A piece of recent news from the online marketing world, which largely escaped the mainstream media, was the announced demise of GeoCities.
If you ever surfed the web in the late 90’s or early 00’s then you’ll be familiar with GeoCities.com. The site started way back in the mid-nineties, offering amateur webmasters the chance to create their own homepages for free. People took up the offer in droves and the site soon had a lot of traffic, with thousands of new GeoCities subdomains starting up each week. By 1999 (the height of the dot com boom) it was worth $3.57 billion according to Yahoo!, as that’s what they paid to acquire it.
Unfortunately, since then Yahoo! has failed to make a profit from GeoCities. Despite it still enjoying high user levels and considerable traffic (an estimated 177 million users in 2008!) Yahoo! decided that it just couldn’t compete with new social media sites like Facebook, and decided that it will close GeoCities down.
This decision will be felt by owners of other websites that offer users something for free. The big problem with many popular sites is just how to turn their large visitor numbers into revenue, i.e. how do you monetize a site where people only come because you give something away for free?
That’s a discussion to have at another time, as there’s another reason, besides nostalgia, why we decided to highlight this topic on an online marketing blog. Looking behind the headlines, the closure of GeoCities could have serious implications on the search engine optimisation of many websites.
Some of the sites on GeoCities are almost 15 years old. They contain some of the oldest content on the web AND some of the oldest links on the web. Consider the value in some of these links, coming from trusted, established sites and having been in place for years. These are often the exact types of links that companies seek to boost their search engine rankings, and the types of links that hold many websites on the first page of Google. Once GeoCities gets taken down it could have quite an effect on the ranking of a lot of websites.
If your site has quite a few in-bound links from Geocities sites then you may soon find that your search engine rankings start to slip.
Find out how at risk you are by going to Yahoo.co.uk typing “linkdomain:YourURL” into the search box, i.e. linkdomain:libertymarketing.co.uk. The results will show all the links pointing to your site and you’ll be able to see if any of these are from GeoCities sites.
If you want to ensure your site still ranks highly, or generally want to improve search engine rankings, then it is important that you start to use link building techniques. The more relevant, varied in-bound links that point to your site, the more Google will trust you, and the more likely you are to appear on the first page results for keywords.