By Kaitie Frank
21 Feb 2024

This Small Site Complained About Being Outranked by Larger Sites — While Being Outranked


HouseFresh, an independent publication focused on air quality, recently posted an article titled “How Google is killing independent sites like ours.” The article talked about how larger sites consistently outrank small sites. Reddit, a popular forum, now outranks this same article. 

A screenshot from Search Engine Land shows Reddit outranking the HouseFresh article:

Interestingly enough, the Reddit post links back to the original article. Caitlin Hathaway posted an update of the SERPs on X:

This problem is not new. Many SEOs have lamented the unfair advantages that larger sites have in the SEO industry. While Google wants to serve the best content to the user, the same sites seem to dominate the SERPs, especially review-related content. 

The author of the article, Gisele Navarro, posted in an X thread

Sadly, these are just empty words because Google has a clear bias towards big media publishers. Google is killing independent sites that actually test products through inaction. Meanwhile, investment firms and ‘innovative digital media companies’ are selling you bad products.

Google Search Liason, Danny Sullivan, replied:

Thank you. I appreciated the thoughtfulness of the post, and the concerns and the detail in it. I've passed it along to our Search team along with my thoughts that I'd like to see us do more to ensure we're showing a better diversity of results that does include both small and large publications.

One note to an otherwise excellent write-up. The article suggests we do some type of "manual check" on claims made by pages. We do not. That reference and link is about manual reviews we do if a page has a manual *spam* action against it, and files a reconsideration request. That's entirely different from how our automated ranking systems look to reward content.

Somewhat related, just making a claim and talking about a "rigorous testing process" and following an "E-E-A-T checklist" doesn't guarantee a top ranking or somehow automatically cause a page to do better. We talk about E-E-A-T because it's a concept that aligns with how we try to rank good content. But our automated systems don't look at a page and see a claim like "I tested this!" and think it's better just because of that. Rather, the things we talk about with E-E-A-T are related to what people find useful in content. Doing things generally for people is what our automated systems seek to reward, using different signals. More here:

Thank you again for the post. I hope we'll be doing better in the future for these types of issues.

He also said:

I agree that too many interpret the self-assessment questions on our key page here:

As some type of box-ticking exercise rather than focus on the bigger picture of "are you doing things that are generally helpful for people, because that's also what's helpful for Google. It does mention those questions about how people might self-evaluate, not how Google evaluates. But, I've mentioned before that I'd like to see that page further updated, and it's one of my top priorities that I keep voicing internally. Unfortunately, changing our docs can take time, so it's probably going to be a few more weeks or months.

As for the broader question of, let's call it, "big site versus small site," I've also raised this concern over the past weeks, because it shouldn't be that way (and it's not always, either). But yes, we should be rewarding the best content, regardless of site size. As I said, I hope we'll get better here.

What does this mean for small sites winning in SEO? Hopefully, we will see more diverse SERPs. Google has promised to do better for years, more so in the last few months among the SERP volatility. Will they keep good on their promise? As of February 21, a quick search for “google is killing independent sites” shows HouseFresh ranking number one after SGE. 

Will we see a righting of the ship in the next few weeks? Only time and an algorithm update will tell. 

Kaitie Frank

Kaitie is a copywriter and content writer for Page One Power who specializes in SEO-optimized content. She has written for various niches and prides herself in knowing random tidbits of information. In addition to putting words to paper, she indulges in physical fitness and telling her cat why he is, in fact, a good boy.