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Possible to rank a niche Search site anymore?

 4:23 pm on Aug 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

I am struggling with ways to rank a simple search engine I developed over 2 years ago. The problem - I think - is that content is relatively minimal (it only really has a homepage which is the search box pretty much, an About page and a handful of indexes for the most popular categories) but it seems popullar because it's useful and unique.

To draw a hypothetical parallel, let's say it's a search site that allows a user to find hotels in a given city with required exras. IE: iPod docking stations in the room, plug points in reach of the bed for charging a phone which needs to be in reach... etc, etc. A lot of it is stuff that's quite hard to find out and most of the effort has gone into sourcing the data to be honest.

A search on the site returns a list of SERPS containing matching hotels with brief but essential information and an affiliate link to each. It gets 200-300 users a day through referals/social etc and converts well with a decent return rate, however it doesn't rank in Google. Primarily because a typical (hypothetical) search of "hotels in new york with ipod docking stations" returns Google SERPS are jammed full of big brands.

Clearly I need more but the user doesn't and I'd not only be adding stuff that is unnecessary but taking resources away from the primary role of data collection. To be honest I wouldn't do that as it does OK without Google but I like a challenge and am intrigued to find out what it takes or even if it's possible anymore.

Does anyone have any input that might help rank it higher?




 11:46 pm on Aug 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

Perhaps you could add a page that describes the different types of extras and options that people tend to be interested in. This would beef up your site with some more content, and might improve your rankings for searches containing one or more of those terms.


 12:38 am on Aug 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

I have a bunch of these. They're just not considered to be quality sites by Google anymore, even though a lot of work went into carefully collecting and evaluating the links. Still get plenty of traffic from Yahoo and Bing, so I leave em up. I haven't done any work on them for a couple of years tho.


 11:46 am on Aug 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

@Aristotle. Thanks for the suggestion. My feeling is that users won't generally be that interested as they will probably fully understand the options prior to their search. I think there is still room for creating "content for Google" rather than "content for users" until the algos get more intelligent though - it's just a bit of a frustration having to do it when the data collection is ultimately the core activity that takes the time.

@Netmeg: I believe Google's search algos are a lot more intelligent than Bing/Yahoo, the irony being that the simple but arguably more useful sites that don't need to provide lots of text content may be better represented in the latter.

Martin Ice Web

 12:02 pm on Aug 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

I believe Google's search algos are a lot more intelligent than Bing/Yahoo,

Sometimes intelligence isn't not the clue to solve a problem. A intelligent person might see a problem in a certain cituation where in truth there is no problem. Feel free to transfer this to the panda algo.

What about makeing the big hotel finding portals beeing our friend? If your have data that is unique in this niche give them a chance to use our website for their search.

I myself gave up to compete with amazon. While google says a <b>book selling</b> company has more know how in my technic niche and if a big company is not reachable by phone or mail for extra widget information this seems to be more relevant for google than what realty is about.
So you see there is something wrong with the algo ( or it is all about the money - for sure ) then you have to beat the algo in other ways. Cut out google.


 12:48 pm on Aug 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

If you ask a question on WebmasterWorld and the response was to "Google it," you may find the answer you were seeking but the user experience for you was poor. The goal of WebmasterWorld (or any other forum) is to provide answers. Telling people to go somewhere else or to search WebmasterWorld is a poor user experience.

Similarly, when someone enters a search query, the search engine aspires to provide answers, not web pages that require additional queries or clicks to find the answer. It's an editorial choice on Google's part that happened many years ago. Google's intent is to show a link to a web page that answers a query. It is less useful to show a page that requires the user to click an additional link to reach the web page that answers the query.

A page of links (or a search box) does not answer a query. Somewhere on that page of links (or on the other side of a search box) is the answer to a users query. It's the answer that Google wants to show.


 5:21 pm on Aug 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

A page of links (or a search box) does not answer a query. Somewhere on that page of links (or on the other side of a search box) is the answer to a users query. It's the answer that Google wants to show.

I believe in this case that it does. You want to know which hotels in Paris have featherdown beds: the search engine gives you the answer - and what's more it's probably the only place that can give you the answer. The affiliate links are merely a facilitator as far the user is concerned but probably essential to the service provider in order to be able to fund the data collection.

Without the revenue those links provide, these answers probably wouldn't be available to anyone, anywhere which is not to Google's advantage either.


 8:09 pm on Aug 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

You want to know which hotels in Paris have featherdown beds: the search engine gives you the answer...

Your site is sitting between Google and the answer contained in the link. Your site is in the way of the answer. That's a poor user experience.

Your search engine may have the link to the answer but the user has to search for it then click through the (affiliate) link. Your site is in the way of the answer. Google wants to cut you out and take the user straight to the answer because that's a good user experience.

I thought my example in the first paragraph on how this applies to the user experience at WebmasterWorld made it pretty clear. The answer must be found on the landing page. Not in a link contained on the landing page.

User reviews, a review based on an actual stay at a hotel, that's an example of a useful answer to a query. Make sense?


 2:44 pm on Aug 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

No lol. Sorry I am not with you mb. I am not providing a link to the answer...I am providing the answer. The link is not relevant to providing the answer but it may well be the next step the user wants to follow once they have it. The user doesn't want one hotel with a featherbed, they want to know all hotels with a featherbed so they can choose.


 6:51 pm on Aug 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

Is the search functionality something that is found on other, better known hotel / travel sites?

For example: do the major hotel / travel sites allow one to limit the search to only hotels with featherbeds? (or something like that)

(And yes, I understand this is only an example.)


 7:29 pm on Aug 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'm not entirely with you either on this one, Roger, but since Google *is* with you, there's no point (or bank) in arguing it. Fortunately I have other things I can focus on.


 3:20 pm on Aug 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

I don't think MB is saying that your site is not a good site in its own right, just that it duplicates the functions that Google seeks to perform.

Because of your focused efforts, your site may well deliver more detailed results, however, G SERPs are G ecosystem, they will seek to best please their users , and get the best possible return for their stakeholders .

This matter has greatly exercised my mind recently, and I guess I also have other stuff to do, for now :)

Interesting , that bit about social media, just discovering twitter myself


 6:01 pm on Aug 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

@Planet13. Sticking with the example, in some instances a hotel might mention it has feather beds yes. But a list of all hotels that have them is not available anywhere else and even if Google scraped all the content, it could only ever provide an abridged list which wlll undoubtedly suit some searchers but not all. If you want all your options, it is genuinely the only place you can get them afaik - at the moment!

@scooterdude: I take your point and although this doesn't directly address your issue, it may be worth pointing out that Google doesn't have a service or direct financial interest (bar PPC etc) in this niche.

As an aside, the social media thing was a bit of an accident. I simply set up a Facebook page as a support conduit and it seemed to facilitate user interest.


 9:24 pm on Aug 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

If it helps, and in my experience, I'd say start away from Google and promote it on its own merit.

I have quite a successful specialty search engine in my portfolio. Took me a while to develop and fine-tune it some time ago, and apart from the first page, everything inside it is no-indexed (entirely coded for client-side rendering anyway.) Heck, I even made all queried results canonical to the main page (had told late Tedster about it with a thread in this forum too.)

Google had initially shunned it (indexed alright but it hardly ranked for anything). Thankfully, the SE was somehow picked up by enthusiasts all over and direct referrals started mushrooming. As if Big G was watching silently for a reaction from the crowd, it gradually started sending a lot of traffic -- and hasn't stopped so far (knock wood!) :D

The SE now virtually runs maintenance-free. I've got self-learning algorithms in it for new content discovery. It takes user feedback, and users' own search trends to learn and grow more.



 10:50 am on Aug 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

Interesting...thanks zdgn.


 6:52 pm on Aug 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

Thanks Zdgn, it would appear that a key is building a site people actually want, whether there are search engines or not.

What a surprise :)

Thank you Facebook, I'll be paying more attention to facebook et al


 8:34 pm on Aug 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

@ zgdn:

Yes, but what does it rank for? (As in what types of keywords does it rank for? I am assuming you will exemplify the keywords here.)

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