Google Unleashes “Revenge of the Niche Publishers“
Though it’s gone largely unnoticed in the domain industry, a Google algorithm update announced today may just be the best news the domain industry has heard in years. A first step towards ending the long reign of the “MegaSite”, content factories churning out endless supplies of content and ranking solely by the size and authority of their domain.
Or, it may just be another PR move from a search behemoth increasingly under fire for the declining quality of their results. Only time and detailed analysis of the results will tell.
So why should domain investors care about Google changes?
Since ~2007 Big G’s never-ending quest to fight spam has increasingly emphasized Site Authority ie, how big and well-linked a website is. Eric Schmidt famously stated that “[big] brands are how you sort out the cesspool” of the internet.
The unsurprising result of an emphasis on Site Authority was the rise of MegaSites like eHow, AssociatedContent, and About.com, where non-expert writers could make it to the top of the search results not because of their knowledge or the quality of their content, but because of the power of the host domain.
For those with multiple domains, 1+1+1 = 2. Three articles posted on 3 niche sites are worth far less than 3 articles posted on one mega site. The more domains you have, the bleaker the picture.
Now, with the Farmer Update, the pendulum may finally be swinging back in the other direction.
The domain industry needs this change. We need expert bloggers, mom-and-pop businesses, and niche publishers to be able to compete successfully in the search results, on their own domains. If they can’t, they’ll shift resources to social media platforms and hosted content solutions like article marketing rather than spending a lot on a domain for a site that nobody visits.
And finally, domainers increasingly are niche publishers. For those learning scalable domain development, targeted search traffic is an increasingly necessary replacement for declining parking revenues.
As of today, that goal may have just become a little bit easier.
Matt Bentley is a niche publisher, domain investor, former CEO of Sedo.com, and founder of BetterSEO.com, a stealth-phase content analytics startup.
Did this change already take effect? I just did a google search for bed repair and eHow is #2?
My understanding is that it’s being rolled out across the US data centers today. Initial rumors are that eHow hasn’t been affected as much as Mahalo and others, but it’s still too early to tell. Many people on WMW have reported declines in large multi-topic sites and increases in focused niche sites. I hope it represents a first step away from the emphasis on Site Authority, not a finished product.
So instead of one giant site/brand on one domain, we’ll have a bunch of these mega-companies operating off of thousands of little sites ? hmmmm
Ps I think everyone watches Google’s changes, not largely unnoticed. I think most are waiting to see what the changes mean.
Good points, Adam. I think niche publishing/ “artisanal content” is less interesting for big companies because it doesn’t scale in the same way. Each piece of content has to stand (and rank) on its own merits rather than the authority of the host domain.
BetterSEO.com is a parked page… now that is stealth.
i know in the geo space the “city-data” and topix forums and the like, always get to the top, some without any original content at all, just farms and reprints of the census, we’ll see if some of this google work thins out these sites also
I guess it depends on the company. Demand seems very focused on niche publishing and doing it on a handful of sites/brands. If this switch hurts their 1 site strategy like for ehow, they are fortunate that they’ve got thousands of domains they’ve grabbed from enom deletions that they can start using to publish on 🙂
eHow is still #1 for “change car oil” .
@Page, definitely agree with you on the problems with spam in local! In addition to the Farmer Update G is said to have launched a smaller “Scraper Update” targeting sites republishing content, but I don’t think it had much of an effect.
I was wondering what was up with the parked page as well upon visiting BetterSEO.com?
@Jamie, @TLD – It’s a parked page because the site isn’t launched yet. I’ll add a placeholder page to make that more clear.
Matt – what do you think how many pages should a solid niche site have?
My opinion is you cannot be all things to all people. A site may be an authority on Costa Rican wildlife but is that same site necessarily an authority on circuit training and labrador retrievers and Los Angeles, CA and wedding planning?
@Adi, that’s a good question! I’m not aware of a set rule, and haven’t yet run any experiments on that one. I think the policy line would probably be something like “as many as it takes to cover the topic comprehensively.” More concretely, I’ve seen well-linked sites rank with only 1 page. But if I’m putting up a niche site on a new domain I would probably target at least 5 pages for an easy niche, 10-20 for a medium niche.
I write original content on my site nearly everyday. I also use a company where I write short original content posts everyday that link back to my site. What do you think about the submission site? Should I keep using it to build backlinks as long as the writing is not spun?
@Paul – By submission site, do you mean some form of article marketing? Difficult to say based upon the information you’ve provided, but generally speaking I think article marketing can be helpful to get exact match anchor text on some of your long-tail keyword phrases. But those links don’t generally carry a lot of juice, so you’ll want to make sure you’re also getting links from other authority sites in your vertical.
@Matt – Not article marketing like Ezinearticles but submitting articles to a company that are then submitted to other websites that put the articles on their sites for content. Typically they have PRs of 2 to 6, sometimes higher. These are original content articles with one anchor text that sends interested readers back to my website.
I imagine we will see some differentiation based on quality, where About.com content may rank above eHow, for example. About.com is owned by the New York Times and many of their Guides are real experts in their field. I agree that this is a positive development, and it’s great to hear from Matt again!
Today I looked at most of my sites and most of them are the same but the ones that have changed have moved up in rank like 7 domains moved up and only one moved down for now. Just my results on a small scale.
Great Post Matt. Fingers crossed that it gets rid of eHow and others.. With all the screen scrapers and content spun sites its a wonder any legitimate company can compete.
@Paul – So I think you mean services like Linkvana, SEOLinkVine, Blog Blueprint, Build My Rank, etc? Potentially useful, potentially risky, definitely shouldn’t be the sole basis of your link campaign. Click on my name to contact me via FB and we can continue the discussion w/o monopolizing Elliot’s comments!
@Leonard, Angus – thanks for the kind words! Tough getting back to sharing ideas outside Facebook, but you guys make me want to give it a go!
@Brian – thanks for sharing concrete results. My picture has been similar; still too early to judge but definitely an encouraging start!
The flaw is search engines that presents a dozen or so sites to a searcher, on their first page out of thousands of results, perhaps, millions. That is such a primitive model.
Someone needs to come up with Google replacement, Google should not be in a position to determine who has a good content, or bad content. Heck, I’d rather the government plays that role, than Google! To me, it is analogous to stealing the internet, what Google is doing.
This is a maneuver towards bettering user experience.
I find it hilarious to hear people crying about not being able to beat an eHow article. Seriously?
Protip: It’s because no one gives a shit about your adsense splog or your “made for search engines” affiliate store. You will never receive natural links and with engines relying more and more on the crowdsource to arbitrate SERP (yes, they most definitely are), no one will ever talk about you or BL on the Socials.
Natural ranking in hypercompetitive keyword spaces- with fully established P1 standard-bearers- is not going to happen, ever, regardless of how ‘awesome your domain name is’, barring a five-figure monthly SEO campaign and even then, with some risks associated.
Time for everyone to pull their heads out of their asses. This isn’t 2001 anymore. Unless you’re hitting microniches, the barriers to entry have gone way, waaaaaaaay up. Gone are the days when Moron Jones can buy a domain, perform some weekend-warrior development, By-The-Book SEO and dominate the organics for Mortgages or Credit Scores or Teeth Whitening. No more than a guy with $5000 in the bank cannot become a Jet Airplane builder, the days of “anyone can be anything, on the internet” are rapidly coming to a close, even if you own the best possible domain. The kvetching and sniveling we hear coming from all sides- domainers, developers and SEO’s alike- is simply the resonant echoes of prosperous, easy-money days that have since passed.
Unless you’re building sites that people care about, you’re sunk. Google is finally playing catch-up and ridding itself of the parasitic gamers and frankly, I say good.
Im not sure whether this algo-update is related or not but a few things happened on one of my websites in the last 2 days. I noticed on Thursday a small increase in traffic, didnt think much of it at the time because that happens a lot. What doesnt happen so often is how my adwords costs seem to have decreased about 25% for the same number of clicks. AND – best of all, my sales conversion rate over the last 48 hours has increased. Its too early to say whether its significant or not, peaks and troughs come along regular – but Ive rarely seen something so marked like that happpen.
Weird, but Im not arguing – thanks big G, mwah 😀
Long overdue change.
Good content does not come from non-experts on content farms. I am sure the algo must be complex and will take a while to sort out the SERPs.
Get ready for another big G roller coaster ride. 😉
“….and About.com, where non-expert writers….”
Were you aware that About.com writers have to go through a grueling audition process that lasts for weeks and weeks just to get a job? And that is after the application, where the writer needs to show that the ARE in fact an expert in their field.
It isn’t easy getting a job at About.com. Not at all like Demand or Examiner, where they will hire just about anybody. There are certified medical practitioners and real journalists working for about. Check your facts next time.
@ LS MORGAN
Wait… don’t beat around the bush. Tell us what you REALLY think!
I agree with Steve C., the Google update was long overdue, now if they can do something about some of the ‘spun’ content, some of that stuff is just unreadable.