Two months ago I sold my main business. It was a website that depended 100% on free Google traffic. We had owned the site since 1995 and after I visited a conference and found out what Google wanted to see to rank well, it started making money in 2001.
Over the years we tried everything we could to generate additional traffic outside of the organic traffic from Google. In our sector the ROI was just not there and we were literally throwing money away. So we just sat and happily watched the money come in. And boy did it come in. Google LOVED us.
We knew that the income was essentially a gift and tried hard to not ramp up our monthly spending, but these things happen. You always seem to want more as you make more without thinking of what would happen if the money stopped coming in. That's just human nature.
So we kept chugging along and bought our dream home in the Wine Country. Our bills increased as we advanced our lifestyle and things were groovy. Yet I always felt strange about our income stream. I always felt as if I was not in control. Of course I was not in control, Google was and I allowed it.
I allowed the free income to continue. Who wouldn't? Google had us by the you-know-whats and I allowed it. But I had many sleepless nights fretting about our rankings, and I began to check our keywords way too often, almost to the point of an obsession. It was affecting my mental and physical health but I really had no other choice but to try and find other sources of income while maintaining the money-maker site.
So 2010 was our best year to date. We had incredible rankings for top keywords as we had for many years, but for some reason, we were exceptionally successful that year. We had not become totally complacent, we had developed other websites, but none of them made close to the money we were making.
Then came Panda. The time I had feared for over 10 years had finally arrived and Google no longer loved us, they liked us, but the heavy petting of the past was over between us. Our income dived by 45% which was tough to swallow. My wife and I talked it over and we decided to sell the business/website. We were fortunate enough to find the perfect buyer and we were free of our Google lust shortly thereafter.
Now I can sit back and read the reports of Google being evil and Panda being some sort of horrible conflagration beset upon the unknowing public and shake my head.
Panda should be a lesson for EVERYBODY that depends on traffic from search engines. If you depend upon free traffic, you should know that it WILL go away at some time. It may take 10 years, it may take a month or a minute, but it will go away, at least a portion of it will and there is nothing you can do about it. Sure you can try whatever remedy you read about here and other places, and they may work, but you are still getting free traffic that can go away at any time. Do you really think that 10 years from now you will still be getting free traffic?
I watch people complaining that they have families to feed and a mortgage to pay so how could this happen to me? Well, ya know what? You have nobody to blame but yourself. It was FREE money and it ended. You allowed it to begin and to end just as I did.
I apologize if this seems harsh, but sometimes a smack in the face is more helpful then a sympathetic pat on the back.
Our next business will not depend on any search engines to be successful. It'll be our hard work that either makes or breaks the business, not some damn algorithm. So goodbye Google and like Douglas Adams, said - So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish, or in this case, money.