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A publisher tweeted a question to Google’s John Mueller about commodity content. John Mueller’s response gave the general direction of what to do when your site content is the same as the content on competitor sites. But his advice is applicable to any site that wants to be better than their competition.

Here is the question:

“Hi,
@JohnMu

I have a govt job site where content is almost similar to all other sites (Job Details, Notification etc).

How Google looks such kind of sites?”

What is Commodity Content?

Commodity content is content that is used across a wide range of sites. For example, content that is pulled by a feed by an affiliate can be seen as commodity content. In the example above, it’s government jobs that are available.

There are many solutions for pulling a feed and automatically displaying the information on a website. It can help a publisher scale their publishing while also automating it.

The downside is that these solutions are available to other publishers as well.

How to Publish Commodity Content and Rank

Google’s John Mueller answered,

“It doesn’t matter what kind of site, ultimately you need to find a way to differentiate yourself, especially when it comes to “commodity content”.

What would make your site the objective best result by far for your preferred queries? Just being the same as others doesn’t cut it.”

What Differentiates Websites?

What makes one site different from another? Creating a comparison report is something every publisher should do before committing a single line of code.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, either. It could be a simple list of positive and negative qualities expressed by competitors.

Examples of Questions to Help with Differentiation:

  • What do competitors do right?
  • What do competitors do poorly?
  • What is missing from competitor sites?
  • What kinds of visitors are competitors targeting?
  • Do the competitors have authority?
  • What makes the competitors authoritative?

What is Website Differentiation?

Although differentiation is defined as being different, differentiation isn’t just about being different. Adding features, images and so on are superficial ways to differentiate a site.

For example, just because the popular kids are wearing specific kinds of clothing, wearing those clothes won’t make a kid popular.

In my opinion, if a publisher wants to truly differentiate themselves, what really helps is to focus on what will make the site more popular.

Google tends to rank sites that users want to see. Why do people prefer some sites over others?

  • One answer is because popular pages tend to answer questions faster or solve problems in an efficient manner.
  • Another answer is convenience.
  • Another answer is because the site reflects the site visitor. In some way the site might communicate the goals and aspirations of the site visitor.

All of the above circles back to knowing your site visitor.

Understanding People Makes a Site Different

Differentiating your site is, in my opinion, about understanding the people who are making those search queries and addressing all of the underlying aspirations and goals inherent in the question they are asking.

  • The person shopping for shoes is shopping for more than just something to wear on their feet.
  • The person looking for a government job aspires to something greater than employment.

Google is ranking web pages based on more than keywords and links. It is increasingly ranking sites because they solve a particular question or problem in a way that pleases the user. All of that neural matching, rank brain and natural language processing is about understanding users and what they want.

Anything that communicates what users expect to see should help move rankings in the right direction. Anything that stands in the way will move the rankings down.

The truth underlying Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines is that Google is circling around  the user, not the keywords.

Remember how it’s superficial who think that wearing cool-kid clothes makes a kid cool? All of the hand waving about E-A-T and tying that to author biographies is superficial and misses the point.

This is what is at the top of the Search Quality Raters Guidelines:

“0.1 The Purpose of Search Quality Rating
Good search engines give results that are helpful for users in their specific language and locale.

0.2 Raters Must Represent the User”

This is not some vague Kumbaya “make awesome content” advice. I’m being straightforward and pragmatic: Users are the new ranking factors. Strategizing around them will help you find solutions related to differentiating your site that truly set you apart.

So when you make your list about the things competitors are doing right, do it from the point of view of what they are doing right for users. Then make a list of all the things the competitors are doing wrong for users.

What you discover may be important to your SEO checklist of things to do.

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