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The Decreasing Real Estate of Content

 8:23 pm on Nov 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

I usually spend a good deal of time researching before posting a question here. Sometimes hours or days.

In these searches, I'm finding an alarming trend. It's one thing to monetize a site, we all have bills to pay. But lately I'm finding that actual content is so crowded out it's a fraction of a site's real estate. Just today I was on a site, in frames, surrounded by affiliate ads, adSense, buy now's, and all sorts of other gizmos, with the actual content reduced to a meager 4" X 6" space scrolling in a frameset.

Is anyone else bothered by this? Do you think a site's value to the site owner is improved or degraded by an overuse of commercialism?

Off to my tiny corner of the 'net . . . .



 8:27 pm on Nov 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

Is anyone else bothered by this?


Do you think a site's value to the site owner is improved or degraded by an overuse of commercialism?

I firmly believe it is degraded. The more bells and whistles, the more degraded it becomes. Not only from a visual standpoint but from a performance one too.

Also, too many distractions are responsible for that "back button" click and high bounce rates.


 8:52 pm on Nov 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>bothered by this

Yep. Too many ads- I'm outta there. Blinking graphics- See ya. Moving interstitials- Gone.

For many, copy serves one purpose. It provides a place to hang ads. Write just enough copy to support targeting. Make sure to target every permutation of a phrase. The ads become the content. The copy is an afterthought. Visitors are given no consideration. Except as clicks. Copy isn't written for the visitors, it's simply written to herd them to the page.

I've taken to calling it 'carnival copy'. Much like a carnival barker's pitch, the only goal is to get the visitors in the tent to see the bearded lady or the leopard boy. Once in the tent the visitors are treated to a lady wearing a fake beard or a boy sporting fake spots. The visitors leave feeling cheated but the carnival barker has done his job.


 9:09 pm on Nov 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

Copy isn't written for the visitors, it's simply written to herd them to the page.

Not writing for the site visitor is missing half of the equation.

This is a timely topic. Earlier today I was looking at referals on my blogs, and it was interesting to see that I have been turning up on research phrases. The twist is this, my content was probably irrelevant for the research, but it was served ad-free.


 10:02 am on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Another problem with this trend towards filling pages with 'bells and whistles' is performance.
I'm guessing that many people use tabbed browsing and have several pages open at the same time.
A couple of pages open with flash and java gizmos and the whole thing slows to a craaawwwllll ;-)


 10:17 am on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

This is something new?


 11:16 am on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I use Adblock+. I occasionally turn it off when I am shopping and want to do a search.

It's pretty easy for me. The sites you are describing display as a blank page, more or less. I move on.


 11:17 am on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I pulled out a old PC magazine from the nineties. My guess is that 80% was ads. That's not including the bribes the mag got from hardware vendors for reviewing products/writing content/giving awards (Don't tell me it doesn't happen because I've been there, done that. It happens with every major PC mag).

I couldn't use adblock.


 12:46 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've had some sites inquire about "partnering" with me. Their idea seems feasible. Then I check out their site. Ads everywhere. The other day I went to a site that was basically 90% ads... 5% navigation and 5% content.

Completely discredited the site, obviously, but at the same time... who do they think they are fooling with all th ads? Even a non-webmaster is going to get turned off.

Imagine watching a show with 90% commercials. It would be an awful experience. Why put your visitors through the same thing?

That is why Tivo is so popular, you don't have to watch commercials. Which is why I predict ad-blocking software is going to become more popular over the next few years.


 1:19 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Traditional print media (newspapers, magazines, etc) contains 60 to 80% advertising.

Online, the websites for these papers and mags are among the worst offenders for over-advertising, at least in terms of big name, "reputable" sites. They're just transfering an advertising to copy ratio from print to an online page, without bothering to take into account the differences in the two mediums (in print, at least the ads don't blink or move).

My local tabloid [calgarysun.com]
My local broadsheet [canada.com]


1. These are the portal pages, and have less advertising than the internal content.

2. Both are subsidiary papers of publishing conglomerates, who have fairly massive web presences.

3. The visual clutter is such that it's hard to tell content links (some of which resemble banners) from advertising links (some of which resemble navigational text). It's cheap shot advertising at its worst.

4. Both are navigational and visual trainwrecks. If any one here had designed those pages, I'd tell them to get off the web.

The problem with this is that people see their favorite dailies doing it, so they think it's ok when other sites do it. It "legitimizes" the prectice in the public consciousness.

What these sites fail to realize is that this just doesn't work online. At least not in the long term. They might see a short term bump in revenue when they increase their ad space, but over time, people gravitate away from the site. Fewer visitors = fewer clicks. What they should be doing is looking at the king of online advertising revenue: Google. A few well placed, non intrusive, targeted ads. Sure the CTR/pageview won't be as high, but the overall pageviews will increase over time, which will more that make up for the lost CTR.

Sadly, this is one of the things that has ebbed and flowed since Bubble 1.0 days. Right now, I think we're seeing a return to the "bad old days" of massive over advertising that preceded the collapse of the first bubble.


 1:23 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Most of the sites in my niche are full of ads.. The maximum possible, primarily adSense. The ones that rank at the top have 95% ads. I really wonder how they got the ranking to reach that level. It has to be link manipulation. I feel google has lost out to link manipulation in most niche topics, where ranking is blatantly manipulated. Their algo ( based on links ) is outdated and the faster they recognise this..the better for them.

Something new and better is needed and google better pull up their socks.


 1:57 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

The ones I hate are those sites that have fat left and right columns, squeezing content in the middle..then a fat AdSense block in the content, allowing only one word per line to wrap on the side of it! Do these people look at what they've created and feel any pride at all?

I'm not surprised to see adblock mentioned here. It is sites like these that drive people to use blocking software, which then harms well-designed sites as well.

The whole thing is so frustrating. Create a site that YOU would want to visit, not one that makes you cringe! Only by creating something of value will you reap long-term rewards. It would be nice if the advertisers would refuse to do business with these spam sites.


 1:59 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

grelmar, those are two fine examples of what not to do! Hehehe, squeeze 4 columns into 760px of width. Make three of the columns advertising and then stuff one column of content inbetween. I would never use either of those two sites or anything similar.


 2:09 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Traditional print media (newspapers, magazines, etc) contains 60 to 80% advertising.

Nothing has changed, the internet is probably worst.

Go to GG and type in a popular keyword, say camera's. Now count the ads on top and to the right. Then, click on the ten displayed (free links) and determine which ones are commercial and which are pure content.

100% commercial?

[edited by: Edge at 2:11 pm (utc) on Nov. 15, 2007]


 2:28 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I posted the same thing on Foo a few days ago (great minds... :)). 150-200 words and 14 ads seems to be an acceptable ratio.


 2:29 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Bad Trend but to be expected.

The problem on the Internet the ease of publishing. Cut and paste a little content, join every affiliate program on the planet. Affiliate programs are partially to blame since they go everywhere trying to sign up new affiliates. If each affiliate produces one sale a month they are happy. Plus the payouts do not ever occur since the participants never reach minimum payment level.

Everything that is new attracts hordes of newbies in a quest for richness. There is an initial surge with a lot of fallout when the participation life cycle of the participators reaches critical mass.

For most of them that point is financial limitations. Then there are the ones that loose interest after the plan does not produce instant riches. The rest fallout along the way. Their websites hang around until the domain registration runs out.

Usually the originators and some quality participants are all that is left. Sometimes big money buys out the whole deal.

My 2 cents worth comes from my experiences after going through several technology revolutions since the 1960's, including the Internet from the beginning.


 2:35 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think the problem has become even worse in the 21st Century environment of template-based, keyword-driven, computer-generated sites that rely on users to fill the empty content holes. It's bad enough to see pages with an overwhelming ad-to-content ratio; it's even worse to see pages where the only "content" is a headline and the words "Submit a review."


 3:04 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Amen. Template programs and so forth have made it easy. Hence the crowd is mostly copy cat. For us Google has kept tabs on the surge and kept the listings in tact.


 5:07 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Guys, I know this is going to sound obvious, but

People , want to eat, want to buy their first car, go on that hoiliday to the Bahamas,,,,

Things a lot of people here , in the West , or who have been at this a long time take for granted,

Web is getting more competitive, more people posting articles online, fewer visitors per page , less income per page, but each human being still has the same desires

so they try get more out of each page,

While one still has dominion over the serps an can count on 500,000 visitors per month, it will be easier to step back an correctly assess these advert crowded pages as the flawed rubbish that they are,

But what happens when those 500,000 visitors per month start spreading out more thinly, as the new comers get better

The commentary on a thread like this would make really interesting reading then,

Will any then have the will to support a 10,000 page site with expenses outstipping income month after month

"Yes dearest, that net $500 i pay out every month for expenses is to keep my advert "thin" site afloat, you'll see it'll pay off"


 7:23 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Isn't it the goal of WW to teach people how to monetize their sites in every way possible?


 8:26 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Latest Netcraft survey says that they counted a total of 143 million individual web sites. These are connected domains. Of these, only about 58 million (i.e. 40%) are what they call "active", i.e. not template based parked sites.

I guess that of these 58 million sites, the amount of garbage is still quite high. If you consider that Alexa calculates the rank for about 10 million sites, you understand the dimension of the problem - it's huge. -- I'd consider about 4-5 million sites to carry unique content (i.e. not stolen, not syndicated, not useless). That would be just 3.5% of all sites.

I think the tendency is pointing downwards. It is so easy to through up some garbage today, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find good content in the right amount.

This could become a field for startup companies - just focus on indexing quality sites, make them findable, and ignore the 95% of garbage. How long does it take to index, say, 5 million sites? Not long. Not long at all.


 9:06 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Even if you want to gather massive good content: you need cash. Cash to get the stuff sorted, cash to get it stored (I am paying far over 10k a month just for hosting and I am with a cheap company), cash to get it updated frequently. Somehow, we all must monetize on content and there are only a few valid ways. Ads are the cheapest in terms of integration... now we have what we asked for!

As long as the net stays this way, we will see more crap and more gold diggers piling up trash with just as much perfume to cover the smell (from a distance of a search engine...)

But it will get better... 10 more years, maybe...



 10:11 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Many of these sites seem to want to squeeze revenue dollars out of their space. Why this at first glance seems like a good idea for them, in the long run they will realize that properly placed, well integrated advertisements will make them quite a few more dollars. I personally removed 3 banners from my website because I thought it was crowded. I make more money now then I did with those three banners. My site hasn't changed much in size, I have pretty much the same sponsers. The key to making money on a site is to make the ads blend into the site and not make them jump out at you.


 10:13 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

"I am paying far over 10k a month just for hosting and I am with a cheap company"

Wow! You have 100 servers full of websites? No wonder the web's getting crowded <G>


 10:34 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

You have 100 servers full of websites?

nope, just 1 site with 15 Terabytes of content... and it is really hard to have that updated, monitored and stored right! It takes a lot of manpower and cash. However are ads not the business model behind that - yet these take still a significant part of our revenue and we need them to drive the site! It is hard to find the thin red line between "annoying" and "good ads"... I am basically doing A/B testing every month.



 11:40 pm on Nov 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have noticed this sort of thing increasing in medical sites. It used to be that there were some medical info sites that had a line of ads on the side but still plenty to read. Not anymore. Now 95% of the medical sites I visit that supposedly offer information are pure trash, crowded up with way too many ads. So for intsance you will see a "page" with about 50 words on it, the rest surrounded by ads on all four sides. Invariably the info is part of an "article" they ripped off from somewhere to put up on their drecky site and divided up into literally 20-30 pages when max five would have sufficed on a decently designed site. Plus the sites are just plain buttugly. Half the time they don't even bother to divide an article at any logical point. Because of having this experience over and over, now I do not go visit any site for medical info unless it is the domain of an institution like the Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic or a university. Wanting to make a profit is totally understandable. Being greedy leads to stupid business errors like this dreck sites.


 1:44 am on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's a trick so you click somewhere while you try to find the "information." They hope you give up and click on a Google ad instead. Of course, you can click by mistake as well since adds are all over.


 5:37 am on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

The ones that rank at the top have 95% ads. I really wonder how they got the ranking to reach that level.

Google put them there to make money.

This post brings to mind some of the crap SERPs I had to wade through recently while trying to find some simple information on truck mods. MFA 'patentsonline' results, over and over.


 12:08 pm on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google put them there to make money.
No they don't. That would make them only money on the short term. On the long term visitors will stop using Google if Google would use that strategy and Google is aware of that.

People (including advertisers) hate MFA sites. Therefore the only thing Goole can do is hate MFA site too.


 2:39 pm on Nov 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I recently created a website related to music. The main purpose behind the website was to share my knowledge, research and interest in music as well as creating a useful resource for others who love music just like me.

The website in question is a simple content rich website and its design is not much to talk about (my focus was on the content and not so much on the looks of the website - though the latter is not bad at all - if I may say so myself).

On completion, I showed the website to a few friends and family - I received the same reaction from most of them "this is nice, but maybe you could have added some flash - eye catching images. Movement is missing".

I realised that every one of them was paying more attention to the look and design of the website rather than the content on the website. No one was really looking at this content rich resource I had developed and was feeling happy about up until that moment!

What is it that web surfers are really looking for? I was pretty sure it was valuable information..now I am confused!

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