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Thomas Register making a play in Google?

     
3:32 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I work with a few industrial companies; one is a <widget> company. I have just been knocked way back in the serps for '<widget>' by the Thomas Register. They now hold 4 of the top 8 positions with *ez.com domains.

With the size of the Thomas Register data base of industrial companies (something like 150,000 companies), I would expect them to eventually hold top rankings in most industrial product serps.

Do you think Google will allow this 'take over' of industrial serps? And if so, ranking well in the Thomas Register will become a priority for these types of companies. I might add here for those that are not aware, the costs to rank well in the Thomas Register are often in the $5,000+ range with many companies including one I worked for spending over $100,000 annually.

Your opinions and predictions are appreciated.

4:31 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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My experience is that, no matter how big or how rich a company is, you can beat them in Google if your content is better than theirs.
4:40 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It's the Yahoo of industrial listings. I'm sure it will stay at the top of many of those kw lists. It quite the quality resource. I've been watching them for years, and I can't think of a better directory of companies on the web today.
4:54 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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jk3210,
I would normally agree but the scope of these guys is enormous. I'm not sure there is anyway to out rank them.

Brett,
1) In the TR whoever pays the most is on top regardless of content.

2) The top ranking by the TR in Google is achieved with the content of ALL the companies in an entire TR category. This could be 1000 companies or more.

Why would this be any different than rewarding ODP with the top position on a given serp for the total information in one of their categories?

5:51 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Jon -
>>They now hold 4 of the top 8 positions with *ez.com domains.<<

What do the other 4 sites in the top 8 look like? (Big sites? Little sites?)

6:22 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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In fact, now that I look closer the TR has 7 of the top 19 for the same search term.

The keyword density is high on each result page, these listings might be considered spamming on other sites.

And the back links are large in number because of all the interlinked pages of listings on the TR site. Several hundred BL's for each result page.

If the TR wants to increase their rank, all they have to do is return more listings on a given page per term. Currently it appears to be 25 company names with descriptions.

6:29 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Jon, keep in mind that Google isn't rewarding anyone. They're just applying their algorithm.

The fact that customer pay for inclusion on the site is not relevant. The use of multiple "*ez.com" domains may be, but I couldn't find an example of the situation you are describing. A few quick searches on various industrial products did not bring up any Thomas Register listings or *ez.com domains.

6:37 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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jk3210
>What do the other 4 sites in the top 8 look like? (Big sites? Little sites?)

The competing sites for the search term in question are significant companies with small amounts of content and but equal PR. They could be better, but this is not a product you would go into much depth about. The sites are reasonable for the product offering. They could be made artificially heavy with content to compete. But keep in mind the only content on the TR pages is a list.

It seems somehow not in the spirit of Google to allow this weight for lists.

6:45 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It appears that they have simply broken up their larger directory into smaller categories. A good strategy to group together related industrial companies and obviously related keywords as well.

I checked their backlinks too - currently the companies that are listed to not link back to TR. Imagine the link popularity if that were the case? Then it would be extremely difficult to knock them off the top rankings.

6:55 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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jomaxx
>The fact that customer pay for inclusion on the site is not relevant.

Technically I think you may be right but look at it this way:

The TR ranks #1 for a term and when you click that link for that product search what you get is the company that paid the most to the TR for that top position.

In other words, you click the Google link and you get the company that paid the most money to be in that spot.

BTW,
If anyone would like the actual search term I speak of, sticky me.

7:03 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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jschmeez32,

Another good point, those companies do not link to the TR; where do the BL's come from?

7:52 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I have a client who paid Thomas Register $10 K+ last year and had very mediocre results so they then hired me.
8:27 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Jon, thanks for the sticky.

Looks like all the PR is coming from internal links and a highly optimized linking pattern. Not spam, IMO - they're just doing everything right. Google might look askance at a smaller, content-light site using multiple domains in this way, but I can't see them spamflagging an industry leader for the tactic.

Anyway, the top 2 pages are both only PR5, which is good for a deep page but far from overwhelming.

Disclaimer: I run a similar kind of subject-specific directory that tries to add value over what a search engine or a mainstream directory can offer. From my perspective, the Thomas site is a great place to start for that search phrase and Google is well advised to rank them #1. However I agree that the multiple-domain listings suck.

9:28 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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We are a industrial vertical online directory startup. Admittedly, our whole idea was based on the fact that the domain of the directories such as Thomas was too generic.

With well researched comprehensive categorization, 5000 suppliers listed currently and following basic guidelines for search engine optimization, we have been able to beat Thomas in a lot of the keywords. Our problem is not attracting the buyer traffic with the keywords to look at our supplier listings, but convincing suppliers that listing with us is much cheaper and actually gets them more leads than TR!

Ofcourse, like I said we are only targetting a subset of the generic Thomas domain and their adwords and other marketing budgets beats us! Also our listings cost $300 on the average as opposed to the 1000's charged by Thomas!

9:50 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Process,

Thanks for the post. Yes the TR was entrenched as the major advertising player in the industrial world until the internet came along.

The monopoly they enjoyed for a very long time is broken, for there are other good ways to reach industrial buyers now. It sounds like you are one of them. Many happy returns.

10:35 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hi Jon,

Thanks for the sticky. I stickied u back with a variation for the keyword where we are 3rd and 4th. Nothing to boast about, but just to prove that all is not lost.

Also, I am not sure it is their *ez domains or *hq domains (From verdex, which for some reason does not seem to do as well), but more just the fact of backlinks, categorization systems and enormous vendor listings.

4:14 am on Jan 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Talk about an aggressive domain strategy.

They've got over 170 ez.com domains and over 20 hq.com domains already up, and more on the way.

I just checked out one niche in particular and found the following...

www.widgets-ez.com
www.printedwidgets-ez.com
www.customprintedwidgets-ez
www.identificationwidgets-ez.com
www.thermaltransferwidgets-ez.com
www.barcodewidgets-ez.com
www.wodgets-ez.com
www.adhesivewidgets-ez.com
www.widgeters-ez.com
www.pressuresensitivewidgets-ez.com

4:22 am on Jan 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Let's see.

Take your site and give each page its own URL. Make sure the URL has the keywords your targeting in it. Then, link each url to many other pages within your site. Forget about informative content, just randomly list a bunch companies with short descriptions of what they do.

Sort of sounds like the old way to optimize for the Yahoo directory.

The good thing is now that if I want to look for an industrial source, I now have a lot of choices: the TR, Google, Yahoo...hmmm! Will the monopoly ever end.

4:41 am on Jan 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Strange - I don't see a url on your profile there. hmmm
2:16 pm on Jan 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hello all,
I been noticing these ez search sites for a while as well. One example of their pages stacking the serp results is the three keyword phrase "<snip>". 18 of their pages or subpages show up in the top 30 results, 11 show up in the top 20 and 6 in the top ten. It seems to me that many of the results have little to do with the search query. So basically they are commanding over 50% of the market for that search phrase. I question the relevancy of this 50% and the means that they use to achieve these results. When one clicks on a link in an ez-search site, it brings you to a framed page with a ThomasRegister.com page in a frame. Some would say that ez-search sites are acting merely as doorway pages for the main ThomasRegister.com site.

[edited by: WebGuerrilla at 5:53 pm (utc) on Jan. 31, 2003]
[edit reason] No specific search phrases [/edit]

3:23 pm on Jan 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Brett,

I have sticky mailed my profile to you and am happy to identify myself to anyone who does likewise for me. As a an SEO professional, I merely stay anonymous so that I can protect my clients.

Some people come to us with very spammy, unethical sites and we need to be able to ask questions at this forum without worrying about someone tracking down the client and penalizing them before we can fix their site.

As for my frustration. The TR's methods SEEM to go against much of what we all read here. Obviously, they are just doing a good job optimizing thier site. From an SEO perspective, it is well done. Of course, we must realize that these guys are also one of Google's top advertisers. I don't question Google for letting them do what they are doing or the TR for taking advantage of proven SEO techniques. But I think everyone would have to admit that the spirit of Google search results was not to have 50% of the top rankings be different versions of the same site no matter how respected that site may be.

Time will tell...

6:18 pm on Jan 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Google Guy,

I would really appreciate your input on this topic.

I am honestly just trying to understand the Google thinking on this one, assuming Google accepts this practice from the Thomas Register.

I have completely supported the terms of Google and this seems to break the very root of the rules... hundreds and maybe soon to be thousands of keyword domains pointing to one company. As well as multiple 'first page, different domains' results to one company.

9:44 pm on Jan 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Google Guy,
Would you also be willing to comment on whether or not you perceive these as doorway pages? Thanks
2:25 am on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hello-
I am one of the contributing authors of the Thomas Register EZ sites. I hope what you're about to read makes you feel better. In the sprit of the Internet we are actually in the process of scaling back our EZ sites to reduce the number of sites that may come up during a search. You'll notice the result of this over the next few weeks. Our objective is to make our content available to more users and on merit to earn the best rankings possible. Please understand that that objective was never to dominate the industrial landscape on Google (The EZ sites have been up for a few months but only very recently have our rankings become so strong… we really had no idea that anything like this would happen). From the very beginning of the EZ process the philosophy was to be "above board" (i.e. no shenanigans). We made a conscious decision to rely on the quality and depth of our content and simply let Google find it. We did not realize that that depth, quality and quantity would result in this type of exposure. What we do realize is that the VARIETY and quality of Google’s search results are two of the cornerstones of their success and we like that success (our paid inclusion has been pointed out). We don’t think holding ”4 of the top 8 positions” is a good thing either. We always want to be sensitive to (and we understand the importance of) web protocol and fair play. To that end (as stated previously) we are trying to limit some of this exposure. This is a learning curve for us. Any one having any ideas as to how we may maintain our content and at the same time control exposure… we’re all ears...
11:15 pm on Feb 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Tom_John, welcome on board, appreciated.
4:46 am on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Welcome to the system Tom. I don't think for one minute you guys have done anything out of the ordinary in promotion and have nothing to apologize for whatsoever - just the opposite. It's an example of quality promotion and usage of the resources you have at hand. A long look at your site and it's clear things were not done with the search engines specifically in mind, but what was going to work best for your visitors and your long term branding and IP ownership goals.
2:05 pm on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Glad to speak with you Tom_John,
I am sure your corrective action in this matter will lead to a harmonious co-existence with Google. This (current situation) is obviously not in the interest of high quality results for which Google is famous.

Brett,
I do not agree with your opinion here. I have come to find that the Thomas Register is one of, if not the largest, paying advertiser in Google.

In the serps for the term I speak of, the TR has the largest possible ad at the top of the page and 4 results in the top 8. Just buy the Google Adword to capture the right-hand ad position, and boom complete domination of a serp by a paid advertiser.

I believe to support this type of search result I would either not understand the Google mission or profit by the action of the advertiser.

2:59 pm on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Welcome Tom. Sincerely appreciate your post. It does seem like you guys have played by the rules, but on the same note, emphasized the big flaw that still exists in the google rankings when it comes to multiple domains pointing to similar content which has existed for quite a while now.

Brett, you may be mising the enormity of the flaw here. I missed it too till I really saw the example that Jon_King was talking about. Almost all the first page results were taken up by different *ez sites. And then there are sites like 1stindustrialdirectory.com which again guess what, points to Thomas content.

All these *ez sites are just shortcuts into their categorization system and should be links from a main site. Their decent categorization, supplier content and page rank would still cause them to be prominent with 2 or 3 positions in the first page, but that should be it.

Seeing this google flaw a year back, we too thought of exposing our content through different domains instead of a single site, but just figured Google would fix this hole real quick (Or should I say we didnt do it in the spirit of the internet ;-)) As part of a similar vertical directory business, it is our dream to have to "scale back" one day, either due to real concern for the internet or just plain penalization ;-)

5:16 pm on Feb 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Overall I'm somewhat in the middle. The way you get a top ranking is quite reasonable IMO, but having multiple listings diminishes the value of the search results and is somewhat spammy. Your success may well result in Google tweaking their algo, if only to foil copycats. And many other networks have already gotten into trouble for excessive cross-linking. Therefore you may want to try to minimize your reliance on this system so that your risk is reduced.

Since you ask for suggestions, the first one I would make is to reduce the multiplicity of domains. It appears that essentially the same products can show up in 4 or 5 different domains, and that doesn't seem like good information architecture to me.

Without having taken a close look at the overall range of sites, I would suggest you find a single meaningful way to break down products broadly, whether that is by use, by industry, by material, or whatever, and stick to that.

1:05 am on Feb 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I can tell you from experience that this also has to do with the REAL Google flaw. Which is reliance on cross-linking for ranking.

TR has had one of the biggest industrial sites for many years, but because of the nature of their business very few sites linked to theirs. Competitors won't link to them for obvious reasons and advertisers won't becasue they don't want users from their site to go to TR where they will be shown ads listings for other companies.

What is TR left to do? Create sites that link to themselves! And a brilliant job they have done. I for one thinks this shows that Google needs to tweak their systems a little.

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