Categories: Crawling, indexing & ranking :

Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1

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Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 Chesterton111 3/31/11 2:20 PM
Hello,
I am selling some machinery and I did a basic google search for MACHINERY APPRAISAL.  The top listed result (non-paid) is a machinery association called AMEA at http://www.amea.org/.
I went there out of curiosity, expecting a site with tons of machinery content, etc.  I was very surprised to find a site of about 10 pages only.  Their keyword meta tags (which I know Google ignores anyway), only has a few words.   The words "machinery" and "appraisal" from my search do not appear in the www.amea.org URL.
So I am really interested in finding out how there can be nearly 9 million search results, but amea.org is at the top.
I have a basic understanding of SEO and what makes your site appear higher on Google, but I simply cannot find any reason why this little website should be be ranked #1 out of 9 million others.   Any ideas??
Re: Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 Michael Martinez 3/31/11 4:59 PM
I went there out of curiosity, expecting a site with tons of machinery content, etc.  I was very surprised to find a site of about 10 pages only.  Their keyword meta tags (which I know Google ignores anyway), only has a few words.   The words "machinery" and "appraisal" from my search do not appear in the www.amea.org URL.

Size doesn't matter.

The keywords tag IS ignored.

The words do NOT have to appear in the URL.

So I am really interested in finding out how there can be nearly 9 million search results, butamea.org is at the top.

They use the terms in their page title and content and most likely a lot of links point at the Website with the name of the association as anchor text.
Re: Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 Chesterton111 4/1/11 8:48 AM
Thank you, Michael.   Very informative.
Re: Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 brettburky 4/1/11 10:18 AM
@Michael.  I have been doing SEO for a good number of years now and I just want to ask you about the Size doesn't matter answer.

I am having an issue currently where a site is ranking better in the SERPS and the only thing that I am seeing is that they have a larger site than ours.  More indexed pages.  I am of the thought that maybe that gives them a little bit more authority.  Besides having a bigger site I am not seeing a whole lot of differences.  

Do you have valid proof that your claim is true?  If so that is excellent and I would love to see it.  Because if that is true, I will have to re-evaluate my current findings and see what other areas we might be missing out on.
Re: Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 Chesterton111 4/1/11 10:36 AM
Brett brings up a great question.  A collegaue of mine always to points to Wikipedia as being in the top 10 of pretty much any search you do, simply because of the millions of pages and sheer amounts of content they have pushes it toward the top.   Maybe Michael can correct us, but I thought the sheer amount of content and size of Wikipedia helped them??
Re: Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 Michael Martinez 4/1/11 11:14 AM
Do you have valid proof that your claim is true?

How many queries would you like me to link to?  Please make it a reasonable number.  The rules of induction call for a minimum of 3 examples of similar nature and after that it pretty much follows that the point is proven.  But I'll be glad to give you a few more than that.

Keep in mind that query results change over time for a variety of reasons.

 I thought the sheer amount of content and size of Wikipedia helped them??

Some years ago I wrote a blog post in which I said something like, "If you want more PageRank, just publish more pages on your site".  Matt Cutts noticed and responded on his own blog by saying something like, "It is NOT possible to manufacture PageRank simply by publishing more pages on your site."

In fact, he has since added that every site gets a "certain amount of PageRank".   That "certain amount", it is generally understood, is conferred by all the value-passing links pointing to the Website from other sites.

I have actually run several experiments where I set up Websites that populated themselves with unique (but aggregated), useful, interesting content.  None of them accrued PageRank over a 2-year period.

I have outranked Wikipedia and many other high-PR, large-volume Websites with sites that were as small as 6-10 pages, with personal blogs, with posts on other people's blogs.

So, sure, I can play the "proof" game until I get sick of responding to unnecessary demands for "more proof" but this is the sort of stuff that is easy enough to find out on your own.  Just run some queries.  Every time you see a site ranking above Wikipedia, compare the number of pages for the higher-ranking site to the number of pages for Wikipedia.  You will find in many (if not most) cases that Wikipedia has more pages.
Re: Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 Chesterton111 4/1/11 11:30 AM
Thanks again, Michael.  I'm beginning to see how important it is to have other pages link to you.  Thanks to your replies, I see that links to your site are more important that the amount of pages you have.
Re: Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 brettburky 4/1/11 12:45 PM
Hello Michael.  3 examples would be awesome.  Im just using it to show the team that what you are saying holds true.  I believe you but with relevant backed up data that really helps.

Thanks so much for doing this, that is above and beyond.

Have a great weekend.
Re: Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 Michael Martinez 4/1/11 2:18 PM
I would like everyone reading this discussion to understand (and ACCEPT) that I will NOT be baited into providing "proof" every time someone wants to disagree with me in the future.  I offered to do this in this discussion and that's as far as it goes.

People are free to disagree with me, disbelieve me all they wish.  My life won't end if I say something that doesn't cause the winds to change direction.

I'll follow up with three examples shortly.

Re: Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 Chesterton111 4/1/11 2:31 PM
Hey, I'm still trying to "prove" to people that they're wasting their time and money developing keyword meta tags.   How many different times do I have to show them Mr. Cutts' articles on this topic, and they still don't get it or believe me.
Re: Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 Michael Martinez 4/1/11 2:38 PM
Okay.  Here are three examples of my choosing.  Let me include a preamble as well.

Google's estimates of how many pages are included on a site are just a CRUDE ESTIMATE.  I pressed Matt Cutts on this and asked him to explain WHY that has to be so, and basically it comes down to something like, "Because Google cannot give a precise count."  (There are various contributing factors.)

Hence, I looked for queries where the smaller sites were so obviously smaller than Wikipedia that people would have a hard time making a credible argument against the page estimates.  I actually had to run 7 queries to get the data I want to show.

Query 1: Number of "indexed" pages on Wikipedia.  It's about 8.6 million when I run the query, but remember there is no accuracy in this number.

Query 2: "New York City" (without the quotes).  For me, the official nyc-dot-gov site ranks above Wikipedia (which in my SERP is placed 4th).

Query 3: "Site:nyc-dot-gov" (without the quotes).  For me, Google estimates about 275,000 pages.

So, the official site of New York City -- having only a fraction of the pages of Wikipedia -- outranks Wikipedia.  Of course, people might point out that it's a government Website and Google suggests it has hundreds of thousands of pages.

Query 4: "san francisco giants" (without the quotes).  The team's official site ranks first and Wikipedia ranks 5th (for me).

Query 5: "site:sfgiants-dot-com" (without the quotes).  Google suggests to me there are about 46 pages.

So, people might argue that a lot of links are pointing to the team's homepage. Well, that's true.  Links can provide a lot of value when you get 10s of thousands of them.

Query 6: "terry goodkind" (without the quotes).  Google shows Terry's Website just above the Wikipedia page in my SERP.  For those who don't know, Terry is the author of the SWORD OF TRUTH novels (a popular fantasy series that was also made into a television show, "Legend of the Seeker").

Query 7: "site:terrygoodkind-dot-com" (without the quotes).  Google estimates almost 4700 pages for me.  That's about 100 times more than the San Francisco Giants have on their site, but still only a microscopic fraction of the number of pages Wikipedia has.

Now, it can be argued that Terry's loyal fans are more likely to link to his Website than to Wikipedia.  True, but given how closely these two sites rank for his name, I would say there is a good chance there are large numbers of links pointing to both destinations.  In fact, an inanchor query confirms both destinations are receiving anchor text for his name (http://bit.ly/eCUA7h).

There is really only 1 rule about "rules": If you have 1 or only a small number of contrary examples, they are exceptions to the rule; if you have many contrary examples, you have no rule.

There are MANY queries where small Websites outrank larger Websites like Wikipedia.  Hence, size doesn't matter.

Q.E.D.
Re: Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 Chesterton111 4/6/11 4:36 PM
Great stuff, Michael.  Thanks.
Knowing that keyword meta tags do not affect a site's ranking on Google, and that title tags do affect ranking...what about the description tag?   I am under the impression that the purpose of the description tags is for you to better dictate what text appears on a SERP...but does the description also help rank you higher??   There's so many articles about keywords not afftecting ranks, but I can't find much on description.  
What's your view??  Thanks again.
Re: Please...help us understand why a tiny little site is ranked # 1 Michael Martinez 4/6/11 5:26 PM
I am under the impression that the purpose of the description tags is for you to better dictate what text appears on a SERP...but does the description also help rank you higher??

I have never seen Google index the text in a meta description tag.

I *have* seen Google place greater value on pages whose meta descriptions matched the queries very well.

Maybe that just means that people whose meta descriptions match targeted queries are generally better at matching those queries in other ways.  It's always been a curious, head-scratching thing but I would NOT go out and change all my meta descriptions just to try to outrank someone.

Meta descriptions are sometimes the searcher's first impression (along with page titles) of the quality of your site.  They should treated that way, in my opinion, and not as possible ranking factors.