SEO Question: I have noticed many more content heavy websites in Google's search results over the last year or two. Why does it seem it is getting harder for commercial sites to rank?
SEO Answer: Within the commercial realm there are more and more competing sites. Building content, at one time primarily a hobby only project, has become far more lucrative in recent years. Not only have content management systems like Movable Type and Wordpress became cheaply or freely available, but AdSense and affiliate marketing have vastly increased the number of real and fake content sites on the market over the last couple years.
Duplicate content filters have improved, and many shell product catalogs have been filtered out of Google's search results. It seems like some older sites are getting away with some rather shoddy stuff in Google, but as they get more user data and more people create quality content you can look for the search engine to shift away from that loophole.
Search algorithms prefer informational websites over commercial ones for many reasons:
- they want commercial sites to buy their ads
- the search ads provide commercial results. they prefer to have some informational results to help balance out the search results.
- in competitive marketplaces there tends to be many more commercial sites than informational sites
- if multiple merchants have similar product databases it does not drastically improve the user experience to show hollow shell pages over and over again from a wide variety of merchants
- many quality informational sites link to related resources that lead searchers to more abstract answers that search engines are not yet advanced enough to answer
- many informational sites are monetized using contextual ads provided by search engines. those give engines a second chance at revenue after the search
Also keep in mind that most merchant sites focus on the same small core group of keywords. Anything involved with big business can take weeks or months to do...or longer if the company is big or the content management system is highly complex.
For a content based website it takes no time at all to do keyword research using some of the keyword research tools on the market, and then quickly create pages around common customer questions, concerns and buying points. If few sites cover those topics with specific pages then it is low hanging fruit waiting to be claimed. I think it was Peter D who said the key to making money on search was to dig where other people were not digging.
Yahoo! currently offers a paid inclusion program (sidenote: which I generally recommend avoiding) which ensures sites are indexed in Yahoo!. Yahoo! charges those sites a flat rate per click for traffic Yahoo! delivers. That per click fee means that for many search queries it may make sense for them to allow many commercial sites to rank in the search results.
As the largest content site, Yahoo!'s search results also offers quick links to many of their internal content channels, which lessens their need for content from other sources. Make no mistake though, Yahoo! has the ability to try to determine how commercial a website is. See their Yahoo! Mindset tool for an example of how results can be weighted toward either commercial or informational resources.
If you look at the Mindset dial and use it to compare the default search results from Yahoo! and Google think of Google as being turned much further toward research. If Yahoo! drops their paid inclusion program you can bet that they will dial their results more toward the research angle, just like Google is.
Some commercial websites, like Amazon, offer rich interactive features that make them easy to reference (both from a webmaster perspective and a search engine perspective), but generally most commercial sites are not highly interactive and most webmasters would typically be far more inclined to link to quality content sites than overtly commercial sites.
You can also learn a lot content ideas by looking at some of the top ranked content sites in your vertical and related verticals which you are interested in and knowledgeable.
Even commercial sites can still be highly linkable if they are feature rich or offer quality answers to relevant topical questions that competing sites typically ignore.
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