This week’s Ask An SEO question comes from Abhinav in New Delhi, who writes:
“How can article aggregator sites outperform the original source?
Google has various guidelines on aggregator copy not performing well, and much is said of not showing duplicate content across the web.
Yet RSS aggregator sites URLs are indexed, even knowing it’s 100% duplicate content.
Why does Google index them, knowing their duplicate content and how can they possibly outperform the original sources?”
It’s frustrating when a site we deem as “not worthy” ranks above our site.
I suspect SEO pros spend millions of hours each month trying to determine why a competitor’s site is outranking them for a specific query.
In the past, I’ve counseled that if you are spending Last Database more time worrying about what your competitors are doing than optimizing your own site, you’re doing it wrong.
But I also understand the frustration of watching another site outrank you when you feel like your site is better and your optimization scheme is superior.
It’s Probably Not What You Think
I’ve been analyzing sites from an SEO perspective for 23+ years.
I am more than happy to provide an educated opinion on why one site ranks better than another.
But more than half the time, my guess is wrong.
Many variables go into ranking a site for a specific query.
And while sometimes it’s obvious what’s putting one site on top of another, other times it’s impossible to determine the exact cause of a ranking with Google or Bing data.
We all know that “I don’t know” isn’t an acceptable answer to most clients or bosses – at least not for long.
Trust me, I’m the king of guesses when it comes to ranking – and you’ll swear I know exactly what is causing a site to rank even if I’m providing an educated guess in most cases.
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For example, what you describe as an RSS site may actually be a popular hub in a specific industry.
This hub may have a significant backlink profile, even if they are just aggregating content.
Remember, content aggregators are popular for a reason.
Aggregators, by definition, use duplicate content – in most cases, duplicate content that did not originate from the aggregator site.
Google knows this.
But that doesn’t mean that Google automatically classifies all content on an aggregator site as inferior.