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SEO and the Informativeness of the Results: An Example by Querying "Chocolate during Pregnancy"

Updated on January 3, 2016

Nowadays, whenever parents have questions, one source of information is to Google directly. However,the top Google results are not purely determined by the quality of the article but are more decided by SEO factors, such as page rank. In this article, conduct a small experiment to show the dark side of SEO and how a low quality posting can dominate on Google.

In this experiment, we will google a phrase "eating chocolate during pregnancy" to find the results. We will assess the quality of the top 5 results and compare the key points of the top 5 results with the result from Parenting-Checkpoint.com, a website provides parenting advice only by summarizing academic studies.

Top 5 Google Results

#1. Is it safe to eat a lot of chocolate during pregnancy? (from BabyCenter.com)

This article is very short. Obviously it is because BabyCenter's brand name (Alexa Rank 780) so it is ranked as the number one Google Result. The key points include

  • No evidence that moderate amounts of caffeine are dangerous for pregnant women
  • There is evidence that chocolate works on the neurotransmitters in your brain to give you a feeling of well-being.
  • Patients who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes should avoid chocolate.
  • Over-consumption can crowd out other healthy foods and provide too many extra calories, leading to excessive weight gain.
  • Moms-to-be should try to keep their caffeine intake below 200 mg a day.

These bullets already capture almost the full article's information. The writing is also poor with no references provided, although the content is correct. It is ridiculous to be ranked as number 1 among thousands of articles on Google.

#2. Eating Chocolate During Pregnancy, (from NewKidsCenter.com)

Newkidcenter does not look like a very famous website (Alexa Global Rank 63,893). This article is very complete and actually deserves to be the number 1 article for this keyword search. Interested readers can read the full article for details. This article explains in detail what should be done and why moderate amount of chocolate is beneficial and excessive amount is harmful. Seven benefits are

  • Helps in blood pressure regulation
  • Dark chocolate may help in preventing pre-eclampsia
  • Both you and your babies may be happier
  • Chocolate contains essential antioxidants
  • Chocolate contains magnesium, iron, and other nutrients
  • Chocolate aids in prevention of heart disease
  • Chocolate is important in reducing cholesterol levels and in weight management

#3. 16 Pregnancy Myths - Parents, (from parents.com)

This article is very informative and is from another top parenting site (Alexa Rank:4861). The key point of this posting is not about chocolate intake. Chocolate intake is only one myth out of 16 myths and the whole point is copied below.
"Pregnant women shouldn't eat sweets. REALITY: There's a big exception to this rule: chocolate. New studies show that pregnant women who eat chocolate every day during pregnancy have babies who show less fear and smile and laugh more often at six months of age. Another study finds that women who eat five or more servings of chocolate each week during their third trimester have a 40 percent lower risk of developing the dangerous high blood pressure condition known as preeclampsia."

These two points are correct. But this is not the main point of this article (just one of 16 points and only one paragraph is relevant.) However, this article is still ranked as #3 among 1m results. Clearly, Google weight much more by the domain quality than the page quality.

#4. Eight reasons why pregnant women should eat chocolate (from Naturalnews.com)

Naturalnews.com has Alexa rank #5464. This article has 8 short paragraphs about this issue. 8 points are copied below.

  • Dark chocolate can help prevent pre-eclampsia
  • Chocolate aids in proper blood pressure regulation
  • Chocolate makes happy babies
  • Chocolate contains good antioxidants
  • Chocolate has iron, magnesium and other nutritional contents
  • Chocolate can prevent heart disease
  • Chocolate can help pregnant women manage weight and reduce cholesterol levels
  • Chocolate relieves stress

Interestingly and surprisingly, this site's results are surprisingly similar to #2. Google may not be good enough to avoid listing similar results in top 5.

#5.Your life is decided 'in the womb (from The Telegraph UK)

This is a long and well-written article from www.telegraph.co.uk, a leading news source in UK (Alexa Rank 249). The theme is not about chocolate intake and is similar to #3. There are only two paragraphs related to chocolate. I copied below.
"One of my favourite discoveries concerned the edict that pregnant women shouldn’t eat sweets. There’s a big exception to this rule: chocolate. New studies show that pregnant women who eat chocolate every day during pregnancy have babies who show less fear and smile and laugh more often at six months of age. Another study finds that women who eat five or more servings of chocolate each week during their third trimester have a 40 per cent lower risk of developing the dangerous high blood pressure condition known as pre-eclampsia."
Interestingly, this is almost identical to #3 written by the same author. It is understandable that author "self-plagirizes" on the Internet in non-academic articles. But again, Google should adjust their algorithm to avoid listing similar search results in top 5.

Result from Parenting-Checkpoint.com

Parenting-Checkpoint.com is a website that provides parenting advice only based on scientific studies with references provided. It lists 4 academic studies that summarize 4 benefits of eating chocolate during pregnancy. Comparing the result with all other 5 sites, we can safely conclude the following 3 benefits of eating chocolate during pregnancy.

  • Dark chocolate can help prevent pre-eclampsia
  • Chocolate aids in proper blood pressure regulation
  • Both you and your babies may be happier

The other benefits seems to be generic benefits of chocolate; no scientific studies directly examine those benefits on women during pregnancy.

Concluding Remarks

The short comparison among top Google Results show the following

  1. Google results bias too much on the domain quality than on the article quality. If you are looking for an article that can really help you, top ranked article from low ranked site could be the best. In this example, #2 article clearly is much better than the other 4 in top 5.
  2. Even among those top 5 websites, there are signs of plagiarism or self-plagiarism. #2 and #4 are very similar. #3 and #5 are almost identical article from the same author.

What Do You Think?

From your experience of reading top 5 Google results, do you feel results from the most popular commercial site is worse than others?

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