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Google’s Mueller on Copying Top Ranked Sites

Google's John Mueller downplayed "blindly" copying what a top ranked site does. Then he suggested an alternate approach.

Google’s Mueller on Copying Top Ranked Sites

Google’s John Mueller answered a question about how to make a menu. The person asking the question wanted to know if it’s okay to do what Amazon does. Mueller suggested a change of perspective.

Should You Follow What Amazon Does?

The person asking the question tweeted the following:

“Amazon. com has created a 3-level menu on their homepage, and the main item links are at the 3rd level. We are planning to make something similar on our website. Just wanted to confirm will Google bot crawl these links?”

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John Mueller answered:

“Unless you’re Amazon, I wouldn’t assume that you can just reuse the same thing and you’ll rank like Amazon. Large sites do good and bad things, they don’t apply to all other sites.”

The person asking the question responded that their site has 20 million pages and they were taking inspiration from Amazon since they too have millions of pages.

It’s not an altogether unreasonable thing to do, to see what a successful site in a similar situation is doing.

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Here’s the tweet:

John Mueller answered:

“You can make this kind of on-site navigation work for search, or not work for search, depending on how you implement it.

I would not blindly implement it like Amazon, but rather work out what *you* need for *your particular site*, both for users and for SEO.”

Should You Follow the (Search) Leader?

Learning from what a successful site is doing can be a useful strategy. The person asking the question was correct to review what a site like Amazon was doing.

However there is also something else to consider: There is no way to know if what a successful is doing is what is contributing to their Google search ranking success.

Particularly in competitive niches, Google may tend to ignore aggressive strategies that are employed.

For example, many top ranking sites in the personal injury space tend to indulge in fad link building techniques because they see their competitors are doing it.  But rather than copy a competitor’s low quality strategy, success can be found by doing something better.

The success of a site may be due to other factors that have nothing to do with what seems to be “obviously” powering their ranking success.

Just because you see that a site is employing a particular strategy does not mean that it is contributing to their ranking success.

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It could be that the rankings are happening despite the strategy that the successful site is using, even for something like a menu.

Again, the person asking the question is doing the right thing by examining what Amazon is doing. If the site he is promoting is an commerce site, it may be useful to see what other large eCommerce sites are doing.

But it’s also good to keep an open mind, to be open to a different approach.

Enlarging the scope of the inquiry may lead to additional insights or even an inspiration to do something unique that is, as John Mueller said, what’s best for your particular site.

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Roger Montti

Roger Montti is a search marketer with 20 years experience. He provides site audits, phone consultations and content and link ... [Read full bio]

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