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.
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.