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Tips on getting listed in Yahoo (and the other big indexes)
(C)1999-2000, Robert Woodhead
Getting into the big guys
The big indexes, Yahoo, LookSmart, Open Directory & About.com (formerly The Mining Company) are
a great source of hits. But most people don't properly submit to them, and even if they
do get in, their listings are substandard.
Proper submission to these indexes is becoming even more crucial because there is
a pronounced trend towards using "human-edited" indexes in search results. In particular,
many of the major search engines are starting to use Open Directory index listings in their
search results, making it the #2 most important place to list your site, behind Yahoo.
Another thing to consider is that more and more search engines are using link-popularity
as a ranking method (Google is the originator of this technique). Under this system the ranking
of your site depends on how many other pages link to yours, and how important those links
are. That means that a secondary benefit of getting a link on major indexes is that
it can improve your ranking on some search engines. You can even hurry this along by, for
example, submitting the pages containing your listings to the search engines!
Here's how to optimize your listings for
all the big indexes:
Yahoo is without a doubt the single most important index on the
Internet (though Open Directory (see below) is rapidly gaining on them!),
and it is an absolute must that you get listed here. After a great deal
of thought, I have decided to disable automated submissions to Yahoo (on SelfPromotion.com), because getting
listed is so important, and such a "delicate" process, that it is better to do it by hand.
Yahoo comes in three flavors; the main (original) Yahoo; the international Yahoo sites;
and the regional (city) Yahoo sites. The original site is by far the toughest to get
into, so if your site is in, or relates to, a country or region served by one of the
other Yahoo indexes, you should first try to get listed in them. If you get accepted
by one Yahoo index, you almost always get into them all - and if for some reason getting
into a regional Yahoo index doesn't get you listed in the main Yahoo index, then the
fact that you are in the regional index can be a big help when you apply to the main
index - and you should point it out in your application. Note however that if your
site isn't truly regional, and you do get it into a regional category, that Yahoo may
leave it there and not give you a main index listing. They can be nasty if you try and
Robert's How-to-get-Yahoo'd Advice
First, be patient. It often takes 6-8 weeks for the overworked Yahoo staff to even
look at your site (though recently, I've been seeing sites accepted in a week or less IF
the submission followed the rules to the absolute letter)
If you wish a listing in the Shopping & Services or Business to Business sections
(either main or regional) of Yahoo, you now must use Yahoo's "Business Express" submission option. You pay $299 ($600 for
adult sites) and get
a quick thumbs-up/thumbs-down on your application. And as of Dec 28, 2001, once you get in, you have to cough up
the same amount of money every year to remain in Yahoo! (Existing sites are grandfathered). Because of this
increase in costs, you should carefully consider if a Yahoo listing is worth $299 a year to you.
Note: Paying the money does not guarantee a listing, and the advice
I give lower down about crafting a good submission still applies. For more information about
Yahoo Business Express,
use this url:
Warning: Read their terms and conditions carefully before using Business Express.
Note that you can still submit non-commercial sites to Yahoo for free as long as you don't
submit them to the Business to Business or Shopping & Services sections of Yahoo! You can also use Business Express
to submit non-commercial sites, though you don't have to.
What Business Express buys
you is a faster decision, and perhaps a little more attention to your submission. But if a free
submission is properly formatted, you should get in anyway (just slower).
Also, if you submit properly, don't get in, and you're absolutely sure that your site
is good enough to get into Yahoo, then it might be worth using Business Express to get them
to take another look quickly. But for most non-commercial sites, it's not necessary.
In addition, Yahoo has just started offering Sponsored Listings for between
$25 to $300 a month, depending on category. 5 sponsored listings are displayed at the
top of category pages (if more than 5 people buy sponsored listings, they rotate
randomly). In order to get a sponsored listing, you must first get a normal listing
in Yahoo, then you can apply for a sponsored listing in the category your listing is
in. You can't use this to change your listing title or description, by the way; it
just gets you "up top."
I personally think these Sponsored Listings are a waste of time and money!
I tried them out, they generated very little traffic, and to add insult to injury, Yahoo
changed my site description without warning and trashed it. Thanks, guys!
To apply for a sponsored listing, should you be so bold, visit the Yahoo category page that contains
your listing and click on the "what is a sponsored listing?" link.
Yahoo has also introduced "Most Popular" listings underneath the sponsored
listings; so far it is unclear how a site becomes a Most Popular site.
Second, don't even THINK about bothering them until your site is 100% up and running,
with nothing "under construction." Take a look at a few of the sites in the category
you want to be listed in. Is your site as good or better than them? Good site design,
fast loading pages, and relevant content are important. A site with a clean basic
design and lots of good content (like this one!) is more likely to get in than a
flashy hyper-graphic work of art that isn't actually very useful.
One of my favorite sayings is "Perfection is when there is nothing left
to remove." Take a look around your site for anything that's only there to show
how clever you are, and consider removing it. The Yahoo reviewers won't think it's
all that clever.
A subtle gotcha when it comes to getting commercial sites listed on Yahoo is that Yahoo
requires that the site list the physical address of the business somewhere on the site (and
the easier it is to find, the more likely it is that the Yahoo reviewer will find it and you'll
pass this test). This address must be a physical one; post office boxes don't cut it.
Note: several of your fellow users have reported that they've managed to get
listings using post office box addresses, so the rule may not be cast in stone. However,
I'd only use a PO Box if I had no other alternative.
Third, be gently insistent. If you apply and don't get in after two months, submit again.
But before you do, go look at your site once again, and see if you can't improve it.
Whatever you do, do NOT bombard Yahoo with submissions. If you apply more
than once a month, they'll ignore you until the end of time.
Another good way to get banned from Yahoo is to submit a site to a regional index
that has nothing to do with that region, or isn't really a regionally limited site. Boy do they HATE that!
If you are still having problems getting in, or getting a change made to your listing, see the note
later in this article about the "secret" Yahoo email address.
How to apply to Yahoo
First of all, I suggest you print out this article so you can have it handy
when you visit Yahoo.
Visit the main Yahoo site or a regional site (as appropriate), and do a search (your site title is a good one) to determine if you
are already in the Yahoo index or not. If you are, then you need to consider asking them
to change your listing using the advice further down on the page. If not, you need to apply for a
It is crucial to understand that Yahoo search results have several components; Yahoo
Categories that match your query; Web Sites that are in the Yahoo index; and
Web Pages that are drawn from the Google database. Your site may appear in a Yahoo search
and not be in the index!
If your site does not appear under the heading Web Sites, it isn't in Yahoo.
Many people get confused by this. They see their site appear under Web Pages and think
Yahoo has listed them. Not so!
The reason you want to be in the Yahoo Web Sites index (and not just Google), is that Yahoo
lists these results first when people do searches. For popular searches, you may have to drill down
through several pages of Web Sites listings before you even see Google Web Pages results! A decent
Web Sites listing in Yahoo will massively increase your traffic from Yahoo.
Assuming you are not in the index, take your time, and
find the category page that best fits your site. At the very bottom of this page will be a small
"Suggest a Site" link. Click on it to get to the site submission page.
If there is no "Suggest a Site" link, then the page you are on does not
allow listings to be added to it, most likely because it is a very general top-level
A good method for finding the right category page is to do some searches that you think people
looking for your site will do, and see what categories are listed. In the past, the trick was to submit
to the topmost category (so your listing would appear higher up), but this no longer works. Instead,
look for a category that has the least number of entries in it, to reduce your chances of being "buried" in
a huge category. This usually means a very specific category. The exception would be if your business name
is alphabetically very high (ie: starts with a number or the letter "a"). Then you'd want to be in the
most general category possible.
If your business is geographically limited in scope (for example, you're a Real Estate Agent),
then you'll want to be in the most specific category you can find in the regional directory section. This
is because Yahoo searches take into account the words in the various category and subcategory names under
which your listing is placed -- it is as if these words are in your title and description. So by being in
such a specific category, you get your state and city names "for free" -- they don't have to be in your
description. Use those precious description words to mention other geographical locators (county) and
Take your time, and carefully read their suggestions on how to submit. They REALLY
mean it. Follow their instructions to the absolute letter, as if they were inscribed
on stone tablets handed down from Heaven. If you break the rules (for example, using
numbers or brand names in your descriptions), forget about getting in. Read those
rules. Re-read them. Re-read them again, out loud.
The #1 mistake people make is that their title and description read like
promotional ad copy. Bad mistake! What Yahoo wants is a descriptive
title and description. No hype allowed! And if you can make your description one sentence of at most
15-20 words, you're less likely to have it edited down!
Apply with an eye to making
the job of the Yahoo reviewer easier; for example,
use the "comments" field in the application
form to point out special things about your site that the reviewer ought to look at.
Three CRUCIAL tips:
First, in each category, Yahoo currently lists sites alphabetically by TITLE. So if
you can come up with a plausible title for your site that starts with a number or the
letter A, B or C, go for it. If I'd known this when I started my site, I'd have
called it autopromotion.com! Note that if you are running a business, Yahoo asks that you use your actual
business name (or your "doing business as" name) as your title. Some Yahoo categories now have
"most popular" sites that are listed first, but at least initially it will be almost impossible for
you to get into one of those slots, so alphabetically high is your best bet. Note however that
most people find things on Yahoo by searching, not by drilling down in the categories, so it isn't
the end of the world if your company name happens to be Zymurgy, inc.
Second, as noted above, unless your site name is alphabetically good, choose a category
with as few entries as possible in it. Ask yourself, "will I be visible on an average browser's
window without scrolling?" If at all possible, you want to be. Don't be upset if you can't
achieve this; it is an advantage, but it's a minor one.
Third and by far most important, searches on Yahoo will find
your site if the search words appear in the title, description or URL. So make sure all the
important keywords are in the description and title! Work them into the text in a
natural way -- a list of keywords isn't acceptable! Because your title will often
get edited, make sure the really crucial keywords are in the description. And if you can
get a domain name that has your major keywords in it, even better, because they can't edit
For example, here is my original entry in Yahoo (just recently they edited it for no
Description: shareservice that automatically registers your site at major search engines. Use it for free, pay only if satisfied.
Even though the Yahoo staff edited down my description, it still has a lot of important
keywords in it. Keep in mind also that Yahoo searches for strings, not words, so if you can
embed keywords inside other words, even better! Looking at my description again, you see
how I did that:
Description: shareservice that automatically
registers your site at major search engines.
Use it for free, pay only if satisfied.
While I wish that it said "registers your website" and somehow had the string "url" in
the description, since I convinced Yahoo to change my description, I get 2-3 times as many clickthroughs
than before. So spending some time crafting a good description is definitely worth it. This advice
also applies to many of the indexes as well.
If you open up a store on Yahoo (Yahoo Shopping), many of the above techniques can
be used to improve your search engine results. The most crucial thing to remember is this:
put all your most important keywords in your store name and store description (not just in
your item descriptions!). This is very important because of the way Yahoo store searches
work. A search will find your product if the search keywords are in the
product description, but if those same words are also in the store
name or description, you will also be listed in the "Merchants" category right at the
top of the page! Since you have control over your store and product titles and descriptions,
you have a great opportunity to get a better listing with Yahoo stores. Most Yahoo
store owners don't understand this -- profit from their ignorance.
My thanks to Wilbur Smith for pointing this out to me!
Whew! Well, that's all my advice. You may also want to read Yahoo's advice on how
to submit to them, which is cunningly hidden on their website. Try looking at their
Submit a Site Help : http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/url/
Best of luck to you. Now here's a list of links to all the Yahoos:
International (Country) Yahoos:
Australia & NZ http://www.yahoo.com.au/
Brasil (Portuguese) http://www.yahoo.com.br/
China (Traditional) http://chinese.yahoo.com/
China (Simplified) http://gbchinese.yahoo.com/
Hong Kong http://hk.yahoo.com/
South-east Asia http://asia.yahoo.com/
UK & Ireland http://www.yahoo.co.uk/
Regional (Metro) Yahoos
Dallas / Fort Worth http://dfw.yahoo.com/
Los Angeles http://la.yahoo.com/
Minneapolis / St. Paul http://minn.yahoo.com/
New York http://ny.yahoo.com/
S.F. Bay Area http://sfbay.yahoo.com/
Washington, D.C. http://dc.yahoo.com/
And, of course, the original Mother of All Yahoos!
How to change your listing if you are already in Yahoo
Here is the link for the Yahoo Change Form
Simply go and fill it out. The standard "Read everything three times and follow it to the letter" rules
apply. You can also use this form to get listed in a second category.
The "Secret" Yahoo email address
Yahoo has made available a special email address that you can use to let them know of
problems with your listing (or with getting listed). While not exactly top-secret, it isn't
widely known, so I am telling you this with the understanding
that you not abuse it.
I cannot emphasize this enough! Read these instructions slowly and carefully.
I've used this technique. It works. But beware - Yahoo checks to see if you've "followed
the rules" and won't help you if you haven't.
To get extra assistance with a new site listing, submit the site normally, and if the site isn't listed
within a few weeks, then do a resubmission. If the site still doesn't
appear after a few weeks (and you've followed my advice above to the letter!), then e-mail
assistance. You must send the exact URL that you submitted, but you do not
need to send the categories you submitted to or the actual dates you
If you need a change to your listing, submit the change, wait at least 7-10 days for
processing, then e-mail if a change doesn't appear. With change requests, in addition to the URL,
Yahoo needs the exact date of the change request -- so write it down when you make the request.
This email address is not a way to get priority service, and Yahoo will
likely get really pissed off at you if you abuse it. And the LAST thing you want to do on the
net is get Yahoo angry at you! Typically it will take them 7-10 days to act upon your email,
if in fact they do. If they don't, then do not under any circumstances email
them again. Instead, restart the submission or change process from the very beginning, making
sure you adhere to all their restrictions, and if you still don't get results, try the email
If you are submitting registrations for other people, Yahoo asks that you not use
this email address more than 5 times a week (for 5 different sites, of course), and you must
in all cases go through the normal process before using it.
You can also ask for reconsideration by mail or phone. I have had reports that, as
a last resort, after all else fails, calling and leaving a message on their phone can sometimes
generate a quick response. But this should only be something you do after all else fails, and
you should mention the steps you've taken in the phone message.
3420 Central Expressway, 2nd floor
Santa Clara, CA 95051, USA
Listing Support Phone : 408-731-3333
Phone : (408) 731-3300 -- 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM PST
Fax : (408) 731-3301
LookSmart (http://www.looksmart.com) is
very similar to Yahoo in scope (though they can't yet match Yahoo's
level of traffic). The same basic rules of thumb apply when submitting to LookSmart,
except that you can't do keyword embedding; only full word searches can be done.
LookSmart charges a fee for submissions, though non-profit sites can still
get listed for free. Paying the money doesn't guarantee listing, so read their guidelines
Is it worth submitting to LookSmart? If you're running a commercial site, I'd
say "definitely." But get yourself into Yahoo first. If you get into Yahoo, your site should be
able to get into LookSmart as well, so you won't be taking much of a risk when you pay the
non-refundable registration fee of $299!
LookSmart also now has sponsored listings, priced at $20 or $30 a month. At first
glance these look attractive, even allow you to specify keywords that are important to you,
but if you read the fine print, you realize that you are buying clicks at 15 cents a click
(ie: $30 gets you 200 clicks). So unless clicks are worth more than 15 cents to you,
it isn't such a good deal.
However, there is apparently somewhat of a backdoor that can get submissions into
LookSmart's directory for free; this involves the volunteer-organized
Zeal.com directory (http://www.zeal.com/).
If you become a volunteer editor and pass their test (read their guidelines carefully, it's
a cheat-sheet for the test!), then you can submit sites to Zeal, and sites submitted to Zeal
often appear in LookSmart. Obviously, this is not something you'd want to abuse, but it
seems like a good way to get deserving sites -- but only noncommercial sites -- into LookSmart.
Zeal's user guidelines, which contain a style sheet for how to format submissions to
Zeal, contain lots of tips that can help you make more effective submissions to other directories,
so it's well worth spending some time and reading them; join Zeal as a member to gain access.
Some basic LookSmart tips:
* Sites are listed alphabetically, so a site title that starts with an alphabetically
low character will show up higher in the listings. The usual "put keywords in your
title" advice applies - but LookSmart wants your title
to be your business name or your website name. So make sure your website name contains
keywords and matches what you enter when applying. By the way, one of the best characters
to start your title with is "#", because it ranks above even numbers. So "#1 Auto Parts and Accessories - Des Moines, Iowa"
is a good title - it's alphabetically good and contains keywords.
* The submission form only has a small box for entering a suggested description of your
site, but you can put any amount of text into it. So start with your suggested description,
and then enter comments and explanations that will make life easier for the editor to
understand why your suggested description is reasonable. The easier you make it for them,
the more likely that you'll get what you want.
* Secret tip! If you already have a listing in Looksmart but it's not as optimal as you'd like,
you can use the Express Submit feature to request a revision.
LookSmart's submission page can be
The Open Directory Project
The Open Directory Project (http://www.dmoz.org/),
formerly called NewHoo, is an "Open Source" directory much like Yahoo, but edited by volunteers.
As ODP is now the directory listing source for Netscape, AOL Search, HotBot and Lycos, and will soon be used by many
other search engines, including Altavista, it is in the "big leagues" and
is a must to submit to.
Note however that ODP's current search facility does WORD searches, not string searches,
so that the keyword embedding technique does not work. So your description for ODP should
avoid pluralized words unless they are likely to be in search queries. On the plus side, you
can have longer descriptions than on Yahoo, but the category editor may edit you down.
Like Yahoo, Open Directory asks that you only submit your homepage URL, to the most
appropriate category (initially, Open Directory allowed multiple URL submissions, but they
have changed their policy recently).
Here is how to submit to Open Directory:
* Visit the major search engines that use Open Directory (I suggest Lycos, Hotbot, AOL Search and
soon Altavista). Type a simple query that is likely to be used by someone
searching for the contents of the page you are submitting. For example, when submitting my
home page, I might enter searches like "register website for free," but when submitting this
page of tips, searches like "how to get listed in Yahoo" would be appropriate.
* When the search results come back, look for the list of Open Directory categories. If
there are no categories, then your query was too specific. Try a more general one.
* After you've viewed the results of several searches, click on the single category that you feel is most appropriate for your site. This link will take
you to the category page.
* Somewhere on the page will be an add url link (it'll vary depending on the site you're using. This will bring up the
Open Directory submission form.
* Submit your site. All the usual techniques are appropriate. Make a note of the
category you submitted to.
The current "official" waiting period for Open Directory is 3 weeks. If you don't get in
after 3 weeks, you may resubmit if you want to. I've been told by some editors that becoming
a volunteer editor (and doing good work) can help you get your own sites into the directory
(in particular if you volunteer for a category where your site would fit, because you can then
but I wouldn't recommend becoming an editor just to get your site in; instead become an editor
if you really want to help them out.
Disney has announced that they are shutting down Go.com (http://www.go.com/).
About.com (formerly The Mining Company)
About.com (http://www.about.com) is
a very good index that combines site listings with reviews and editorial content. Each category
is run by a guide, and they decide if you get in. Several of the guides have told me that
the easiest way to get their attention is a direct email, as opposed to using the "Feedback"
link on the pages.
Here are some tips, courtesy of a user who has asked me to refer to him as "Deep Miner"
1. Find the specific sub-category within that site that is appropriate to
place a link. About.com guides want DEEP links, not your homepage perhaps,
but maybe a specific article you wrote. So look through their sites and
then pick and choose articles you've written and submit for inclusion into
a specific sub-category that matches it.
2. Offer a link back. Put a link to their site even before contacting
them and said, "I find your site such a great resource that I've listed you
in our links page." Guides want traffic too, so this reciprocal linking is a
bonus to them.
3. I don't think it's as hard to get listed as Robert thinks, since I've done it for a few purely
commercial sites that don't offer much content but their
site is basically a brochure. You just have to approach it so that there is
incentive for the guide to list the site. These guides are almost always
more responsive than search engines and portals, since there is a specific
person by name with an email address, all of which is made clear at the
Best of luck to you, and may all your submissions be accepted on the
day they were submitted!
Robert Woodhead is well known for writing one of the first computer
roleplaying games (Wizardry) as well as one of the first anti-virus programs
His latest project is http://selfpromotion.com/, a URL-registration power-tool
that helps you promote your site to over a hundred search engines and indexes. You
can use it for free, then if you like it, YOU decide how much you want to pay!