Solitaire 😉

Competitive Analysis : Solitr

Learn the secrets of ranking first on Google and second on Bing.

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This analysis was done on 1/6/2020. For reference, our site did not even rank within the first 100 search results for the target keyword of “solitaire” on this date.

Introduction of Analysis

In this series, I will be going over the various top ranking sites for the keyword “solitaire” in my geo-location on both Google and Bing (Solitr is currently #1 on Google but #2 on Bing).

Keyword ranking on both search engines matters because both are commonly used and by ranking high for a keyword term the search engines give you lots of free organic traffic.

Search engines try to give the best possible results to users when searching and they use secret formulas of various metric to decide this including things like bounce rate (if user clicks a site and then presses the back button on their browser that’s a bounce, and presumable a -1 vote), backlinks (the number of links pointing to a page on the net), referring domains (how many sites link to a page including how many sites link to those sites and what those domains are rated as along with if the link is a dofollow or not), and other black magic such as telemetry from browsers which report what sites people visit and for how long.

Solitr being the #1 site for me when I search for “solitaire” obviously makes it worth researching, and documenting so that we may all glean a hint as to what makes Google rank a site #1.

What is Solitr

The domain was registered on 2011-11-06. According to the Wayback Machine, the site has been an online (klondike) solitaire game since very near its registration as “Solitr - CoffeeScript Solitaire”. The project was originally an open source solitaire game and even had a GitHub link on its front page for at least the first few months.

In 2012 the developer appeared to begin trying to take the project seriously. The main site has more text, including a description of how to play and the following information. This was later removed / moved to a popup tab.

About Solitr
Hi, I am Jo, and I started Solitr in November 2011.

The source is available on GitHub, licensed under the MIT license.

On the frontend, the paris.svg card deck, the jQuery and jQuery UI libraries, and the Bootstrap toolkit have been indispensible.

On the backend, Solitr uses an assortment of open-source software, but of particular note are Sprockets to serve JavaScript and CSS fast and CoffeeScript to make JavaScript fun again.

Game Play
For now, Solitr only supports Klondike Solitaire, but I am hoping to add more variants soon.

I am thinking that the next variant to add might be Spider Solitaire, but if you have a particular wish, do let me know!

As of 2013 the site looks nearly as it does today. Although for whatever reason the card art on the live version is blurry, but on the archived version it’s clear and more detailed. A compression issue with the live site or something?

In 2014 Spider Solitaire was added. At the end of 2014 the title was changed to just “Free online Solitaire” which it has remained as since. By 2014 is when Broccoli was released and an evident focus on SEO on deliberately attempting to rank high for “solitaire” (which totally worked). The developer expressed interest in one of the last blog posts “What’s Next for Me (As of April 2014)” about being open about the process while listing Patrick McKenzie as a role model but that documentation never happened.

Solitr in 2014

2015 had no noticeable change. But SEO work was most likely happening behind the scenes.

By the end of 2016 Solitr changed its layout to what it looks like today much more near exact. Majong was also added as a play option. The ability to select specific games was made more direct.

In 2018 sudoku was added to Solitr. Originally the mahjong game was a link on the main site, but at this point it was changed to its own domain. The sudoku game also got its own domain. These all link together. This is a common tactic with the top performing sites. Instead of putting all games on a single domain, they will create dozens of domains, one for each game even, and link the domains together. This apparently gives search engines the impression that these sites are linked to more and thus should rank higher. But it also has the reasonable purpose of making it easier for users to go to the exact game they want to get to.

In 2019 there were no changes that I could tell, and now we are in 2020.

Solitr in 2020 with ads

As of 1/6/2020, Solitr has these domain stats:

Solitaire by itself being the most popular anchor text is most likely significant.

There appears to be a .com and a .net version of the site. The .net version has a lower rating overall and a slightly different look, not sure if it is ran by the same dev. An A/B test possibly? The .net version seems to have much lower quality / spammy links. If the .net version is not ran by the same dev it is a clone of an older version of the site with swapped graphics and some slight changes, and would highlight the need to pack and protect your games / lock your games to your domain. The .net is also an example of same exact content not performing as well based on other more unreleated factors (like high quality links).

The most popular (as in most linked to) pages on the domain are the main domain followed by a few blog posts relating to an open source project called broccoli. The developer apparently hosted their blog on the domain to give it some extra link juice. This highlights the value of creating linkable content on your site as a game developer which goes beyond the basic topic of your site / games. Apparently also the blog was a 301 redirect from a previous domain. I don’t know much about that strategy, but possibly it means if you can get people to link to one site, and then 301 redirect to a new site you can add on top of your actual primary site in the values search engines care for.

Of note, the blog only has posts within a few years with the last in 2015 (only one in that year). The vast majority were in 2011 and 2012 with only a few in 2014.

This highlights a few more things.

First that once you get links they still matter for a long time. The blog posts with the most links specifically were posted in 2014 when broccoli was released. When you release things create an announcement page on your site and make it link worthy. It could be in this case unrelated to the main site. It could be something free like a content pack for a game engine, sound files, music, anything that people would want to link to. In the case of this developer, by announcing the release of this open source project on the Solitr domain, high authority tech sites linked to it.

If you want high links this is probably a good path to get them.

Make something cool that others can get excited about and release it on the domain you want links to (when reasonable).

Solve worthwhile problems.

Not only that but you can even give what you make away as open source. The source doesn’t matter, the links do! There are tens of thousands of solitaire sites out there, and many with great implementations but without much traffic since search engines don’t care about them.

Further Notes on Solitr

In terms of text content, there appears to be little actual focus on producing solitaire based content (not uncommon with the top ranking sites). Most of the favor the search engines give Solitr appears to be based on these factors:

Solitr Competitive Rating

I would rank Solitr as Very Hard to rank against (the Very Hard rating is most likely going to be the same for every competitive review I do for a while since I will mostly be talking about top ranking sites 🙂). Getting those high value backlinks from high value technical sites is no joke. Getting so many dofollow links for the exact search term is also a challenge. I wouldn’t say ranking against Solitr is impossible though. The site has some unique advantages, but also many short comings in terms of content. Of course that doesn’t much matter so long as search engines continue to decide to rank it highly.

In the case of content, Solitr most likely meets the needs of most people who search for it, which means they don't often click the back button creating a bounce and instead give the site a +1 rating every time a user visits. The site is clean and the game is basic, but it doesn’t have to be anymore more than that. It is still very possible to compete in the branded / premium content space, but again no amount of investment into producing content amounts to much in terms of organic search traffic if our site stays on page 100 due to few backlinks. 🙂

Final Thoughts on Solitr

The biggest takeaway from this analysis has to be the broccoli open source project and the power of this kind of strategy to build links by getting very high quality links from very high ranking domains.

Create something genuinely useful to others by solving problems that you can do well, get them excited enough to talk about it and link to your site, and ask them to mention your main project specifically.

Easy, right? No! You still have to work hard and make something actually useful to people. The good news is you can try as many times as it takes. So get to it! Build up your site and get more organic search traffic! 😇

Was this article useful to you? If so please link to it or the main site itself! It helps a lot! 🤠

Coming Up Next : World of Solitaire

My next analysis will be on World of Solitaire. They are number 2 on Google as of this post, and number 1 on Bing. World of Solitaire uses some different strategies to rank so it will be interesting to cover.

P.S. Is a correction required in this text? Tell me in our Discord!

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