The Website Content Controversy

By | March 5, 2011

Google’s recent changes to their search rankings (see details here) to reduce spammy content (mainly from “content farms”) has led to a lot of talk about the importance of having good, unique content. It got me thinking about the topic of adding new content to my own sites.

The reason I bring this up is that people are constantly telling me I should add new content to my sites to keep visitors happy and increase search engine traffic, and that I should redesign my bad/amateur looking sites for those same reasons. You would think this is sound, logical advice, but in my 15+ year history of running over 400 of my own sites, I have found this to not be true at all. My results may not be typical, and I am sure lots of people make tons of money by having lots of pages on their sites and keeping them constantly updated, but not me.

Here are my observations about content:

1. I have just as many 1 page sites that rank at the top of Google search results as I do big sites with lots of pages that rank well. Many small sites that I created in a day years ago do just as well as huge content sites that I spent months working on.

2. Aside from the quantity of the content, I have also found that the complexity of the site makes much of a difference. Over the years I have created many simple sites (silly lists, joke pages, online quizzes etc.) and also created many very complex sites (DigitalFilms.com and CreateVids.com for example) that took months worth of programming and content creation, and I have not found much of a difference in the profits on them. I have had sites that cost me $10,000 to create make $0 and I have had sites that cost me $0 to create make me $10,000.

3. Once I launch a site, I have not found adding more content usually adds any significant traffic or income to it. Of course if you launch a bad site that is lacking in content, it should be improved later. But, at whatever time I decide a site is complete and then officially launch it, I have not found adding to it helps any. To illustrate my point, I will give you some examples:

A) WatchMovies.com – The domain gets around 4000 visitors a day, even when I just had it parked. I initially changed it from being parked to a very simple and boring 1 page site about movies. After a few months I added over 700 actual movies that you can watch for free online. I also added movie reviews and movie trailers. More recently I added a page where you upload your photo and see which celebrity you resemble, a 2700 game video arcade,movie quizzes, a 20 questions type game where the computer tries to guess what movie you are thinking of, and more movie related content, yet all these different versions of the site still get the same traffic as always and make the same amount of money as always.

B) Ailments.com – I have over 6000 ailment pages, written for me by a doctor, which have been online for several years and are indexed by Google, yet the site only gets 100 visitors a day. I started the site with fewer ailments, but adding new ones did not add any significant traffic.

C) iAnimals.com – I have thousands of animal pages, many with unique hand written descriptions, plus thousands of videos and jokes and other animal content, yet the site gets no more traffic than when I had no unique content on on it.

D) Adoptme.com – I spent around $100,000 creating this site 10 years ago and I did not make any changes to it for the next 5-6 years. I eventually added some amazing new features, like being able to chat live with your pet, augmented reality, the ability to play online games against, jobs for pet, a Facebook app, and dozens of other new features. Users loved all of this, but it still has not attracted more users or made more money than it did when I first started the site.

E) Dumb.com – When I first started this site many years ago, it was a very simple looking copy of some of the dumb related content from Bored.com. 3-4 years ago I changed it into a big site with lots of unique content and have been adding new content ever since. But, it does not get that much more traffic than it used to get.

4) I paid one Flash designer over $90,000 for various animation projects over the past 4 years, all of which were funny, well done, and great content to add to my sites (for example, see http://adoptme.com/videos/index.php and http://www.dumb.com/vacations/ ), yet none of it made more than a few hundred dollars in revenue. So, I lost over $89,000 on this content.

5) For many years I had graphics designer working for me full time, and the sites he created for me looked amazing. But, I also created many sites myself with no graphics at all (I don’t know how to do that) and most of those sites did just as well. I have had the same results with site redesigns. When I first started Bored.com in 1997 it was just a plain text site with a list of links on it. I hardly changed the site design at all for the first 5 years, and then eventually I added some graphics to it, but even then everybody said it looked like an amateur outdated site. Before I sold it I did a few more fancy site designs, but none of that ever increased the traffic.

Another example is a site I started a few month ago at CyberCops.com. I created the original text-only version in under an hour just to get it launched. It looked very unprofessional, and you would think people would not use a site like that unless it looked legitimate. But, I more recently had somebody create a professional site design for it, yet it still gets exactly the same number of help requests (several a week) as the old text only version did.

6) I have found the main advantage of changing a site design is optimizing ad placement and ad sizes. Making changes to where you place the ads, or using different ad sizes, does sometimes make a big difference in how much money you make from a site. This is not always related to making the site look nice though. For example, I recently doubled the income on one of my sites in 5 minutes just by moving a 728×90 AdSense banner ad from the bottom of the page to the top of the page. Many times changes like that can be done without really changing the main site design, it is just a matter of rearranging things a little on the site.

Conclusion: I am not telling people to avoid adding content to their sites or to not make them look nice. What I am saying is that in my experience, the cost of doing these things is usually not worth it. I would rather add a text page of content (for example like putting a list of pickup lines or a page of jokes on Dumb.com) for free instead of paying to add expensive programming/content. Adding more content is hardly ever a bad thing, it is just a matter of making sure it will make more money than you spend on it.

Share: facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

47 thoughts on “The Website Content Controversy

  1. Greg

    when i did just affiliate marketing my best producers were my worste sites to look at. My undeveloped names pretty much all get listed front page with just simple 2-3 page WP setups and proven simple techniques. buying or writing content usually doesn’t offset the time or expense, but if you sell products then having well written descriptions does well indeed, again time consuming so it must be your own product for sure.

    1. admin Post author

      Yes, I agree, for ecommerce sites, the rules are totally different.

  2. Keith

    Great informative article from someone of long standing experience in the industry.
    Really appreciate the honesty gives real depth to the article

  3. Claude

    Interesting post.

    Did the Whois information ever change? I am wondering if you we’re ever tagged by Google as a content farm of some sort and this prevented progress in the search engine. Although it still wouldn’t make sense that your type in traffic would not change.

    Weird!

    1. admin Post author

      No, I never changed the whois on my domains. All my sites have the same whois info, and some are listed at the top of the search results, so I don’t think they are lowering my rankings because I own so many sites.

  4. Michael

    Very interesting article.

    Do you think the fact that many of your domains are very aged also plays a role with regards to rankings?

    1. admin Post author

      Yes, but I would think that would make it much easier for me to add new content and get it indexed higher, but that does not seem to be the case.

  5. Jeff Schneider

    Hello,

    “Often the simplest answers are the best ones”

    We find it totally amusing that Google and others, who are the true S.E.O. spam Spinners, are attacking Untitled writers of content as other than professionals.

    This does not wash with us or any other savvy Business Owners. The days of buying the enchilada, that Googles content is better because they cook their Alogs to give you the true Search experience, is a hoot.

    After all Google rewards its patrons who spend their money continually updating their S.E.O. optimization, buy putting their biggest competitors on the same search page, ” One mouse Click Away To The Right ! ”

    If this is not corporate extortion, then what is up with That ?

    Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger)

  6. Leonard Britt

    While I have found some benefit from adding content and ensuring the target keywords are included in the page text, I have seen that some sites which are very basic can still get considerably more traffic than others which involved a lot more work.

    1. admin Post author

      To clarify, I think adding text content to sites is almost always worthwhile, it is the expensive content, like programs or Flash content or custom videos etc. that I have had mixed results with.

  7. Aaron

    Related to the website content topic, last year you wrote, “I switched 2600 of my domains to a new system I built that puts custom written content on each domain, so for example a mortgage related domain would have articles on it about mortgages. The sites will make money from the Google AdSense ads on them.”

    I’m curious how this experiment is working out so far?

    Thanks.

    1. admin Post author

      So far those 2600 sites are making around the same amount as they were making when parked. But, at least they now have the potential to do better, assuming their rankings increase over time, as compared to parked domains which have no potential at all. The recent Google algorithm change did not decrease my AdSense income any to these sites, probably because they all have unique articles articles and other unique content on them.

  8. t

    more targeted pages means higher paying ads. ITs about making the most of what you have then worry about getting more :) Overall less people may click thru but your getting paid much more for each click.

    watch movies – Right now you cannot give the user what they want and that is to watch movies. The LATEST ones, the closest thing you have that they’d be interested in is your netflix ad :) So you show trailers, thats good just a really spammy ugllly look :) I wonder if anyone ever comes back. I have a movies site too, Its only a few sections, trailers/bloopers/documentaries/tutorials/ and I’m thinking about user generated reviews. Its simple and clean in the hopes they come back, I also have my other sites advertised to catch some of the people that are not interested in netflix as they are the main advertiser on movies sites.. Sorry for the run on sentences and thoughts I have company and gotta go,..good luck :)

    1. admin Post author

      The reviews I have on WatchMovies.com are all user generated, so they are 100% unique content, but so far they hardly get any search engine traffic.
      Yes, I agree, there is no way for me to give the visitors to WatchMovies.com what they want, which is illegal movie downloads of the top films.

  9. Robin Ong

    Great article and weird case studies you shared. I really don’t understand. Take the example of Ailments.com. Fantastic contents and did you say you added 6000 pages into it. But I only found 1600 pages indexed. And the thing is, you have only 1 keyword optimised ‘ailments’. Why don’t you optimise ‘ailment’ as well? Global search of ‘ailments’ is only 4400 per month, therefore rendering your visit of 100 per day justified. You don’t even need 6000 pages…just 60 would have done the trick considering that the keyword is rather uncompetitive. In addition, each click will only bring in around usd 0.05 on average. I think its best if you just sell your domain.

    1. admin Post author

      Yes, I know, I am not sure why all 6000 articles are not indexed, but 1600 is still a lot of pages yet I only get 100 visitors a day.

      I don’t know where you are getting your search stats, but the Google Adwords keyword tool shows 60,500 global searches a month for for “ailments” and only 22,200 for “ailment”. I show up near the top of the search results for “Ailments” which was my goal, but the problem is the 6000 ailment pages don’t all rank well. The potential is not being #1 for ailments, it is being ranked well for 6000 different ailments.

      As for the ad rates, I make around $10 eCPM on Ailments.com, which is 10 times the rate on most of my other sites.

      All that being said, I think the ailments.com domain is worth more than what I am doing with it, so as with almost all of my domains, I would be very happy to sell the domain if I get a good offer for it.

  10. Rose

    Unique content is still the best for your site. It’s better to publish one genuine and unique content to your website rather than publishing ten rounds of copied content.

    1. admin Post author

      I totally agree, copied content is useless for getting search engine traffic.

  11. t

    Just my opinion,..
    I went to visit your ailment site, looked nice I like the header, Links on the left look akward , you should use css and style it , IF you don’t know css than you should make a custom mouseover, just 2 pics that change when hovered . Site could be wider than 750 px (search google for recommended widths) .Still looks good. Your ailments pages, nice general content presented well, I hate that my only options to browse another topic is to go home or search each time. I notice you don’t have ads on the ailments page which would be the optimum place to put them, I don’t get it ? If its your original content than Why not ? Don’t make sense since most of your clicks will be coming from these pages. Your directing people to your revenue pages which would be 2 clicks away in the medical stories section and 3 clicks away in the puzzle sections..didn’t ck the rest. Am I missing something here. Anyways No use to go on Thats this site biggest problem, .. p.s. I hope I don’t come across as rude in my posts, You should ck out fiverr.com for someone to design headers for some of your sites, I think it would be the cheapest, quickest, and also have the biggest impact on the looks of your sites.

    1. admin Post author

      I actually just realized that I had removed the ads on the site for a day, and then forgot to put them back. I put the ads back now.
      Yes, I agree, the site could use improvement in terms of looks and navigation links, but it only gets 100 visitors a day right now, so how it looks really does not matter that much. Getting search engine traffic is what matters, and how it looks won’t change that any. Also, now that you can see the Adsense ad on the page, the links you talked about look less bad.

  12. t

    I just want to add when you say your sites are making the same now because your earning the same. That shouldn’t be your only comparison, For example what if your getting more money per click on an ad provider but the lower ctr rate lowers earnings, etc.

    1. admin Post author

      Yes, that is very true. I do keep an eye on clickthrough rates though, and my only ad provider is Adsense.

  13. t

    Ailments looks good, I’d imagine epc is about as good as its gonna get from adsense,… 100 visitors a day, ..not much. What I would do is add more revenue sources, A couple I use for my doctors sites is ringrevenue.com’s paypercall program for std and other health related programs. Anyways be creative and your judgement in knowing how to make the most from your visitors. You may say ok I accomplished that and now I’m making $9 dollars a day, Soo what. … ( epc – earnings per 100 visitors – should be as good as your competitors for the same specific keywords) 100 visitors a day is not much. You are already on page 1 for ailments, You need an seo and not all are the same. Anyways you will need to advertise to grow, put in a little money and evaluate, make changes to site or ad campaigns to improve roi, and put in another 100, and repeat. You should be paying less than competitors overall for visitors because of the domain name. When advertising on google you should ck their tos, …

    1. admin Post author

      I make around $10 per 1000 visitors to the site, so even if I double that by adding some other revenue sources, I still will only be making $2 a day. The main problem is that with thousands of pages of unique content, I should get more search engine traffic. Even at $10 cpm, I don’t make enough to make it worth advertising the site, although like you said if I make extra income from ringrevenue.com then it might be worthwhile. I will take a look at what they offer, thanks.

  14. t

    I just read the persons comment above about each click bringing in .05 and you should sell it. The home page probably doesn’t pay much but the other pages users visit such as Asthma and others are worth way more than .05. I am willing to pay .10 a click to advertise on your pages right now. I’d feel like I’d be taking advantage of you though.

    1. admin Post author

      Right. I make a lot more than 5-10 cents per click on all the pages.

  15. t

    Yeah I know,..I don’t think the person that said that was Naive, Especially by following up with ” I think its best if you just sell your domain “. I respect those that genuinely try to help even if they lack the experience and knowledge. People are not going to tell you how to succeed because then they wouldn’t be able to buy domains from you anymore, at least not like they have and for others they don’t want the added competition from a strong competitor. I have to go now it seems I am always rushed lately. I will be back

  16. Robin Ong

    Hi…60,500 global search is based on broad keyword search. We need to look at specific searches. I’m not trying to dispute your development prowess here because you ARE a guru as compared to myself. But for this case, I’m just suggesting that the site could have done better. Anyway, I love what you have shared and will continue to follow your blog. Thanks :)

  17. t

    I’m just curious how you came up with the average cpc of .05 for his site. Oh I think I know, Your probably just looking at the ailments keyword, Low competition … You should have taken the content pages keywords into consideration as that is where he should be driving the majority of traffic. Sorry Robin Maybe you were sincere :)

  18. Robin Ong

    Oh…what makes you suspect my sincerity? Ok nvm. .05 cents was actually based on the keyword bid for the single keyword ‘ailments’. Yeap…extremely low competition. Bid around 0.50cents per click and therefore I take an average of around say.. 10% of the value. Really, I’m very new in development and when I saw how you initiate all kinds of developments on your killer domains, boy I was awed!! By the way you built Bored.com, I can bet you, my son will directly type the whole domain name into Google search box instead of relying on SEO. Great work…but I still think you have underperformed for Ailments.com, lol.

    1. admin Post author

      I agree, I could be doing much better with ailments.com. I am just not sure what will work.
      I am not sure what you mean when you said “Global search of ‘ailments’ is only 4400 per month”. How exactly did you get that figure?
      I use the Google Keyword Tool at https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

  19. DJ

    Tick on [Exact] under Match Types on the left hand column

  20. t

    That wasn’t eric it was me that said that, I’m Sorry Robin It was very inappropriate and wrong of me to say that,.. Your searching using the broad option which is the default. On the left side of the page you will notice options to choose broad, exact, and phrase. You will need to uncheck the broad and ck the exact and u will arrive at her numbers.

  21. t

    You really should look into the Google ad manager, Its free. too many benefits to write about but here is the link. I think you’d be surprised at what it can do for you.

    1. admin Post author

      I don’t do any advertising for my sites because I have not found they make enough to make it worthwhile, even at the lowest ad rate of 5 cents per click.

  22. t

    the google ad manager is just a tool, It’s to help you manage your ads, And you do have ads, Adsense is Ads.

  23. Harry

    Very helpful and candid remarks, thanks. I admire your openessness and your business savey.

    I’m looking to revenue share with someone who understands this kind of efficiency/economy, and has your kind of successful history experience to monetize some of my high Google search count names. I just have my domains parked, but the revenues are too minimal and as you say, no ranking occurs. Do you participate in arrangements like that, or do you know individuals who do ? Are any of your qualified readers doing these type of arrangements ?

    Thank you
    hadjin2@yahoo.com

    1. admin Post author

      Although I am developing minisites for my domains, so far they have not made more than parking, so I would not be a good person to partner with for that. You might want to look at companies such as wannadevelop.com and epik.com.

  24. Michael Hallisey

    The 4400 per month is right. That is the exact number of times people type in just the word “ailments”. The 60500 includes everything foot ailments, skin ailments, stomach ailments and 259 more phrases. The problem I see with this site is your spamming the words “Health Database” in the title and no one is looking for the health database! :) If you want the 60000 visitors a month from Google the title of every page needs to be those 259 phrases and then content on that phrase. Like your home page the title should just be “ailments” and nothing more.

    1. admin Post author

      I don’t really care much about being ranked high for the word “ailments”, I want my 6000+ subpages to get ranked high for each individual ailment. I took your suggestion and changed the Title meta tag on the subpages so it is just the ailment name, and I also modified the Title on the main page a little.

  25. Michael Hallisey

    I built a site three months ago on a domain with no traffic maybe one visit a day, global search for the domain name is 700 a month and its getting 60 visits a day now. 72% search engine traffic, I am wandering if the average time played a part in the fast traffic increase? avg. time is 4:14 bounce 33.4

    I need to finish the site!

    1. admin Post author

      Yes, that amount of time on site is amazing, so Google probably ranks it higher.

  26. Gareth

    You state that watchmovies.com had 4000 visitors each day, even when parked. Was this direct type in traffic, or via search engines? Have your efforts to build up the site resulted in any increase in traffic via google? It’s a dream domain in many ways, but as you point out people are looking for direct downloads and as such, it’s hard to generate visitor loyalty.

    1. admin Post author

      It was all type in traffic. Yes, I now get 36% search engine traffic (75% from Google), but overall traffic is down to 2500 visitors a day.

  27. Gareth

    I guess improving the ranking would help, but of course that’s easier said than done. Not impossible though. Do the google ads still bring in a decent amount? Maybe on the traffic front you’re getting squeezed by both illegal (piratebay etc) and legal (netflix) services hence less type ins.

    1. admin Post author

      The Google CPM rate has stayed about the same.

Comments are closed.