How do these websites make money?
November 8, 2017 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I have stumbled upon an oddly anachronistic search engine company. If this were an Italian restaurant, I'd assume it was a front. What's going on here?

A while back I stumbled upon, which provides weather forecasts without ads. I bookmarked it because I teach computer classes and am always on the lookout for ad-free websites where my students can play around in a risk-free environment.

I revisited this link today and this time looked at their parent company, Advanced Search Technologies. They purport to be a search engine company, but many of their websites are super old school directory websites that cover various topics. It seems like someone is making an effort to keep the directories up to date, although many of the links are older websites themselves.

What is going on here? These websites don't have any third-party ads, and the only tracker seems to be Google Analytics. Nor does it seem to be a link farm, as far as I can tell. I suppose websites could be paying to be listed here, but it seems like an odd use of advertising money.

What motivation would a company have to keep these websites up and running, other than delighting connoisseurs of old school web design? All I can think is a front / shell company / tax avoidance kind of thing.
posted by toastedcheese to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience it's amazing how long it takes businesses with some kind of obsolete model or the websites they spawn to die. It may be some project circa 2002 that some other business bought the assets of and someone just keeps renewing the domain along with the others every year and the sites sits on someone's server ticking over getting a few dozen hits a week.

It's the internet equivalent of that car in your neighbor's driveway that they're going to fix up one day.
posted by randomkeystrike at 10:04 AM on November 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

Actually, if you want a terrifyingly detailed example of this kind of thing, listen to this Reply All episode...
posted by randomkeystrike at 10:06 AM on November 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

The CEO and VP have 18 LinkedIn connections, between them. Whatever they are doing, they aren't making any public effort to bring in new customers. They could have stumbled into a government contract along the way that sustains the company without any need for actual commercial clients.

And their address is a corporate services company that provides business operations outsourcing, so not even their real address.

Now I'm curious too.
posted by COD at 11:38 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

This site isn't getting a lot of traffic, either. (Source: SimilarRank Chrome Extension. Not always accurate, but it's one of the best free SEO tools to check these things). Hosting costs will be minimal. The domain is almost certainly worth more than the $10/year they're paying a year to keep it active, as well.
posted by cgg at 11:50 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe out of left field here but... recall there is a huge portion of the internet that is not interested in making money.

Some people just like to make things and share them. Like consider this guy who hosts a fairly comprehensive guide to the real historical polearms used in a fictional game. He just likes to do that. It's a pretty good resource, even cited in Wikipedia's page on polearms.

Now, that's static content, and maybe it's hard to imagine why anyone would enjoy a sharing a free uncluttered minimal forecast scraped from NWS, but hey, it's hard for some people to imagine why anyone would do a bunch of research on how partisans are different than glaives, which are different from ranseurs...
posted by SaltySalticid at 12:27 PM on November 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think it's link farming: They're not in the searching business, they're in the make Google etc. think that the sites they cross-link to have value business.

Give enough actual value in various interconnected pages that they look legit to page ranking algorithms, eschew ads because, presumably, those make a page look spammy to page ranking algorithms.
posted by straw at 1:50 PM on November 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

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