How important is the ODP category as related to AOL ranking? From what I understand AOL looks in the keywords in the title and description but how important is the category in which the site is listed? Do higher level categories rank better than lower level categories?
It's been my experience - no. The most important factor for being found in an ODP search on aol, is click pop.
(and if you are thinking of doing some click stuffing, the aol url encryption scheme is next to impossible to crack. Not only is it ip sensitive, it is time sensitive as well. It might even be agent sensitive - I didn't dig that far. The only way to do it, would be to do the search, and pull the string out of the search, then issue the click through. However, doing that would send off some alarm bells in their algo).
By click pop do you mean clicks that the site gets on ODP or clicks that site gets on AOL, or combined clicks from more SE's. This means that if some site is better ranked they would always stay better ranked or maybe newer sites get more weight per click.
I have very recently got into AOL via my ODP listing. I have excellent title and description, however my AOL ranking seems to be getting worse. I see that Brett has suggested to "pull the string out of search" How is that done? and is there any other thing to do in order to increase the ranking? I also noticed that I get some clicks from spinbox.combatsim.com listing. I don't even know what is that. Another thing that I don't understand at AOL is that when I search for some combination of keywords in quotes "k1 k2" I get first or second position and when I search for k1 k2 without the quotes my listing is nowhere to be seen. Why is that?
I thought they rotated it every so often - I managed to get to number one, with "web design" keywords, in both UK and International directories for about a fortnight - very nice on the logs - but now I am well down the list.
I've always found that appropriate categories, usually the most specific rank the highest for keywords. I think it is because AOL uses the category descriptions for certain keywords, thus specific categories with specific descriptions yield better results.