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Can you survive Google's shrinking serps?
goodroi




msg:4610066
 1:30 pm on Sep 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Google keeps changing its serps. Google has more adwords advertisers today than it did 15 years ago so there are more ads taking up space. Google has also added local listings, images, videos, news headlines, shopping and other results to their search results. Many of these changes have resulted in less traffic flowing to the organic web results. Before you could rank #3 or #4 and still appear above the page fold. Now the #3 or #4 position can fall below the page fold.

As a Google stockholder I know first-hand that Google is a for-profit business. It would be silly if a for-profit company turned off advertising because webmasters wanted more unpaid traffic. It is not just a common sense money grab that shrinks the serps. If I was Google and noticed the user is searching a local address, I would show local listings above non-geographic web results. So for multiple reasons I don't see why Google will reverse this trend just because us webmasters want unpaid web traffic from Google.

Do you think webmasters can survive Google's shrinking serps? Make sure to explain yourself.


Mods Note: Many people feel that Google sucks, is a monopoly, kills businesses, has a bad algo, always lie, and are just mean & bad people. I think that covers the more popular Google complaints so now we can keep this thread on-topic with productive posts and don't be surprised when us moderators delete the generic complaining & non-productive noise.

 

Naj0rt




msg:4610320
 2:30 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Nope, I'm out. Funnily enough I let my first domain drop just last weekend and started 301'ing domains I will be selling or dropping to the few site's I'm going to keep. The sites I'm keeping have communities I feel responsible for so I will just leave them on cheap shared hosting because my conscience won't let me abandon them. 54 domains from what was once a thriving network I had hopes of being able to live off but I lost hope of that long ago.

I'm sure that many domains sounds like a spammer but that is't true. I just kept trying new niches and my hat was so white it sparkled. Sadly, unjustly, I think my biggest problem was trying to do the right thing and follow googles guidelines too closely. What a fool.

I've been contemplating it for a long time now but I can no longer justify the god knows how many hours per year I put into it. Making websites has been a life long passion but the constant smackdowns are too demoralizing and it was starting to affect my emotional well being, so the decision has literally torn me apart :(

Zivush




msg:4610336
 4:14 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

I can feel your pain @Naj0rt. There’s nothing you can do but wait.
While my site covers a subject matter from all its angels getting dozens of inbound links for years, comes a mega magazine website with a shallow article on the same topic and gets the #1 position in SERPs, that’s an indication that Google algo is wrong.

diberry




msg:4610355
 5:36 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yes, I will survive Google's shrinking serps. Even if I get no traffic from Google the internet is not owned by Google and there will always be ways of bringing my content to interested people.


Ditto. I know people don't like to hear it, and I know for some specific cases it's really difficult, but Google is not the only way to get people to your site.

It's not so much that the SERPs are shrinking. It's more that there are eleventy schmillion pages for every query and 90% of them will do fine for the typical searcher. It's like trying to be heard in the crowd at a major music festival. You've got to do something to make yourself stand out.

EditorialGuy




msg:4610363
 6:44 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's not so much that the SERPs are shrinking. It's more that there are eleventy schmillion pages for every query and 90% of them will do fine for the typical searcher. It's like trying to be heard in the crowd at a major music festival. You've got to do something to make yourself stand out.


Yes, and better titles and descriptions can help you do that. But another thing you can do is focus less on "user acquisition" (SEO) and more on "user retention" (giving searchers a reason to stay on your site after they've found it).

On our information site, we've pursued what might be called a contrarian content strategy: At a time when most sites (especially for our topics) are cranking out 300- to 500-word posts or trying to attract user-generated content, we've concentrated on in-depth "evergreen" content for people who don't mind reading and are actively researching our topics. My theory is that such readers are better prospects for relevant ads and affiliate links than drive-by users are. (It's also easier to stand out from the crowd with solid, in-depth information that's published at a font size that people of all ages can read and with photos that add value to the information.)

The same approach could work for an e-commerce site, if the site owner has editorial and writing skills or can afford to hire the right kind of freelancers. I can think of any number of successful mail-order businesses that were--and, in some cases, still are--driven as much by content as by merchandise or prices.

Of course, e-commerce sites have another way of attracting traffic that's seldom cost-effective for information sites: Advertising. If you regard advertising as something that Google forces you to do when SEO isn't working, you're probably going to lose out to sellers who treat advertising as an opportunity (and who develop the skills needed to make advertising a cost-effective source of traffic that converts into sales).

bumpski




msg:4610410
 11:13 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

1) Google could add display ads to its SERPs. This would work especially well on informational pages, where searchers may not have an immediate purchase intent but are open to relevant messages.
We’ve updated the AdSense ad code so that it now supports secure ad serving through Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) on Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) web pages.
Google clearly has been transitioning to https/ssl search, and now has announced Adsense support for SSL ads. They certainly now have the infrastructure to support display ads on their https results.
By using https they certainly can cut out a lot of intermediate statistical snooping (referrer strings and more?), making it even more difficult for the competitors. (Bing copies Google's results?)

It does seem like the best way to restore more organic search results, above the fold, is for webmasters to actively promote other search engines. In the long run this type of competition should improve income for webmasters and ALL search engines, producing a more robust internet.

Whitey




msg:4610415
 11:42 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Do you think webmasters can survive Google's shrinking serps? Make sure to explain yourself.

It's worth first matching Google's strengths and weakness' to that of webmasters.

1. devices offer less SERP slots and advertising for Google
2. competing channels are now more effective than ever
3. big brands are now more dominant online than ever, with less reliance on the SERP's
4. SERP's are at risk of becoming stale, with little new content from smaller, but comparable players surfacing.

As I see it Google urgently needs good content and less of brands competing against themselves, which is happening in many verticals where polarization of content is leaving little diversity.

When the axe fell with Panda and Penguin, the message from Google was so severe and time intense, that the majority of small-medium webmasters either didn't have the revenue to reinvest in upgrading their sites, or, with all the noise around, were not willing to re-invest heavily in such an unreliable channel, versus other marketing methods over which they have more control.

At the moment Google seems only concerned with the top 1-3 organic slots above the fold in the overall mix. Especially for money terms, which equals strong advertising dollars. Google won't be giving that away again.

Really, webmasters have got to get smarter with their online marketing away from Google, and whilst some will, I think for the majority of previous generation webmasters the job is a great deal harder.

Webmasters :

1. Work hard on customer retention ( the days of low conversion rates has got to stop ). Bring back service, relationships etc etc
2. Seek alternative advertising channels. I predict a traditional resurgence coupled with technology and masses of available data
3. Make Google only a marginal contributor to your business, then you are somewhat free of them.
4. Create solutions that more strongly support the needs of your audience, per 1 above. The metrics of 50% conversion for repeats and 22% conversion for referrals is perhaps better than ad-hoc tyre kickers who give a conversion range of 0.5%-3%

Like all empire building strategies, sooner or later you have to return to your roots. Global forays will eventually burn. Focus on what it is that you do best and where you can service your customers best. Cement this first and I think folks can survive.

JD_Toims




msg:4610418
 11:54 pm on Sep 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Great post Whitey!

Focus on what it is that you do best and where you can service your customers best. Cement this first and I think folks can survive.

+1 [followed by a large number of 0s]

-- The preceding quote is some of the best wisdom/advice I've seen in a long time.

bodashka




msg:4610447
 4:33 am on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

It does seem like the best way to restore more organic search results, above the fold, is for webmasters to actively promote other search engines. In the long run this type of competition should improve income for webmasters and ALL search engines, producing a more robust internet.


Bumpski for this. Every year the space gets smaller and smaller so ultimately no one will survive the shrinking SERPs. Google is competing for your clicks and they control everything. Guess who's winning ?

CainIV




msg:4610456
 5:54 am on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

There is value in pursuing Google traffic, but the main goal should be building a real company, branding it, and testing early lean processes to ensure that you have a product or service that will gain appropriate traction.

Interesting products and services, promoted and socialized, often build enough natural links to rank well in my opinion.

arafay




msg:4610563
 10:53 am on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Actually google has far tougher rules, terms and conditions for advertisers than they have for organic listings. The introduction of quality score was introduced to make sure that ads are relevant to the search term and also to implement quality control. Similarly the landing page and the ads must meet certain standards. For most serps the quality and variety of sites appearing in sponsored results is better then the listings appearing in organic results. This is great for google because over time people will tend to click on the ads in preference to organic results because that's where the best/legitimate results are located. This gives google a very good excuse to introduce more ads in search results.

For eg. take a 404 error page and malware infected sites. I regularly come across 404 urls in organic results and also sites 'that could harm your computer'. However, in adwords, they immediately suspend your ads if your site is down or it has malware on it.

I think publishers must start investing in social media optimization to replace the search traffic lost to google ads.

turbocharged




msg:4610599
 11:30 am on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yes, and better titles and descriptions can help you do that.

I would advise staying in the informational area as such a strategy would be a major flop if you sold physical goods. Many sellers of goods, including those that manufacture them, are seen in Google's serps well beneath the fold or beyond page 1. I fail to see how changing a meta title or description would have even a negligible impact on traffic when a site ranks for its primary keywords on page 2 or 3 of the serps. No visibility means your meta titles and descriptions are of no value at all when nobody can see them.

Sure, there are seo benefits to altering titles, and yes they sure can help your listing in Google draw more traffic if you are already ranked in a visible position. However, most webmasters don't have a problem that their meta title and description would fix. Their problem is that they rank well below paid ads, youtube videos, image blocks, wikipedia fillers and the anointed brands.

As Google has abandoned many small businesses, these business owners must employ a strategy that utilizes old school marketing to stay afloat. And for some of our clients it is working rather well. Direct mail and radio/television ads seem to be doing good and are great for expanding ones brand in the long-term. Form partnerships and by all means network with other business owners. Many cities have groups of business owners who refer their customers to other group member businesses. I've seen this to be quite fruitful for those who invest the time in networking in person and building relationships that pay dividends well into the future.

In conclusion, if Google is the only game in town then get out of that town and focus on efforts that produce results. Wasting time trying to tweak a site to rank above paid ads and anointed brands is simply a wasted effort in this environment.

EditorialGuy




msg:4610604
 11:53 am on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Many sellers of goods, including those that manufacture them, are seen in Google's serps well beneath the fold or beyond page 1.


Most search results of all types are well beneath the fold or beyond page 1. That's just the nature of the beast, with or without "shrinking SERPs."

kellyman




msg:4610610
 12:37 pm on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

As the Page changes, also peoples search behaviour changes, a while ago it was all about being above the fold but now people are searching a little deeper, enquiries to my site have remained stable throughout the last 2 years, people are still finding me some how on the web.

Maybe this is the bigger picture as the ads have been increasing over the last 18 months and if Google can change the surfing habits of people looking for what they actually want opposed to the big brands put in front of them then there's more manoeuvre for more advertising,

Im sure most people now go beyond page 1 of the search engines so kind of makes sense to me

physics




msg:4610649
 2:16 pm on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)


No, keep it realistic. In two years there will be no natural serps. First page over the fold now is paid ads and it will be more.

After all these years, and a few more, maybe we'll be back at the point that Bill Gross had envisioned with Goto.com, where everything is paid search. What a world :p
[en.wikipedia.org...]

EditorialGuy




msg:4610652
 2:45 pm on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

a while ago it was all about being above the fold but now people are searching a little deeper


I've noticed that, too. According to WMT, some of our pages that rank in the teens perform as well as pages that rank in the top six, seven, or eight. This suggests that at least some users are bright enough to recognize junky or unhelpful results when they see them, and they'll scroll down (or even click through to page 2 of the SERPs) until they see results that look more promising.

That's why I think it's important to work on titles and descriptions. Site owners shouldn't write off search as a traffic source just because they don't always rank in the top three or five positions.

mrengine




msg:4610671
 3:35 pm on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Bing traffic has risen for me, and the traffic converts really well! Unfortunately it's not enough to offset the loss in traffic from Google. But I'm trying to diversify traffic sources because Google is a dead end unless you pay.

netmeg




msg:4610694
 4:38 pm on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

As long as I can find a way to be useful, and a way for my clients to be useful, I'm not worried. Because useful gets bookmarked, useful gets return visits, useful gets referrals and shares and email signups. And once you have those, you don't need Google so much.

diberry




msg:4610695
 4:56 pm on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Search is changing, and it's not just Google. Forget the ads for a minute. I'm talking about how searchers USE the engines. And WHAT searchers use as engines - for example, Pinterest.

Even if Google did things precisely the way you'd personally want them to, I think you'd still be surprised at the results.

You'll survive these changes if you have a plan that goes beyond Google. If not, then you're in trouble.

mjtaylor




msg:4611302
 1:43 pm on Sep 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

I read an intriguing article yesterday that quoted research that showed the #10 position actually receives more targeted traffic with a higher likelihood of conversion. The writer theorized it had to do with the fact that the searcher hasn't found what they were looking for in the listings above it. The point was not that you should target the 10th position,but that it does have some value for conversion. YMMW, but I thought it was an interesting POV.

claus




msg:4613833
 7:35 pm on Sep 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Well, there were webmasters before Google. I was one. There will be webmasters after Google, too. Google simply isn't as significant in the long run as we make it to be.

Further, what Google is doing with those "shrinking serps" is in fact increasing its competition with webmasters - or rather aiming at erasing part of our industry; ironically all those information-rich user-beneficial content/information pages that Google has publicly declared their love of so many times in the past...

The mimiature payouts from the adsense program, and the "helpful" analytics software and javascript files etc will probably not in the long run keep webmasters from realizing that the hand that feeds them is attached to -- and ruled by -- the hand thats trying to kill them.

So, whether you realize it or not it's one Google against a few million webmasters...

Personally I have advocated the simple mantra "Forget about Google" for more than a few years now. It works well for me, and it might just work for you as well.

EditorialGuy




msg:4613851
 9:11 pm on Sep 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Personally I have advocated the simple mantra "Forget about Google" for more than a few years now.


And yet you're here in the Google SEO News and Discussion Forum. Old addictions are hard to break. :-)

claus




msg:4613852
 9:17 pm on Sep 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

good one :)

Perhaps I should have written "Forget about creating sites and link structures and optimizing pages for the benefit of Google alone" - but I thought it was understood from the context :)

Zivush




msg:4613893
 6:42 am on Oct 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

You'll survive these changes if you have a plan that goes beyond Google.


Let's have some examples to make the discussion more productive -
A plan such as user generated, subscription based, sponsored based, content curation, mobile-first, social media focused types of websites.
How would you make it popular enough without driving the first organic traffic (before pushing it higher by other means)?

MrSavage




msg:4613987
 2:07 pm on Oct 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

Looking at my situation as a single person operation, I don't see survival in my cards. In fact I get that overwhelmed feeling. For all the work I put into my current sites, I don't see a scenario where they have a fireballs chance in hell to compete. That's no joke.

Can webmasters survive who wish to hire a team of writers or who already have a professional staff in place? Most likely there is survival in that plan. Personally that's not an investment that I'm willing to make.

I think there is a big divide in this thread. I'm sure there are some PT webmasters who are hopeful, but I'm not one of them. I think due in part to the fact that I enjoy writing about semi popular subjects which means my content ultimately ends up at the back of the bus. Don't blame me for creating content that I care about please.

EditorialGuy




msg:4613998
 3:00 pm on Oct 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think due in part to the fact that I enjoy writing about semi popular subjects which means my content ultimately ends up at the back of the bus. Don't blame me for creating content that I care about please.


If the fact that you write about "semi-popular products" is the cause of your difficulties, doesn't that mean your problem is audience size as much as it is shrinking SERPs?

Granted, if fewer members of a limited target audience see the organic results because of Google's cluttered SERPs, that's going to mean less traffic. But perhaps the solution is to increase your potential reach by covering those semi-popular products in even more depth and breadth. Building the "go to" site in your niche could help you stand out from your competitors, and it could also help your rankings.

mrengine




msg:4614004
 3:05 pm on Oct 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

For all the work I put into my current sites, I don't see a scenario where they have a fireballs chance in hell to compete.

Your site and content may not stand a chance in Google, but would do well in Facebook. That is where you may want to focus your efforts and forget about Google altogether in the same way they forgot about you.

MrSavage




msg:4614009
 3:15 pm on Oct 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

@EditorialGuy, with respect, you don't understand what I'm saying. Perhaps I have more experience in this regard, I'm not sure. I can only say that the niche (me for example) get swamped in a title wave of brands and pro staffed websites. As the interest rises, so goes the organic traffic. Rinse repeat. My point being that niche is only a a niche when few people care about it and the money is fairly lean. It's like a switch goes off. When it does, the site is dead in the water. That's the aspect I know about and speak to. I can't speak for everyone. If the subject means little, I can survive. When I start making money, it means more popularity to that subject, which ultimately means game over. Again, I'm sure if I hire a staff of writers I could keep pace and maintain some of that traffic. It's like clockwork from my experience. I'm sure you can find some niche sites, lean sites and keyword domain sites that rank. And at the same time, I would bet you it's because they mean nothing and have not enough traffic (money/income) in those searches. Google doesn't spend resources and time on mean nothing searches imo. The web it too big to deal with every loophole at the same time from a resource perspective.

diberry




msg:4614081
 8:11 pm on Oct 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

Let's have some examples to make the discussion more productive -
A plan such as user generated, subscription based, sponsored based, content curation, mobile-first, social media focused types of websites.
How would you make it popular enough without driving the first organic traffic (before pushing it higher by other means)?


Organic traffic doesn't mean Google. You can drive a lot via social media, if your take on your topic is suited to it.

Zivush




msg:4614168
 5:18 am on Oct 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

Organic traffic doesn't mean Google. You can drive a lot via social media, if your take on your topic is suited to it.


Some thousands per day? From social media? I doubt it can be reached.

netmeg




msg:4614269
 3:44 pm on Oct 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

I get that easy, in season. Like he said; depends on topic.

diberry




msg:4614275
 3:54 pm on Oct 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

Some thousands per day? From social media? I doubt it can be reached.


Sure it can. My best performing site gets thousands a day from social media sites, more than I get from Google. It's always been that way, and that's fine by me. I worry more about social media sites "turning on me" somehow than I do about Google.

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