The Web is No Longer a Level Playing Field

see-sawIn the early days of the World Wide Web, it provided a level playing field for anyone with something to say. If a website published good content, it could rise quickly through the ranks of search engine results, and get placement in major Internet directories. In short order, a small website could become a widely-recognized resource.

Now, in 2018. this is no longer the case.

I am currently experiencing this firsthand with a project I am working on.

I have a new website, EDtreatment.info, which provides information, resources, help and support for erectile dysfunction sufferers and their partners. There is already a great deal of information about ED on the web, but we are trying to do two things that other sites are not:

  1. We tailor our content specifically to the needs of the ED community. We participate in many online forums, where we see the questions that people are asking. We sponsor ongoing survey research to understand how ED affects men and their partners. We use this information to prioritize our content development.
  2. We provide links to clinical research to support and justify the information we provide.

Despite the fact that my site provides very useful, relevant, and accurate content, I am struggling to gain visibility and traffic.

The purpose of this article is to explain why.

The Rise of Megasites

Search engines give better placement to sites with a high Internet presence - that is, with many high-quality inbound links. (In the past, we could estimate this Internet presence with a measure called Google PageRank. Google has stopped making this metric public, so we now use metrics such as the Moz Domain Authority, or AHREFS Domain Rating.)

Large websites have lots of inbound links, and therefore a high rank.  The sites pass the power of their rank on to every page on the site... so as sites become larger, the number of inbound links increases, and each page on the site becomes harder to compete with.

In the case of my own site, EDtreatment.info, I have many inbound links... but I can't begin to compete with the number of links to megasites such as WebMD.com. And therefore, it is very difficult for pages on my site to compete with pages on the WebMD site.

Authoritative Links

Search engines give preference to websites with "authoritative" links pointing to them. These authoritative links typically come from news sites, government sites, and educational sites.

Large sites tend to accumulate these high authority links. If someone at a major publication is writing an article on erectile dysfunction, they are likely to include a link to information on WebMD... and much less likely to include a link to a small website such as mine.

Thus, sites that already have a strong web presence grow stronger and stronger, and it is virtually impossible for small sites to catch up.

The Consequences

If the web is no longer a level playing field, a small number of megasites will come to dominate broad categories of web searches... and it will become virtually impossible for new sites to establish themselves by providing better content or services.