Does your business model put you at risk if Google changes its mind?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in the early days (approximately 1997 to 2000) was fairly straight forward. With a little bit of study, one could test to discover the best words for the Meta and what keyword density on a page would place it at the top of Alta Vista, the Google of the early days.

Starting in mid-1999 and continuing for a few years, SEO required much more testing in up to a dozen important search engines and a lot of deducing to determine how best to optimize for each engine.

For the past decade though, SEO has been more of a fast-moving game than a science. You come up with a strategy to win, Google changes the rules, Google doesn’t tell you, and you may not know you’ve been slapped until 3-6 months down the road when your organic traffic has dropped steeply and you haven’t put another type of game in place to retain your flow of visitors.
As a private citizen, I love Google. I use it all day every day at work and at home.

As the CEO of a digital marketing agency, I love Google. @Website Publicity has benefited from the ever growing power and complexity of Search, which sends businesses to us for help succeeding in Google.

However, these years of free Google traffic has a serious downside to consider.

Organic Google traffic is like a drug. Over the years, we’ve helped many catalogers, for example, get hooked on organic Google. What choices did they have? If they didn’t get online effectively to compete, their businesses were going to be in danger. So, they got busy building and optimizing websites to remain viable and grow, and we were – and are -proud to help them.

However, when business models, such as many free information sites that pay for their production of great content by selling ad space, have become heavily dependent on organic traffic, they put their very businesses at risk. When Google decides to change how it values or ranks any particular site feature or functionality, those heavily dependent on organic traffic can get hit so bad they go out of business.

The Search Engine Roundtable with ongoing good work by Barry Schwartz and others is a great place to keep up with the intrigue, rancor, rumor, suffering and joyful redemptions involved in yearning for and needing Google organic traffic. Another favorite resource to browse and ponder is WebmasterWorld Forums, including this one on the Page Layout penalties, a penalty in round three which appears to have impacted a number of sites with ads “above the fold.”

If you haven’t been heavily penalized by Google, yet, continue to enjoy all that organic traffic but also ensure you are aggressively pursuing every other effective means to obtain quality traffic for your website. Paid search, product feeds, comparison shopping engines, email marketing, direct mail, events and thought leadership, social and mobile – and more – should all be considered. Don’t have a business model that puts your company at risk if Google changes its mind about your site. That is something it has every right to do, like it or not.

About Susan O’Neil, CEO – @Website Publicity
Founder & CEO, and co-author of Maximize Website Traffic, Susan speaks and writes frequently about Search, Social & Mobile Marketing.
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