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Telling Customers about Time it takes to Rank
being honest about expectations
dvduval




msg:200414
 1:34 am on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

I could once easily predict how long it would take for their new site to start ranking in Google. There was a predictable cycle. Generally, within 2-3 months they could count on having their site indexed and even ranking for things like their company name or unique product. Now I don't know what to tell them. Here are a few comments I have made to customers recently:

1) "Honestly, it is going to be at least a year for you to see any decent results unless you purchase Google Adwords. Google is pretty much a Pay Per Click search engine now, unless you've been around for a year or more."
2) "I realize it has been 6 months and you have spent over $20,000 on your site. Unfortunately, no amount of money is going to make you rank in the "pure" results. I sincerely apologize for telling you that I thought it would be 2-3 months. I was wrong."
3) "You are asking when your site will start making money? I have no clue, because there is this mysterious "sandbox effect" going on at Google. I know my answer sounds like "smoke and mirrors", but I mean this sincerely, and I don't know how long it will take for things to change."
4) "I'm very disappointed that you have decided to stop using my services and instead are now using spamtheseachengines.com. I've tried to market your site using knowledge I've gained with over 6 years of experience, and unfortunately there is a major delay in seeing the results that I expected. I still believe you are going to benefit, even though spamthesearchengines.com is going to get all the credit."

What are you telling your customers?

 

pleeker




msg:200444
 7:49 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

So I see a lot of people agreeing with me in saying that new sites for competitive terms must use Adwords to rank in Google.

I think you're using the word "rank" incorrectly. AdWords has no impact on ranking. It's an advertising tool that helps you be found (in the paid ads), but it doesn't help you rank (in the free SERPs). They must use AdWords to advertise in Google, not to rank in Google.

They are clearly taking steps to increase revenue on Adwords regardless of how that will affect natural results.

I think the main point of what they're doing is to stop the garbage that gets ranked well because of people who can launch a site and have 10,000 inbound links within 24 hours. If that means some folks have to choose AdWords to have a new site found more quickly, so be it.

I mean, really -- does anyone (with their head on straight) launch a new business and not advertise? If you launch a new site, why wouldn't you consider AdWords, sandbox or no sandbox?

Even for customers with older sites, if the PageRank is 4 or below, and you increase links and build pages, those new links and pages are penalized.

I've got some recent examples that would prove otherwise - clients expanding into new areas, creating new pages on the existing site to reflect that, and those pages are ranking #1-5 on the appropriate terms.

My newer customers do not understand why I have been so successful in the past with other sites, yet their site is not doing very well.

Don't they understand that times change? Explain to them that search engines are in daily fluctuations. It's your job to educate your clients up front.

So I am forced to tell my customers to stop giving me money, and instead, give it to Google. It's a sad day.

How is it a sad day if you're helping your clients get the exposure they want and need? Whether that's through regular SERPs or paid advertising, isn't it your job to show them their options and advise them on the best course of action? And aren't they paying you for the advice?

Not trying to be antagonistic, dvduval ... maybe I don't understand the nature of your business. But your knowledge is (I would think) the biggest thing you have to sell, not your ability to get rankings.

Hope this helps in some way. :)

rrl




msg:200445
 7:52 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

If it makes anyone feel better, I lost several clients over the past 3 months. It made me conclude that basing a business solely on results that you have no real control over is a poor model.

nalin




msg:200446
 7:58 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

ultimately, it is we in the design, development, and SEO industry that made Google what it is today, not the other way around.

I disagree - google made google what it is - it attracted users because it provided better results. Webmasters/SEO types went along for the ride because yahoogle had a godlike marketshare.
Webmasters and SEO are not responsible google, rather webmasters are responsible for the implementation of many of the negative things associated with google today(i.e. sandbox), these algorithmic changes seem to preserve the quality of the index and prevent manipulation.

I tend to assume that people vocal disapprovement of google is voiced proportionately to the amount of gray and black hat techniques they use - many of which will still come in under the radar elsewhere.

As for handling customers:
While I certainly appreciate the time it takes to get a *new* site ranking well in google - this is applicable only to new sites, 3 months is not unrealistic for new or existing pages to be created/revamped, indexed, and place competitivly. Recruit clientel with older sites - let clientel with newer sites know it will be awhile and give yourself a large margin of error in the timeframe if you name one. Dont build new sites for the client work within their infastructure and recommend/make the changes that you would implement if you were building a new site (templetization and a well crafted site helps invaluably here). Obviously do not charge full throttle for a site sitting in the sandbox with little if any work is going into it...

Because of the sandbox effect, and the cost and time associated with switching sites, Bretts techniques, branding, and such are more applicable and appropriate today then ever.

[edited by: nalin at 7:59 pm (utc) on Sep. 16, 2004]

TravelMan




msg:200447
 7:58 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Freedom - I think that might have been a good suggestion that could have had some use, and who knows may well still too!

Unfortunately the people at G who watch stuff like this and learn how we manipulae what they do, will probably try and work that in to their exception clauses in a shape or form, or am I jus being completly paranoid?

Whislt I appreciate that this is a place for learning and discussion, I cant help but feel that open discussion of circumvention is of little practicle benefit, in the sense that should anyone post a hole, then a way will be found to shut it closed very quickly.

I think the general discussion is helpful, as it at least shows the less experienced amongst us that we aren't all going mad and that there are genuine algo specific reasons why some domains aren't ranking, even after a substantial timeframe.

Hopefully, people will see the wood for the trees and deduce what is,and what is not,a good way to deal with it.

I think it helps to consider also that we are still very close to the recent IPO launch date and that stock prices need to remain buoyant for people to cash in on shares.

Increased adword revenues might well help this objective, but perhaps Im just a cynic.

caveman




msg:200448
 7:59 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Oy.

<pep talk>

It's one thing if all SEO's had only one job: To launch brand new sites, on domains never used before. But what percent of an SEO's income fits into this category?

And even even if you do need to help clients launch new sites on new domains, if SEO really is your bread & butter...then there are ways. Cabbie pointed out one, and steveb another (though I wasn't sure if that post was facetious), and there are many other ways as well. Freedom just offered a clever one in msg 30, although if G gets wind of it, they might trash the domain - perhaps do in on something other than an SEO site.

Anyway...when did the SEO crowd start going weak in the knees when confronted with a challenge? C'mon guys. One of the reasons I love the webmastering community is that it's filled with risk oriented, competitive, creative thinkers. So, dig down, step up, get creative, and show your clients how talented you really are! Now, let's get out there and knock 'em dead! :-)

</pep talk>

Powdork




msg:200449
 8:04 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

I mean, really -- does anyone (with their head on straight) launch a new business and not advertise? If you launch a new site, why wouldn't you consider AdWords, sandbox or no sandbox?
Optomising to get a large amount of free traffic IS advertising. You might not consider adwords because your model is such that you plan on making less per visitor than a click will cost you. In effect, you are in competition with Google. For instance, for a number of my pages on my sandboxed site I would have to bid approx between $.50 and $1 to get anywhere with adwords. I am charging approx 5 cents per view + 2 cents more with adsense and average about 4 views per customer. That would lead to a 22 cent loss per adwords click. With free traffic it is a straight out 28 cent per visitor gain. That doesn't rule out other forms of advertising, however.
Essex_boy




msg:200450
 8:08 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

POWDRK:

I agree with you 199%, Ive been saying that this is the beginning of the end for over a year - G's dominance is slipping!

I have also looked at a site set up selling products costing $7 max - you know the click through charge is 54c.

So how do people make money at that rate?

Ive also had a problem with adwords reactivating a campaign 18 months after the domain name expired, charging me around $500.

Can I get them to see sense? Like hell.

nuclei




msg:200451
 8:12 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

It really seems to me that google is merely making it harder for mediocre SEO/SEM's to make it anymore. To me, this is a good sign, as it will leave those of us who can still get people ranked in a decent timeframe a lot more work.

Google does not owe us a dang thing, especially not a living. If you are having a hard time getting clients ranked, maybe it is time to rethink your career choices.

Freedom




msg:200452
 8:37 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

nuclei has strong words but I tend to think he's right.

On the other hand, perhaps it would be better if SEO's and webmasters discuss their hatred of Google here:

[messages.yahoo.com...]

pmkpmk




msg:200453
 8:38 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Not only that, I am getting more traffic, especially for new sites, from Yahoo and MSN

True. Apart from our main site with worldwide focus (mentioned earlier in the thread) we run a small microsite for our US-office. It's mainly to cover the domain-name we have for it (www.widgets-america.com) and give some contact information. It went online a year ago.

On our main site, we have 75% Google, 10% MSN and 7% Yahoo. On the US-based microsite (which is really an ugly duckling) we have about 40% MSN, 30% Yahoo and some 15% Google.

dvduval




msg:200454
 8:57 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

It's easy to say things like...
1) Google doesn't owe us anything
2) Finally they are getting rid of the spam
3) It's normal to invest in the marketing of a new business

But certain facts remain...
1) Google has changed without explanation
2) If you have a new site, the old ways are are diluted, and you must pay Google for traffic
3) Google is continuing to remain silent, which is causing alarm among many
4) There is still no clear explanation to give customers when this so called Sandbox Effect or March Filter will end.

And other theories abound, especially:
1) Google has changed their business structure to become more concerned with profit
2) The Sandbox Effect is Google's way of making more money off Adwords
3) Google is working on a new, improved search engine (hopefully)
4) Google is planning to start their own Encyclopedia company, and has stopped making changes so they can put everything in print and close their website after GoogleGuy sells off all his shares. :-)

sean




msg:200455
 9:05 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

I never mention adwords, only overture

Ironically, even though it is being indicted as guilty-by-association, AdWords algo is still more elegant than OV, so the little guy at least has a chance to resist brute force bidding with superior copywriting.

Filipe




msg:200456
 9:14 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)


But certain facts remain...
1) Google has changed without explanation

This isn't news, and people were plenty happy before when they changed, on a monthly basis, without explanation.


2) If you have a new site, the old ways are are diluted, and you must pay Google for traffic

Simply not true. Like many on this thread have posted, many of us can, and have, gotten good listings and traffic for sites that are relatively new (e.g., 3 - 6 months old).


3) Google is continuing to remain silent, which is causing alarm among many

Again, what's new? Silence has always been Google's policy (except perhaps with the exception of the great GoogleGuy) and if people are becoming alarmed about it, it's because they haven't been paying attention the last 6 years.


4) There is still no clear explanation to give customers when this so called Sandbox Effect or March Filter will end.

Why do "customers" care? Google's customers are people who purchase AdWords - and unless you mean that they need to know when they can stop buying Adwords, then that doesn't really apply. If you mean "users" on the other hand, I'm not sure they're all that upset about the Sandbox Effect/March Filter. They don't search for a particular keyword and wonder why a site DOESN'T come up first, like a webmaster would. They just see the first few results and accept that that's what the engine finds the most relevant.

I still use Google on a daily basis. Yahoo and all the other big players still just don't cut it for me. So as a user, and a webmaster, I continue to be satisfied with Google.

(Though, I'm not going to sit here and kiss their butt ad infinitum. I have noticed an increase in spam results, but they're almost never in the top spots, and I can still easily find what I'm looking for.)

nuclei




msg:200457
 9:20 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

1. Google has changed what without explanation? They don't OWE us an explanation. Read my post above.

2. If you have a new site... Not all new sites are being sandboxed. Again, if you can not get a site ranked in a decent timeframe you need to rethink what you do for a living.

3. Google remaining silent, Once again, google does not OWE you anything. Read my post above.

4. The sandbox has generally lasted between 60-90 days. Seems easy enough.

If you have to sit here and worry about anything then you really do need to rethink things mate. I am not trying to be harsh at all, just honest. Webmasters are expecting professionals when they hire an SEO, not someone who does not have the ability to change with the breeze. It is all about adapting.

Sure Google is making it so they start to make more money, of course they are, they are a business the same as most of us. And now with the IPO they have to make sure shareholders are happy as well. It is in their best interest to lean towards more revenue. That is just part of the game. It is up to us to see how it affects us and adapt to the changes to best suit our clients.

This is how places like WebmasterWorld could help, by giving us a community to share ideas for adapting. Worrying about everything and saying this is bad and we cant do anything about it solves nothing. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

dvduval




msg:200458
 9:25 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Why do "customers" care? Google's customers are people who purchase AdWords

I'm talking about the customers of webmasters, not Google's customers. As you can see there are plenty of people complaining about losing customers here. Personally, I haven't lost any yet, but I am fielding a lot more questions about why their site is taking so long to get traffic from Google, as compared with the past.

Simply not true. Like many on this thread have posted, many of us can, and have, gotten good listings and traffic for sites that are relatively new (e.g., 3 - 6 months old).

Not for competitive keywords. I have thousands of pages for new customers that are getting traffic, just not for competitive keywords. I see information sites that are clearly the authority in their area that are not ranked (but MSN and Yahoo see them differently)
This isn't news, and people were plenty happy before when they changed, on a monthly basis, without explanation.

No comment needed about the happiness level now. :-)

[edited by: dvduval at 9:28 pm (utc) on Sep. 16, 2004]

dvduval




msg:200459
 9:27 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

4. The sandbox has generally lasted between 60-90 days. Seems easy enough.

It started in March

Once again, google does not OWE you anything.

No they do not....nor do we owe Google our loyalty, because they earned it, and now there is a cloud that seems very closely associated with Adwords.

nuclei




msg:200460
 9:34 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

The effect started in march, but I have yet to see one client site sandboxed more than 90 days. If you have clients who are still sandboxed since the effect was first seen around march, maybe you should ask yourself why?

pleeker




msg:200461
 9:36 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm talking about the customers of webmasters, not Google's customers. As you can see there are plenty of people complaining about losing customers here.

Back to what's been said before ... why is it Google's duty to help you keep your customers? They don't owe you anything. They don't owe anyone explanations or warnings about something (listings in regular SERPs) that they provide for free.

If a person is losing customers, it's not Google's fault; it's that person's inability to adapt to changing business climates. This is not just something that happens in webmastering or SEO -- all businesses adapt or die.

And you're correct, you also don't owe them your loyalty. So perhaps find customers that are satisfied with good traffic from Yahoo, MSN, etc., and you'll be in good shape.

dvduval




msg:200462
 9:36 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Rather than going back and forth about who is right on specifics, can we talk about ways to drive to traffic to our customer's new sites that would not involve Google?

Here are some of the suggestions I have seen:
1) Email Marketing
2) Overture
3) Use of non-sandboxed sites
4) Other search engines like Yahoo and MSN
5) Ranking for less competitive keywords (on Google)
6) Advertising on other sites
7) Banner/Ad networks

What are your methods for helping new customers attain success cost effectively with less dependancy on Google?

(Yes pleeker...I agree with you moreso now that you explained about who owes who. In the end the customers are going to flock to the most cost effective solution, and my point is that Google is not as cost effective now)

superpower




msg:200463
 9:49 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think this is just sour grapes from those who can't stay on top of the SERPS. The opportunity to make money from the SERPS and the web in general has never been better,post-bubble.

drall




msg:200464
 9:59 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

The writing was on the wall over 20 months ago, if your having trouble explaining to your customers why there sites are not ranking well and as fast I would send them to this link

[sec.gov...]

Explain to them that G has changed forever and will never be the same, they will do everything in there power to increase there profits ie adwords and could care less about anything else.

Massive swings in the algo will be constant now to stimulate adwords sales which is there sole source of revenue.

They have a billion and one risks and need to post profits as large as possible to maintain growth in there stock to fight off the countless risks they have listed at the above sec filing link.

dvduval




msg:200465
 10:08 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think this is just sour grapes from those who can't stay on top of the SERPS. The opportunity to make money from the SERPS and the web in general has never been better,post-bubble.

All my long time customers are doing great, and I am making money on the SERPS both for my own sites and from customers who pay me for theirs.

BUT...I am not able to explain the longer period it takes to rank sites that were created at the beginning of the year. I would love to hear some examples of your success/horror stories for sites you started since Feb/March, and what you did to achieve the success/failure, and if there were problems, what you told the customers.

dvduval




msg:200466
 10:14 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Massive swings in the algo will be constant now to stimulate adwords sales which is there sole source of revenue.

Excellent point!
And now the main people Google OWE are the investors. They have a long struggle ahead to balance investors demands with customer satisfaction and site popularity (of Google itself). I think the days of providing the ideal search engine that just provides the best possible results are over.
(but I sure hope I'm proved to be wrong)

dmz17




msg:200467
 10:25 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm curious (actually surprised) why Google doesn't provide an option to pay them to have a site spidered on a priority basis. Didn't they or altavista do that way back when?

The payment would just be for priority spidering and wouldn't impact where you end up in the index. It could be a substantial revenue stream for Google.

isitreal




msg:200468
 10:29 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think the days of providing the ideal search engine that just provides the best possible results are over.

This sounds like what the situation was like before all the last generation search engines failed, is google forgetting why they succeed this fast, that's odd.

Maybe MSN will end up having little trouble beating google. Keep in mind when you talk google at 75% you're actually talking AOL at about 30%, so whoever owns the AOL search contract owns that 30%, more or less given that most AOL users know next to nothing about anything that isn't handed to them by AOL.

I'm not sure when that contract comes up for renewal, but if MSN has a decent product out by then you can bet they'll go for it, and if they get it we're not talking google at about 75% of the market, we're talking probably 40% and dropping, especially if they don't start listing new stuff fast like they used to, when they were becoming big and popular through great results. Users have no loyalty, I'm seeing this already on some very focused technical sites that NEVER got yahoo searches in the past, they are getting them now.

And I'm seeing the new MSNbot coming in consistently and agressively, fully spidering large sites, this is how you get fresh results, there is no other way, it's how google succeeded, and if they stop it's how they will fail. It's only a few months til msn goes live.

Scarecrow




msg:200469
 10:39 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

From Playboy, September 2004, interview with Page and Brin, talking about manipulation of Google's results by marketers:

Larry Page: If you're spending time, trouble and money promoting your results, why not just buy advertising? We sell it, and it's effective. Use that instead. Advertising is more predictable and probably more effective.

Playboy: Yet it may not carry the weight of a search that appears to be unaffected by money.

Larry Page: Yes. So people will try, and we will continue to stop them. Eventually people may realize that it's more efficient just to pay to promote their things, if that's what they want to do.

merlin30




msg:200470
 10:51 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

What is the problem with Google funding itself through Adwords?

The alternative is a publically funded search engine open to political corruption.

Much worse.

dvduval




msg:200471
 10:54 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Interesting, Scarecrow. I can see how this could lead to several different conclusions.

If more people find it better "just to pay to promote their things", does this mean the pure results will be less manipulated by marketers?

Is the sandbox effect in some way adding value to the search results? Or is it more focused on adding value to Adwords?

It still comes down to Adwords represents almost all of Google's income, and they have a responsibility to investors.

Should I tell my customers to invest in Google stock or buy Adwords? Or should I tell them that the behemoth Microsoft has awakened and to sit tight while we keep adding quality to their site?

dvduval




msg:200472
 10:57 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

The alternative is a publically funded search engine open to political corruption.

There is another alternative called competition.
Also, there lots of other big sites out there, and there a MANY ways to advertise that do not involve Google. Google will be fine as long as they continue to compete with quality and value.

Powdork




msg:200473
 11:00 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

But what is manipulation in that context (sorry, I just look at the pictures)?
It seems Google has decided that if you
1. provide original quality content
2. make it spiderable
3. provide descriptive titles and
4. get lots inbound links from related sites
you are trying to manipulate their results. They have made the whole thing Us versus Them without taking into account that we may just decide not to fight and place our allegiances elsewhere.

Total Paranoia




msg:200474
 11:07 pm on Sep 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Scarecrow pointed to one section of the interview. If you read the whole interview, you will see that they were talking about hidden text and cloaking. However, I do find that comment by Larry Page very interesting, and a bit worrying.

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