How Crowded Is Your Domain?

by GuestBlogStar on August 25, 2012

Ever since the days of AltaVista, webmasters, SEO experts and internet marketers have engaged in a game of cat and mouse with search engines to rank for the top spots in the SERPs. As AltaVista and Excite gave way to Google, Yahoo and Bing, spam detection methods and ranking algorithms became more complex, making it harder for marketers to rank their pages in the top spots in the SERPs. But soon, marketers found ways to rank high using underhanded tactics, even as search engines clamped down on low quality pages. This is a game that has been played since the early days of the internet with no clear-cut winner.

It is in the interests of search engines like Google to ensure quality results. If users can’t find what they are looking for, they will migrate to a competitor with better search results. Consequently, Google takes many measures to ensure that its results remain relevant and high quality. One such measure was a change in its algorithm to reduce the number of results shown from the same domain name, a phenomenon called ‘domain crowding’.

Domain Crowding Explained

When you type a search query into Google and receive several results from different pages on the same domain name (say, position #1 is www.example.com, while position #3 is www.example.com/example-page), it is called domain crowding. It reduces the quality of user experience and the quality of the SERPs by allowing one single domain to dominate the search results, even as better or equally good pages languish on lower SERPs. Users do not get access to more diverse sources, and webmasters see reduced traffic as their sites pummel downwards in the rankings. It’s a lose-lose situation for all concerned parties.

Google released an update to its algorithm in April that was meant to tackle the problem of domain crowding as part of its larger drive to clean up the SERPs. The update was largely unsuccessful in clearing this problem and the SERPs still give away multiple positions to pages from the same domains, fueling the ire of webmasters and SEOs everywhere.

Google, The SERPs are Broken

The complaints against Google are many: low quality pages often rank on the first page, while high quality sites get penalized unnecessarily. The recent Penguin update turned the SEO world upside down, downgrading legitimate sites even as thousands of complaints flooded Google’s Webmaster forums. There have been allegations against Google of promoting negative SEO, favoring its own properties in the SERPs, and pushing sites that use AdSense. The company has been the subject of a huge antitrust case in Europe for these very reasons.

It is no secret to users or SEOs that  Google’s SERPs are broken (even the company admits so). In the perennial game of cat and mouse between SEO experts and Google, it can often appear that the SEOs have the upper hand. The issue of domain crowding is just one such instance of the SERPs being broken; any SEO would point to countless other such examples.

There is no one single reason why the SERPs are broken. It can be attributed to apathy on Google’s part to the company’s inability to sift through the sheer volume of content that gets published on the internet every day (Google surpassed 1 trillion indexed URLs way back in 2008) to the increasingly sophisticated tactics used by spammers and SEOs to rank their sites for lucrative keywords. Perhaps it is beyond Google’s capabilities to clean up the SERPs. A cynic would say that cleaner SERPs might move advertising dollars away from Google’s flagship AdWords product (and affect the company’s bottom line), and that lower quality pages actually offer higher CTRs on Google’s AdSense product. Without doubt, Google has done many things in the past one year to improve the quality of the SERPs (including releasing the Penguin, and earlier, the Panda updates), but unless Mountain View clamps down on spam and works hard to remove such lapses as domain crowding, the SERPs and webmasters will continue to languish.

SEO is an ongoing process, which needs to be refined with empirical investigation and constant testing. SEO Brighton stays ahead of the game by using content marketing, infographics and generating quality content that naturally receives links, shares and likes.

Previous post:

Next post: