Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently put to the Site Build It! forum:
Frankly my site has the most unique and helpful approach to identifying mystery “pottery marks” (the big keyword to win) anywhere in the world online. The research is all done for free and published for free (by yours truly). Anyone else in this area either has only sketchy limited information or charges for identifications. There are over 2000 pages of free help on my site. My website should be No 1 for that keyword (it was once in the top 5).
Say that a new search engine came along with the stated intent of ranking only sites by small players that offer information and materials not available from the big guys. Say that this engine made it part of its algo that the corporate sites now favored by Google would not even be listed. The entire purpose of the site would be to offer a supplement to Google for those looking for something different.
Would it succeed?
I believe there is a market for this. I believe that the site would attract a particular type of visitor (intelligent, internet savvy, independent-minded, action-oriented) that could be sold things effectively with the ads on the side. I don’t know whether the cost of developing the engine would be prohibitive or not. But my guess is that the cost of pulling off something like this effectively is going down all the time as all sorts of ways of identifying what sites are about become more widely available.
I also don’t know how big the market is. My guess is that it is a small percentage of the population. But, given the size of the population using search engines, a small percentage can be a big enough number to support a successful business.
If a site like this took off, the numbers would not be big enough to replace the old Google traffic for small-guy sites that were successful on Google in earlier days. But it might be that this site would supply a lot more traffic than the current Google for many of us and that traffic would be far more reliable. It might be that sites could use the visibility supplied by the new engine to help them make it big on FaceBook or Twitter or Pinterest or to bring in enough income selling their own products to make a go of it. It might even be that there would be spin-off sites where the people creating the non-corporate stuff would get together to explore ways to bring products and services and ideas not favored by the big corporations to the world. There’s a lot of leverage in a concept like this (although, to be sure, it is a different sort of leverage than the leverage to which Google appears to be attracted at the moment).
I prefer looking forward to looking backward. I don’t think this is a crazy idea. There are people who were excited by the possibility of the internet to bring new products and services and ideas to our attention. You couldn’t make a business out of helping that process along so long as Google was doing a decent job of it along with all the other things it was doing. If Google has moved on, it may be that there is an opportunity opening up for someone else to focus on the small-guy side of things. Actions always bring on reactions and actions of big consequence bring on reactions of big consequence.
If this happens, some of the sites that people are abandoning today might regain some of their former value in days to come. It might be that the end point for quality small sites is to be able to get less traffic than was available in pre-Penguin days but more traffic than appears to be possible today. Perhaps we are today living through the “anti-thesis” part of a “thesis followed by anti-thesis followed by synthesis (middle ground) process. One lesson we all should have learned by now is that nothing is forever on the internet.