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Has google pushed small business too far?

     
12:00 am on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I just wondering about other small business owners who have spent the last year disavowing links and jumping through hoops for Google. Only to see no improvement in results in latest panda/penguin update. Will you spend another year doing the same or react in a different way?
2:47 am on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Small businesses have small resources and their owners often wear many hats. The internet is no longer a level playing field as it was over a decade ago. While we are spending time modifying pages to please panda, and disavowing links to please penguin, our largest corporate competitors have been killing it on social and have held on to their great search positions in Google. If had to sum up last year's results from our actions, I would sum it up by saying that the spread between small businesses and large corporations is even wider. I feel as if I have wasted a lot of time.

In 2015 I will be doing a bigger push on our social presence and try not to worry so much about Google. I need some sort of ROI on my labor and money, and despite a lot of that being thrown at our site to please Google, it has not amounted to anything. At least by expanding our social presence I know I'll get something in return. So far in 2014 Facebook has been really good to us and expanding on that success is my main objective.
4:52 am on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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We came close to losing everything we own due to two Pandas decimating my website. The stress and toll it has had on my family has been awful. I sat and watched as 'brand' sites were pushed to the top and my site moved further down. Even though my content was just as good.

I have had an upswing since the last Panda, things aren't as good as they were in 2012, but we can just about survive. I have also gone out and picked up some part time work. Financially we're still behind because we couldn't pay our bills due to the drop in traffic, but as long as things stay as they are now, we will be okay.

It's been a rotten two years, but the site is bigger and better than ever. But I will never fully relax knowing that they can stomp all over my site at any moment.

I do want to get out of debt as much as possible so we have a little more wriggle room if and when it happens next. Plus I would never rely solely on my website income anymore, from now on, I will always have a part time job, even if financially I can afford not to because I've seen just what can happen.
8:18 am on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@seosunk, personaly i liked the idea of panda and penguin when i heard about them. The first penguin didn't changed traffic of my sites but panda cut it down but without any harm to our conversions. It seems panda 1 was aiming bad content sites. This changed with all following pandas where collaterl damaged for good and content rich small sites have been far to big.
Adding googles behaviour to clutter the first serps page with 70% ads and favourising big brands didn't make it better.
I digged a lot deeper into my site and was astonished how many errors i found. It wasn't kind of errors users would go into visiting my site but googlbut . So it was no surprise that my site had a bad panda score. I realy changed my personal view of m site from 'plain top view' to deeper bot view.
I see often poeple complain about having good content and beeing hit. But i don't think that this is all panda is about. Panda is more about our full police report not the small one. Google is technical digging deep into a site and finds things the you want see by surfing the site.
I don't want to say i have the clue but. Panda helped by doing a better job.
I appreciate that many of my competitors how did closcking, dup pages, keyword stuffing aso. Are vanished. They weren't playing a fair gaim.
Nevertheless i also think google is more interested in serving ads than in serving good organic serps. Many searches end up with cheer head shaking. Personal search, scanning googlemail and
Languishing google+ does not make it better.
6:53 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Yes, other site factors also play a role. The problem I have is that we were squeezed so much that we don't have the money to actually look at other aspects of the site (such as upgrading the software).

If Google are going to really look at user experience, I wish they would target sites with pop ups, they are becoming more and more popular.
7:03 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I just wondering about other small business owners who have spent the last year disavowing links and jumping through hoops for Google.


I'm just wondering why anyone would do that in the first place if they hadn't got nailed for getting involved in some link building schemes in the first place.

I've never done a disavow yet, and have no immediate plans to do so in the future.

Google only gets value from rel=NOFOLLOW, disavow, etc. when people actually play the game, which I don't.

IMO, issuing a disavow is an admission of guilt that I've asked for links and I didn't.

The last thing I want is Google to think I'm doing something bad so I certainly won't voluntarily flag my sites for review by submitting disavows which I think are signals for the manual review crew to take a peek at what you're doing.


Maybe I'm wrong, but I've been right about other things in the past that didn't pass the sniff test.

Bad idea.
7:14 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I can assure you that it's not just small business owners who have been hammered repeatedly and unnecessarily only to be replaced by some of the dodgiest, spammiest sites going.

One specific thing I have noticed is that Google definitely prefers US sites, good and bad, plus the closer they are to MV the higher they seem to rank across all Google.tlds.

One thing I do know for certain, Google would not recognise quality if it were staring them straight in its face...they haven't a clue, all they're interested in is BIG page view numbers, period.
7:55 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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For the past few years Google has been fixated on trying to fight spam, and their algorithmic net for catching it has gotten so big that it catches a lot of innocent websites too. The sites of small businesses may be especially at risk for being mistaken for spam, but other types of sites can also get caught.
8:20 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm just wondering why anyone would do that in the first place if they hadn't got nailed for getting involved in some link building schemes in the first place.


In some niches, EVERYONE...big and small, was involved in bad behavior, because you weren't in the top 10 if you didn't. A matter of following the unwritten rules that were rewarded, not the published guidelines.

Once G put on the clamps, the only usable signal left was authority, thus the current situation where these SERPS are now mostly big sites, and often, pages with little relevance.
8:27 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm just wondering why anyone would do that in the first place if they hadn't got nailed for getting involved in some link building schemes in the first place.

Probably because they were told by some SEO shark, er "expert," that they HAD to do it to avoid a Google penalty. Or rather, the business owner could pay them (the "expert") to do it for them.
8:35 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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IMO, issuing a disavow is an admission of guilt that I've asked for links and I didn't.


Spot on.
8:47 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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It is also akin to asking "how high" ? ..

Is this high enough ?..

When Google says "jump"..
8:59 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@Martin Ice Web I think you've summed it up. Google results now seem to be like a credit card score, if you pass you are free to dump all over the serps with crap content and get away with it. If you fail no matter how good your content is you will always slip down the serps.

incrediBILL I think your onto something,disavow certainly didn't work but could have increased the likely hood the site was manually inspected. Most people submit disavow because they or an seo company spammed results. A few because of negative seo and the rest because quite honestly they hadn't a clue what else to do.

This combination of black and white animal algo's has boosted brand websites and decimated many small business's. I think a year is long enough to punish a site but Google have released very few sites from algorithmic penalty. I am interested will you wait any longer as a small business or try something new like glakes?
9:11 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@ Saffron:

I sat and watched as 'brand' sites were pushed to the top and my site moved further down. Even though my content was just as good.


Netmeg has quoted someone frequently on the forums (I think it was ex-googler Vanessa Fox) who said (more or less):

Google doesn't want to make your site popular. They want to rank popular sites.

(Apologies to both VF and netmeg if I mis-quoted this.)

I believe that rankings are based significantly on links and user behavior, with the other 200 factors having minimal effect on the rankings. Google cares about what people type into the search bar at google.com

They care about what sites people are going to when they buy up user data from the different internet access companies.

It's funny, but the more and more that google (as a whole) becomes better and better and semantic understanding, the less they seem interested in applying it to rankings.
9:22 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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(It was Rae Hoffman a/k/a sugarrae)
9:25 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the clarification!

(Oddly enough, the first time I wrote Rae, then did a double-take, and changed it to VF).
9:26 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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We dropped from about a million visitors a month to 125,000 over two years. We were pounded with each Panda update. Never moved an inch during Penguin.
Lost 85% of our income along the way too.

Spent the last three years cleaning up the site. Removed 10% the site's pages (what might be deemed duplicate content). Spent three years adding new content - always making sure it completely answers the visitor's question. Added a responsive web design... as a small business owner, the only other thing I can do is hope the effort is eventually recognized. We're in it for the long haul. I'm hoping to work another 20 years... a lot can happen in that time.

I'm old school, I'll eventually come back. I know what visitors want, I'm going to deliver it.
10:24 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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rish3 wrote:
In some niches, EVERYONE...big and small, was involved in bad behavior, because you weren't in the top 10 if you didn't.

Speaking of the bad behavior of big companies, here are some that have been caught buying links to improve their rankings: J.C. Penny, Interflora, Overstock, 1-800-Flowers, Gourmet Gift Baskets, and GoCompare. And Forbes Magazine was caught selling links. But because these companies are so well-known, Google only gave most of them a slap on the wrist.
11:59 pm on Nov 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Its not just links, I looked at a brand site webmasters on here were complaining about and it generated a result for every query (just threw any crap at it) the only way to get a 404 page was /404. Google still gobbling up that crap content last time I looked.

We don't need net neutrality to end, google has done it already!
12:34 am on Nov 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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This happened to me so unfairly, lost 85% over twelve months as well (penguin/panda).

But if I mention a class action lawsuit and that Google WILL be sued for billions at some point over this... then I am sure that the site I say this on (like here on webmastersworld) that my post will be pulled.... over fear of the site, by allowing this post to stay up, will be afraid of Google effecting their rankings by allowing it to stay posted.

Reminds me of an Italian word, but we can call it also a sort of monopoly.

Some how or another I think Google deserves a major class-action, someone just needs to start creating the 'class' and gather signatures, huge lawfirms would eat-it-up.
2:16 am on Nov 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I am sure the lawyers would eat it up.

And I am quite sure that those who used to rank well and lost their rankings will get absolutely nothing from the law suit.

I say this because EVERY PERSON WITH A WEBSITE WHO NEVER RANKED WELL will also file a lawsuit saying the same thing: they are (somehow) entitled to earning money from google organic traffic.

I felt sorry for people who lost their house during the recession. But I feel worse for those people who had been renting all along because they could never afford a down payment for a house.

Better to have been loved and lost than to have never been loved at all...
5:49 am on Nov 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Speaking of the bad behavior of big companies, here are some that have been caught buying links to improve their rankings: J.C. Penny, Interflora, Overstock, 1-800-Flowers, Gourmet Gift Baskets, and GoCompare. And Forbes Magazine was caught selling links. But because these companies are so well-known, Google only gave most of them a slap on the wrist.


Some people would actually think about the implications of what yu posted.
9:56 am on Nov 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@incrediBILL

Regarding your comment about creating a disavow list.

I'm just wondering why anyone would do that in the first place if they hadn't got nailed for getting involved in some link building schemes in the first place.


IMO, issuing a disavow is an admission of guilt that I've asked for links and I didn't.


There is a whole subset of sites that saw their traffic plummet on the announced Penguin dates… but who never got a manual warning via GWT pointing them at the underlying cause of the link transgression. These poor beggars, many of whom were NOT guilty of the supposed sins that bring down the wrath of Penguin, were pure collateral damage and were offered no guidance on recovery other than the videos of Matt Cutts…. who said over and over again that if you site was hit by Penguin, then the problem is links related.

When sites see all their affiliate pages slammed into oblivion, their $50 days on Adsense become 50c days, their 2000 uniques per day become 200 uniques on a good day, then they become desperate and start trying to recover by using every technique they have read about or heard about, not with any real sense of getting a result but simply because they feel the need to try something… anything… that might help. And that is just one of the reasons why people create and submit disavowal files. For many it is an act of desperation, not an admission of guilt as defined by Google.
10:30 am on Nov 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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not an admission of guilt as defined by Google


Also, don't forget the people living in fear of future Penguins are disavowing any link that they think are not good. For instance the plague of m.biz ones that are linking to all and sundry.
1:16 pm on Nov 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I've said it before, Google is a trend rider. Take a look back. remember ezine articles? the company that created that site is located just down the road from where I live. I checked their sites and they are ALL nose diving. You sure don't see them listed in the serps anymore.

I figure it's the same with the currently "flavor of the month" sites. Google embraces these trends. If they like the trend enough, like Facebook, they try to copy it...something we would all suffer dearly in the serps for trying to do.

I've given Google all the time in the world to fix their system, especially with regards to scrapers stealing image content then Google listing my images in search, but connected to some virus ridden or pop up ad trash site.

Either Google is truly broken (which is all relative) or they are truly evil.

My question is: While they squeeze billions out of the internet, where do you think that money is coming from? It's odd that at the same time they are making two thousands dollars per second, my income has dropped over 80% and still falling. They money has to come from somewhere. Look like it's all been 301'd to Google's account.
2:06 pm on Nov 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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IMO, issuing a disavow is an admission of guilt that I've asked for links and I didn't. 


Common sense
5:09 pm on Nov 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Years ago I had thousands of competitors. Now I just have a dozen or so big brands. Business is no better, and no worse.

Google is the way it is. As it changes we must adapt to those changes. No amount of complaining will make the slightest difference to this.
5:39 pm on Nov 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Google is the way it is. As it changes we must adapt to those changes. No amount of complaining will make the slightest difference to this


+1

Listening to an interview the other day with a marketing expert who said that despite googles roughly 85% of search engine market share, when in a blind comparison, people were split 50-50 over whose actual results they preferred between g and b.

So the task for b or the other SEs out there is to overcome the perception that g is the be-all, end-all of search.
7:37 pm on Nov 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I disavowed lots of links, it wasn't an admission of guilt, I have never engaged in link building. I was scared of a possible penalty and decided to disavow before Google told me to so so.

I do think Google's search results are better than they were 2-3 years ago. Less buzzle, ezine etc. They're not perfect, I see a bit of domain crowding and they seem to love wikihow right now (who are not much better than buzzle) as well as 'brand' sites. It's the brand sites that have pushed me down.

However, I think there has been a fair bit of collateral damage with 'innocent' sites taking a hit. What was interesting was the following announcement from Google.

This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice.


So was that an admission that they had been favouring large sites purely based on size and not quality?

The 'which is nice' was the part that irritated me. Yes, it's very nice for me that my small/medium site benefited from this Panda release. Actually, it's more than 'nice', it stopped us losing our house. It just didn't seem to address the seriousness of how small/medium sites have been affected.
8:07 pm on Nov 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I have never seen much serious talk around here ( maybe I missed it!) about Google eventually being moved to the category of a utility and regulated as such. Nay sayer's may say it will never happen, free market and all. Perhaps some/many not old enough to remember ATT break up. But I think eventually Google will ( and should!) be regulated. Too much power. Do no harm is a thing of the past. Way past in the case of Google.

LizaJane
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