There's been a lot of discussion in the forums about fact that the Maven channels are all subdomains of the main site. The conventional wisdom is that this creates a "generalist site" format that Google hates and will eventually severely penalize. After looking at some of the Maven channels, I'm not sure that's the case. Here are my observations:
1) Although housed under the Maven domain, each channel is actually a vertical site in its own right. That's different from what we had on HubPages when we each had our own subdomain. HP subdomains were usually highly varied rather than monolithic in terms of subject matter. Google may have more tolerance for tightly vertically integrated subdomains than the HP experience would lead us to expect.
2) Most of the Maven channels are high authority destination sites in their particular niches. Examples: AllHipHop, Black Wealth Channel, Chess Daily News. Such sites probably already have their own loyal followers, and so are far less reliant on organic search for readers. Nobody is looking for RonElFran (me) - they must find my content through search. But there may be millions for whom sites such as Touré (former MSNBC personality) or Tax Help Online, both upcoming Maven channels, are destinations they will seek out on their own.
3) Some of the Maven channels are not really article sites at all, but rather are aggregators that link to articles on other sites. For example, the Human Rights Foundation articles mostly just link out to news sites like ABC news or the New York Times. Obviously, with each article being just a couple of sentences of text along with a link, these channels are not counting on Google to drive traffic their way.
Maven brings in channels “by invitation only.” If their model is to only acquire channels that essentially bring their own audiences with them, Maven may be less dependent on Google for traffic than might be supposed.
HP would be the exception. It IS dependent on search, and the huge audience (by Maven standards) that HP brings to the table can only be maintained by retaining HP’s current structure as a group of semi-independent vertical sites, each with its own url.
Much of the forum commentary has assumed that the Maven subdomain setup shows that they don’t understand how the modern internet works, and that the inevitable Google penalty on generalist sites will eventually take them down. But maybe their web knowledge and business model are more sophisticated than we’ve been giving them credit for.
What what I can tell just visiting the maven site, it appears to be very primitive. There is no navigation and the discussions and feedbacks does not seem to be very active...
It is also unclear how to use the site or interact with it...
Some of the articles and videos are interesting but there is no easy way to find what you are seeking.
They could use a lot of help and improvements in the User Interface design.
As to google, I don’t see it as a problem...they are not on the radar screen as yet.
Jackclee, the Maven site has virtually no content of its own. What it does is host a collection of individual websites, totally unrelated to each other. The owners of those websites have each been persuaded to transfer their site to a sub-folder on the Maven site, (presumably by a very clever salesman!). If you investigate, you'll find that each of the sites used to have its own domain, which is now 301 redirected to the Maven subfolder.
The idea is that by becoming part of Maven, they can let Maven take care of website maintenance, and take advantage of Maven's superior features (which I can't see, but apparently they have superior reader engagement and monetization strategies). The site owners also get shares in Maven so they can share in the success of the platform as a whole.
I cannot imagine any advantages which would be enough for me to give up my own domain and transfer my content to a mere subfolder on someone else's site, especially one run by a dubious operator. I can only assume I must be missing something!
I much prefer HP's formatting to Maven's look. One thing I particularly dislike is that when you scroll up and down a Maven page, images are rendered relatively slowly. The effect is that what you see at first is a fuzzy block of color that takes a second or so to sharpen into the image that is being displayed. I find that disorienting. I suppose it's done to minimize load times for the pages, but for me it's quite a distraction.
I can see your logic, Ron, but I don't agree.
The site is organised such that each site is in its own sub-domain. Once upon a time, Google recognised a sub-domain as virtually a website in its own right. That's why our sub-domains worked (for a while) - TT2, for instance, who writes on RV's, or DrMark who writes on dogs, could be recognized as a specialist because Google's robots "saw" their sub-domain as a separate entity.
Then Google's algorithm changed (again). It stopped recognising a sub-domain as a discrete entity. Suddenly DrMark's dog articles were just lost in the vastness of HubPages, and Google no longer recognised that TT2's RV articles were all written by one expert author.
Google is secretive about these changes, but we know this one happened, because we saw the effects. HubPages saw it happening across the whole of HubPages and that's why they got rid of the sub-domains - because they weren't working any more. HubPages finally accepted that the only way to create discrete entities was to create separate websites - and that's when the niche sites were born.
I'm sure you'll agree that they would never have gone to the great expense of creating the niche sites, if there had been a way to make sub-domains work. For instance, they could have created individual sub-domains for each niche instead of individual websites. But they understood the reason why the author sub-domains had suddenly stopped working, and therefore they knew that wouldn't work.
About.com did the same. It was staffed entirely by expert writers - to be accepted to write there, you had to not only hold qualifications but show expertise in your field. The site had a category structure, and given the quality of the professional advice, clearly was not a content farm. That didn't stop it being crucified by Google. They have now relaunched as a network of separate websites.
You are right in that Maven has said it is trying to create a system that doesn't rely on search engines for traffic. I still struggle to understand how they are going to achieve that. Let's face it, if you wanted to find something on the internet and you weren't allowed to use a search engine, what would you do?
Marisa, I don't at all dispute that the change to niche sites has been absolutely critical for HP. As you say, for DrMark and TT2, and indeed for all of us, when Google stopped recognizing subdomains as separate entities, that approach became worse than ineffective. Because HP is almost totally dependent on search, the niche site strategy, with independent urls, is a necessity.
But I think Maven may be trying to do something different. As you yourself have often declared, on HP it’s almost impossible for a writer to build a following. Readers are attracted to our articles, which they find through search, rather than to us as “brands.” But Maven seems to be set up for the opposite approach. They apparently count on their channels bringing in, and continuing to build, exactly that kind of brand-driven, non-search-dependent following.
Of course the jury is still out on whether such a strategy can succeed. My point is that the Maven model (if it is indeed as I have speculated) can’t be judged simply on the basis that any site with a wide range of content is doomed from the beginning.
I know Maven has been talking about bypassing Google but I think they're dreaming.
I don't know of one brand - not even a huge company like Amazon - that doesn't invest huge amounts in SEO and promoting themselves on Google. If building a brand means you don't need Google, why do they bother?
Even blogs that have an established following, need a continuous influx of new readers. There has to be some mechanism for people to find the blog in the first place. If not Google, then it has to be word of mouth, and that's simply not enough. So deliberately adopting a strategy which they should know Google will hate seems suicidal.
This is a very informative thread...a lot to chew on.
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