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the identical one trick pony problem

Too many sites are totally interchangeable

     
7:57 pm on Oct 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I was in a mall the other day and it crystallised a problem with many websites: they are interchangeable.

I was at an intersection and on three of the four corners were jewelry stores, each a national chain, their logo/names beckoning. However, their store layout, product positioning were almost identical; if the products themselves were not the same each had it's doppelgänger; even the price points were similar. And... if one removed/ignored the store brand signage there was absolutely no reason to buy one piece from one over the others, with the exception of the (underpaid) sales staff.

These days many/most webdevs' sites are are on WordPress or some similar pseudo-CMS and despite, perhaps, different themes they all look pretty much alike. And, unlike those mall jewelry stores, their brand signage has no inherent draw value.

These days many/most webdevs' eCom niche sites are selling the same drop ship products. And feature the same manufacturers'/stock imagery. And the same manufacturers' product labels and descriptions et al. These days the only reason to to buy from many/most eCom sites is price. Any warranty is provided by others, any service is provided by others, any just about anything is provided by others. Basically, despite all the zillions of auto-generated eCom pages, such sites are not really 'stores' but morbidly obese thin affiliates.

These days many/most webdev's Info sites are 'selling' the same information. And feature the same stock/manufacturers' imagery. Basically, such sites are MFA: they are targeting SE keywords by advertiser value. They are not writing about a subject to be a best visitor resource but to garner the most high priced clicks. The mindset cart is before the horse. And they all look and read alike. The only reason for a visitor to visit one over another is the title and description in SE results.

Despite what SE folk may say there are two query indexes: those domains that get shown and those, the majority, that don't. In those that get shown there are the 'too big to ignore' and the rest. Of the rest many/most are totally interchangeable, despite their webdevs' denial. If most are interchangeable the line between being shown high or low or not at all must be very fine indeed. The slightest change be it by the SE, a competitor, oneself, and bye bye birdie.

The takeaway is 'don't be interchangeable with your competitors'. Don't look the same, don't have the same stuff, don't behave the same, don't chase the same links, don't don't don't. You most probably aren't of a stature that your brand/domain name can make a difference.
Note: one way to assess this is whether advertisers specifically request your site via AdWords managed placements or similar. That is a large step up from the toiling masses but a huge step down from too big to ignore.

If most/all of your traffic is via search you are simply always competing for new visitors to try and convert into customers. If SEO/SEM is your idea of web marketing then CRO is probably quite a foreign concept; if CRO is in your bag of tricks are you aware that what converts repeat customers is often quite different from that which works for new? In effect you are always going to be chasing new visitors because of deliberate reinforcement.

In summary: are you one of the zillions of identical one trick ponies in your niche? Or are you the Clydesdale with the mostest competitors swear about?
6:46 am on Oct 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This is just a repetition of the need for a USP (or the ability to compete purely on price).

I am not sure it is true of most site though. There are a lot of sites out their selling their own products or services: all of my customers ecommerce sites (admittedly not many) either offer a different range of products from their competitors, or sell their own products or services, or use their own product photos and descriptions, or some combination of these.

I think the difference is between people who want something to sell on a web site and pick widgets because its easy, and people who want to be in the widget business and need a website to sell widgets.
8:45 pm on Oct 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I think the difference is between people who want something to sell on a web site and pick widgets because its easy, and people who want to be in the widget business and need a website to sell widgets.

+1
You can tell the former so easily here when they post with questions that show that they have no understanding of the business that they are supposedly in.
10:17 pm on Oct 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I can't speak to ecommerce, but in regards to information sites, it is incredibly difficult to be different. My site is in a particular niche that is dominated by MFA sites all publishing the same information which is simply regurgitated from a government source. The difference between sites boils down to colors and themes. For my site I use a my own data source to extract the same information, but the results differ for variety of valid reasons, that users don't care about. I even go so far as to contrast my stats with those from the gov source the highlight the differences. The problem is that these sites dominate the serps, and by continuous confirmation, that is users see the same stats over and over again, they take that information as the truth. So which site do they trust more? The site that says the same thing as all the others.

I once asked a question of John Muller regarding why graphs weren't being picked up in image search. He suggested that my graph may not be of value, that was why they were not be indexed. He then suggested that I should take a look at what others are doing in my niche and do the same. Essentially what he was saying was that Google preferred jpg screen caps of Excel generated graph over interactive, svg graphics, why because that is what everybody else does. In the end it turned out to be a technical issue, if you use embedded svg or call your svg using object tags then they wont be included in image search, whereas if you make a screen cap of them then they are.

Moral of the story is that despite the fact that Google spokes people claim to want original content. I believe that this is sincere. The algorithm much prefer similar content. That is content that is sufficiently different to not be a copy but not too different such that it goes against convention.
7:25 am on Oct 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Maybe Google assumes that if something is repeated often enough it is true?
8:02 am on Oct 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Just to add, failing to handle SVG is pretty poor. Any idea whether embedding SVG using an img tag will bet it picked up?
8:48 am on Oct 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Cookie cutter is what we called 'em in the old days. I think that still applies.

Only difference is funding. If you have enough money to throw at something you can make a pig fly or a rock swim.
1:02 pm on Oct 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@graeme_p my logo is an svg using an img tag and it is indexed in image search.
1:05 pm on Oct 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Never ever forget that Google is unable to directly explicitly determine what is "correct" or "true" unless it has been hard coded by a human. Everything that Google determines is via implicit popularity and presumed authorities.

And Google is very stubborn about changing it's "mind", quite a lot like a child. Which is an insight that be worked with after careful thought.
5:35 pm on Dec 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Iam lost, I hear you.

In summary: are you one of the zillions of identical one trick ponies in your niche? Or are you the Clydesdale with the mostest competitors swear about?

Nope, not here. This reminded me of the Twitter Bootstrap problem, where many used their templates for their websites just as wordpress. I've read articles attacking both but the truth is, specially for bootstrap, it's up to the developer, not the framework or template fault.

I've seen far too many identical websites because they were sold the same template on wordpress, I've seen the same pictures (stock) on many websites, the same guy for tooth brushed and also selling insurance. I've told clients about this and me being a photographer there are easy solutions, but many of them are already on the "cheap or free" scheme. Ask for the same picture and then complain. My approach has been "including" the picture services so the client has fewer options to get out of that. I couldn't care... but then ignorance makes the client judge the product by it's performance (based on HIS ideas not mine) and that might hurt me.

Yes is not that easy to sell anymore.
7:03 am on Dec 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@NickMNS, thanks, and I can see SVGs in image search, so using them in image tags looks OK.

@explorador, I agree about stock photos - it looks fake and sows distrust. I do not think using Bootstrap or Wordpress themes matters so much as the lack of unique product or content. You need something to draw customers. Examples:

There is annual event where I currently live (next time this January). The website is dreadful. However, it is the only event of its kind in the country so people who are interested have no choice but to find what they are interested in (complex because it involves lots of events at lots of venues) from their website and then buy tickets from another horrible website.

Another example, I need to make a fairly expensive purchase of something I do not know much about in a few months time. After doing some online research, I have found a number of retailers that will deliver where I will be living. One that had a lot of useful articles of advice about what to buy. Their site is also the top organic result in Google which is likely to be down to the high quality content. It is nothing at all special in terms of design and functionality and navigation is poor and the link to an important page is broken. However, it is still the site I am most likely to buy from (prices vary little between retailers)

I need to make another expensive purchase at around the same time. In that case there are specialist and more general sites carrying ads from actual sellers. I am mostly likely to buy from either the site that has the ads selling at the lowest price (from private sellers so no guarantees) or from the site that has the best filtering of ads (i.e. filter by the most useful criteria).
2:23 am on Dec 28, 2016 (gmt 0)

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regarding the difficulty of being different on informational content and the lack of reward for uniqueness through google. that's absolutely my experience as well.

on my content sites, my aim is to offer the visitor a better user experience through a) a different, more logical and more useful compilation of the content combined with b) a superior navigation and ux design.

to no avail. the sad thing is, google doesn't reward those efforts, quite the contrary. the algo is overly shy and sceptical regarding websites who make use of differentiation methods. i also suppose human raters on the part of a google "quality team" have their influence here as well. It seems that some people won't eat anything they've never seen before.

as an innovative content offer you will more likely being classified as dangerous spam than being detected and accepted as a fresh form of information medium that just addresses user needs in a new way.
 

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