Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Numbers, ranking & Ancestry.com

Web ranking: It’s all about the numbers, folks
Or
Why Google is better at global searches than Ancestry.com


DearREADERS,

Yesterday, Ol' Myrt here took the day off to have a simple biopsy, and all heck broke loose in the world of genealogy. Again, the topic is ANCESTRY but this time the gene-bloggers won a partial victory.

WHAT HAPPENED
The Generations Network, better known as Ancestry.com announced its new “Internet Biographical Collection” initially placing it behind the membership wall, available ONLY to paid subscribers of Ancestry.com service. Many gene-bloggers were appalled that Ancestry would charge for our free columns, and let Ancestry.com know such by flaming blog entries with justifiable arguments. Ol' Myrt here was shocked to see that Ancestry still 12:52pm Pacific Daylight time 29 Aug 2007) has the nerve to copyright the collection as noted below:

Source Information
Ancestry.com. Internet Biographical Collection [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007. Original data: Biographical info taken from various English web sites. See specific website address provided with each entry.


Here are links to some of the bloggers who really got the job done yesterday in taking Ancestry.com to task:

By yesterday afternoon, Ancestry.com’s official blogger announced “Based on community response to the addition of the Internet Biographical Collection, Ancestry.com has decided to make the database free.” Source: Internet Biographical Collection is Free at Ancestry

Unfortunately, this attempt to appease the masses of genealogy bloggers, website producers and online genealogy researchers isn’t an adequate response.

WHY THIS IS ONLY A PARTIAL VICTORY
Gene-bloggers are to be applauded for effectively bringing Ancestry.com to it’s knees. But…

Making the collection FREE, doesn’t absolve Ancestry.com from responsibility for breaking copyright laws.

Ancestry is robbing us (other internet genealogy content providers) of the number of unique visitors to our website when viewing our information. NUMBERS of visitors affects ranking, a term used to evaluate the effectiveness and possible resale value of a website based on the number of unique visitors the site receives each month.

HOW IS THIS A COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT?
Ancestry is getting our hits – thereby ranking us lower and Ancestry.com higher. THAT ultimately it affects our bottom line. The challenges with copyrighted information have to do with the ability of one entity to rob another entity of income. For instance, if I want to sell advertising on DearMYRTLE’s Family History Hour, the rates are based on the number of podcast listeners, and the number of hits my website receive each month. Ancestry.com's unfair use of my content robs me of hits needed to sell advertising for a reasonable fee.

ANCESTRY IS ROBBING ME OF HITS
If people are reading my DearMYRTLE columns via the Ancestry.com website, then DearMYRTLE.com is not receiving the hits. This means that Ol' Myrt here cannot charge potential advertisers a reasonable, fair fee that adequately represents the full extent of my impact as a genealogy content provider. However, Ancestry.com is free to state they have X number of hits even if it is for the content they didn’t create and don't own.

OPPOSING POINTS OF VIEW
Some opposing points of view on this topic basically say

  • What’s the problem?
  • We created these websites to share information.
  • Its now for free.
  • “Users must first register before using this free service, which seems like a trivial issue to me.” Dick Eastman

These bloggers haven’t yet thought through the NUMBERS GAME.

WHY GOOGLE IS BETTER THAN ANCESTRY.COM WEB SEARCHES
Most of DearMYRTLE’s traffic comes from the Google Search Engine. YES, like Ancestry.com, Google also knows about the content on my website. But with Google, the page is usually viewed with one click directly to my website, - so it is a win-win situation. Google gets 1 hit, and DearMYRTLE gets 1 hit.

Ancestry gets 2-3 clicks on a search and then Ancestry.com shows you a cached version of DearMYRTLE's column. Cached versions are nothing new. Yes, there is a small link to the actual DearMYRTLE website, where one can view the content I provided. But since the content is already provided by Ancestry.com, they get those extra clicks instead of DearMYRTLE.com.

Those extra clicks, because of OTHER content providers artificially inflate Ancestry.com’s ranking, giving them credit for material copyrighted by other websites like mine.

Myrt doesn't charge readers or listeners for her blog, columns or podcasts. I shoulder the cost of the website and podcasts from my own pocket. As things continue to grow and expand, I'll either have to receive funding from an anonymous donor or a rich uncle, if I cannot demonstrate to potential advertisers that the content I provide is viewed by X number of people for X number of years. Ancestry.com's unfair use of my content skews those numbers unfairly in Ancestry.com's favor.

CONCLUSION
Ancestry does have marvelous, unique databases in their collection, which are “must use” resources for genealogists.

Ancestry is correct in realizing they cannot charge for the info other internet content providers have created.

Ancestry.com overstepped its bounds in an attempt to increase number of visitors to Ancestry’s site.

IN MY HUMBLE OPINION
IF Ancestry wants to be wonderful, they will present the Internet Biographical Collection in “hit list” format like a GoogleSearch hit list, with the major link to (for instance) my columns at DearMYRTLE’s website, and no links to a cached version of the page in question. Now THAT would be a great service.

I do not know if other genealogy content providers would approve of this alternative.

It is an easy database fix, if Ol' Myrt can see how to do it.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
DearMYRTLE,
Your friend in genealogy.
Myrt@DearMYRTLE.com
http://www.DearMYRTLE.com

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

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