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Bad content on large sites / good content on small ones

     
6:46 pm on Dec 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I have been alarmed by a recent trend for Google to favor bad content on large sites over good content on small ones.

For example, a large site publishes a 50-word article by an anonymous contractor who grabs a few facts from other sites. A small site publishes a 1,000-word article with original photos and the byline of a professional journalist who actually experiences the topic firsthand.

For a long-tail keyword, the big site article often ranks higher than the small site article, even though the small site is more relevant. This trend has killed off many of my competitors.

I have been working online for a long time. I try to follow all of the rules that Google demands. But I'm at a loss to understand this trend. What are your thoughts?
3:49 am on Dec 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There's a concept around here called "Correlation does not equal Causation."

Also, what qualifies your observation as a trend?

Not saying you incorrect, only that there are other factors considered in ranking, not just the ones that stand out to you.
4:34 am on Dec 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I completely agree with the OP. Google has given much more weight to the "established sites" or should I say, sites with many backlinks (regardless if they have them due to actual quality or through black hat methods). Such big site doesn't even need to bother with original content, they can simply take articles from "lesser" sites and they WILL rank for it.

Another related thing that google did is simplifying (so to say) long tail keyword queries, making it even harder for smaller and newer sites to rank for anything.
11:49 am on Dec 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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You can be an expert, but that is extremely unlikely to bring you traffic unless you are an expert who is CITED BY OTHERS.

You can be successful - at least you can in the few niches I have researched - publishing content that is 'everyman', even mediocre - as long as you market that content, and network within your niche.

When researching a niche I often first come across highly visible blogs - the ones that are heavily linked, the ones that win the niche industry awards, the ones on the 'best blogger' lists, - and they DO NOT have the most interesting or original content. In fact they are writing about what everyone else is writing about. They rarely break news. They reflect the general status quo in their niche. Their content is easy to digest, good for absolute beginners.

Their author(s) is/are very active online, or the brand they are a part of is. They are also active in their niche OFFLINE.

Then I come across blogs buried in the results that publish far more insightful and interesting content. It is original. No one else is saying what they are saying. But they do nothing to market it.

Marketing doesn't need to cost much more than time.

Maybe you're in a niche where your competitors have deep pockets and can devote far more man-hours to marketing than you can. If so, there's not much you can do. But, if you're competing with other businesses or publishers of similar size, then you need to become a self-publicist. Self-publicists always do well, and that is true online as well as offline.
2:39 pm on Dec 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Keyplyr, my observation is based in part on:

1. The number of smaller sites dominating my niche that dropped in the rankings over the last few years and disappeared. They are sites that specialize in my niche. Big sites that don't specialize in my niche have taken over the rankings.

2. Rising ranks for large sites to the point where a single one can get even the first three or four positions in Google for the same keyword, even though they aren't as relevant as smaller site articles.

3. Searches outside of my niche that often show the same pattern.

I understand other factors matter with ranking. My concern is that other factors appear to matter more lately than high quality content.
2:40 pm on Dec 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I have been alarmed by a recent trend for Google to favor bad content on large sites over good content on small ones.

Google has been increasing the relative weights of "trust and authority" at the expense of the quality and relevance of the content. To summarize:
.....................................................
More weight in the algorithm -- trust and authority

Less weight in the algorithm -- the quality and relevance of the content
.............................................................................

The problem is that trust and authority are hard to measure, and this is why google's algorithm often puts less-useful pages at the top of the search results
2:44 pm on Dec 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Sikosaurus, I agree that the quantity of backlinks matter. That said, I have used every well-known backlink checker I can find to analyze the pages on those large sites. Many of them don't show any pattern of getting more or higher quality backlinks than the smaller sites.

Some sites like Forbes.com, a financial site that gets high ranks for brief NON-FINANCIAL articles, obviously use methods that others aren't using.
2:46 pm on Dec 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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AI is playing a more active role in determining what the user is looking for. Some factors previously thought to have ranking importance may in fact have lost significance. Many users may not be looking for "quality" content; discouraging, but a possibility.
2:50 pm on Dec 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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FranticFish, I agree that building an audience requires good marketing on top of good content. For my site, the most effective marketing tool actually has been AdWords and not social media or the other methods. I have a 69% conversion rate for my goals, so I'm happy with that part of it. The SEO is the part that has gotten weaker.

Aristotle, I think you have identified a big part of the problem. As a professional journalist, I try to build trust and authority by citing my sources, linking to my Google+ and LinkedIn profiles, etc. It makes me think that Google places high trust and authority on big sites more than the individual articles on the site.

FYI, my main niche is a regional travel guide. The growth in competition is insane.
3:11 pm on Dec 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@scottb

Sikosaurus, I agree that the quantity of backlinks matter. That said, I have used every well-known backlink checker I can find to analyze the pages on those large sites. Many of them don't show any pattern of getting more or higher quality backlinks than the smaller sites.


What you just wrote here is the full truth and also the biggest problem the google has at this very moment (IMHO of course)

www.bigsite.com - usually got 10000 links pointed to homepage itself, therefore trust is big

www.smallsite.com/pink-elephant-with-green-dots/ - gets a few links with related anchor

--------> big site writes about some elephant, doesn't even have to be pink, and it still has much bigger chances to rank for "pink elephant"

Weird example, I know, but you get the drift.

I've built my whole business without EVER bothering to rank for some insane keyword that brings in xxxxxxxxxxxx traffic.
Instead, I've covered thousands of smaller, low tail keywords. Used to work super good. Happy surfers, happy profits, happy me.
Obviously, not viable anymore today.