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Google - Becoming The Graveyard For Small Sites?

Lack Of Links Crucifying Smaller Sites

     
12:58 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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My areas of interest are regional and involve tourism, travel and hospitality. Over the past several updates I have seen the "big directory" sites (typically of the www.nationaloperator.com type site) start to overwhelm the stand-alone private sites (typically the www.mysite.com type).

After this latest Dec update I have looked at about 5 or 6 key searches and in every case I have to slog down to at least #50 or 60 before the first of the stand-alone operator sites start to show. Everything above that is totally dominated by the global and national directory type sites.

Why do they dominate... because they can play the linking game to an extent that is simply not possible for the small operator. This is not about giving viewers the best choice of sites (many sites are empty shells), its not about content (conspicuous by its absence in many cases)... no, the one common denominator is links. Not voluntary linking because of intrinsic value but engineered linking as an seo technique.

The stand-alone operator does not have access to a carefully crafted and controlled linking programme, they battle huge odds to get a reciprocal with a decent PR, even their entry in ODP will probaly end up on a page with a PR zero... same for their entry in Yahoo. They start to try for anything they can get, increasing the risk of straying into bad neighbourhoods. That is the reality for the small stand-alone operator.

Net result is usually a huge amount of effort for little or minimal link improvement so they remain locked in Google's Bermuda triangle..... and the quality of their site and its worth to the intended audience remains wasted... and that is often a great pity.

Is anyone else seeing this pattern in their pet areas? Is Google becoming the graveyard for small stand-alone operator sites in the competitive areas? Is AdWords the only option for the small operator? I'd have thought Google's commercial wellbeing was better server by enticing those better able to afford AdWords.

Some food for thought to get 2003 underway. Best wishes for a prosperous new year to you all.

1:07 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Yes, I agree, although I believe I have create a very good site (in my area) where everyone will like it when then came for it. But it is listed somewhere 50-60 in the search term.

I have give up because I am no mangaed to have more inbound links from the area. So just leaving it there now ...

1:14 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I also agree on some of things that you are saying.. but ;)

I must be one of the lucky ones, for a site of mine I rank number 1 and 4 for my main keywords in a field where the results throw up 2 million plus results! The site has been online for a year now, but I have spent no money on the site except for the hosting money.

Just my 2 c's

Craig

1:21 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I'm with Craig. I'm in the top five with certain key search phrases with 10,000 and 20,000 results respectively. Still looking how to crack the big keyword phrase as I'm down on page 15 or so. I'm assuming it's because my sites are relatively new..two and three months.
1:26 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I operate a small guest house and look after my own site - there's definitely no big money to be made in this game... Anyway - I've been out of the index (gray bar - not included in index) for about 5 months now. All the bot does is grab robots.txt and the default page. It then loses interest and goes away for another 2 weeks. The bot has behaved like this ever since I started looking at the logs, no other page has ever been indexed.

There are a few 'small' operators that show up in the results but in the main it's the big guys with the big directories and big bucks that grab the positions.

Anyway, thank G for Adwords - my site is always no 1 or 2 on the list for my search terms...

1:29 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I work with small business sites in the travel industry and find that if you concentrate on building quality content and expanding your key phrases to match your target market's search terms... I.E. what are your unique features and selling points? you will trump it in over the big boys any day.

If you aim for highly targeted traffic it is far better than being up there on generic terms that will just create curiosity hits anyway.

Personally I most firmly believe that links are NOT the only thing that can get you what you want. Try ignoring the competition and your rankings for a while and concentrate on the mind of your target market... what do you offer that they want... bring it out, highlight it, talk about it.

Example of what I mean: I get so frustrated as a user when I want something like accommodation with a spa and a gourmet meal... and NOBODY has it to offer? give me a break... I know you are out there, tell folks about what you have :)

1:31 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I've got accommodation, I've got a spa and I serve gourmet meals. But Google doesn't know that - so it can't tell you that...
1:34 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I have not really seen this with the sites I am promoting even in the travel arena. There is still plenty of opportunity for small niche players to compete with the big boys on regional terms.
1:35 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Ya, but you don't have all those words either so even if you were in google, I wouldn't find you would I?
1:40 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Gotta agree with Excell - it's still possible to get very very good results even in the travel area. Heck, you can even get on top for the big keywords, like "location+hotel"etc.
It's tough though, and link spamming gets you there the easy way.

Most important though is targeting all the 3 word phrases that really bring the qualified traffic. That's where you don't even need high PR, even with a 3 or 4 you can have multiple top3 listings.

Onpage optimisation + content spamming => link spamming ;)

[edited by: heini at 1:41 pm (utc) on Jan. 2, 2003]

1:40 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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The best thing about google is we can really understand how it work, know its charateristics and can do something to boost our ranking. It is different than other search enginer like alltheweb and teoma which we are unable to ask question like, they dance? They have PR? did they ban my site? But with google, you know it updates each month with a dance and always talk about inbound links and PR... So AT THE BOTTOM LINE ... small sites still have chance to increase their rank it they really want to work at it. With some effort and time ... it may return good results.
1:41 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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not just on region terms Ian either, but on the type of terms that somebody not sure of their destination as yet but have an experience in mind might want.. be creative, but it all really does come back down to stepping out of your own knowledge of your business and into the mind of your potential customer and what they seek.
1:47 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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If it is ok to say so please..
Oldfathertime.. take heed on the content aspect.. but also...look at your links.. submit your site to quality directories... is there an international & regional directory list here on webmasterworld?
1:56 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Page rank?...I don't put much emphasis on it anymore but still working on it. When it comes, it will come. I'm at a PR34 and PR3 with the two sites I have.
2:09 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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And I'll put my vote in with heini and excell as well. Sure there might be link-farms and directories taking advantage of high-PR category listings.

But when it gets to their specialist pages, their incoming PR has normally diminished tremendously, and, as a specialist site, you have an absolute advantage in knowledge of what your viewers are likely to be looking for.

Whereas the directories and affiliates are often working off templates and just changing placenames and accommodation details...

2:18 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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My own sites are doing okay only because I have targeted uncommon subject areas, but I have seen in my own searches for information that many of the sites that come up first in SERPs are devoid of useful information. This is particularly noticeable when doing a search on a city or town; the ones that come up first are usually the ones that are trying to sell ad space and, where they include any content at all, it is likely or not to be about some other city or town.

For example, apartment-locator sites will come up first, even for searches of small towns that have no apartments; and national real estate pages will rank high on searches for a town even when they have no listings for that city or town.

Frustrating for the webmaster who actually has useful information about that city or town, and not very useful for the searcher.

I don't know what the answer would be. Despite its constant beratement in these forums, the ODP can help in this respect, in that actual people are not as likely to deeplink the national apartment-locator or real estate site in every locality category in the continent.

Yet, even no-content sites, unlisted in the ODP, often come up high on Google SERPs.

3:25 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Excell is right on the money! If you are a small operator (as I am) and have a regionally specific site, target your site specifically rather than trying to play with the big boys using the "nearly impossible to compete with" keywords.

If your small guest house is located in Spring Bay, Michigan ... then target Spring Bay and Michigan, then guest house, cottage, villa or whatever you think people are likely to search for.

My regional site does very well in almost all search engines. Lots of good (original) content and very regionally targeted. Don't throw in the towel ... get to work! ;)

Also, if you have a gray tool bar, go a huntin' for any infringements you may have made in ... ummmmmm error. Duplicate content, orphaned pages, doorway pages, hidden text, hidden links, bad neighbourhood links, cloaking, etc.

(Ooooh ... just hit 1000 posts ;) That's a good start to the new year!)

[edited by: Liane at 3:29 pm (utc) on Jan. 2, 2003]

3:28 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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<sidebar>congrats, Liane! welcome to the 1K club</sidebar>
3:42 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I've got worldwide content. Any way I can compete with the big boys?
3:43 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Wait a minute... not all massive directory sites are cheating. I know of several that have ever-mounting number of nonreciprocal links listing them as travel resources. These are referenced by the likes of National Geographic, Olympic-related sites, universities, the city/town/county governments, and myriad small businesses located in the towns. And, since relevancy is a numbers game (relevant if the majority believes it to be relevant), then if they sought to book a room in Podunk and DID use the site to do so, then the SE is not to blame.
3:45 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I'd sure like to see Google find a way to check for depth of information in a site. I've put hundreds of hours in gathering and presenting interesting information on my topic. That has brought me a lot of links from related sites but I still find sites with no real information on them ahead of me on search words or phrases.

Anne

3:55 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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nobody is saying that "all massive directory sites are cheating" but it is not hard to spot spammers and the dratted *affiliate travel* sites..
3:56 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>Onpage optimisation + content spamming => link spamming

I don't think there's anything left that is not spam....the truth is Google has effectively killed the SEO industry - with the free help of the SEO industry....go figure.

It was always kind of obvious this would happen though, who's surprised?

I've gone PPC for my commercial sites while my free content sites still get hit for free by tons of Google visitors.

Unless more search engines come and save the SEO industry I really don't see any small merchants surviving Google - your future is PPC.

Anyway that's the deserved fate for those who freely helped Google hurt themselves.

3:57 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Anne - what I would expect to see is your site begin to generate its own links organically, whereas your competitors are frantically paddling (link building) to stay ahead.
3:57 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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> find sites with no real information on them ahead of me

More information does not equate to more relevancy, or even a "better" site in the eyes of the visitor.

3:58 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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In fact.. I had great fun today looking at one of the most popular travel sites.. sitting in what appears to be banned mode while churning out further domains.. and affilates running wild.. interesting case study it is indeed.
3:59 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Like many of the previous writers, I am involved with travel sites, particularly hotel sites.

A single hotel site (as opposed to a group site) should get PR4 or PR5.

If you cannot get that sort of PR on Google, my advice to a single hotel, would be to construct a new site. In the case of Father-Time say, consider a new site along the lines of"garden-route-information.com" or similar, and construct a real information site on the Garden Route - pages on everything to see and do from gas stations to game parks. Then have a page on "where to stay" where you recommend your own hotel (any maybe a few other really expensive non competitive hotels)

Give it time and Google will give you reasonable PR.

4:02 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Our sites are all "mom and pop", though we have been around for several years. We rank in the top 1 to 3 for many keywords with 3 to 5 million returns.

I believe Google provides an opportunity for small sites that otehr SEs just dont. To me the key is focus on your specific market (as others have said), add a page of orginal focused content every day,and non reciprocal links will come your way, if you are non-competitive to the other site. Just make sure you have pages that are not "sales" pages. We just dont bother with asking for reciprocal links, and politely decline such requests. I really beleive reciprocal linking is a waste of time.

But for all sites, big and small, I beleive it is a matter of hard work on focus and original content, plus a lot of patience...

It really comes down to creativity. Offer something that your competitors don't.

[edited by: chiyo at 4:06 pm (utc) on Jan. 2, 2003]

4:03 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I totally disagree with & find cornwall's advice to be way off mark.

What I mean is.. that content needs to be on the existing domain.. the site needs to be built.. it doesn't need another domain..

[edited by: excell at 4:06 pm (utc) on Jan. 2, 2003]

4:04 pm on Jan 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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excell and what exactly was fun about that?

not a rhetoric question, i'm truly wondering what you liked about it.

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