Google as an SE is done. Someone stick a fork in it. Here's why.
Not too long ago many startups relied on Google as their primary source of customers. At least that's what the Google Myth led entrepreneurs to believe it could do. So hundreds of hours would be sunk into tweaking the SEO and fine-tuning Adwords advertising campaigns.
But if you have any experience in running online businesses, you are probably painfully aware of just how fickle and unreliable Google is as a business "partner" for a small business.
Firstly, it takes a very long time for a new site to appear in Google's SERP (Search Engine Results Page). While Google denies it, most of the savvy webmasters who talk at places like webmasterworld (WMW) suspect that Google secretly does this in order to force new sites to spend money on its Adwords program. (I believe this because all my new sites do well quickly on Yahoo and the other SEs but poorly on Google.)
Forcing sites to use Adwords makes perfect sense--from Google's point of view. But not from mine.
Secondly, it wouldn't be so bad if, at least, Adwords delivered in terms of ROI. But even it is deteriorating performance wise. (See my earlier posts on this in the Online Business category.) My suspicion is that most surfers have gradually turned a blind eye to Adwords. They have probably seen the ads a few thousand times and have lost interest in them because the pay-off from clicking is so low, in most cases.
One final point. Just a few short years ago the consensus on WMW was to avoid doing anything that might tick Google off. They all walked around on eggshells as if Google was a spouse with Borderline Personality Disorder who might fly into a rage at any moment and attack them with a steak knife.
For example, reciprocal link exchanges were considered a taboo because Google would assume that they weren't freely given but the result of scheming by the two sites involved and then penalize both sites. Then there was the obsession with the idiotic Page Rank system devised by Google. So all the webmasters at WMW installed the G-toolbar and avoided incoming links from sites with a lower pagerank.
In summary, there was rampant paranoia about doing anything that might upset Google and result in a penalty. I also read in horror daily tales from webmasters whose sites simply vanished from Google for reasons unknown. (Speaking of vanishing sites, I watched a cancelled site sit in the middle of the first G SERP for over a year. If you clicked on the link you'd get a an error message stating the site was unavailable. Why was it unvailable? Because the owners had pulled it. So for over a year G's vaunted SE shows a non-existent site in the middle of the first SERP for a key search term. Here's what happened a year later, the original owners launched a new site and placed a redirect on the old site to the new one. So a new site with a very low SERP ranking benefits from a redirect on the first G SERP.)
Sadly, I fell for all the "don't do anything to upset Google nonsense" at WMW. But then after a year, I began to notice that there were some renegade webmasters out there who didn't care what Google thought. All they cared about was traffic--and they were getting it!
Maybe I'll write about this later but suffice it to say here that there are a lot of ways of driving traffic to your site. Blogs combined with bookmark services are one great example of getting the word out.
The bottomline is to go for the right traffic. Go for paying customers. Who cares if they come from a site with a low page rank. A sale is a sale.
Do I sound pissed at G? You bet. One of my sites, www.antiventurecapital.com, used to appear on G's 4th SERP for searches on "venture capital". Then overnight a year ago it vanished from G and then returned a month later around the 90th SERP. Since then it's yoyo-ed between 80th and 95th SERP.
Screw you Google, instead of the tedium of constantly tweaking my meta-tags and key word density while blowing money on Adwords, I'm doing fun marketing via this blog and other methods and it's paying off.
My newest site's strategy will basically ignore Google.