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How to submit updates


Jan 23, 2003
[The following article contains general advice that is intended to cover the majority of situations. All editing decisions and policies are governed by the editing guidelines, and take precedent over any conflicts with advice given here. In other words: this is intended only to be helpful, and is not the final word on the subject.]

Tip #1: Only submit an update when there is a factual error in a listing that needs to be addressed.

Listing updates are primarily intended as a means by which a factual error in a listing can be identified.

Most editors, when they see an update request, first verify the accuracy of the request. “Is the existing listing accurate and guidelines compliant?” If the answer to this is “Yes” then the odds of getting it updated/changed are slim.

Tip #2: Do not submit an update in an effort to give a listing more marketing punch.

Updates are not about SEO, co-editing a description, or keywords.

Editors regularly get deluged by update requests where the suggester is trying to add keywords, change titles to something with more marketing flair, or rewrite descriptions. The vast, vast majority of these requests get discarded with hardly a look.

The ODP editing guidelines specify how a title and description are supposed to be written. No titles should contain promotional language, so a title:

Acme Tool and Die​

Will not get changed to:

Acme Tool and Die! Greatest Tools for the Best Price!!​

The same basic concept applies to the description. The Editing guidelines have this to say about the subject:

The description gives specific information about the content and/or subject matter of the site. It should be informative and concise, usually no longer than one or two lines. The basic formula for a good description is Description = Subject + Content.

Please note the key words: “of the site.” The purpose of the description is not to describe the business, the customer base or the top keywords. It is to describe the contents of the site and to set a good expectation for the surfer as to what they can find if they go to the site. ODP editors, as a rule, studiously ignore keywords and marketing jargon.

Tip #3: Don’t try and “slip one past” the editors.

If you submit an update to correct a factual error, be certain that the update only addresses the factual error. Too many updates attempt to correct something that may need to get corrected, but in the process, the title gets given some marketing punch, and the description gets stuffed with keywords or gets some SEO effort.

As a result, the editor can easily “miss” the legitimate request, and toss then entire update out thinking it is just another attempt to “market” the listing.

Tip #4: Make sure the site content reflects the content of the update.

This most often applies to updates that request a change in the URL. If an editor sees a request to change the URL, the first place the editor goes is to the old URL to see if there is any indication on the site that a change is justified. If the original URL works, and there is nothing on the site to indicate that there is a new URL, the editor faces an exceptionally difficult decision: How do they determine the validity of the request, and if it is a legitimate request, how do they determine if it is valid or vanity based. Vanity based? Yes, changing for the sake of change i.e. website.net to website.com

Why are we so particular? It is for the protection of the website owner. One does not have to use the Internet for more than, say 15 seconds, before realizing that it is a great haven for the worst of humanity. By being very particular in how we approach the changing of a URL, we are protecting the legitimate owners of websites.

To that end many editors encourage webmasters to take some additional steps when requesting URL changes:

  • Put a banner or announcement on the website sitting on the old URL, announcing the new URL
  • Redirect or forward the old URL to the new URL

When an editor sees one of these things, there is then no question as to the legitimacy of the request, and the editor can then act accordingly.

Beyond URL updates, we often see requests to change the title of the website where the name of the business has not changed (or it if has, the website does not reflect the change).

Similarly, some parts of the directory have very specific and inflexible rules for how titles are to be created. In Regional/, for example, the rules for Real Estate Agents are very strict. There is a format to the title: Agent Name – Agency Name. Updates requesting titles that are formatted differently, that contain marketing puffery, etc., are routinely declined. Thus the best advice once can offer is to look at the titles where one’s site is listed and determine if there is a pattern or convention to the naming. If there is, and update request may well go unheeded.

Tip #5: Once is sufficient.

Please only submit a given update once. Either we will accept it or we will not. Submitting it monthly is a form of directory abuse.

Tip #6: Updates are not regular occurrences.

While updates that correct factual errors are welcome any time, remember that the update process is not a means for you to “engage” an editor or to try and regularly attempt to “tweak” your listing. Most experienced editors have seen listings where the site owner has regularly submitted update requests in an effort to micromanage their listing.

Human nature being what it is, when an editor sees a history of several dozen declined updates in the past, then the odds are not good for the update requests under consideration. As an editor, I have actually e-mailed some submitters telling them to stop requesting particular updates – and two months later have had to delete yet more updates from the same source.

Tip #7: Category moves are often not updates.

Requests to move/change categories often take on two forms:
· The content of the website has changed and the current category is inappropriate.
· The webmaster wants to be in a different category.

In the first case, it is perfectly appropriate to send in an update request asking to be changed to a more appropriate category.

In the second case, there needs to be a basis in fact for the update to be considered, and the contents of the site must reflect the requested change.

There is an important exception to this advice, and that deals with sites listed within Regional. Many sites listed within Regional are also eligible for a second listing based upon the topic or subject matter of the site. (A notable exception to this is Real Estate). Thus, a webmaster whose site is listed within Regional, and who would like to be listed in Shopping/ or Home/ or Business/ or any of the other topical categories should not send in an update. Rather, they should simply make a single suggestion to the single best topical category. That suggestion will be evaluated on its own merits with no regard to the Regional listing.

The reverse of this is also true, and many businesses listed by topic are eligible for a Regional listing based upon their physical place of business (not on where one markets). No update is necessary in this case either, simply submit once to the deepest possible Regional category based upon physical location.


Before sending in an Update request consider the following:
  • The ODP is not a listing service and our guidelines take precedent over the wishes of a webmaster in terms of the writing of titles and descriptions.
  • Updates should be restricted to the identification and correction of factual errors.
  • Updates may not always be necessary.

This article was intended to give webmasters some practical advice in terms of how to best make update requests. It is not intended to define ODP policy, nor should ODP editors use it as guidance in editing.


Jan 23, 2003
Tonight, I decided that I would knock off some of the update requests awaiting review within Regional/North_America/United_States. I though it might be valuable to share the results of tonight's editing session.

10:11 p.m. Accepted a URL change from a book store in Virginia that had changed ownership. Went ahead and changed the title even though the new owners forgot to include that in their update request. Fixed some capitalization within the description.

10:17 p.m. Handled a pair of update requests from an Inn in Ohio that had changed into a bed and breakfast. Completely rewrote their suggested description, and deleted the duplicate update request.

10:24 p.m. Declined an update from a retail establishment in Texas that wanted to have the listing moved from a Regional category to a Topical category. Sent the webmaster a note advising that they could just submit to the topical category.

10:33 p.m. Declined a request by an independent businessman in Texas to have his listing removed in view of an upcoming retirement. Fired off a note to the person explaining that once the site was not longer functional we would be glad to remove the listing.

10:41 p.m. Reviewed a request by a dog kennel in Delaware that consisted of a description rewrite. The suggested description was far from being guidelines compliant, and the existing description left a lot to be desired, so I took advantage of the request to significantly rewrite the description, eliminating unverifiable claims and replacing them with description of the site content.

10:48 p.m. Accepted a request to remove a Texas real estate agent's name from the title of the site.

10:57 p.m. Declined an effort by a fishing site in Hawaii to keyword stuff the title and description.

10:59 p.m. Fended off an effort by a Hawaii real estate agent to change the description into nothing more than a list of localities. Changed the title to reflect the correct agency and wrote a description that reflected the content on the site.

11:03 p.m. A recently listed real estate agent in Florida pointed out a typo in a description. Corrected the typo and changed the title.

11:06 p.m. Accepted a title change from a Florida real estate agent who changed agencies, but declined the agent's attempt to keyword stuff the description. Declined a second request by the same agent.

11:15 p.m. Moved a Florida real estate agent's listing to Indiana and published it there. Deleted a duplicate request.

11:18 p.m. Changed the URL for a Florida newspaper, but declined their efforts to include a "marketing" description.

11:24 p.m. Busted a spammer trying to slip one past us using the update request feature. Sorry, no details to share on this one.

That's it for tonight.
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