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Many sites coming top for my keywords have no content just links out

 5:21 pm on May 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

Can anyone explain how sites with outgoing links to other sites and internal links to pages with more links to external sites BUT very little content on the subject.
If I type red widgets into a search engine I want red widget sites not sites with links to red widget sites.

What am I missing?!



 3:12 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

How about what's in the page titles, meta description, H(n) and anchor text of links to those pages? Any clues there?

Added: And are the pages linking to them on the same theme and/or do they include the same keywords/combinations and/or variations?


 3:28 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

It started with Florida, last November, and then got worse.

It seems that G decided to combat recip-links by assuming pages that linked out to many sites, without recip incoming links, were "authorities". Since then, it's been all directories, all the time. A thing called, "Hilltop", might be involved, (use the site search).

Personally, as a user I find it frustrating in the extreme. On many searches, I find only sites that have long lists of links to other sites, that also have long lists of links to other sites, ad infinitum. The actual sites that all these directories are supposed to be linked to are so buried in the serps, you can't find them.

(imho, etc, etc)

[edited by: Stefan at 3:28 am (utc) on May 6, 2004]


 3:28 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Along with the above, the site may be considered a *hub*. Autority sites IMO are those having a slew of relevant incoming links as opposed to outgoing. A site can be both which would be the ideal.


 7:58 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

In reply to what Marcia said - The particular pages don't have any external incoming links.

It's really annoying me because I have links from relevant sites that are listed in the ODP linking to my page with plenty of relevant keyword text plus lots of content.

One theory I have that I'd appreciate if someone could confirm is you can't have too many internal links. I'm seeing sites doing well that at the bottom of every page practically have a site-map. I don't want to do this because it looks rubbish and is useless. But if it works ...

I'll also have a look for 'Hilltop' to see if that sheds any light.



 8:58 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing sites doing well that at the bottom of every page practically have a site-map. I don't want to do this because it looks rubbish and is useless.

Since one of the last updates this may no longer help!
In fact, I found that in some cases it did harm. (All internal pages linked to from the "site-map on every page" got a PR reduction of one and a correspondingly worse position in the ranking.)

Unfortunately I have not yet found out the difference between the two. "keyword stuffed" link-lists may get punished, repetitions (in html-links) of the menue on the left or top (with graphical links) may be considered legitimate.


 9:12 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

What am I missing?!

You are missing what I am missing and what millions of Google users are missing since this was introduced, and all in the name of progress!

Quite apart from the problems this has created with my own site's rankings this is a major problem for me as a searcher. In my field I spend a significant amount of time doing research on the 'net and this has become much more difficult of late. I now regularly have to switch to Yahoo and ATW, etc.

I may be wrong but I seem to remember GoogleGuy tring to justify this a few weeks ago by saying that if you are looking for something and they can provide you with a list of potential sources then this what you want. This is true but I thought that this is what Google was supposed to do really well by itself?

If you are out shopping for a pair of shoes and you see a sign that says "shoe shop" you could be forgiven for thinking that you may find the shoes you need inside. But ... what happens when you walk in the door and you find another 50 shop fronts that all say "shoe shop". Your first reaction could be, "Hey, look at all the shoe shops that I can choose from!". This will swiftly change when you decide to enter one of them and inside you find another 50 shop fronts all labelled "shoe shop". And then you choose one of them and ... well you get my drift!

Despite what Google says this is not what the public want. Google is (was?) a search engine not a directory of directories.

Edit: Spelling

[edited by: BeeDeeDubbleU at 10:20 am (utc) on May 6, 2004]


 9:52 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

BeeDeeDubbleU - I second that...


 9:55 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)



 10:06 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Couldn't agree more, there is a site in my area that simply seems to harvest a list of 20 sites out of the ODP or similar directory for each of the 50 top keyphrases and then creates a page for each keyphrase listing the sites.

They have no content whatsoever and are appearing in the top pages for all phrases they use. They have advertisements on their site to generate revenue.

This for me from a Google users point of view is a waste of time, if I want these directory type listings then I will use a Directory such as the ODP or Yahoo.


 10:19 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

What makes this issue worse is when the keywords are highly contested so your getting a penalty for keyword density that naturally appears in the content and also getting pushed out of the rankings by all these directory style sites.

Maybe if I turn every relevant phrase on the page into a link that'll help?!?!


 10:24 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google have to realise that for the majority of their users their current results are just plain poor. I don't want to start Google-bashing but this is highly relevant and on-topic.

If I ask friends and family how they rate their recent Google searches the answer often points to longer searches because of irrelevant results. And this is not a myth - I'm sure people here will corroborate this (I've seen this said several times in different threads).

As has been said, if you are searching for widgets, you want a website about widgets, it's as simple as that. No - really it is! Maybe Google feel threatened by the impending SE opposition and feel they need to try and distinguish themselves by offering what are at best massively complicated and inexplicable SERPs to webmasters and general surfers alike.


 10:27 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

It's nice to know that most people are agreed on this. If we keep this thread running perhaps someone will take note. Maybe even GG will comment again?

I may be missing something but I cannot understand why Google cannot see this as we do, i.e. capable of destroying their reputation for providing good results. The public will cotton on if it is not improved soon.


 10:35 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

BeeDeeDubbleU - the public has cottoned on to it.

No one gets as good results as they used but unfortunately since the general public like to surf the net in such an idle fashion - not really thinking about anything at all as they browse (i.e. buying from untrusted websites, trusting anything they see on a computer screen etc.), they cannot be bothered to use any other search engines. The general public want quick search results and it's still only Google that truly provide that service despite their poor quality SERPs.


 11:21 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

I was going to post a thread about the value of outgoing links. There is a site that comes up in the top five for one of my searches which is exactly as described in this thread. loads of links and no content, also has low PR and only a couple of incoming links.

I am thinking of adding a few outgoing links on each of my pages to try and increase ranking, has anyone tried this?


 11:31 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

It seems that G decided to combat recip-links by assuming pages that linked out to many sites, without recip incoming links, were "authorities". Since then, it's been all directories, all the time. A thing called, "Hilltop", might be involved, (use the site search).

According to Hilltop these pages are considered as expert pages but not as authorities (and shouldn't rank at the top).


 11:35 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

>>If we keep this thread running perhaps someone will take note.

Oh, there's no missing it and hasn't been for a while! But continued posting is a fruitless pursuit and nothing more than vain repetition unless there's something discussed that'll do people some good that they CAN control and do something about. That's only what we can do with our own sites.

The fact is, that while pages with only links out are ranking, the majority are NOT pages with just that. If it were just that, then the only factor in ranking would be the presence of outbound links. But that isn't the case at all. Guaranteed, if each one of us uploads a page today that's nothing more than outbound links, our pages will not rank.

So what is there about those pages that is causing them to rank? No, it isn't just outbound links.

We keep hearing about semantics - what is there about "semantics" that's contributing to those pages ranking? And we keep seeing mention of Hilltop. OK, so what is there in Hilltop that we can find that could be a contributing factor to pages like that ranking well?


 11:54 am on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Marcia, I agree with you on the first point.
However it seems that there is a flaw in an algo that can put sites like the ones described at the top of the SERPS. I'm sure there is a theory somewhere that says logically sites such as these are not the spammy rubbish that was dominating the SERPS.
I'd like to understand these results better but I truly believe my site has the content plus more relevant inbound link it even has more PR (if that counts for anything).
I don't want to change my site just to satisfy an algo that isn't producing good SERPs in certain fields. Sooner or later G will realise and change again. I thought the new algos where attempting to find more natural patterns cf over optimisation.

Anyway I'm beginning to wonder if Content is still King. Maybe the new mantra should be Linking is King


 12:36 pm on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Sorry to disagree with you Marcia

..But this is the "spammy directories" subject again ..it has nothing to do with semantics or hiltop .

...Semantics as supposedly in use ( since the last 3 months )in "test mode" by google would actually remove these pages from the serps or at least move them down a thousand or so places ....automatically!
hiltop would explain part of their ranking but not all ....
( already we all have evidence that the things which are supposedly screened out as "blackhat" by google and others are not actually screened at all ...but that I'll leave for another discussion ..another day )..

I ( and every other site in one of my ODP categories ..200 of us )was hit during jan , feb of this year by a whole slew of 100 or more of these directories on our sites ...they had bits of my snippets and the snippets of everyone else in that particular ODP cat spread around their pages ....sometimes they listed 100 ( lifted from the OPDP )sites per page and rehashed the snippets of all 200 of the sites in my category ...

I saw my url with upto 5 other sites snippets recut and stuck below it or along side it ...But if you clicked on what was supposed to be my link you didn't go to me but to one of 4 other sites (who are major materials suppliers in our industry)...
Every supposed link on every page just led to the same 4 sites ..
every page also had 4 adwords placed by the affiliate of these same 4 sites....( and who was obviously the owner of the "directory" ..inspite of the whois showing the owners as being <some company> ) ..

What this "scam" meant was that for 2 months every keyword likely to be used by anyone in our business resulted in the traffic being directed to one of these same 4 companies via a "spam directory"

..the secondary effect was even more interesting ....

This was that in a page of 100 supposedly clickable links maybe 25% were not coded with an "href" so they went nowhere ...so in frustration eventually the searcher would obviously say..
"well what the hell ..I'll click the ad! "and "maybe" get out of the "spam loop"!...

Incedentally every one of the "disguised" urls (which was clicable ) also had affiliate tracking so when you clicked what you thought was me or a colleague ..and actually went elswhere ..the target page knew which affiliate had sent you ....but "joe sixpack" doesn't read source code...so it's a safe "trick"..

Now all of this is pretty basic coding and so easy for Google to spot and stop ....especially if they use an algo ....as then the removal or even non appearance of these pages would have been done automatically ....but that would have meant a drop in revenue for the adwords ....multiply this effect ( and revenue ) across the entire net and you can see why this is only a problem for searchers and non affiliate webmasters ....for google and those who are doing it it is not a problem and is the intended result and as such will not be "addressed"...

This is not a conspiracy theory ..it's simple economics ..and If I had the money and time to set it up I'd do the same thing ....but I wouldn't try to claim as does google that it "isn't happening" or "we can't catch them all" or "it's for the benefit of searchers" ....nor would I lie about it nor do it for so long ....

The "spammy directories" stopped this proceedure in this one of my particular categories in April ...there just isn't enough money to be made in that group ..they are still working this scam all over google and no doubt some of their owners are reading posting in or moding these fora....after all they are successfull webmasters so why not .....

The problem is that they and google are going to kill the goose that lays and has been laying the golden eggs ...

unless they change the rules again

....what they are doing here is making Google as easy to game ( if one has the money ) as ATW was

....and eventually as is beginning to happen ..even joe and jane sixpack get the idea that the particular game is rigged and change tables

..or search engines ....

google used to be based on "enlightened self interest" ...recently it has been trying other economic models ..whilst claiming that these were other changes ...I personally don't give a **** if they stand or fall as I have most of my business outside of the net and chose for it to be that way after years in major ad agencies ....

I do think that for their ( googles )sakes and for the benefit of the web in general it would be good idea for them to let the propellerheads take charge again and sit on the short sighted money men ..when "they" have destroyed the reputation of google ( they're doing it pretty well )they'll just move on to "gm" or whatever large business can't spot them for what they are ...

Where I come from ..

We have always known ..

"you can only skin a cat once"

...then its dead ..

[edited by: Marcia at 2:30 pm (utc) on May 6, 2004]
[edit reason] specifics neutralized [/edit]


 12:59 pm on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

So what's the solution? If Google were to roll back its algorithm to whatever it was doing previously, it would lose whatever it may have gained from its current approach.

Google probably feels that a more sensible solution is to keep what it now has (in terms of progress) and work on eliminating or at least minimizing the side effects, which will take time.

Progress isn't a straight line, and the pursuit of progress isn't always a smooth ride.


 1:30 pm on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

europeforvisitors ..if your post was to me?
I don't think that they think they have a problem ..and I don't think they feel like doing any thing until after the IPO has gone through ...
Then I expect they will "correct" this issue before their credibility takes too big of a hit ( they hope )...

Long term it would do them ( google)no good to keep the situation as is ...a system whereby the affiliates can spam out the "real" competition so sucessfully cannot keep going ..eventually the "affs" would no longer need the technique ...as all competition would be gone and probably in large part bankrupted at "mom and pop" level...at which point they ( the affs )would stop the revenue flow to google and just "squat" page one of all serps targetted ...

The "revenue drop" would be so "sharp" as for google to be able to cut themselves on its edge

Sharp fall off in revenue is sanctioned far more more harshly by the "markets" than gradual fluctuations ...

This is what I mean by short sighted money men ...

Google did have a very good soundly based revenue stream to put into the IPO equation ...

However being greedy and choosing this particular way of sharply increasing their revenue prior to IPO was a mistake as it is only possible to do it once ...and its now been done to death ....

A "tricked" investor will not be a happy or loyal investor ....and the money men who suggested and implemented this strategy will no doubt jump ship within one year of the IPO ....if the **** doesn't hit the fan before then ...

< edited by me ..used the wrong "nic"at the top of post ....sorry Europeforvisitors >

[edited by: Leosghost at 2:06 pm (utc) on May 6, 2004]


 2:01 pm on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

As a user and site owner I cannot whole-heartedly agree that "so-called authority sites" are spam and unfairly taking up the top spots.

My 3 year old site has had a directory since day one. It is a small but extremely well targeted, contains recip links, not all are recips though, some are affiliate links. All links are active and relevant to the user who searches for keywords that take them to that specific page.

I do not include a link unless I 100% support what that site is about no matter if they recip, have great pr, or good affiliate program.

The reason that I created the directory was to appear as an authority and to give the user a reason to bookmark my site. To create an oasis of relevant content in a sea of chaos and random links.

As a user I have always thougtht I had hit the gold mine when Google directed me to site that had several links to others sites that were of interest to me. The fact that Google can recognise "so called authority site" has been one of the reasons that I use Google.

I got dinged hard during florida and gradually came back, with no changes to my site, during the course of the last few months. I am now where I was last Sept or so.


 2:13 pm on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Good points Leosghost!

I would however contend that it is the public who will decide Google's fate. When the public starts to drift away in numbers google will have to provide better results or sink.

Marcia, I agree with much of what you are saying and there are areas where the results are still pretty good. But, and it's a big BUT, there are still areas where the results are hopelessly like my shoe shop analogy. One of these is <regional type of search terms>. As you know, <certain searches> in different locations is one of the busiest areas of search. This means that very many people are experiencing these crappy results.

For obvious reasons it is generally the most used areas that are targetted by these affiliate schemes so it follows that most of the searchers will be seeing the bad results. If you want to do searches in uncommercial areas the results are generally still excellent but percentage wise the public are seeing bad results.

G is able to avoid bad press about this because most of the media people reporting on them generally have no real idea what is happening. The troops will however get restless and sooner or later they will attract bad press. If there is another upstart search engine that the media can champion at the same then its curtains for G. Personally I would not invest a brass farthing in them with the way things are going. But then ... perhaps they will change things again?

[edited by: Marcia at 2:20 pm (utc) on May 6, 2004]
[edit reason] Made search terms generalized. [/edit]


 4:15 pm on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

While I pretty much agree with the grumbling of this post, it has to be remembered that there are many exceptions to these circumstances. There are still manny well ranking sites that are not directories, that don't link out heavily, and don't spam.

I think rather than sit back and complain about how we would run Google if we owned it and cross our fingers and hope they change the algo soon, it might be better to spend our time identifying the factors that contribute to these circumstance to enable a better understanding.

Are there any serps where directories are sitting below other style sites? What on page and off page factors do those top sites have? How are they different in content to directories?

We need to understand the exceptions to the rules to help identify the rules. Just adding loads of off sites links to pages is not an answer.


 5:38 pm on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

Great post Marcia. Tenerf too.

It's nice to know that most people are agreed on this.

"most"? That is rather assumptive.

There are good directories and there are bad directories.
There are good web sites and there are bad web sites.

If a site is doing somthing 'illegal' or 'tricky' then google will eventually do something.

Stop complaining and go work on your site.


 6:00 pm on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

>I don't think that they think they have a problem

You have a secret source in Google?

Last I heard anything on the subject out of them, it was (IIRC) that they tried several new tweaks or techniques a day, and implemented several of them each month. That didn't sound like what someone would do if they thought "all our problems are solved."

Agreed, regional travel-rezzer searches are abhominable. The raw data is purer spam than you can find anywhere else outside of vice peddlers -- 99.999+ % pure. And it's DISTRIBUTED spam: rather than one unimaginative spammer doing the same blamed thing ten thousand times over (which would be easy to catch automatically), it's thousands of neurologically-challenged drones, creating endless mindless variations on the same theme (all with their own idiosyncratic notions of grammar, orthography, and syntax: thus making them extremely hard to filter out even manually). If Google were carrying out 99% of the trash -- do the math: those searches would still be 99.9% spam. You cannot honestly blame that on Google. They are the victim, not the perp.

I contemn the "there oughta be a law that the universe be the way I like it" attitude, but in this case I think the British law requiring full disclosure of the actual business entity that you are dealing with, is on the right track.


 6:27 pm on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

One of the original posts declared that these lists of links just had outgoing links, and no incoming links. I would have to ask if you are postive of this or is there a possibility you are seeing a page after a cloak?
Secondly, experience shows that if you build a good, non-SEO'd site, that gets updated frequently (as in daily) with good content (not filler material for the SE to eat) then you will be rewarded eventually. These days it takes a good year to get to that point unless you already own many of these good sites you can use to point links with - and dont tell me about cross- linking unless you have ever really been penalized for it and can prove it with a message from Google (of course if youre a link farmer - standard disclaimer - g)
Last - for those that think that Google is not getting used by the general public for searches and that they are all getting dissatisfied - you are fooling yourselves - sure you might know a few people that complain about it if you ask - but its pretty obvious that there are millions upon millions of surfers that love it and use it daily - and hopefully instead of complaining about the google results - you can use that knowledge of those numbers to monetize it the same way a large amount of people here do.


 9:00 pm on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing the same thing as the original poster in this thread, for keywords that probably no one else visiting this forum uses. Most of the top ten SERPs positions are just outbound links...a few are only image links(!). PR isn't even very high on some/most of them, some have only internal backlinks. It's frustrating.


 9:57 pm on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm also seeing many directories recently along with more ebay pages than I've seen before. I would think that the algo probably sees ebay pages as it does directories. A lot of relevant outbound links and semanticly correct words for the search must make it an authority.

It does seem to be selective on how it applies since in some searches I see none of these pages while in others half of the results are directories or ebay.

I agree the Google would have to be asleep at the wheel to not know there is a problem.


 10:40 pm on May 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm still finding that as a searcher the most annoying thing about all the directories dominating the serps is those where the result is actually an empty directory page with no info of any kind. If I'm searching for "blue widgets" I get pages of results - all directories - for "blue widgets" and each one has an identical page with a title "Blue Widgets" and a sentence that says something like "Directory page for Blue Widgets"... and nothing else. It's usually several pages of results before I get to a site which actually has something about "blue widgets". How is this meant to be useful to a searcher...

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