But it’s the sort of thing that we do go back and test and see whether it still make sense, compared to the assumptions and the ways that things worked several years ago. OK, so the last thing to know about DMOZ is that it’s not the case that there’s some special boost or some kind of reward for being in DMOZ.
It’s just the Open Directory tends to have a little bit higher page rank. And so, as a result, a link from DMOZ might carry a little more page rank. But if you get a link from a very highly reputable source, you know, you can get a newspaper reporter, convince them that it’s an important story, and get them to write about you that can easily carry just as much or more page rank than getting a link in the Open Directory Project.
So it used to be the case that people would have a checklist of the links that they really wanted to get. And it’s not that there’s something special or different about the Open Directory Project. It’s a very well known directory, but it’s not a requirement. It’s not the sort of thing where you have to get a link from DMOZ. So if your competitor happens to have a link from the Open Directory Project and you don’t, I wouldn’t sweat about it. I wouldn’t get overly stressed. I would think, OK, what can I do that will make sure that my site is so compelling that people want to link to it? And I can get those links from other sources. Hope the helps. And it’s just a little snapshot about how we’re thinking about DMOZ and the Open Directory Project these days.
by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team