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"Indeed, AALBC.com looks very much like a website from the late 90s"

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The following quote was from the article, “How Google may be jeopardizing African-American literature websites”; which was published yesterday on the The Outline website:

“Indeed, AALBC.com looks very much like a website from the late 90s: it’s a sprawling, 15,000-plus page property made up of busy pages with dense dropdown menus, zillions of internal links pointing back and forth everywhere, and some blurbs that read like they were stuffed with keywords. It’s difficult to distinguish the original content from the stuff that has been syndicated or copied from elsewhere, and AALBC also does not sell books itself; it uses Amazon affiliate links.”

Ouch!

 

The author of the article, wrote what I thought was an important article on a subject that has gotten virtually no coverage outside of what I have written, so despite the scathing critique, that I've shared above, I'm glad the article was written.

 

However, the paragraph, quoted above, was over the top.  The site does not look like it was developed in the late 1990's indeed none of the technologies the site deployed were available in the 1990.  Now I'd accept the site looks like something from late 2000's which is why I'm engaged in a website upgrade.  

 

The site is sprawing and has well over 15,000 pages, but that is stated as if it is a disadvantage and opposed to being an good thing.

 

With the exception of the sites homepages (homepage, and other main section pages), the typical page on the site is not busy-- certainly not as busy as many other content websites.  I plan to residesign all of the main pages because they are busy, but the vast majority of pages on the site are fine, in my opinion, and I will not me change their design as part of this upgrade.

 

I actually pride myself on the internal linking of web pages.  I think it is a benefit of the site, and how the web is designed to work.  I will not cut out internal linking of pages--that is a strange comment to make especially when using the word "zillions." It is just hyperbolic.   

 

I agree the menu is has more links that it should and I already know how I'm going to address that issue and it will also simplify how the site is organized to visitors.

 

I do sell books directly (drop shipped by Ingram) and also though Amazon, B&N, and other affiliate programs — AALBC.com is not just an Amazon affiliate site.  I also send readers to the author’s website or to the publishes website. All of the buy links for Black Classic Press and Just Us Book send readers to the publishers websites.  How I sell books depends upon the book.  I’m actually growing the direct to author/publisher websites to combat Amazon’s dominance.

 

Finally, the majority of book descriptions are the same ones most booksellers use; they are provided by the publisher. If the writer looked or was familiar with how book sites typically work she'd know this. B&N, Amazon, Google, and I often use the same book descriptions.  If any keyword stuffing is done, it is done by the publisher, in the copy they provide to booksellers. But keyword stuffing on the publisher’s part seems unlikely. I have never engaged in in keyword stuffing (the practice of using specific word in copy, more than you would normally to rank better in search). I did ask to author to provide me with an example of this to better understand how she came with this idea.

 

Other than book descriptions, Kam's articles are the only "syndicated" content that AALBC has ever used, and I actually had to stop using Kam's articles because of Google penalties (I know one publisher of Kam's content who deleted almost 2,000 of Kam's articles.  i refused to remove content that I have paid for and that was published legitimately -- I don't care what Google says).  ALL the rest of AALBC.com content, articles, lists, reviews, etc is unique.  So while I do not say that Kam's film reviews are syndicated, they are such a small portion of AALBC.com, to use this as a critique for the site overall is extreme.

 

At the end of the day, Google is indeed using it's dominance in search to redirect traffic from book websites to their own book store and content they have copied from Wikipedia, Goodreads and other websites.  This has prevented many website from succeeding, hobbled the efforts of the sites that remain (including AALBC.com), and have essentially prevented any new one from launching -- which is the point of the article.

 

The issue is much larger than AALBC.com or any individual site, so despite the factually inaccurate smackdown of AALBC.com the fundamental issues raised in the article needs to be addressed and are worthy of broader attention, something I think the article will help accomplish.   

 

I thanked the author of the article,  Adrianne Jeffries, for bringing additional attention to this issue.  Of course I pointed out the issues I had with her critique of the site ;).

 

 

 

 

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The author modified the original critique:

“Indeed, AALBC.com looks very much like a website from the late 90s: it’s a sprawling, 15,000-plus page property made up of busy pages with dense dropdown menus, zillions of internal links pointing back and forth everywhere, and some blurbs that read like they were stuffed with keywords. It’s difficult to distinguish the original content from the stuff that has been syndicated or copied from elsewhere, and AALBC uses Amazon and other affiliate links to sell books, although Johnson says he does ship some books directly.”

The author left the late 90's comment, which I still feel is objectively false, but the sentiment is subject to opinion...  She modified the statement of how I sell books, I guess because that was demonstrably false. Her her reply came in I was processing an order for David Covin's, upcoming book Raisins in Milk, a book that I will mail myself. 

 

 

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The "90s" comment forwards a wrong-headed perspective, casting web style as trendy, like clothing style. If newer functionality is missing, complaint about the missing functionality is legit; but date references are just vacuous & snide.
Beside the unmanageable effort of writing your own text, using the author/publisher text offers a preferred neutrality.
Users often don't care whether a site has 15, 15K, or 15M pages -- only whether we can easily reach what we want. Dynamic database-generated pages make the idea of "page count" obsolete anyhow.  E.g., "How many pages does Amazon have?"
... and "busy"???   ... has Ms. Jeffries seen an Amazon page?  By comparison, AALBC pages are relatively minimalist. (if not as structurally polished)
"Websites like AALBC also would never have been viable businesses without Google to send new visitors their way." Really? ... maybe without any search engine ... but Lycos/HotBot/AltaVista, etc preceded Google, and might have routed queries for "African American book" to AALBC using their algorithms.

I've only used a fraction of AALBC.com, but the community support is unparalleled, and I found the site mechanisms rich & intuitive.

AALBC comments notwithstanding, Ms. Jeffries' (re)report of Google algorithms amplifying false content partially mitigates the other sins. Thanks for linking it here.
 

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Thanks for the voice of reason @Bill.  The 90's comment was really over the top, but as you wrote the article itself did address an important subject.  

 

I do need to address the way the site is organized to help people appreciate amount of information that is contained here, and that is the final stage of the redesign.  My blog is actually sporting the new look: https://aalbc.com/blog/index.php/2018/01/23/mantle-proudly-publishes-authors-shithole-countries/

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