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Is It Realistic To Base A Business Around Free SERPs?
blaze




msg:3056545
 12:40 am on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Pretty much what the title says.

On one hand, you can never be sure your website isn't going to get booted by the SERPs. On the other hand, Google is almost necessary to get any significant traffic.

Is the compromise that you have to split up your website into many to ensure that you don't lose traffic? Or do you try to build a business that doesn't depend on Google SERPs?

 

ken_b




msg:3059707
 2:13 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Websites relying on the free serps don't just exist in a vacuum where free serps are the only traffic source.

Just try building a quality site that somehow manages to rank on page one with no inbound links.

If you can pull that off, then be sure to keep it free of any of those annoying unsolicited one way inbound links.

Like I said, we aren't working in a vacuum.

The point is that even if the free serps ranking is all a webmaster focuses on it's not likely to be the only source of traffic for a site, and it may not be the most durable source.

nippi




msg:3059726
 2:36 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

all my sites work off free serps, no adsense ever.

10% of traffic omes in from my target keywords, the rest from ancilliary keywords on inner pages

europeforvisitors




msg:3059754
 3:08 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

How smart is it to base your entire business model around a marketing strategy (free search) that can (and does) flip on it's head at any moment and essentially leave you without a business.

I'd be more concerned about basing my entire business model around PPC--as some Webmaster World members have done with unhappy results.

As ken_b points out, sites that do well in Google "don't exist in a vacuum." There are other search engines besides Google, and there are other sources of traffic besides search engines. (I say that as a publisher who's experienced major "search-engine outages" twice in the last five years--once with Ask Jeeves, once with Google--and has survived to tell the tale.)

Bewenched




msg:3059769
 3:27 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Unfortunately the internet economy is based mostly on who is the cheapest.

If a site is having to do PPC for all of their traffic will obviously have to raise their prices dramatically and thus lose sales.

One PPC marketing person said you simply cannot afford to do PPC unless you are marking items up at least 30% mark-up or making $23.50 per item.

Sadly real internet stores with brick and morter to back them up have a very hard time competing with the guy sitting around in his boxers selling garbage on ebay at $5.00 over cost and probably not paying taxes either.

Our manufacturers are constantly having to implement MAP (minimum advertised prices) to keep those guys in check. Bad thing is that they are violating Federal Trade Commission laws on price fixing by doing so.

hdpt00




msg:3060320
 3:29 pm on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)


I'd be more concerned about basing my entire business model around PPC

Yes, I too would hate to have 100% control of my traffic.

[edited by: tedster at 3:47 pm (utc) on Aug. 25, 2006]

calumniate




msg:3060361
 3:55 pm on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Should be noted that to take advantage or 'free' serps, it takes a lot of freaking work if you're in a competitive field. So I wouldn't call it free exactly, unless you magically show up as number 1.

russell

europeforvisitors




msg:3060368
 4:01 pm on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

hdpt00 wrote:

Yes, I too would hate to have 100% control of my traffic.

Sure, like the AdWords advertisers who've seen their minimum bids go up in the wake of Google's new landing-page Quality Scores. I wonder if they're convinced that they have 100% control over their traffic?

ken_b




msg:3060426
 4:47 pm on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Should be noted that to take advantage or 'free' serps, it takes a lot of freaking work if you're in a competitive field. So I wouldn't call it free exactly, unless you magically show up as number 1.

Yeah, I've made that point in a number of threads here. Usually it's promptly ignored. I've never understood why, apparently some people place little if any value on their own efforts, or those of others. Oh well.

hdpt00




msg:3060524
 6:12 pm on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Sure, like the AdWords advertisers who've seen their minimum bids go up in the wake of Google's new landing-page Quality Scores. I wonder if they're convinced that they have 100% control over their traffic?

What about when someone gets wiped out and it takes 6 months to get any traffic. People can adjust prices, change their landing pages, go to other PPC players in 24 hours. Much safer and more long term.

Sure, everyone would love free traffic, but for a longterm strategy, don't know.

rbacal




msg:3061017
 3:26 am on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

What about when someone gets wiped out and it takes 6 months to get any traffic. People can adjust prices, change their landing pages, go to other PPC players in 24 hours. Much safer and more long term.

If people get wiped out in the serps they have the option of going to PPC anyway.

If people who are completely incompetent, lack the ability or the content to rank in the serps, and HAVE to rely on PPC, end up getting quality priced (what a surprise that people who can't rank in serps also get slapped in advertising those sites), they CANNOT shift to serp traffic.

Serp based can shift to PPC. PPC based cannot shift to SERP.

powerstar




msg:3061285
 1:27 pm on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

How free is the "free traffic" anyway?

Is your time not worth some money? building links, content, it's all cost money too

hdpt00




msg:3061416
 4:44 pm on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hmmm, I start ALLLLLL of my sites out via PPC, within 6months it is ranking. Oh, I went from PPC->SERPs, I thought it was impossible.

Someone who gets killed in the SERPs and never used PPC will be spending a lot more for the same amount of traffic as someone who is experienced.

europeforvisitors




msg:3061432
 4:55 pm on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Someone who gets killed in the SERPs...

I know this is a Google forum, but why do people speak of "the SERPs" as if there were no search engines other than Google?

It seems pretty unlikely that anyone with a legitimate site is going to get whacked in Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. simultaneously (and will lose inbound links from magazines, newspapers, libraries, sites in their own sector, personal sites, etc. at the same time).

Sure, Google traffic is valuable and important, but how many legitimate sites are 100% dependent on Google?

IMHO, the best way to avoid financial disaster is to keep expenses reasonable and save money for a rainy day. (Greed, waste, and self-indulgence aren't likely to guarantee peace of mind.)

hdpt00




msg:3061442
 5:08 pm on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google brings in so much more traffic compared to Yahoo and especially MSN. Even if you rank #1 in all 3, if you get killed in Google, you're done.

BigDave




msg:3061460
 5:37 pm on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

if you get killed in Google, you're done.

Only if you are running a high expense business. There is nothing wrong with a high expense business, but don't assume that all businesses are that way, or that they should be that way.

If all my sites are killed in Google, my standard of living will only increase very slowly. My sites will still support themselves with MSN, Yahoo and link traffic. It will run along quite happily till google traffic returns.

You see, my income goes into investments, and I live off investment income. When I make more money, I don't go out and buy a mercedes, or move to a bigger house, I use it to increase my dayly spending money. I refuse to expand into any business area that will put that investment income at risk.

That is a business decision that I made. If I get killed in Google, I can wait it out. If you are killed in Google, you have to risk spending some of your own money till the Google traffic returns. You may succeed, you may fail. I will still be there, far from being "done".

decaff




msg:3061533
 6:38 pm on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

There are no "FREE" SERPs..

People are paying(outsourcing services)/spending time resources(in house) big bucks to get listed in the "organic" SERPs....nothing free about this...

europeforvisitors




msg:3061564
 7:33 pm on Aug 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Only if you are running a high expense business. There is nothing wrong with a high expense business, but don't assume that all businesses are that way, or that they should be that way.

Plus, different types of businesses run different risks. If you rely heavily on SEO for search rankings, or--worse yet--if your entire business depends on ranking high for certain keywords and keyphrases, you're running a greater risk in the SERPs than an editorially diverse "organic" information site is.

The same is true on the PPC side. It wasn't so long ago that AdWords affiliate advertisers were upset by Google's crackdown on direct-to-merchant ads, and more recently, the AdWords forum was jammed with posts from advertisers whose campaigns had been whacked by the new landing-page Quality Score requirements.

Every business has risks of one kind or another. For that matter, so do most 9-to-5 jobs. (I was laid off from two well-paying jobs in my employee days. Today, my income is paid in four currencies from multiple sources on three continents. We each confront and control risk in our own way.)

aeiouy




msg:3061822
 1:55 am on Aug 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Unfortunately the internet economy is based mostly on who is the cheapest.

If a site is having to do PPC for all of their traffic will obviously have to raise their prices dramatically and thus lose sales.

This is a very simplistic breakdown and not accurate in a lot of cases. If I sell a product for $20 over its cost, and spend $10.00 of that on PPC, and you don't spend anything on ppc and pocket the full twenty dollars, why would I have to raise my prices?

What if my ppc campaign resulted in me getting 5x the number of sales as you? I would be making a lot more money, even though I would be spending money on PPC and making less per item.

Your example would require people to be selling items for nearly cost with no room to make money.

I think PPC is a nice controllable addition to work with serps to provide stability.

I know people want to compare the uncertainity of serps and other businesses, but the reality is in most cases, most businesses do not face the chance of total destruction of a substantial portion of their customer base. The odds of having your farm wiped out due to floods is much lower than the risk of having your site knocked out of the serps and losing most of your traffic.

You can make money being a serp based business, you can make more money doing other things to improve upon that. The smart move is to try and take advantage of all those avenues that help make you money. There is no need to limit yourself beyond what is physically impossible.

If I told you, you could sit there and wait.. and someone might ocassionally come by and give you a dime, you would say great. If I told you, that if you give me 50 cents, I will give you 75 cents back, you would say awesome.

If I said you could do both, wouldn't you be foolish not to take advantage of it?

As for Powerstar saying:
How free is the "free traffic" anyway?

Is your time not worth some money? building links, content, it's all cost money too

I was thinking about this the other day. When comparing my ppc campaigns with natural campaigns, there is nothing free about search engine traffic. In fact between site building, link building community building and all the rest, free traffic can be MUCH more expensive than ppc traffic in the long-run. You have to consider every expense related to building up your site as a cost to acquiring customers/visitors via search engines. Thus the cost is substantial.

Whitey




msg:3061901
 3:52 am on Aug 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've seen testimony to internet business' that have turned corporate on a big scale by using methods of customer acquisition and retention away from SEO.

Initially they used PPC and then they found it too expensive and cut back, having acquired a purchasing rate of around 2500 to 3000 items per day. To the best of my knowledge they have grown from those levels, now with a much smaller PPC budget, maybe 20% as an estimate of the original.

Not only that, they are "highly profitable".

How do they do it. Simply, they run a good business, have a good internet site that helps people find what they want and compare the products easily. A bit of PR and word of mouth takes over [ or nowadays that's called "viral marketing" ] . Adoption is created and they look after their customers with a combination of good old "customer service" by telephone and some standard promotional stuff with email etc. and keeping their website and products fairly priced [ and as usual they don't have to be the cheapest ].

Their SEO is the weakest part of their business, but those that hold top positions on the SERP's are not within a "country mile" of them in their key markets.

So the motto of this story is - SEO is not the sole component of a successful online marketing strategy or business . It is one of many in my view.

And remember, SERP's aren't free for most people. A lot of budget or "real costs" have to go behind a good SEO strategy.

toothake




msg:3061939
 7:18 am on Aug 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

"Buy your compeditors websites"
The best solution .

Oliver Henniges




msg:3062009
 10:29 am on Aug 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

It is still relatively easy to acchieve market-leadership in ordinary serps on a very narrowly defined niche. I concede: this is much easier for bricks and mortar businesses than for services, software or other immaterial goods, simply due to the diversification in that area. If you manage to do so, serps are definitely the cheapest way to market your product.

If you have targeted at the long tail in a relatively broad niche for a while, you will find some smaller low-competitive sub-niches, which bear an amazing stream of revenue each, simply because noone on the net has yet discovered them. But it is hard work, both to get there and then to elaborate that.

And it requires some very detailed product knowledge. To acquire this, is boring in the beginning, but your protection in the age of lazy googlers later on. I think it was Dreyfus on AI, who called this the status of an 'expert.' Search engines seek and like what experts have to say, so you will be relatively safe against a) hickups of the algos and b) competition, because the probability that this product- AND this SEO-knowlegde meet somewhere else, is very low. {else: cooperate or buy;}

there is an interesting thread [webmasterworld.com] in the ecommerce-section, where hellraiser1 asked whether some generalizations can be drawn on why some niches or products convert over the net and others do not.

wanna_learn




msg:3062283
 7:09 pm on Aug 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

May be while you are on a "good luck" side and enjoying a free traffic and business, you must make full use of available traffic and concentrate on things like "E-BRANDING, BETTER AFTER SALES SUPPORT, CUSTOMER SATISFACTION TO THE LEVEL THAT YOU GET REFERRALS etc" which may help you while you disappear from google overnight.

This existing customer base and fame would atleast earn you bread and butter to survive and fight situation.

Bewenched




msg:3062306
 7:41 pm on Aug 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

What if my ppc campaign resulted in me getting 5x the number of sales as you?

Honestly how many of those clicks that you are charged for are real potential customers. I don't know about the rest of you guys but the volume of bounces on the ppc items we bid on are between 30%-50% If they were just price checking they'd have to click one more page to get that info. Fraud .. yes I think so, but what can you do about it. nothing.

If I told you, that if you give me 50 cents, I will give you 75 cents back, you would say awesome.

Not necessarily. what you are saying is that it would cost 66% to gain 33% and of that generally 20-30% is to cover operating costs, employees, taxes and general overhead. So .. worst case you're really only making 3%.

Haven't seen an ecommerce company make it long term that wasn't making at minimum 25% profit from each sale (after marketing costs).
Unless of course they are doing it from home on ebay and not paying taxes.

------

My philosophy is right along the lines of Whitey
How do they do it. Simply, they run a good business, have a good internet site that helps people find what they want and compare the products easily. A bit of PR and word of mouth takes over [ or nowadays that's called "viral marketing" ] . Adoption is created and they look after their customers with a combination of good old "customer service" by telephone and some standard promotional stuff with email etc. and keeping their website and products fairly priced

I'd much rather spend that marketing money sponsoring events .. etc, and hiring fantastic customer service reps than doing SEO and PPC.

BigDave




msg:3062395
 9:33 pm on Aug 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

If they were just price checking they'd have to click one more page to get that info. Fraud .. yes I think so, but what can you do about it. nothing.

Fraud? Hardly!

Try annoyance that you aren't telling them the price on the advertised page. People like to find the information they are looking for quickly. Why do you thinkg "above the fold" is so important in search engines? Price shoppers want the price right there, they don't want to go digging for it.

Then there are all the ones that find out that you aren't selling exactly what they want, or they find the layout of your page offensive or loading too slow.

There are a lot of reasons that people do not go any farther than the link target page. Don't be so paranoid to think that all of them are fraud.

vite_rts




msg:3062416
 10:07 pm on Aug 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

@bigDave

Hi there

A quick qustion about "above the fold"

Would that mean that a "SERP" placing on page one of a favoured keyword is statistically worth a lot less if the placing is amongst the last few. thereby needing scrolling down to see

man, that would make things , a mad scramble for positions 1 to say 8,, a bit like a formula 1 race

gregbo




msg:3062418
 10:12 pm on Aug 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

There are a lot of reasons that people do not go any farther than the link target page. Don't be so paranoid to think that all of them are fraud.

OTOH, don't think the fraudsters aren't aware of this. They can manufacture clicks that look like those from people who don't go any farther than the link target page.

aeiouy




msg:3062501
 12:36 am on Aug 28, 2006 (gmt 0)


Honestly how many of those clicks that you are charged for are real potential customers.

What difference does it make? It is all ROI. My point was I might end up making 5x the money as someone who is not participating in PPC.

Not necessarily. what you are saying is that it would cost 66% to gain 33% and of that generally 20-30% is to cover operating costs, employees, taxes and general overhead. So .. worst case you're really only making 3%.

You are nit-picking the example I used for the sake of clarity. Make the numbers whatever you want. The point still stands you can potentially use PPC in addition to other avenues to increase your sales volume AND your profitability. Some industries would kill for a 3% profit on their business. If I make 10% less than you per item, and sell twice as much, I win! :) It is about profitability. Your gross margin is only one component to profitability.

Haven't seen an ecommerce company make it long term that wasn't making at minimum 25% profit from each sale (after marketing costs).

PPC advertising is a marketing cost. I am not sure if you are counting it as something else. So is buying links or running a website with other features on it to draw traffic. It is all marketing.

Bewenched




msg:3069867
 1:29 pm on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

It's funny .. here recently I shut down all advertising for three days (to make sure there weren't residual ads running)... just to see just what our natural search results brought in.

We had our best day in the last 2 weeks with absolutely no advertising going what so ever. Makes me scratch my head in wonder. All these ads .. are they hurting us?

KenB




msg:3070703
 7:23 pm on Sep 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

We had our best day in the last 2 weeks with absolutely no advertising going what so ever. Makes me scratch my head in wonder. All these ads .. are they hurting us?

Depending on the nature of your ads and how many you have, yes they could dilute your rankings in search results. At the same time, they are necessary to generate revenue for most content sites. It is a trade off one must weigh.

stonecold




msg:3081751
 5:04 pm on Sep 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

This is what I do for a living - manage steadily increasing rankings in free SERPs. The key to success at it is to avoid the games.

Your approach has to be based on kick-ass content and getting authoritative sites to link to you.

tedster




msg:3081761
 5:12 pm on Sep 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree, and I would add: your approach should be based on ranking well for a very wide assortment of phrases. If you avoid games and are not just chasing a small handful of trophy keywords, stability can be had for a nice long run.

However, there is always the possibility of a mishap -- Google does burp at times, even to the best-run of sites. So this thread is a good discussion of various scenarios. Even if the odds are that disaster won't strike your online business, still, "it can happen here."

This 124 message thread spans 5 pages: < < 124 ( 1 2 3 [4] 5 > >
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