Here in Search, we are always interested in hearing about ways to improve the search experience. And, along with Danny Sullivan and Dave Winer, customers have let us know that they wanted us to change how we used Open Directory descriptions in search results. So… we did!
Just to give some background, the Open Directory Project at dmoz.org is a repository of millions of human-edited descriptions. Even though these human-edited descriptions provide a lot of value, with human editing may come human error, bias, descriptions getting outdated, or the editor’s text may simply not suit the webmasters who want to be represented in their own way.
What has bothered the webmasters previously is that when search engines preferred search result descriptions from dmoz.org, they did not empower webmasters to opt-out of those descriptions. This can be especially annoying if the descriptions from dmoz.org are outdated, or just plain inaccurate.
We had one customer who was frustrated because the ODP description of their site mentioned “favours” and was listed under Canada when their site was actually in the United States and was spelled as “favors”. All they wanted was a way to specify that MSN Search should use the description from their page instead of using ODP.
So what we did was introduce a new option at the page level – a robots meta tag – that tells the MSN search bot not to use the DMOZ site snippet. This is something that only can be done at Web page level, by a webmaster, and is not done as part of the robot.txt file.
So in your Web page you’d put
<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOODP”>
<META NAME=”msnbot” CONTENT=”NOODP”>
In theory the first of these applies to all crawlers and the second just to us. As far as we know right now, we are the only search engine to support this tag, so the two are the same for the moment. But when others follow suit, you could use the second tag to get only MSN to ignore ODP content for your page.
A word of caution: Putting either tag in your pages will not make your search results descriptions change immediately – they will change once our crawler has re-crawled the page. Usually that takes about 1 day -4 weeks for us to re-crawl you (ok, that sounds odd, but we hope you know what we mean).
Try it out, and give us your feedback!
—-Girish Kumar, MSN Search Development Lead
Betsynote May 30th: this post has been reformatted to correct some font weirdness. None of the content has changed.