Aggregation Aggravation: Part 1

Ian Lurie

Search engines are changing from web indexes to content aggregators. Remember the good old days, when a higher ranking meant more traffic from a search engine? Well, those days may soon be gone.
Search engines are scraping content from your sites and embedding it in their own search results (aggregating). And they’re doing it more and more.
Microsoft’s Bing is the latest example of search engines as aggregators, rather than indexes. Go to, search for ‘LA Lakers’, and you get a list of results. Roll over a search result, though, and you get a detailed look at the content on the listed site:


Go to any major search engine and you can get all sorts of information without leaving the search results page:

  • Product prices;
  • Sports scores;
  • Weather reports;
  • Stock prices;
  • News abstracts.

That’s convenient. It’s also a major headache for us internet marketers: We can no longer measure the true effect of search engine optimization.
If your content is included on a search results page, and a searcher reads it but doesn’t click through to your site, is that still good for you? Probably. They saw your brand, learned a bit about you, and may be more likely to act next time.
But how do we measure that?
Even worse: What if your site is dependent on advertising to earn a living? Your content shows up in the rankings. Folks love what you write. But they don’t have to click any more. They can stay on the search engine and review to their heart’s content.
I thought about this all weekend, picturing Steve Ballmer and Eric Schmidt cackling wickedly at the Big CEO Bar: “MWahahahahaha now we can own the web! No one will ever leave!”
Then they start arguing whose search engine is better, and the evening ends with Ballmer slashed by a broken beer bottle and Schmidt going to the ER with a chair in his forehead. But I digress…
Search engines are clearly in transition. If the trend continues, they’ll provide more and more reason for visitors to stay on their pages, and less and less reason to visit your site.
Count on it. Particularly when it’s clear Bing is eating up Yahoo!’s market share, at least for the moment.
The end is nigh. Pack up your web site. We’re doomed! DOOMED I TELL YOU!

There’s hope, but you have to wait

Or maybe not. Over the next few days, I’ll talk about ways to market in an aggregator-driven internet, instead of an index-driven one.
Here’s what I’ll discuss:

Previously in the series

Controlling what shows up (as much as you can)
Making Folks Click: Content’s back, baby!
Opting Out
Microformats, sorting and other nightmares

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See how Portent can help you own your piece of the web.

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  1. Content’s back?? Really? That’s music to a copywriter’s ears. Especially in a corporate environment where all the bigwigs are enamored of loads of fancy flash and tons of intrustive video (with cheesy music, natch), and…well, you get the idea. 🙂
    Not trying to anticipate the rest of the series, but I can’t help wondering: If the search engines are scraping and displaying website content in the SERPs, does that mean it’s no longer necessary to write meta descriptions?
    Thanks!! I look forward with bated breath to the rest of the series. Please post it soon, or else I’ll turn blue and explode.
    P.S. Teeny quibble — and I know this is just a typo (you were probably distracted by another body in the river) — but, in the phrase “Then they start arguing who’s search engine is better,” the word “who’s” should be “whose.” I know you know that. Really I do. I’m just a compulsive schoolmarm. Sorry!!

  2. Double d’oh on my part — that would be “intrusive,” not “intrustive.” LOL, schoolmarm, correct thyself!

  3. Didn’t Yahoo take the aggregation approach? Seems like consumers slowly revolted. I guess if all the search engines do it, then we are doomed.

  4. Hi. Great Series posts Man. For one of my web site which is in Google Top 10,i m getting very small amount of traffic. I tried my best to find out the reasons and i found this.Initially i thought this is because of bounce rate and low quality of content but after reading this and other parts of the post i suddenly came to realize what i was missing. Not only Bing but Google i also picking the same trend. But Now thanks to you i am trying to work on it. 🙂

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