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Our First Layoffs in 8 Years - google referrals are down 50-70%
wingslevel




msg:3281126
 11:45 pm on Mar 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

We have laid off three full time employees - our shipping department has been closing early - we have put 2 new server purchases on hold (oh, and i told the wife to keep driving that old car for another year)

We have been at this since 1998 and have ecomm sites with over 200,000 products - no affiliate, adsense, reciprocals, purchased links, local issues or black hat. We have 1,000's of natural inbound links. Repeat customers represent over 50% of our sales. 6 pageviews per visit (not bad for ecomm). We were never touched by any of the major updates (ie Florida etc.).

We have been absolutely bludgeoned in the last couple of months - google organic referrals are down 50-70% (depending on which hour you check). Most all of our losses have come from our long tail keywords.

Obviously this isn't just an everflux spike or a silly mistake some young engineer made. It's clear that google actually thinks that they have improved the index. With this in mind, I have started issuing the pink slips.

A sad day for me....

 

Phil_S




msg:3284011
 4:49 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

trinorthlighting, thanks for displaying your revenue break-down.

Most successful business do many different kinds of marketing. That's what it takes to be successful, online or off line.

thanks.

Reno




msg:3284025
 5:04 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Remember when Yahoo used to be bigger than Google? AOL was bigger than Yahoo? The net changes constantly!

I well remember those days but I believe we err when we compare them to these days. Back then, to a greater extent than 2007, small firms with some investment capital were trying to seize territory. Now, the territory has been in large part grabbed, and the 3 companies that have grabbed it are multi-nationals valued in the tens of billions of dollars. They are big, rich, powerful, and smart. They can and do buy the best brains to keep them prospering and so they are considerably better positioned to block (or absorb) any potential competition.

It's something like the American auto industry -- less than a century ago there were quite a number of auto manufacturers (anyone here remember the "Henry J"?), then the industry consolidated to the point that only 3 remained standing. It took the Japanese and their superior engineering (and deep pockets) to crack the market.

Does this mean that a couple guys working out of a garage can no longer strike gold and move into contention? No! Thankfully, that is always a possibility, but I believe it to considerably less of a likelihood than the days that you reference. And I believe Google is in this for the long haul, so we grasp at straws if we think that someone else will easily knock them from their perch.

......................

Jane_Doe




msg:3284029
 5:08 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Before that a good site with white hat SEO could rank, now there is a good chance it won't.

It's the "white hat SEO" part that usually gets people in trouble in the serps. What many people think of here as "white hat SEO" the folks at Google consider artificially manipulating their search results.

StickyNote




msg:3284044
 5:23 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

If your situation is such that: 20% Google Search 15% Ad words
...then you haven't been ranking very well on Google in the first place.

That is exactly the point. I am sure if trinorthlighting spent more of his time on upping Google traffic, he would see that 20% rise, but then Google would own his company and be able to tell him how high to jump.

That is close to the percentages that our largest e-commerce site runs. I believe I could double that percentage by adding more resources in that area, but I know at some time in the future that rug will be pulled out from under me.

Just because over-utilizing a certain marketing strategy is easier does not mean that it makes good business sense.

caryl




msg:3284109
 6:23 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

It is even in their terms of service, "The Google Services are made available for your personal, non-commercial use only. You may not use the Google Services to sell a product or service, or to increase traffic to your Web site for commercial reasons, such as advertising sales."

This statement is absurd!

Are Adwords and AdSense not a part of "Google Services"?

It is this very thing that Google built a billion dollar industry off of...

This whole idea is absurd!

We all lay back and allow the spiders to crawl our websites day after day. Then the search engines list our sites and use our information to make Billions of dollars.

Then these very same search engines turn to us and have the audacity to threaten us with "penalties" and "exclusion" if we dare to even try for a good position in THEIR search results.

In 1999 I put up a site with descent content and a few links and got listed and traffic. It was just that simple. THIS would never happen these days!

My nephew put up a simple fishing blog 2 months ago. He writes fishing tips and stories (his own content) on his little blog. He has gotten 3 or 4 links to it from other little fishing sites.

After two months Google finally acknowledges it's existance BUT lists it as "supplimental". According to some here - for him to persue anything more in the way of links and such would be a Google SIN - an attempt to artificially influence the great Google GODS.

The very fact that Google has a page with Webmaster Guidlines [ [google.com...] ] suggests that even Google acknowledges and encourages "White-Hat" SEO activities.

When your site is ready:

* Have other relevant sites link to yours.
* Submit it to Google at [google.com...]
* Submit a Sitemap as part of our Google webmaster tools. Google Sitemaps uses your sitemap to learn about the structure of your site and to increase our coverage of your webpages.
* Make sure all the sites that should know about your pages are aware your site is online.
* Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!, as well as to other industry-specific expert sites.

and yes, each and every one of us attempts to influence the serps in some way - if this were not the case, NONE of us would be in this forum.

Lets not get so carried away...

[edited by: tedster at 6:34 pm (utc) on Mar. 16, 2007]

arubicus




msg:3284121
 6:34 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's the "white hat SEO" part that usually gets people in trouble in the serps. What many people think of here as "white hat SEO" the folks at Google consider artificially manipulating their search results.

Actually "white hat" SEO is as little as adding a keyword to the title or making sure that a page is HTML compliant, crawlable, accessable, unique, understandable to visitors, no-deceptive, etc. Read the Google guidelines and you will see base recommendations and that true "white hat" SEO works within those guidelines. The recommendations do not say you cannot create pages that are search engine friendly and user friendly. It is actually recommended by the guidelines as that is what the guidelines are all about.

arubicus




msg:3284122
 6:37 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

caryl,

Looks like we posted our white hat responses at the same time. lol

Jane_Doe




msg:3284123
 6:37 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

This whole idea is absurd!

It is their legalese way of saying they don't guarantee rankings.

arubicus




msg:3284128
 6:45 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Wouldn't it be just as easy to say "We cannot guarantee rankings" which they do state such things anyway on their site.

trinorthlighting




msg:3284261
 10:01 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

20% Google Search
15% Ad words
...then you haven't been ranking very well on Google in the first place.

Not true at all. That is a huge myth! The site ranks top 10 in all its keywords.

The adwords traffic is coming from the publishers network. Blogs, message boards, news sites and other shopping sites that have adsense and it converts.

Whitey




msg:3284280
 10:23 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

A couple of points:

Firstly Google traffic isn't free, as I've seen several folks indicate. It costs a lot to maintain this.

Secondly, I picked up on trinorthlightings post:

25% EBay
20% Google Search
15% Ad words
10% Google/Froogle Base
10% Amazon Auctions
12% Yahoo
8% MSN

If you depend totally on Google search, you’re missing about 80% of the internet marketing

Do you have any figures that indicate "retention" of your customers. ie How is this converting to the long term.

We all know the value and conversion ratios of a repeat customer are better. I think this is the most important aspect of a business - look after your customers. This is something that I'm looking to address with an urgent emphasis.

I see Google as a temporary "manna from heaven".

[edited by: Whitey at 10:25 pm (utc) on Mar. 16, 2007]

dataguy




msg:3284283
 10:26 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

After 6 months of being penalized, laying off all but 1 employee and losing well over $100,000 as a direct result of the penalty I would say that I'm just about as bitter as anyone over this "New Google" as anyone. Even still I believe credit should be given where credit is due.

It wasn't very long ago (a year maybe) when getting penalized meant your site was completely removed from the SERP's. I'm very thankful that even though we lost 90% of our Google traffic, 10% remained.

I've also had the benefit of dialogue with Adam Lasnik. As a result of contact being made at SES San Jose and Pubcon Vegas, I have been able to converse with him, even if at a cryptic level since there was only so much information he was able to give me. Come to think of it, the first time I spoke with him (before the penalty) I told him how much I loved Google because Google was paying my bills and he told be bluntly that his advice was for me to diversify. I guess the reality is that he did give me warning. ....and today my company has made great strides at diversifying and we are growing again.

Whitey




msg:3284286
 10:33 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

dataguy - I like this attitude. You were faced with a "wake up call" and you reacted urgently with a balancing strategy.

What suggestions, in general terms can you offer to help folks focus their diversification on?

walkman




msg:3284287
 10:34 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

dataguy,
not to hijack the thread but...do you know for a fact that you have a penalty?

Whitey




msg:3284289
 10:39 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Yep - Penalty or filter?

A lot of good folks confuse these effects. I found penalties are rare unless you've been really "naughty".

trinorthlighting




msg:3284298
 10:59 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

30-40% of customers repeat business. That is an important factor as well.

The commercial side business to business repeats, the residential side typically are one time sales for DIY home projects which is typical in the industry the site is catering to.

Whitey




msg:3284316
 11:11 pm on Mar 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

are one time sales .... which is typical in the industry the site is catering to

And this is the area that needs to be strengthened in our industry too.

8-10 years or so ago i was working with some key folks at one of the major Bank's at a senior level. The catch phrase then was "there is no longer loyalty on the internet".

I'd like to challenge this thinking and uphold the mitigating factors that can make retention better, particularily consumer retention. We have opened up a new thread, which hopefully will try to be specific about how one can convert the Google "mana from heaven" to a sustainable business model [webmasterworld.com] supported by elements within the control of a siteowner/webmaster.

I'd like to see a lot of our good friends here, take the next step, stay in business and prosper.

[edited by: tedster at 2:02 am (utc) on Mar. 17, 2007]

StickyNote




msg:3284371
 12:36 am on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'd like to see a lot of our good friends here, take the next step, stay in business and prosper.

100% agree. There is nothing worse than the 'no way out' feeling you can get with a business setback- I hope we all stay in business.

What happened to that dead duck thread anyway?

Phil_S




msg:3284374
 12:44 am on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Adapt and over-come

trinorthlighting




msg:3284376
 12:50 am on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Well, some times there will be no repeat business. Depends on your niche. If you sell door knobs, you might not get yearly return traffic from a home owner, but you will get daily traffic from repeat builders who are building new homes....

trinorthlighting




msg:3284378
 12:52 am on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

BTW, all you people out there who think that you can not white hat your way to the top. I can prove you wrong. We are 100% white hat. We never buy or persue links and all our sites we build are doing very good.

Whitey




msg:3284414
 2:03 am on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

What happened to that dead duck thread anyway?

It's being edited and merged into a concurrent thread [webmasterworld.com...]

I'd like to see some real focus from folks on how to bridge traffic from Google to sustainable business. It could be a very valuable thread if it get's good support and interaction. I can see the signs of it here.

Whitey




msg:3284422
 2:16 am on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Well, some times there will be no repeat business

I should have said "and referal" business.

I believe it's rare that there is not some repeat/referal business - if that's the belief then I'd encourage a persistant "Why" is there none? Question it hard.

A guy that buys door knobs knows 100's of folks with doors. He has other doors. He might want to change his door. I'm not picking on the example - i see your point. But my question relates to never say never.

The answer is in this. I'd really encourage folks to contribute to the previous mentioned "Dead Duck" thread - if you can energetically get involved - you will likely receive answers to many of your unsustainability problems - the start of a really excellent ROI.

Everyone does things differently, so there's nothing to loose by exchanging ideas and moving on some dynamic thinking.

Convert the fantastic "visitor" energy delivered to you and generate something bigger. Don't just consume this valuable asset and waste it.

SEO and SERP's should only be feeder exercises for much more robust businesses and strategies.

[edited by: Whitey at 2:21 am (utc) on Mar. 17, 2007]

dataguy




msg:3284706
 2:01 pm on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

dataguy - I like this attitude. You were faced with a "wake up call" and you reacted urgently with a balancing strategy.
What suggestions, in general terms can you offer to help folks focus their diversification on?

I am fortunate that I have a 2nd website which is nearly as profitable as the one that was penalized. This site has a member base of about 250,000 which have agreed to receive my once-a-month newsletter. I can use to this newsletter to market 3rd party products or products of my own.

The monthly newsletter has been going on for 4 years, and is consistantly profitable month after month. The reason I had not done more with it is because mass-mailings on the Internet are not for the faint of heart, and I absolutely hate getting the 1 or 2 spam compliants every month, even though we are completely above-board on our subscription process. This is why the 1 employee that I have left is my network administrator, who handles the mailings.

I'm in the process of developing a few other sites which I can market through this newsletter. The results so far have been much more predictable than organic SE traffic, which is a good thing after participating in such a roller-coaster ride over the past 6 months.

Martin40




msg:3284940
 7:52 pm on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

I also have a Plan B, but before we get to that, let's get one thing straight: Don't put all your money on the Internet, huh? Then what about Amazon? What if they hit #800? Somehow I don't think that's going to happen, so what's different about Amazon, in Google-eyes?

That may sound like a silly question, but if it's just matter of being bigger, then that would add a piece to our puzzle.

[edited by: Martin40 at 8:04 pm (utc) on Mar. 17, 2007]

Whitey




msg:3284986
 9:11 pm on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Then what about Amazon?

They have the critical mass and market share to be wanted by Google. No doubt there is some communication to rectify problems before or shortly after they get hit.

[edited by: Whitey at 9:12 pm (utc) on Mar. 17, 2007]

Martin40




msg:3285000
 9:33 pm on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

They have the critical mass and market share to be wanted by Google. No doubt there is some communication to rectify problems before or shortly after they get hit.

Cool.

But then search results are pre-skewed...by money. As in: some animals are more equal than others.

In other words: what is a mortal sin for most (link buying/exchange) is pre-arranged for others. Which is fine, I'm not a communist, but it puts the anti-spam rhetorics into perspective.

[edited by: Martin40 at 9:40 pm (utc) on Mar. 17, 2007]

walkman




msg:3285010
 9:54 pm on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Guys,
if Amazon (or ebay or CNN or BBC or...) is out of Google, google loses as people will say that G sucks, not that amazon cheated or whatever.

Martin40




msg:3285054
 10:55 pm on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Of course Amazon didn't cheat. They have never cheated me when I bought their stuff. It's just the "one algo for all" concept that needs to be revised, because as it turns out there is a different algo for Amazon and the likes.

On the other hand I remember something about Google expecting "the Amazons" to buy PPC traffic rather than to expect organic traffic. Did Google change it's mind about that?

defanjos




msg:3285058
 11:05 pm on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

because as it turns out there is a different algo for Amazon and the likes

Are you sure?
I bet if your site had the number of inbound links Amazon has, obtained over the same period of time, it would rank the same.

europeforvisitors




msg:3285064
 11:16 pm on Mar 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's just the "one algo for all" concept that needs to be revised, because as it turns out there is a different algo for Amazon and the likes.

Is Amazon openly selling text links? Or running off-topic text links for Web hosting, credit-card offers, etc. at the top of its home page?

Also, isn't it possible that unrelated subdomains of, say, a Web-hosting service simply don't have as much clout with Google as they did a while back? And that articles of, say, 100-200 words are now being viewed with more skepticism than they were a year or two ago?

(The above comments aren't necessarily directed at any specific member, but they are relevant to one site that took a big hit in Google recently.)

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