Google Gives an Update on How it Thinks About DMOZ

Google posted a new Webmaster Help video featuring Matt Cutts. This time around, he discusses the Open Directory Project, otherwise known as DMOZ.

The video is Matt’s response to a user-submitted question, which said: “What role does being in DMOZ play in rankings? I see some website in my niche ranked No. 1 and the only reason is because they are in DMOZ as their content is at best poor. Getting into DMOZ is impossible nowadays, so why does Google still use it?”

“It’s hard to tell sometimes why a site is ranking,” says Cutts. “Historically, Google has the link: operator, which returns the backlinks or some subset 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 Tools side. 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,” he says. “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.”

Cutts then gets more into DMOZ specifically.

“DMOZ has been really great in terms of being a really good resource for people, but it is starting to show its age a little bit so there’s two or three sort of updates I can give you on how Google thinks about DMOZ, and how it treats the Open Directory Project,” he says. “There was a version of the Open Directory that Google had – the Google Open Directory or something like that – which would take Open Directory data and add value by sorting the stuff by PageRank, and not as many people were using that, so even though it was one of the first things we introduced (other than straight web search), I think recently we took steps to sort of turn that off.”

“It might still remain in a few properties, for example, in some Asian countries, it’s a little slower to type so it might be a little faster to browse through a directory so we don’t promise we’ve turned that off everywhere, but we have turned it off for a lot of different Google properties,” he says.

Cutts then discusses how Google will sometimes use DMOZ to fill in snippets in search results from time to time. We’ve discussed this at WebProNews in the past. Google will use the snippets created by DMOZ editors that tell it what a page is when they otherwise can’t see it, like if it’s blocked with robots.txt, for example.

According to Cutts, Google has been testing whether or not to even continue doing this, and says it’s too early to say whether this practice will remain in place or not.

“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,” says Cutts. “A link from DMOZ is worth the same as a link from anywhere else. It’s just the Open Directory tends to have a little bit higher PageRank. So as a result, a link from DMOZ might carry a little more PageRank, but if you get a link from a very highly reputable source…that can easily carry just as much or more PageRank than getting a link in the Open Directory Project.”

Interestingly enough, he suggests trying to get a reputable source to write about you, and Google has been placing a great deal of emphasis on content authors in search lately, what with the authorship markup and Google Profiles in search results.