Why I Believe Themed Websites Do Not Improve Search Engine Rankings

I''ve always believed that themed websites helped increase search engine rankings. That's what I was taught when I started my SEO career. All the SEO experts agreed, so I had no reason to think otherwise.

Let me tell you now that I was wrong, and I'm not afraid to admit my mistake.

Search engine optimization is a complex subject. I am always learning and open to new ideas and findings. So when Mike Grehan, a search expert I respect very much, and author of 'Search Engine Marketing: The Essential Best Practice Guide,' told me that search engines do not take into account the concept of theme websites, I was ready to listen.

I was skeptical at first, but the mounting evidence just kept telling me that my belief in themed websites was wrong. Before I tell you why I now believe themed websites do websites is, and why virtually all search engine optimization experts, including myself previously, endorsed this SEO concept.

What Are Themed Websites?

Themed websites is a concept recommended by search engine optimizers whereby you created a website based around a theme, such as business, health, travel, etc.

The idea is that search engines will gI've more relevance to webpages within a website if all the webpages are based around a single theme or topic.

If you think about it logically, the concept makes sense.

For example, let's say you design a website on the theme of business. Every page in the site is about business and you cross link your webpages. So not only have you got dozens, even hundreds of pages, of business content, but the pages are all linked from other pages within the site which are also about business.

Now if you were to pick a page from the site, it is more than likely that the page is about business, right? As such, search engines should think the same as well, correct?

So in theory, the concept of creating themed websites sounds logical.

Well, here lies the problem…

Search Engines Are Blind To Themed Websites!

Search engines rank pages on a page-by-page basis, not on a site basis. In other words, they don't try to figure out how many pages of content you have on different topics, and reward sites with lots of content on a particular topic or theme.

Instead, each webpage is ranked based on its own merits. As such, it makes no difference to a webpage's relevance whether it is located within a site that contains 100 other pages of content on the same topic, or a site with 100 pages all on different topics.

What Do The Search Engines Think Of Themed Websites?

Here are some quotes for those who like to hear the facts straight from the horses' mouth.

Here's what Daniel Dulitz, a Google software engineer said on the topic of themed websites:

"I think people sometimes mean different things by 'themes.' The statement that somehow your blue widget site would be 'weaker' if it contained a page about Tigers - is completely wrong. No search engine would want to do that; having a page on Tigers doesn't affect your ability to be a resource for blue widgets. We'd miss good blue widget pages if we excluded the sites that also talk about Tigers. However, there is a difference between 'having a little bit of content about blue widgets' and 'having in-depth content about blue widgets.' Clearly we prefer indepth (more useful) content. That's not so much a preference for themes as a preference for depth."

Mike also recently interviewed Paul Gardi, Senior Vice President of Search at Ask Jeeves/Teoma. Here's the transcript of part where Mike asks Paul whether themed websites play a part in search engine rankings.


Mike: Okay, a pet subject here, while we're discussing communities, and that's the subject of themed websites. I'm sure you know all about this. [Paul has a knowing smile here!] It's long been bandied around that if you have a website which sticks to one theme and one theme only, which is centered on a few keywords; this is the ticket to success. A themed website wins by pure mass, or dense aggregation, or something...

So, the themed website thing, we have some poor guys laboring away desperately trying to create one hundred pages of material on the same subject so the entire site talks about blue widgets, every page is a blue widget page...

Paul: You mean creating page after page on the same subject? Again, they're focusing on the wrong thing...

Mike: Let me jump in again and put it this way: "Does the guy who has a blue widget website with 100 pages beat the guy who has only one page - but one very IMPORTANT page?

Paul: No the larger site does not do better: Because we don't count the number of pages. We care about this: Are other pages on the same subject considering this to be a GOOD PAGE. And you know, even Google and what they do and the other methods, they can't do this. Sure, they do look at who's referring to the page but they don't look at the subject - the subject of the page. Yes, we look at all the information that the others do as well as everything else...


I would like to thank Mike for allowing me to republish those snippets here. Thanks Mike!

If a search engine doesn't look at the subject of the page, as Paul states, then the concept of themed websites just cannot exist. It simply can't!

Add to the fact that search engines do not count the number of pages, the only conclusion one can come to is that search engines determine relevancy by a page's own merits, and not the number of pages surrounding it or the subject of those pages.

What you have to realize is that it's not that search engines don't want to analyze the subject of every referring page. They do! The problem is that it would take far too long and reduce searches to a snails-pace instead of the quick quarter-of-a-second results we are accustomed to.

This may change in the future, but for now themed websites is just not part of a search engines ranking algorithm, period.