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December 14, 2005

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We spent two years moving our site up the rankings in Google finally attaining a spot on the second results page. Then one morning the site just vaporized as far as Google was concerned. Sales plummeted to 10% of previous levels. The ironic thing is that we also stuck to only the safe and approved search engine optimizations touted by the webmaster forums. Maybe those people are deliberately lying to us? Perhaps they do the opposite of what they say to do?

I firmly believe that open-source is the future for browsers, CMS, search and many other vastly popular web tools. Collaberation will overtake the big G. Folks that are browsing and folks that are selling will be better off too... it makes an even more level playing field.

One frequent topic of conversation at the various sites for webmasters is the percentage of your traffic that comes through Google. In most cases, the answer is 80% or more. Think about that for a moment. Think about how vulnerable you are...especially when you consider how flakey Google is.

Like you, after realizing that I have no influence over what it does, I started investing my time in other ways to get traffic.

After my AdWords expenses doubled while number of visitors and pretty much everything else remained the same, I have stopped advertising on Google and so far I haven't noticed any negative effects.

On majority of my sites I now largely ignore Google. For new sites, I invest my time towards controllable targets such as improved content, promotion via other channels, etc. and I believe that will give me a better ROI.

Thanks, Sean. It's good to hear that others are cathing on. The Big-G is just too flakey to be a reliable business partner.

Maybe the 80+ sites ranking above yours are just better, ever thought that? I'm sure those on page 1 aren't moaning, so instead of bitching about it, put some effort into getting back up there with them.

That's an interesting take on building traffic from outside the Googlesphere. I maybe don't subscribe to the same conspiracy theories as you regarding Adwords, but anyone with a website needs to consider good post-Google strategies for getting (and sustaining) traffic.

How to achieve this? Well, there are a number of ways as you said. Bizarrely, MSN has been kind to my sites (particularly the Reality TV one). I'd be interested to hear how you intend bucking the 'system' and still having successful sites.

BTW, have you considered a landing page for Google-referred traffic that tells them they're using a crappy Search Engine and suggests a range of alternatives?

eleven80,

I was wondering when someone would say that! In fact, knowing that I'd get your response eventually made me provide all the detail in my tale. Detail such as that if you spend some time at the webmaster sites, you will read these stories of, "What happened to my site? It just dissappeared from Google", daily.

Since you know so much about the subject, what is your advice for moving the site back up to somewhere in the first 5 SERPs?

Don't feel bad about Google dropping your site. It happens to the best of them. Webmasterworld found itself shitcanned too. http://www.threadwatch.org/node/5049

Yes, I noticed that at the threadwatcher site. That's actually pretty funny as that's where everyone walked on eggshells so as not to tick google off in any manner. If anyone dared to critiscize Google the post was deleted and the culprit sent a stern warning by the guy running the site.

Gerards asked: "I'd be interested to hear how you intend bucking the 'system' and still having successful sites."

The new site is a hybrid on/offline business rather than an online pureplay. That's one way. I'm old school so that won't be difficult to pull off. I'm going in with the attitude that Google doesn't even exist (although I will use it as much as is possible without spending any money on its services).

My focus will be marketing in the real world. The other tactic is to raise a stink and let others know of the dangers of relying on G too much. This morning I received a tip about a thread at threadwatchers critiscizing me over this post. So I went to check it out. At first I wasn't sure why the guy was being critical of me. Turns out he's selling an SEO book and was probably annoyed at me for complaining about G instead of just buying a copy of his book.

Everyone has something to sell. That's what makes the world go round.

Here's another reason why I'm going this new route. I've realized over the past year that time spent on SEO activities is basically a blackhole. The more you study SEO the more you realize just how little you know. So why not put all that time and energy elsewhere? Into something productive. I'm talking about investing it into tried and true business activities like old-fashioned selling. At least then I can predict with some accuracy what my sales will be per 100 cold calls to other businesses. With SEO you can invest 5000 hours and still show no real return on your investment. Or maybe Google simply drops your site like it dropped WMW and mine?

From the sounds of it even the SEO guys are looking at another line of work.

It's called sandboxing at Google and you can read about it in this thread http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showpost.php?p=69705&postcount=58

You and your readers may be interested in this: http://pjhyett.com/articles/2005/07/21/google-mystery-solved

Kudos for speaking honestly in a sea of bullshit. Everyone's an expert on how to make a million online in six months. Sure, anything you say. There is another honest man at http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/9-23-2005-77391.asp

Great post, once upon a time it was ok to live with the Google "wait for a year while your site sits in the sandbox" approach, because Adwords was a viable means of producing revenue while you waited. Then along came the August 2005 update for Adweirds (Do Adwords updates have names?) and suddenly we have the mysterious "Quality Score" in the mix. See the case study on my blog about that and how well that worked for me in December!. So now Google sucks all around, and the marketing plan should DEFINITELY not depend on it.

Anyways, great blog, I'll mark it.

Mistake #1: Google is not your "business partner".

Mistake #2: You do not own your ranking, and all ranks are subject to change at any moment, without any notice. Nobody, and no amount of SEO work can change this fact.

If you ignore these facts, you're bound to feel burned, but it's not Google's fault. They never promised you stable rankings. Google's job is to give _searchers_ what they're looking for, not to deliver your content where you want it delivered.

Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to deliver a better experience than the competition. Invest in that, and you'll have a better ROI.

The question should be not where you are, but whether the listings above yours are more apropos. For example, if you're #90 for "venture capital" instead of #15, is that because there's 8 pages of filler, or because there are 89 pages that people would rather see first?

Google's goal is to put relevant results first. They have to be relevant to the user, or users will stop using their search engine. Putting specific sites (yours) on top is not one of their goals.

I just googled for VC, and the first few pages of hits all look like reasonable links. Remember, if there are more than 30 web pages about VC, they can't put *all* of them in the first 3 result pages. You can't all be first.

Someone else pointed something similar out about the first results being more relevant first. If someone searched for "venture capital" the results would be neither positive nor negative. If you type in "anti venture capital" you come up first, whaddya know.

"The question should be not where you are, but whether the listings above yours are more apropos. For example, if you're #90 for "venture capital" instead of #15, is that because there's 8 pages of filler, or because there are 89 pages that people would rather see first?"

True enough. When my site got knocked from the 4th or 5th SERP to 90th, there were a lot of crappy sites, IMHO, ahead of mine.

I am happy to report that the last time I checked the site had bubbled back up to about the 5th SERP. That was a month or two ago. I haven't checked of late because my mind has been focused on another site.

My earlier point still stands that Google oftentimes delivers poor results because it places too much weighting on the number of incoming links. This means that a mediocre older site will have a better SERP position than a much better new site.

It seems Google had a Christmas present for a lot of adult site webmasters this week (w/c 18 Dec 2006) ..... non-existant SERP placings!

I had the No.2 spot on both Google.com and Google.co.uk for my site, on all my major search terms, which delivered over 50% of traffic. The site was carefully designed to fully comply with Google's listed permitted practices and was fully W3C compliant, no spelling mistakes and updated regularly. A lot of time and effort was put into getting links from good quality sites and getting blog revues of my content. And how was this loyalty to Google repayed?

I no longer list in the first 10 pages (top 500 sites)and traffic is at 10% ... yes ten percent! of traffic earlier in the week. In fact I am now getting more traffic from Yahoo images ... from China!

What do those cretins at Google think people want when they type in "spanking movies"? Surely it cannot be another badly written amateur blog or eBay ad for 'brand spanking new movie"? Or could they really be, God forbid, looking for an adult spanking movie site? As it is the listings now only show unpopular, badly written sites and rubbish, rather than the market leaders. Those pious Google idiots really suck!

If you want to start an online business you have to rely only on yourself because the other would want to benefit from their connection with you and this won't help for the growth of your business.

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