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I’m working for a website that I call “database-oriented”, meaning it is similar to IMDb (but for a different field, of course), as it’s based on a rich database of names, works and places, all linked to each other.

Given that it has little to no editorial content, because it’s essentially names, titles, dates, roles, facts aggregated from different sources, is it likely that the content of this website might not be considered as “original content” by search engines, thus penalizing its ranking in search results?


UPDATE: (A few more details about the website, following closetnoc's comment)

The site has been online since 10 years and is now, I think, an "authority site" in its field and country. It has roughly 1000 unique visitors per day, which I think is not bad given its target audience.

Also, to clarify, the purpose of the website is definitely not to steal data and visits from other sites and make free money this way! It represents thousands of hours researching, aggregating, and correcting data, and links back to every linkable source that has been used. It still doesn't really make any money by the way.

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    This is impossible for us to know. Much depends on the data, the value add, if you can attract users, and how users appreciate your site. Generally, Google does not like these sites, however, if you were able to gain a lot of links quickly, then you can become an authority site quick enough to avoid issues. Without an unknown level of links, your site will be penalized within a number of months. You will have to market your site aggressively regardless of what Google does until you are successful. Cheers!! – closetnoc Jan 17 '17 at 15:35
  • closetnoc: Thanks for your comment. The site has been online since 10 years and is now, I think, an authority site in its field and country. It has roughly 1000 unique visitors per day, which I think is not bad given its target audience. Also, to clarify, the purpose of the website is definitely not to steal data and visits from other sites and make free money this way! It represents thousands of hours researching, aggregating, and correcting data, and links back to every linkable source that has been used. It still doesn't really make any money by the way. – Niavlys Jan 17 '17 at 16:35
  • I had a similar site. Completely unique. However, the market for the content changed and links began to drop. In time, the site got penalized even though the content was very good and useful compared to other sites. Google does not care. One site that was new with about 90,000 links from just two sites performed better. Google, in my opinion, has forgotten the basics and relies upon links far too much for Panda. Any site with fewer or dropping links will get delisted at some point regardless of how good it is. Sad. Gotta leave for a few hours. Will be back. – closetnoc Jan 17 '17 at 16:49
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Database sites like IMDB are not a problem in and of themselves. Content can be far more than editorial prose. Content can be:

  • Pictures
  • Lists
  • Functionality (such as a tool that users can use)
  • Special effects
  • Sounds
  • Video
  • Maps
  • Links
  • Data

A great page doesn't have to have paragraphs of text to provide a good user experience. In fact, in many cases too much text can drive users away. If your site is providing what users want when they click from the Google search results, Google is generally going to be happy.

With database driven sites you do have to worry about creating thin pages. You may have a great page about Tom Cruise, but not very much information at all about Michel Cera. In that case, your Michel Cera page isn't going to satisfy the users that it attracts. When you have a substantial number of thin pages, it can reflect badly on your site as a whole. Google can penalize sites with great pages when they have other pages that are thin. You can avoid problems by not generating pages with little content, or restricting Google from indexing them.

You also say that some of your site focuses on aggregated data. Google usually only indexes one copy of duplicated text and data. If your site consists mostly of aggregated data, you will have trouble getting many of your pages indexed. A page needs a substantial amount of original content along side the duplicate in order to get indexed. As a whole, I'd say that 50% of the text and data on your site shouldn't appear any where else on the internet verbatim if you want to get well indexed.

  • Thanks, I needed this answer to reassure me, because reading every article I could find on the subject of "original content," it looks as if only editorial content is content in the eyes of search engines. – Niavlys Jan 25 '17 at 12:31
  • I'm going to study the possibility of telling web crawlers not to index very thin pages. I guess I should remove them from sitemaps as well? About the "aggregated data," I probably used the wrong words. It's only data from different sources, entered in the website by a real person, after research and verification. So I think there is no problem here. – Niavlys Jan 25 '17 at 12:39
  • It sounded like you wouldn't have a problem with it. I don't think you will have a problem with this either, but I should add that you need enough text on the page that Google knows what the page is about. Sites that host images often have problems with that. – Stephen Ostermiller Jan 25 '17 at 12:45
  • Yes, your sitemap should only contain pages that you want indexed. So if you noindex a page, you should also remove it from the sitemap. – Stephen Ostermiller Jan 25 '17 at 12:46
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Many sites 'repeat content' in the sense that they contain the same information - though not in the same format. Compare sites like Dmoz, Google Business and Yell.com.

Directories are fine as long as they're not ripping the content from another directory. Try to see not just the value of the information but the value in the presentation format and ease of access. Google is all about the User Experience. Does another identical resource exist but add more value through, say, a comments/reviews section?

With the content part of your question addressed, if you want to avoid rank penalties then I would suggest either reading up on modern SEO or hiring an expert to review your site content.

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