allpar - 3:46 pm on Mar 18, 2012 (gmt 0)
Just as a quick aside --
Even as Google (as econman points out) has a problem distinguishing between great and mediocre content, so do regular viewers.
In my "vertical," sloppy, inaccurate, tabloid reporting invariably gathers more hits and more discussion and link-sharing than accurate reporting. Indeed, one of the big players got that way by consistently making viewers so angry with their insanity, that they'd spread their indignation around the net, thereby guaranteeing backlinks and real viewers.
Unfortunately, favoring large sites is supported by viewers. Most want one or two big sites in any given field ... like Google for search, eBay for auctions, PayPal, etc... the hope is to be a big fish in a small pond, and then grow your pond, if you don't have a lot of time/money to invest.
In my arena, Wikipedia is and has long been a major threat... they invariably end up at the top of just about any search.
But I've lived through a LOT of these. Yahoo put a scare into a lot of us when they started charging $300 for REVIEWING a link (talk about greed!) -- and Yahoo died because they no longer had relevant links. Open Directory was a boon at first, then under mountains of spam they got increasingly weird, fired editors for no reason and with no recourse, made it nearly impossible to become an editor in the first place, and died for the same reason as Yahoo: they couldn't keep up. (ODP was also always extremely slow-loading.)
And of course there was goto.com, later Overture, which started the "bid for placement" game that Google latched onto. This spawned many imitators and it soon looked as though we'd be buying every non-repeat, non-referral visitor. (What made Google succeed was its LACK of greed: they didn't displace all the natural search hits, and they invited webmasters to display their ads, sharing revenue 50/50 or 60/40, while the BEST you could do with goto.com was 20/80 since they'd give you a penny per search, and they got 5 cents up to several dollars per click!).
As a side note, I've found my site has plummeted over the last few months in the rankings, though I've done no "black hat." I was told the problem was my ads are too big, though I've been following G's advice. I did discover a bug in Webkit that sometimes makes the ads REALLY BIG and that might have killed me.