Signs of a Low Quality Website

Webmasterworld recently had a good thread about signs of low quality websites. The less a person knows about your topic the more likely they are to rely on general signs of quality (or lack of) when consider if they should link at your site or not.

Common Quality Questions:

Is the design clean? Is the content well organized? Do they have major misspellings on their homepage? Who is behind the site? Is it easy to contact them? Are they referenced by any other credible sources? How unique and useful is the content? How aggressively are ads blended into the content? etc. etc. etc.

Why Proxies for Quality Are Important:

Recently someone spread a God hates fags song website. Friends were instant messaging me about whether it was real or not. Some journalists guessed it wrong. People are getting better at creating fakes. The easier we make it for people to trust us in a snap judgement the more people will trust us (and link to our sites).

These proxies for trust are important, especially when you are new to an established industry, are in a new industry with a small community of support, are in a rapidly growing industry that the media is having a feeding frenzy over, or are the seedy arm of a larger industry.

Example of the Importance of Outside Perception:

If an industry is new, the early leaders of that industry might be determined by mainstream media perception (or other perception outside of that industry). Using blogs as an example, if the media did not constantly pump up the Weblogs Inc. story that company still might be unprofitable today. That media exposure lead to more media exposure, gave the sites the link juice to help them rank, and gave them brand exposure that brought in advertisements.

Relating This to the SEO Industry:

With SEO it is easier to be seen as a SEO expert if you are first seen as an expert on search. It is easier to be trusted as an expert on any topic if your site does not flag common signals of crap.

I just got a link from the WSJ to my keyword research tool, but if I would have scored lower on the proxies for value maybe they never would have linked. And when you get that type of link you can leverage it as an additional signal of trust that makes it easier for others to link at you.

With, I mentioned as seen in Clickz and Search Engine Watch, but what I didn't mention was that both mentions were brief and in the same syndicated article. When the London Times interviewed me about that site I quickly put up another as seen in at the top of the home page, which will make it easier to get more exposure. You want your press coverage to lead to more press coverage, because those are some of the most trusted links and links that money alone usually can't buy.

But I am Already Doing Well:

Many people who buy consultations are already doing far better than I would expect them to do giving some of the obvious flaws I see with their site structure and marketing methods. Some state that they are already doing well. The point of these sorts of signs of crap is not that you need to fill all the holes to do well, or that you can't do well if you do not fill them, but imagine how much better a site can do after it fixes obvious errors if it was already doing well when it had many errors that undermined its credibility and linkability.

Published: February 6, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


February 7, 2007 - 2:06pm

I don't think the original thread was all that helpful (first post was somewhat useful, but ensuing discussion was a bit scattered).

How about your take on the "Top 10 Ways Search Bots Will Figure Out Your Site Is Crap". (I'm serious, I think that would be a good article).

February 7, 2007 - 4:50pm

That is a pretty noisy thread there - much of which I don't agree with. AdSense, for example, was a hot topic, but when used correctly, AdSense can greatly enhance the user experience: "If my site doesn't have what you just searched for, here are some sponsored sites that may." I do that for all my search utilities, especially since I know my listing of venues, for example, is not 100% complete.

This topic is subjective at best - look at MySpace. That is such an amateur site in terms of usability, layout, content, etc... but what matters is not what I think; rather it is what the users and members think.

February 7, 2007 - 5:23pm

I think it depends on the nature of site you're dealing with... myspace is - as you say - going to be full of what could be construed as 'amateur' design and structure - but then I don't think that has enormous relevance in the context of what it's offering (i.e. not screaming for your cash). It scares me far more to see corporate / commercial sites (i.e. screaming for your cash and the shirt off your back) that look like... well, we all *know* what they look like.

February 7, 2007 - 5:45pm

What are you trying to do with Far be it for me to criticize, particularly in this forum,, but it doesn't feel like a quality site to me in spite of meeting your quality criteria to a tee:

Is the design clean? CHECK
Is the content well organized? CHECK
No misspellings on their homepage? CHECK
Who is behind the site? I think you're reputable
Is it easy to contact them? CHECK
Any other credible sources? CHECK
How unique and useful is the content? Great
Ads blended into the content? No obvious ads

It seems like what's missing is a style... some sort of branding. When I do a placeholder sort of evergreen page and I'm not sure how committed I'll be to its future development, I throw it up in wordpress and put a free theme on it. The site immediately looks well designed and (mostly) unique (plus it’s easy to maintain). In my opinion, sometimes wordpress or any blog can be seen as a low-quality signal, but lots of themes differ enough to make a site not look wordpressy.

February 7, 2007 - 5:52pm

Well, I'm not sure I would say MySpace doesn't scream for my cash - I personally have a profile set up for my entertainment website and use it for networking. What really gets under my skin is having to deal with those 'True' ads that, to the average wife, make it appear as though I'm staring at barely-clothed women on the Internet. Have you seen their banner ads of late? They are blinking, flashing, and driving my nuts quite frankly. It is pretty bad when, after every page I visit, my first inclination is to scroll down past the header garbage.

At any rate, I do agree that I find it annoying when a Tier 1 corporation has to misuse ads to clutter up my experience.

Take Aaron for example - this blog is ranked in the top 1,000 on a consistent basis, yet he has not opted to try to monetize this traffic using AdSense or some other PPC platform. We all know he would make a boat load of cash if he dropped in an ad or two, but many would see that as trying to monetize his blog at the expense of our participation - and I do feel some folks would be turned away by that.

February 7, 2007 - 6:01pm

@ Allen - fair comment... my point was broadly that the pitch of myspace is 'social' rather than 'commercial' (regardless of how this actually plays out in real life!) - perhaps this boils down more to what perception users have of a site and what level of 'professionalism' is expected based on that perception?

February 7, 2007 - 7:06pm

@ Russell Scott - yes, it is fair to say that I lower the bar when dealing with sites like MySpace and even Digg, which also has some pretty poorly placed ads. I don't consider those sites commercial - good point.

February 7, 2007 - 9:51pm

What are you trying to do with

The site was a bit of a joke when I first created it. But I may eventually change to make it a bit more serious.

We all know he would make a boat load of cash if he dropped in an ad or two

Few people in SEO click many AdSense ads relative to teh size of the marketplace. It would earn almost nothing, and it would cheapen the brand image.

February 7, 2007 - 10:34pm

Aaron is correct that basic ads on blackhatseo would be a worthless endeavor. A better solution for monetization on blackhatseo would be to do some sort of ReviewMe of various paid tools...since it is an instant "authority" for blackhat SEO, it would be ideal to act as a place to review products, and possibly sell those that received solid reviews.

Then you could have user-generated reviews a layer deeper, displaying how Awall and the BH community view various products/services.

Or, you could just have pictures of various blackhat SEOs mixed in with some whitehats, and play where's waldo. Yeah, that's the ticket.


February 8, 2007 - 9:10am

Aaron You could always sell text-links. Easy to make thousands (per month) on a site with high pr / value. Ofcourse it may or may not be beneficial to the buyers, but that's all subjective.

I own a bunch of websites, but For example one particualar site I setup pays me $800 (per month) off sold text-links. The same site only earns $100 per month in adsense. The site recieves approxamatley 400 visitors a day. Makes me think what would happen if I spent more time developing it instead of servicing my SEO clients, but I like to do a bit of everything and income from sold links etc is not guaranteed to be stable.

I've got a very large project in the works though, I just wish I could finish it sooner, viral marketing to the max! Nice post as always, a bit long though.

February 8, 2007 - 11:52am

With reference to your blackhatseo site you talk about leveraging trusted links such as newspapers but by linking out directly to the source of that link, do you not devalue its worth in doing so?

February 8, 2007 - 12:00pm

Do I care about de-valuing one link if I am already ranked #1 and linking out to that one link makes it easy for me to get dozens of similar high quality links? Nope.

February 8, 2007 - 3:55pm

In your opinion aaron, would there be any penalty on to adding nofollow to those top outside links? Your visitors wouldn't care and those sites likely don't either.

And is that unprincipled to put a nofollow on a truely editorial link? I don't know.

February 8, 2007 - 4:53pm

Where is the value add of me using a nofollow?

When you use a nofollow you are saying I DO NOT vouch for this...and if you are doing that to your own press coverage I fail to see how that would help you.

Alex Mielus
February 8, 2007 - 5:44pm

Question to anyone who enters this page and is a SEO person or web design specialist: is my site ( romaniangraffiti dot ro ) crappy?

Please rate it on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is crap and 5 is gold.

SeoBook is a great site which I visit almost daily. That's why with this question I wanna see if I worked in vain or with good results in the last 1/2 year or so (I started to increase our PR 11/2 year ago and now it is 5).

Thank you very much.


Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Gain a Competitive Advantage Today

Your top competitors have been investing into their marketing strategy for years.

Now you can know exactly where they rank, pick off their best keywords, and track new opportunities as they emerge.

Explore the ranking profile of your competitors in Google and Bing today using SEMrush.

Enter a competing URL below to quickly gain access to their organic & paid search performance history - for free.

See where they rank & beat them!

  • Comprehensive competitive data: research performance across organic search, AdWords, Bing ads, video, display ads, and more.
  • Compare Across Channels: use someone's AdWords strategy to drive your SEO growth, or use their SEO strategy to invest in paid search.
  • Global footprint: Tracks Google results for 120+ million keywords in many languages across 28 markets
  • Historical data: since 2009, before Panda and Penguin existed, so you can look for historical penalties and other potential ranking issues.
  • Risk-free: Free trial & low price.
Your competitors, are researching your site

Find New Opportunities Today