My last post about me breaking up with Google caused a lot of conversation…as well as some speculation as to WHY I ‘broke up’ with Google and WHAT that means now. Am I leaving the business? Am I no longer going to ever consider Google traffic and ranking again? No, I am NOT leaving the business – I LOVE what I do and have no intentions of going anywhere. As for me and Google, let me tell you what really happened in my world that caused that big decision from me.
In life, there are many defining moments. Certain events, decisions, and gut feelings can cause an abrupt change of direction – or an end to a relationship.
I had a defining moment with Google the other day and it was like the straw that broke the camels back.
My relationship with Google is probably a bit deeper than anyone really realized.
I’ve read books about them, read endlessly online, read their history, and on and on. No, not to figure out how to get them to do what I wanted them to do (tho I tend to be pretty good at that), but instead, because the company and the algorithm fascinated me.
While most other people pick their own keywords and urls to track the rankings in Google, I pick random keywords.
Yes, I literally pick random keywords and then put the current top 20 or so ranking urls into a rank tool and simply WATCH those spaces over time.
Now, these aren’t “my” keywords or query spaces that I am working in – these are OTHER query spaces. I pick ‘big term’ phrases and phrases I know are HEAVY with affiliates…and I pick some smaller query spaces too.
Why would I do that?
First off, yes, I am that big of a Google Geek. But I do that so I can SEE what happens when Google says they are doing something.
For Google Geeks like I’ve been, it’s fascinating stuff. I’m a big ‘ Don’t tell me, SHOW me’ type person too.
For example, I could tell Panda hit at the end of March without even hearing it from Google or any other source. I can see the after-effects some sites/urls are feeling after the blog networks got de-indexed as well.
And, there are urls I am watching where I am literally WAITING to see Google do what they say they do.
For example, in an insurance query space, there is a site/url I have been watching for a LONG time. It is a prime candidate to get totally nailed by Google based on what the site is doing to achieve it’s Page 1 rankings. But no, it keeps hanging in there…sometimes it even ranks better.
Frustrating, but hey, at least I can really SEE when Google truly ‘walks the talk’ instead of just talkin’ it.
The other day, I reached out on Twitter because something was going on with rankings, but there was no talk of it and no one really had any insight.
Something was going on….
And for the record, I wasn’t the only one that noticed.
Turns out, I/we were right (or as right as any Google observer can be). A couple days later, Matt Cutts admitted that there was a problem with the algo and it was classifying some pages as Parked Pages – and nailed their rankings.
Matt Cutts posted this on his G+ page:
Ok, those things happen, right? And, well, it is kinda cool that at least Matt spoke up and admitted it. They/He sure didn’t HAVE to do that.
My point of telling you these things is not to ‘show off’ or anything like that. I simply want to convey how HYPER-focused I have been on what Google does and says. I have spent hours each day keeping up with things, taking long analytical looks at things (as much as I am capable of), and helping others identify their problems to hopefully get Google to love them again.
However, if you’ve read all that, you didn’t hear me say I’ve spent hours trying to get Google to love ME.
My main money sources do NOT rely on Google 100%.
Now, I have lots of test sites that I do allllllllllll kinds of things to just to see what Google will do.
I test domain extensions, exact match concepts, duplicate content, spun content, just about every type of back linking….I even test BLANK web pages (which, btw, have been ranking great for YEARS now. Yes, a totally BLANK web page ranking well for it’s target keyword with very minimal back links. No, it’s not a competitive query space, but it still ranks. Content is King, huh?)
I build these test sites KNOWING Google will probably nail them after awhile so I test, watch, and wait to see what eventually does the site in.
For me, that’s fun.
I enjoy doing that AND I learn a ton. It also makes it so I can look at another webmaster’s site and if I see something I’ve been testing, I can genuinely say to the site owner, “Hey, that’s gonna get you nailed” or “Yeah, you might be able to fly with that for a little while longer” – or “Get rid of that NOW!”
Ok, all that said….
As I mentioned above, my money sites do NOT rely on Google and I haven’t for a long time.
To me, if each % of traffic sources is like one share of my business’s stock, if I let Google have 50% or more, they own ME and I have lost control over my business.
Here is a quick screen shot I just grabbed from inside my analytics account showing recent traffic sources for this blog here at PotPieGirl.com.
As you can see, search engines only account for a little more than one-third of my traffic. To me, that’s like Google being about a one-third owner of this blog. I still don’t like that high of a percentage, but if Google nails me, I’m still in business AND I’m still in control.
If all 100% of my traffic came from Google, then they (Google) OWN me and I am at their mercy. That is NOT a game I want to play.
But many, many DO play that way and truly want Google to supply 100% of their traffic. Then, Google nails them and they LOSE 100%.
That’s not good business. It’s the whole eggs/basket thing.
Sure, Google has massive control over the internet economy. One little algo tweak and many businesses owners are forced to close up shop. That is a LOT of responsibility for Google to get things right – or at least appear right….or heck, appear even remotely fair.
Perception is everything, right?
So this brings me to my defining moment – the proverbial straw. Ironically, one of my wonderful readers made a comment in my ‘I Broke Up With Google‘ post that mentioned ‘the straw’, which amazed me!
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Google says… compelling, unique content…don’t over-optimize or hyper-focus everything on one keyword. Good on-site structure so they can crawl you better. Good use of defining keywords and phrases so they know what your page is about. Don’t play with link schemes or do anything to manipulate your ranking…. and if we do all that, the ‘good stuff’ will magically rank at the top.
Pretty much – ‘play by the rules and be rewarded’. Isn’t that the way you understand it? Isn’t that the way you TRY to play so Google will love you?
As I mentioned, I track keywords and the Top 20 or so players in that query space when I start tracking.
One of those query spaces is the keyword ‘make money online’.
I’ve watched that query space get trampled. In the past 2 months or so, only 11 of the original 20 are still ranking in the Top 20. Nine of those sites are gone to NoWhere Land in the Google SERPs.
In all Google’s supposed effort to get the BEST results at the top and sink those that are not good results or are supposedly breaking Panda rules or linking rules or whatever the Penalty of the Day is.
So after all this that we have suffered through….. this is what I find now ranking on Page 1 for ‘make money online’ :
(these are my search results on Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 11:02 am EST/Atlanta time shown in FireFox [which I use daily] as well as Internet Explorer and Chrome [both of which I never use but for ‘clean’ rank checks time to time])
Note: I’m showing all 3 to a) show that its not a ‘glitch’ or personalized, and b) because most likely this will magically disappear after there is more awareness of the situation by the uh… ‘powers that be’.
So, wanna know what that site that is ranking #9 or #10 for the VERY competitive term ‘make money online’ looks like?
It’s probably an awesome site, right? I mean c’mon, that’s a REALLY hard keyword to rank for…. their content must be AMAZING, right?
Here’s what it looks like:
Yep, you see that right – there is NOTHING THERE. No Posts…no nothing.
Now, that is not some ‘new’ blogger blog that never got built out. That used to be Griz’s site and he ranked will with his content there for years. Apparently, Blogger (owned by Google) flagged that BlogSpot blog for spam…and Griz got locked out. I know he took steps to get it back, but I have no clue how the rest of that story went down other than what he said last about the situation when it all happened back in 2010.
So how the heck does it rank there? Other than two things – Blogger/BlogSpot is Google-owned and back links, I have NO CLUE how or WHY it ranks there.
From what Griz said, he did some crazy testing on that site too – things that, by all accounts according to what Google says lately, should NOT allow that page…that EMPTY blog…to rank well for ANYTHING. Especially not for a highly-competitive, dog-eat-dog phrase like ‘make money online’!
Seeing this empty blogger blog suddenly rank and continue to rank kinda broke my heart a little.
More than anything, it makes me really sad for the small business owners and one-man/one-woman shows online.
As I watched this nothing blogger blog rise to the top, I also watched other perfectly good mmo info sites sink like they were wearing cement shoes.
Folks like Pawel from AffHelper.com…I used to always see his face in the rankings for lots of competitive terms. He also used to rank really well for ‘make money online’ as well.
Now, he’s in Google Purgatory (you can read his open letter to Matt Cutts here)
Yep, 269 is his rank in Google now for that keyword… and it’s been that way for quite some time.
Regardless of WHY his site got tanked, I can tell you this – as a Google user and consumer of search, I would MUCH rather find and read what’s on the AffHelper.com site than find that NOTHING blogger site, wouldn’t you?
This was a very sad and frustrating moment for me. How in the WORLD can I tell people to write really great content that offers Google great answers to their users queries, don’t try and force anything, and don’t play with link schemes – when it’s all BS?
Google properties will always win. Back links will always win (as long as Google keeps ’em indexed)…and content? Show me what part of this situation shows that great content wins.
I DO see Google taking up VERY prime real estate on the first page of the SERPs for ‘make money online’ – I absolutely do see that. That means Google says, “We’d rather have our blank nothing Blogspot blog ranking so none of you make any money from this space”.
That’s how I see it….and it was the last straw for me.
There isn’t even the perception of fair with Google anymore. It’s gotten to where it almost feels as if Google wants the worst to rank well so search users will click their AdWords ads instead in HOPES of getting a better answer to their query than what is shown in the organic results.
HOW do you help people with this?
Should I start saying… “Write crap…or nothing at all…. back link like hell and then enjoy the ride while it lasts”????
Or – “Just pay Google for traffic?”
Both of those things seem to work WAY better than doing what Google says.
This is what happened that resulted in my breaking off my private love affair with Google – and reducing them to a hobby (at best).
Sure, we’ll remain friends, I hope… we did have good times together.
Does this mean I will never TRY for Google traffic? Of course not! It is bad business to totally over-look Google as a traffic source. As long as they have a monopoly-death grip on the internet economy, we have to make sure our traffic plans include that single traffic source.
It would be like owning a diner and totally ignoring, or restricting, walk-in traffic from the massage parlor across the street (or the government office). Sure, you may not like ’em or agree with what they do, but it’s still traffic and sales. But Lord knows, you sure wouldn’t RELY on them to make or break your business, now would you?
I hope this clears things up. I’m not going anywhere.