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Depending on Google has hurt businesses since at least 2002

 3:21 am on Nov 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

I took the liberty and dug up some post from 2002 and 2003.

[webmasterworld.com...] / 2002

[webmasterworld.com...] / 2003

Do an advanced search on google for webmasterworld and use the words layoff staff, dropped from Serps, going out of business, and see just how many and how long this has been going on.

What people are seeing as far as Google treating Websites poorly is not a new phenomenon and for those hoping it will clear up in Dec, Iíve got news for you. If it was going on in 2002 and continues to this day, I seriously doubt there is going to be a change any time soon.

The point of the post is if you sit around and wait for Google to change, youíre going to be an archived post for somebody else 3 years from now when their complaining about the exact same thing.



 6:01 pm on Nov 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

No doubt - for everyone who sees better results in the rankings race there have to be those who get hurt. Sometimes you need to change something and sometimes you need to wait a bit - and knowing the difference can be tough.

The thing I work on is diversity - diversity of keywords, diversity of traffic sources (within the Google systems and outside it), and diversity of marketing approaches.


 7:14 pm on Nov 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

Its all very well tedster - all this saying diversify - but another word or phrase for diversify in terms of google is "Chase Your Tail."

Diversity of keywords for example. I have a site. It is blue widget - there is ZERO diversification in the keywords once you have done them.

To an extent - diversity of traffic sources is just being forced to "run away" from the largest.


 8:10 pm on Nov 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's a lesson I learned before the web, when I was in physical store retail - never to depend on one revenue source. It's more of a business lesson than a Google lesson or a search lesson, but it is a survival lesson.

I've told these stories before, but one business was right on the city bus line and had a bus stop in front of the store for 20 years. We could do no wrong and the cash just flowed... until the city moved the bus route to a different street. Top management never got back up to speed because their entire business plan depended on [abusing] free traffic rather than paying attention to all the factors that make a strong business - customer retention, real service, value, market segments - all that.

Another business made 60% of its revenue from selling Levis jeans - until skateboard jeans ate a major whole in the Levis market. They tried to diversify after the fact, but it was too little, too late. They couldn't develop new markets quickly enough.

And so it is with search traffic as a business model. Even when a site is in hog heaven with Google, it is always best to plan for drastic changes. If the bottom does fall out of search for you, then you will be ready.

But if you haven't planned diverse revenue streams, you may well be wiped out. Because its true - no search engine will consider their effect on one particular business when they change things. They will probably care less than the city did when they moved the bus route.

The principle is this: don't have a single point of failure if you want long term success.


 8:22 pm on Nov 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's not coincidental that since google became by the economy has been stagnant.

When GM was the size of google they employed 225k people. Google employs 20k and I haven't gotten an email from the US in the last year when corresponding with google.

Google is so big they have the ability to seriously hurt the economy. They were already hacked once, and if a spammer can manipulate them so easily imagine what a government backed group could do.

Google reached their apex awhile back. They broke the index and it's only a matter of time now.


 10:09 pm on Nov 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

they broke the index and it's only a matter of time now.

Tedster makes a very good point about not depending on Google and it's something you really need to think about.

Google has been breaking the index as far back as I can remember and they haven't gone any where yet and as much as it pains me to say it, I don't think they are going to go any where any time soon.


 10:37 pm on Nov 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

I absolutely hate being passive - and being mystified, too. So I always work to have some degree of active control and that requires real understanding, not just buying things at face value - including what it takes to get traffic.

The answers do come along, but the funny thing is they're hard for people to hear unless they are also doing their homework. I don't want to be one of the "muggles" crowd, and I never did. Google cynics will mislead us as much as those who are drinking the kool-aid.

Success requires educated balance.


 11:13 pm on Nov 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

The answers do come along, but the funny thing is they're hard for people to hear unless they are also doing their homework.

I can't yell Bingo! loudly enough.

Reading, listening, discussing, blue-skying, learning, observing, researching, testing, questioning, what-iffing -- if we aren't doing those things we'll be the ones saying "My site has a penalty," just because we don't understand how things might work.

There are things talked about today that might not be doable or scalable now. But be danged sure that if we don't consider what might happen when they are doable, well, we're roadkill.


 11:42 pm on Nov 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

Some people need a little nudge and encouragement.

[edited by: martinibuster at 12:30 am (utc) on Nov 30, 2010]


 11:49 pm on Nov 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

The final sentence of the opening post sums it up pretty well for me:

The point of the post is if you sit around and wait for Google to change, youíre going to be an archived post for somebody else 3 years from now when their complaining about the exact same thing.

In other words - get the lead out and don't wait for Google to change in your favor.


 5:35 pm on Nov 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

I absolutely hate being passive

A client recently expressed concern to me that "only" 40% of his revenue was coming from search. I had to sit him down and explain why this was a GOOD thing, and if anything, we need to reduce it further. Not the revenue, but the percentage. He's been lucky; never suffered any major Google drops - so far, so he was assuming it could never happen to him. Fortunately there are lots of other things we are doing, including but not limited to, direct mail, email marketing, Facebook and LinkedIn, requesting links, writing papers and articles for industry magazines and websites, print advertising (they're not completely dead - really!), advertising in other people's email newsletters, developing a distributor network, considering an affiliate program. Only thing we're not looking at is TV and Radio cause he's a little too niche for that. We have notepads and mousepads and ballpoint pens printed up with the company information and make sure a few get tossed into every box that gets shipped out. Every employee (and me too, though I'm just the consultant) has a box of catalogs in his or her trunk in case the opportunity ever arises to hand one out. There is just SO MUCH you can do!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Google h8r nor a conspiracy theorist by any means. But I've been in business a long long time, and even before there was such a thing as a search engine I learned that you build your business on what you can control (active) and anything you can't control (passive) should be treated as incremental revenue that could disappear tomorrow. And very often will.


 6:09 pm on Nov 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Diversify, diversify, diversify. I've been doing this website/search engine thing since 1999 - remember Alta Vista? - and have been through every up and down there is. Search engines are your friend - until they are not. Don't think it can happen to you? Just wait. Never depend on one source of revenue, especially a fickle search engine.


 6:23 pm on Nov 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

I thing for me about alternatives is how big a foot print the 3 major SEs have on the webscape, not too massive a problem for physical goods and services, but almost overwhelming for web delivered services

Plus they're starting to compete in every niche,


 6:28 pm on Nov 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Then you look for things that a search engine can't do.

For example, we all *know* Google doesn't do customer service.


 6:28 pm on Nov 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

There is an old saying build your house on a weak foundation it will come a tumbling down. Problem is most companies now don't even have a business plan. If I were to ask them what happens if you lose your traffic what then they can't answer the question.

If you have a business and can't answer the question well your house is built on sand and it will come down around you.

I can remember very well this same discussion about 4 years ago so I asked our CEO that same question. He didn't have a plan either.
So the company I work "with" not "for" we sat down and had that discussion about 4 years ago. Got us all sober so we set out to move our house from sand to rock. It has taken us about that long to develop a business that will survive with or without Google. Now we still have the other business that would die fade out be gone if we were to lose our standings, but with a plan we set in motion 4 years ago we would be just fine.

Without a plan your done. Do you have a backup plan if your servers were to crash, burn, go up in smoke? Do ya have a plan for the future of your business and it all centers around Google? I guess it is time for all of us again to look at our business plan get sober and get creative.


 7:29 pm on Nov 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's not all bad to use search engine rankings as a marketing strategy. It's not even that bad to use search engine rankings as a *primary* strategy.

There's plenty of businesses who use only one marketing strategy and have never diversified. It's always a risk, it's just a bigger one when depending on the SE's.

What's happened is that the SE traffic is getting harder to come by, so some of it's drying up. But the folks that have been on the gravy train for 10 years, that's hardly a bad business strategy. Heck, I spoke to one guy said he 'lived in the house Google built'. Did enough business in the early 2000's that when his rankings dropped he didn't care - he had enough business. That sure sounds like his strategy worked :).

Unfortunately for me, I did other things in the last 10 years other than monetize SE traffic directly. Now I'm doing it, but the economy has tightened as has the traffic. So I am actively looking to expand using the old school stuff. In order I'm moving forward with:
- portraying myself as an expert. I've been on the radio once and in magazine articles twice in the past month, as well as getting articles published on serious blogs.
- adsense. working hard on that, long term plan is to have that as a reasonably stable source of traffic. I am planning on being dominant.
- direct mail. This used to be big in my industry decades ago. Now, rarely does anyone do it. I think there's opportunity there - and it's not that different than adsense quite frankly.
- Networking with centers of influence. There are some contact points with other businesses I am going to start appproaching.

I can't even handle all the traffic I get right now, but I do want to diversify - not just for diversities sake or stability sake, but so that I am dominant in my niche. That counts for something too - including the long term value of the business.


 8:00 pm on Nov 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think Google has helped many more businesses than it has hurt. I personally know a number of folks who never would have had their own business had it not been for Google Adsense.


 8:02 pm on Nov 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

When it comes to search traffic, google is near monopoly numbers, especially if I measure search traffic with Google Analytics.

Here is one example:
I have a site that has not done any sort of offsite SEO in years, and got 57,000 hits from Google in the last 30 days, with Yahoo as the #2 at 2000, and Bing at #3 with 1700.

Our business model does not depend on Google because this is a non-profit, and the goal is not to make a lot of money, just to pay server expenses, etc. If we were running it as a business, we could send out a newsletter to 100,000 every couple of weeks, and get some decent traffic.

But if this were a business, and google decides to cut us off, it would be a big deal.

I think in time, challengers like Bing and Facebook will change the dynamics, but I don't really care for sites like Facebook that seek to own all the traffic themselves, and put a wall around parts of the net.

I would like to think that Google would not support this either, and would instead send more traffic to sites that remain open to all. A closed link structure changes the whole nature of the WWW.


 8:44 pm on Nov 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

I dont know what to think anymore.

And thats the truth of it!



 11:18 pm on Nov 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

What tshirtdeal said in his post "The Future of SEO in a Big Brand, Google-Only World" keeps ringing in my head:

"I think I can stand on the corner of my street and gain more attention, respect and income in the Long term then SEO. I see door-to-door sales as more a lucrative future."


 11:49 pm on Nov 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

What bothers me is the google prod to amazon. Probably 50% of my product and non product searches return something from amazon. Fine if it's actually from amazon but most of the time it's not. It's rent a traffic from amazon ads from
Someone probably already listed in google.

Why doesn't google just buy amazon at this point and let them handle google merchant center? Is that what this is all about?


 12:09 am on Dec 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

"I think I can stand on the corner of my street and gain more attention, respect and income in the Long term then SEO. I see door-to-door sales as more a lucrative future."

SEO gave many of us a great start, and isn't completely dead yet. But it's definitely being marginalized by Google as they squeeze more and more of the traditional organic results off the page.

Which is fine. A bit of SEO, lots of adsense, some bing, some direct mail, some blog posts, etc etc etc.

Here's the big question. If Google's not sending me any organic traffic of consequence - remind me why I am allowing them to scrape my content for their use? If I'm getting 300 visits a day from adwords, that go to 30 high quality conversions...and I'm getting 30 visits from organic with 3 crappy quality conversions, then I'm not far from banning them in robots.txt and saving the bandwidth.

The tide can turn, and not for Google's benefit. Things can change in the next 5 years.


 7:07 am on Dec 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

As I read through the replies here in this thread, along with the ones in the monthly G threads...I've started to wonder... Are most of the sites being discussed here mainly ecommerce ones? (selling products) I'm feeling somewhat out of the loop, I guess, as I run an information-only site.


 11:27 am on Dec 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

You aren't the only one micklearn.
My main site is for a print magazine - the bulk of our ecommerce is taking copy and payment from existing advertisers so my main source of revenue earning traffic is the url printed on page 1.
The info sections of the site (nich music gig listings) get a lot of traffic from Google and pick up the very occasional subscription and the even more occasional Adsense click which doesn't cover hosting.

Losing Google would hurt my pride as webmaster as it would show very obviously in the stats but it would hardly affect the underlying business.


 12:52 pm on Dec 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

My site is information packed, but it is still an ecommerce site. The website's there to make money, not act as a non-profit information provider. I'm not a library.


 1:37 pm on Dec 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

One of my most trafficked personal sites is an information site. While it gets around half its traffic from Google, it also gets a ton of press from TV station, radio station and newspaper websites, plenty of links from blogs, forums and now Facebook, and a prominent link on the state website. Also I've heard anecdotal information that's it's been mentioned in news broadcasts and even TV commercials, although I've never seen that myself. A loss of Google traffic would definitely be a blow, but it wouldn't put me out of business. If you want non-Google traffic, you have to figure out how to get people talking about you.


 1:53 pm on Dec 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's good to read threads like this. It helps to see solutions that others have come up with for this problem.

I depend almost completely on Google to bring in my users and advertisers, and it's not cost effective any other way. My solution is to sock away as much as I can during the good times so that I can survive during bad times, if necessary.

I figure during any given year, there's probably a one-in-five chance that Google will erroneously penalize my site, and penalties generally last a maximum of 9 months, so I should be stashing away about 15% of my revenue every month.

It's not a sexy plan, but it helps me sleep at night.


 2:08 pm on Dec 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

As I read through the replies here in this thread, along with the ones in the monthly G threads...I've started to wonder... Are most of the sites being discussed here mainly ecommerce ones? (selling products) I'm feeling somewhat out of the loop, I guess, as I run an information-only site.
Yes - Most of this is people selling stuff.

I don't sell stuff. Every year my traffic increases as does income. I make in the 6 figures by running a few free information sites - Forums (notorious for low conversions and revenues), no less.

I haven't done any SEO in quite a few years. Content is King, as it has been for years, and content continues to increase in importance.

The problem with ecommerce is simple - Especially with the 'recession' (or what ever it is), more and more people are turning to trying to sell stuff on the internet, so competition these days continues to increase. I even have close relatives who have come to me recently knowing how well I have done over the years. Now they're 'hungry' (several are out of work) and want to get into the "Work from Home and Make Million$" 'business'. One is very mad because he got into an affiliate thing and has a site to sell (of all things) jewelery and he pays for "Visibility". He expects them to get him on the first page of a Google search for "Jewelery". I tried to explain to him that his competition is so great it isn't going to happen. Maybe in 5 years or so, but it doesn't happen over night. I just told him what I believe: He missed the "Gold Rush". I've been doing this for about 15 years. I've watched sites come and go. Mine just continue on, doing better and better every year.

Google hasn't hurt businesses. Those who believe that just don't understand business and/or have unrealistic expectations, and most feel Google *owes* them something (mainly 1st page listings and traffic). Google doesn't 'owe' anyone anything.

I am happy to see that there are quite a few posts in this thread that point to the fact that many businesses fail due to their business model/plan. A first cousin called me recently and asked for advice. I told him to come over for 2 or 3 days and I'd try to explain how this all works. He did come over for a day, but I lost his interest early on when I brought up Powerpoint (easy for me to do basic flow charts and such in) and said: "OK - Let's make a business plan for what you want to do". From that point on he simply lost interest. He didn't come back. He did call and said he has to "Think about it" for a while. The bottom line is when I brought up making a business plan and to start simply ascertaining the viability (aka the 'reality') of his idea, he had no thought that very few people can just start up a business with no plans. We've all seen the ads: "Make Money From Home". He was falling for the meme.

And... SEO these days is of less importance in listings. It's simply harder to game the system (so to speak - remember how easy it was to make "Google Bombs" through links?). Considering how many websites are online now (many if not most "cookie cutter" template sites), competition is seriously increasing. Having a site with great SEO is no longer a significant advantage.

In my case, I know why I have consistently increasing traffic and listings - Many years online and making sure my communities are 'clean' and well maintained.


 2:29 pm on Dec 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

One of my most trafficked personal sites is an information site. While it gets around half its traffic from Google, it also gets a ton of press from TV station, radio station and newspaper websites, plenty of links from blogs, forums and now Facebook, and a prominent link on the state website.

That's all nice that people can get all this traffic. If you're selling watches, or mortgage rates, or you're a real estate broker or on and on, you're not getting TV exposure. Or anything else. TV stations simply don't talk routinely about your local mortgage broker.

I'm in a competitive niche like that. And I actually have been on the radio this month. And printed in 2 magazines this month. And I've recently been published in a couple of top tier blogs in my niche. And you know how much money that's brought in so far? Exactly 0.

Suggesting that businesses are short sighted because they use Google as a primary traffic source is simplistic. It might be nice in your niche to be able to do that, but quite frankly it's not true across the board.

For many niches, SEO and adwords are very viable sources of monetization, better than many other. And Google in some niches is sqeezing that traffic for their own purposes. If they're not doing it to you, don't dance happily and tell the rest of us we were short sighted. You'd better start squirreling your nuts away, because your time is coming. 2-3 years ago I could run a good business just from my current SEO rankings. Today all you can run from those same rankings is a failing business.

As for what Google 'owes' me, they owe me traffic in exchange for taking my content There's been posts here through the years about how people would one day block Google's crawler if they didn't get the traffic in return. It was always done half in jest. But that block is actually in the forseeable future.

It's not that we're being penalized. It's that Google is eating up the front page space for their own purposes. When they sent me traffic, they could scrape my content. Now if I'm #1, sometimes I'm actually in about the #10 spot. So I'm wondering, why would I be putting up with:
- the repeated bandwidth costs from Google's scraper
- the server load from Google
- the content scrapers
- all the other bad exposure I get. I had some sort of email attack on my server yesterday. Likely they found me in Google.

If my only exposure in Google are adwords and only where I actively sell products, then all that other nonsense goes away. I'm not ready to do it yet, but it's definitely under consideration. I am prepared to block Google's bot if they fail to provide decent quality traffic in sufficient volume.


 2:49 pm on Dec 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Launching a large content-rich site in next 2 weeks.
Am targeting 500K uniques (20m page imps) / month

As I'm on a shoestring budget, that level of traffic can only come via Google I suggest.

My goal however is to get an email and demographic details from every single visitor as well as getting them all to Bookmark me.

If I achieve my goal, I expect to vanish from the SERPs within months - despite being all white-hat. I hope I won't be, but that's what I'm planning for.

Had a lady on yest filming for big UK TV show this week (Dragons Den). She asked me the usual "How much to be 1st"?
After I gave a guesstimate, I then told her she could drop at any time for any reason.... Better she hears it from me than live on National telly methinks.....

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