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

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

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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....

4:03 pm on Mar 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

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If your an eccomerce site, here are some additional tricks that will help on conversions and gain you some "trust rank" and consumer confidence.

1. Google Check out. When we put it on our site, we had more conversions. Shoppers tend to trust google so if they see google check out on your site they will be more likely to trust your site.

2. Better Business Bureau Seal on our site. Trust me, it was well worth the large cost. A few weeks ago I asked for input at this thread:


We took the plunge and paid the money. It had a huge impact on our business since our average transaction is $1000 plus. It targeted a certain group of shoppers, but it really has helped.

As far as google check out and adwords goes, we used to target 1st position in adwords. Since google is nice enough to put that little google check out graphic next to the ad, we watched the Click through ratio grow. Now we target either the second or third spot in adwords which costs us less and gets us the same click throughs.

5:47 pm on Mar 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Your post is so true.
We started out in 97, then, slowly a few competitors appeared. Each time we stepped up our offerings, they did the same, the EXACT same.
I had to tradmark our site, yet they still followed, just on the jagged edge of violating our trademark.

No matter what, someone will copy your site. We've had it done many times. Now, one of our biggest competitors is a guy who continually buys our product and reverse engineers it. He runs an all frames, keyword loaded site that spwals, yet he is at #3! (again, so much for webmaster guidelines)

As far as offline advertising, keep this in mind: It also helps your competitors! We did a 10k full page ad in a magazine and it did our competition nearly as much good as ourselves. Customers get the picture, then do a search for that product to find other merchants.
I guess that's the case with all advertising, so maybe it's better to motivate your competitors to advertise!


4:53 pm on Mar 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Remember when Yahoo used to be bigger than Google? AOL was bigger than Yahoo? The net changes constantly! Google is a fad right now! The in thing. How long will it last? No one knows, but 10 years down the road we might be posting to threads about how we wish it was the good old days with Google.

General Motors once ruled the Earth.
To quote George Bernard Shaw:

"Rome fell. Babylon fell. Scarsdale's turn will come."

Shudder to imagine us all enslaved, though, to the business ethics of an AOL or MSN (though any ethical distinctions seem to evaporate with each passing day). Just imagine Bill Gates' diabolical little riff on "Do No Evil."

[edited by: luckychucky at 4:59 pm (utc) on Mar. 25, 2007]

4:55 pm on Mar 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

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(...)we were running adwords campaigns the ROI was so bad we finally just said to heck with it.. and we weren't even running content match .. just in google.com itself. It was terrible. Spent thousands to make hundreds.
I'm about ready to just ignore Google search results and adwords. Postcards are about .30 each, cheaper then google adwords and goes right into customers mail box.

I use(d) AdWords specifically for the keywords I'm NOT well-optimized for....that was the whole point, especially when using my competitors' names as keywords for legitimate comparative advertising, for which I won't be optimizing my site text or backlinkage. Google came out with their new 'Quality Score', aka: 'Minimum-Bid-Rigging' Adsense algo and bumped the CPC minimums for formerly very-high-CTR keywords up to $0.30, $0.50, even as high as $5.00 each. You'd think searchers' clickthroughs would be the best indicator of actual relevance to customer searches, if Google were not asleep.

Thanks, Phil_S. You just opened my eyes with a simple statement. That makes astoundingly good sense. I'm gonna pursue the rational alternative: snailMail postcards to rented mailing lists.

12:49 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Adapt. Succeed.
6:19 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Adapt. Succeed.

And what if the penalty is PPC related? Could you please give Adsense users a pointer on how to adapt to that? Thanks!

9:26 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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PPC Shmeepeecee. Whatever the change is, you must spend effort to adapt to it.
I spend less time bemoaning the changes, and more time finding a way to make my endeavors work. If the web collapsed today, as it very likely can (ask any infrastructure engineer) I would survive, as would most of my clients who do not solely rely on free traffic.
Early in the days (Pre-ppc) you could write a page and see and improve upon your rankings practically overnight. The end of that world was years ago.

Before there was Google, there was traffic, and profits. There still are.

Then there was PPC, and then the 1 cent minimum bids went away. And the survivors adapted, despite the world ending again.

5 years from now, we'll probably look back and wish we still could buy clicks - at any price. Who knows.

Adapt. Succeed.

I like surfing the wave too, but when you hit the beach, its usually not a total suprise, or it shouldn't be. The end of the ride does not move and you can see it coming soon enough to change course.

I feel for the starter of this thread and anyone badly affected by downturns, but they are a fact of life and competition. All you can do is adapt and succeed - or die.

Echoing many of the astute posters in this thread - total reliance on free SE traffic is suicidal. Total reliance even on PAID traffic is foolish - the price will continue to go up until the market reaches max, and the deep pockets survive - just as the cycle plays out in every other media.

My personal opinion is that SE, PPC, and all online marketing added together should be a component of your marketing strategy. Businesses that are ONLY online, with no brick and mortar might be well served to consider using some of their profits to have a small B&M operation - just in case.

Does anyone remember how profitable direct response/mail order was, before the web was born?

PS. Yes, I'm an old goat, and made money in direct marketing before the web was born. The principles all still apply.

Don't put all of your eggs in one basket, even if the eggs were free.

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