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How Special is Your Website?

 3:33 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

People seem to be totally confused about the new quality piece for Google's algo, and I wonder how 'special' the sites of those who used to rank and no longer do really are?

How many sites do you run?

How many sites do: Amazon, eBay, Twitter, FaceBook, WikiPedia, and all the other big players run? Now, again, how special is your website, really? Is it so special you only need one?

I only work on 5 right now, only run 4 of them, of the ones I run 1 is for a separate business, 1 is personal, and 2 are sites I can concentrate on basically full time, 1 of which is noindexed ... How many do you run?

Do you have the latest word press installed? It's a dime-a-dozen piece of software. Nothing special about WP ... Do you have the newest directory software on all of them? How many other people do too? How about eCommerce? Do you have the latest osCommerce or Zen Cart installed with friendly URLs? You and how many 1000s of other people?

Really, sit down and look at your site(s) and ask yourself how special it is when you compare it to the sites the 'big players' build ... Is it close? Is it really the quality of the highest caliber?

None of the sites I saw listed on Google's report a quality site wrongly demoted page were anything 'special' to the point where I thought I would really be missing out if they weren't included in the results ... Not one.

I see so many 'nothing special' sites out there I don't know what people are actually complaining about and I really wonder how honest their evaluation of their own sites is?

If you're wondering why you might not rank like you used to, imo you might do well to sit down, really look at your site, and ask yourself, what makes my site special?

Forget about other people's sites and the sites out ranking yours and trying to chase the algo for another round, and sit and ask yourself what makes your site special and then: what could I do better?



 4:06 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Just to add to this a bit ... I'm rebuilding one for a friend (the 5th) ... I'm about 2 weeks into it, have close to 120 hours into the design and software running it, probably have another 50 hours to go till it's all the way done, and then I'll be back to only the 4 sites I mention above, unless I decide to take on another project, and honestly, that's about all I can handle building the type of sites I build ... There's nothing 'off the shelf' about any of them.

They're unique, custom, hand built, and if you can't do that or don't want to do that for yours, imo, you don't have much to complain about, because your site, whether you'd like to admit it or not, is probably not really very special to very many people ... Sorry for the bluntness ... I hope I'm not offending too many people, but rather challenging people to stop building a volume of sites or 'stopping at good enough' and rather focus on constantly the quality of their site, like they would if it was actually something special...


 4:37 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

One of the challenges site owners run into occurs when their Google traffic is good for a long time. The temptation gets stronger to let quality slip, and that can grow without being noticed. Yes, the site may have started with something unique - but are they still putting in the effort to make that USP (Unique Selling Proposition) focused and clear?

For advertising supported sites, getting more impressions can become more important that what they actually publish. In fact, sometimes the lower quality pages bring better CTR on the ads.

None of that is special at all. It's mundane and even a bit low, because it diminshers the human experience rather than enhancing it.

When it comes to Panda losses, I'd be focusing on those kind of trade-offs. And I'd assume that Google has a pretty good picture of how visitors are interacting with the site's pages.


 4:42 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

TheMadScientist, I can understand what you try to say but you seem to be relating custom hand built sites to quality in quite a few threads here and that doesn't sound to be a good reason for google's new quality.

What makes you see that relationship? I can still see a lot of sites built using wordpress and other popular softwares ranking on top.


 4:54 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Because when I look at the top sites on the Internet, the ones most likely imo to be 'exception listed', the ones most likely imo to be scored as 'vital', the ones people frequent and are 'house-hold' names, that's what I see and imo they are the highest quality ... Off-the-shelf patterns are definitely something I would look for in an attempt to determine quality ... Sorry if that's not everyone's idea of a good time, or even fair ... I would look for uniqueness and quality in template as well as content.

I can still see a lot of sites built using wordpress and other popular softwares ranking on top.

Me too, but I think I can out-do a WP site wrt quality and seo any day of the week ... I see plenty of them there now, but that's not a direction I'd recommend to go, because it's not the direction I see what I believe to be the true quality sites of the Internet taking, and if you think the Panda first round is tough, what do you think it's going to be like a year or three from now when it's a more mature algo?


 4:58 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've got cloned sites that I did not spend hundreds of hours on where visitors use the site and interact with it all the time.

Those sites have not been touched by Panda or any of the other recent algo shifts Google has done.

Life is way to short to be spending hundreds of hours working on a few sites just to appease the Google gods.


 5:02 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

How about spending hundreds of hours to build a high quality website, with rankings as a by-product?

I've got cloned sites

Enjoy the ride ... I do hope you're ready to be retired, and have a plan for the day Google when gets it right, because if they find those algorithmically, you'll probably tank.


 5:13 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

the ones most likely imo to be 'exception listed'

Doesn't that idea muddy the whitelist waters even more than they already are? To get placed on an exception list, a site must first generate a FALSE positive in the algorithm.

I also agree with the counterpoint here - the technical underpinnings of a site do not need to be custom or unique or special to be well ranked on Google. It's probably true that as a web business grows, its code will become tailored in unique ways.

But that's just not a requirement for ranking well - the actual content, the offering itself is what should be "special".


 5:17 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

To get placed on an exception list, a site must first generate a FALSE positive in the algorithm.

And then be a 'high value add' (or something to that effect) to users if I remember reading correctly ... Remember, manual exceptions are done by people, who are at work ... Can't you imagine a site being reviewed as the 15th WP based site in a row and the reviewer thinking 'WP Again, Nothing Special Here'?

If you look at everything, don't you end up with a totally unique product, which is more likely tailored to the exact needs of the end user and quite likely a 'higher value add' to the results than the stock-standard options out there? They have how many sites to choose from for any given topic? Don't people want theirs to stand out in every way possible?

I know I do ... I want an algo to hit my site(s) and 'think' ... 'Wow, totally unlike anything else...'


 5:29 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

How about spending hundreds of hours to build a high quality website, with rankings as a by-product?

How about spending all those hours on a high quality site only to get it wiped out for no reason which happens all the time. Then your left with nothing.

Even though the sites are cloned, the content is unique so they stand on their own.

I respect those folks who use your method but I've been doing this long enough to know it's not the method I'll be following for myself.

There are high quality sites I've done for clients, but they paid me very well to do them so when somebody is footing the bill, I don't mind doing it.


 5:32 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yeah, I think there are two different approaches: MrGuy ... If you rely on Google, yours is probably better, but personally I try to not do that, so I prefer people to land on completely unique and rankings seem to be a nice byproduct that goes along with it.

tedster, wrt the 'code' not needing to be unique and only the content mattering, do you really think WebmasterWorld would rank as well if Brett just installed vBulletin, or do you think it ranks better, because of the uniqueness he builds into the software driving it?


 5:34 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Even though the sites are cloned

Do you mean several sites using the same basic template but with unique information?


 5:36 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think so, and that's different than I thought too ... I thought he meant he went and cloned the content and everything else ... But I think he just means the template, and if there are only 5 or 10 rather than 1,000,000 installations, I would say that's fairly unique on the web.


 6:12 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Even though the sites are cloned

Sorry, I should of been more specific. Yes, the layout is cloned not the content. Each site is about it's own niche and has it's own content.

However, I do not spend hours upon hours writing content for them.

But, I did a test a while back just for giggles and copied word for word text from Wikiepedia and credited them for the text with a follow link back to Wiki and guess what. That particular site performs very well and was not touched by Panda.


 6:12 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

In my niche, what sets certain web sites apart from others is the personality behind the web site. Web sites are popular when people like the person who is putting themselves out there as a believable "expert" in this field.

My main web site has in the past risen above the rest because it is much larger and better designed than most of my competitors' web sites. Most of my competitors don't even know anything about SEO, they are just posting their thoughts on their blogs. This has given me very little competition. However, I think where I have fallen behind is showing the face behind my web site, and promoting myself and my site on Facebook and Twitter. My competitors are very good at this, and I am slowly sinking down in the SERPS, I think partly due to this reason.

I am really working to branch into these areas and it is also providing new valuable contacts for me.


 8:36 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Probably less than 1% of all webpages are what I would call high-quality. That means that the other 99%+ are low-quality or mediocre at best. Yet almost everyone thinks their own site is "special". It's just human nature.


 8:46 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Why is it up to the small site to prove themselves "special" while big sites are simply accepted as the standard? Why should Google be deciding that?

This logic doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

This is like saying small clothing retailers shouldn't be allowed to exist, because you can get the same thing at Wal-Mart.

Sure the service at Wal-Mart is horrible and maybe the quality of the product isn't as good, but is "Bob's Jeans' down on 4th really all that special? Not really. Let's put Bob's out of business and we can all just shop at Wal-Mart!

Horrible logic.


 8:54 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Shatner - Why do you think that Google discriminates against small sites? I've never seen any evidence of that.


 9:06 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

This logic doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Because Google is about what the end user wants to see, not what size your site is, or really much of anything else for that matter when it comes to rankings. They're not about 'fair and equal treatment of all websites' they're about serving results their users want to see, and have even come to expect to see, for queries.

This is like saying small clothing retailers shouldn't be allowed to exist, because you can get the same thing at Wal-Mart.

No this is saying if Wal-Mart is the better answer for the end user and the 'small guy' doesn't step up to set themselves up to be a better alternative than Wal-Mart, or at least as a viable alternative to Wal-Mart in the eyes of the end user of Google, based on the behavior of users and other patterns exhibited, it's probably not going to rank highly, or at least would be unwise for Google to rank the site highly.

Why should Google decide that? Because they run a business ... To be fair, they would have to rotate through all possible results for a query evenly ... They haven't ever been fair to the best my knowledge.

ADDED: I can assure people size of site does not appear to be nearly as important as 'perceived quality', because I have more than one, one page site that ranks well ... Building a 'little site' like the 'big guys' imo and experience can be a viable plan.


 9:32 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Actually, from my own experiences, I think you have some big advantages when you're trying to rank a small site. For example, you have more time to spend on each page and develop its content. It's also much easier to optimize the structure of a small aite. In addition, the available pagerank isn't diluted as much and can be focused on specific pages more easily. Another advantage, at least for me, is that all four of my sites are in a small niche, so that the pages support each other.


 9:51 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Of course, we can't forget that big sites usually started as small sites. My "big" site (a bit over 50k pages) started out as just 3 pages (about 14 years ago).


 10:44 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think the discussion of Wordpress, and indeed any CMS, distracts from the meat of this discussion. Except for performance, the choice of CMS does not matter to the user, nor do they even need to know what CMS you're using. It is possible to build a site in Wordpress that you would never know was built in Wordpress. It is possible to build a site in MODx that you would swear on your grandmother's grave was made in Wordpress. Performance matters. CMS technology matters to you, the site operator, because it determines how you interact with the site. The user does not care, nor, I think, does Google.

What makes a site special is being based on an innovative idea, or a new twist on an old idea, or an old idea executed especially well, or a unique and interesting perspective on a subject. If you have that, go ahead and build it in Wordpress or whatever CMS you prefer or don't use a CMS at all. Pick a CMS that works for _you_, and create content that works for your _users_.

Edit: having said that, I'll take MODx over Wordpress or any other CMS any day of the week. MODx rules. Not because the user-facing output is "special" but because it is a joy to work with as a webmaster.


 11:32 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

I guess after over a decade of work I would say my site is "Special" to me, not sure if this is what we are talking about though.


 11:48 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think the fact you said site singular and over a decade of work might well show through and goes right to the point of me starting this thread ... I think many people might be better off building a site for the long term rather than chasing the algo today with many sites, but of course that's my opinion only.


 11:57 pm on Mar 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Sorry, madscientistdude, that sounds all noble and pie-in-the-sky wonderful, but have you seen the amazing amount of drivel and cr@p that ranks well? Don't get me wrong, I love good quality content and sites that really make me think, "hey this is special". But I honestly don't think that a well-crafted, quality site will do any better or worse in any particular algo update. Sounds good...but it's just not the reality, as far as I can see.


 12:43 am on Mar 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

>>Sorry, madscientistdude, that sounds all noble and pie-in-the-sky wonderful, but have you seen the amazing amount of drivel and cr@p that ranks well?


The number of scrapers and garbage content sites ranking highly right now is ridiculous.

Again, everyone seems to keep ignoring the fact the eHow's really horrible, completely unspecial, in some cases flat out stolen content actually gained in the Panda update.

That pretty much negates everything being said here.


 12:56 am on Mar 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have two main sites that provide most of our income. They are on separate servers hosted in different locations - one is a Drupal and other other is WP.

We do have a few other websites, like a recipe site. I started that when my wife and I would spend a lot of time cooking something special. Why not share it? I also have a forum.

My wife also has a decorating site, but I don't think she spends enough time on it - there are only so many hours in a day. She has taken an interest in apps lately. We will see if anything develops out of that.

We make our living from this business. It pays our mortgage, health insurance and everything. They are my baby and I spend nearly all my time thinking and working on them.

We have other sites that we experimented with and may not renew the domain. I even created a content farm. LOL I stopped accepting submissions because it started taking too much time and they don't pay that much.

MS, you mentioned upgrading. The Drupal site is pretty old and if we do update it, we need to change the theme or it will crash. A lot of people add plug-ins to their WP site. Remember, if you update your site you need to make sure all of the plug-ins will work with the new version, otherwise your site will crash.

Unless you are hosting your own site, upgrades are important. What if the host upgrades the PHP or MySQL? This could cause problems and even crash your site.

Here is something Aristotle said:

Actually, from my own experiences, I think you have some big advantages when you're trying to rank a small site. For example, you have more time to spend on each page and develop its content.

I like your way of thinking. I also think Google's results will be best if their algorithm doesn't judge pages on a site-wide basis. But, they are the ones that have to program their algo.

Here are some ideas to improve a site:

1) Google provides maps, videos (YouTube), calendars and much more. I heard Eric Schmidt once describe Google as a publisher's solution. For the most part, their solutions are free - even Blogger. Take advantage of their free tools to make your site better.

2) Learn graphics programs. Improve the graphics for your pages. Right now I am reading a tutorial for 3-D animation - mostly just for modeling.

3) Try to make your site / page better than the top ranking page in your SERPS.

4) Also, don't forget about social media - follow buttons, like etc. But the content should come first, IMO.

Those are my thoughts on this topic.


 4:01 am on Mar 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

At one point, my main site was special. Given time, and as Tedster noted, the uniqueness was scraped/knocked off and I drifted into similarity with competitor's sites.

Perhaps a year ago I started updating technology, making small progressive design changes all while closely watching user interaction. My last change, live but not yet linked, is a forum change to make things easier from a user perspective.

I no longer believe that site is special, I have two backups (different content) in the same niche, and others on different topics.

Today, I sent link begging email for that site to a related site with a PR1 home page. My old philosophy was a low ranked site wasn't worthy of sharing the "specialness".

Shallow, but easy to fall into.
Appropriate for my users is the new mantra.


 5:03 am on Mar 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

The original idea for my site was and still is special, at least for my niche. I offer detailed ads for widget stores that are searchable by brands of widgets and accessories they carry, as well as services and other things they offer. (I should add that the store owners are very happy with the new customers they've been getting, so the site works as intended).

There's been no other site in my niche that does what mine does. About a year ago a site owner tried to copy my idea, but had to make up fake stores to populate his directory. He's added a classifieds ad section, a forum and some other features, but all are pretty much empty.

Since 2005 I've ranked #1 to #3 for "[insert a state name] widget shops" or "[insert a city and state] widget shops". The update put me on page two at best for those phrases. The ultimate irony is that the guy who's been trying to copy my site is now in those #1 to #3 spots for most of those phrases. How his site can have those rankings with empty classifieds pages and empty forums pages and other empty sections, I don't know.

Where the Panda update tripped me up on this was the other content I put on my site. I knew that people would be attracted to photos and information about individual models of widgets, so I created tons of pages with photos and information. In many or most cases the content was thin, but it was enough to rank well on Google for brand names, model names, etc.

If the majority opinion here about the causes of the de-rankings is correct, then I need to beef up those content pages and add something unique. Right now they're dragging down the part of the site that's special.

Or that's what I believe this week.


 6:46 am on Mar 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Our sites are like our children, we always want them to be the best, brightest and most accepted. But, despite best intentions, there are sometimes factors that don't make them the best, brightest or most popular.

If I grasped the original intent of the thread, it's "How do I still love my site when it isn't really "special", but I'd like it to be special."

You state: "I offer detailed ads for widget stores that are searchable by brands of widgets and accessories they carry, as well as services and other things they offer."

In my opinion, that's something I'd expect to find on any site offering a product or service. Where's the aspect that makes you unique in the world of widgets and accessories?

Close to the top of the thread, Tedster commented about:
Unique Selling Proposition

Where is that proposition?

I'm not bashing on you, I feel your pain with the update, but it's really a good idea to take a few steps back and step into the user perspective.

This 149 message thread spans 5 pages: 149 ( [1] 2 3 4 5 > >
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