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THE DANGERS OF RELYING ON GOOGLE FOR BUSINESS

It was a dark and stormy night. The hunchbacked innkeeper shuffled into the gothic entranceway towards the four travelers who had been mysteriously drawn to the mansion on the hill. The light from the fireplace flickered eerily on his face as he informed them that the main road–the only road–to the nearby town had been washed away. They would be stranded here for quite some time; no traffic could come in or out for the foreseeable future.

I know what you’re thinking: woe to the innkeeper! How can he continue to run his business now that the only path to the outside world lies in ruin…destroyed by forces outside his control?

Take a lesson from the unfortunate innkeeper: don’t rely too heavily on any one method for online lead generation…even if that method is Google. In fact, especially if it’s Google.

Personal Google Story

The week before I left on vacation I noticed that the daily traffic to our blog was a fraction of what it normally is. Thinking this was a glitch in the TypePad stats program, I ignored it. The next day I checked again, and again the number was anemic.

I logged into my Keyword Tracker account and saw something that surprised me. Our blog’s Google ranking for “rich brooks”–which normally hovers around 3 or 4 on page one–was nowhere to be found in the top 10,000 results. (OK, I’m a bit narcissistic.) Also, flyteblog.com had dropped over 100 spots overnight for “web marketing for small business.”

Luckily for my sanity, I didn’t have time to look into this too deeply before I left for the warmer climes of Orlando. A few days later I checked and my ranking–and traffic–had been restored to its pre-glitch glory.

Still, I became keenly aware of how much I rely on Google for online leads.

Impersonal Google Story

KinderStart.com is a parenting information Web site that recently sued Google after Google assigned it a PageRank of 0. KinderStart saw its traffic drop by 70% and now only gets 0.01% of its referrals from Google. The case was thrown out of court late last month.

KinderStart isn’t the first Web site to sue Google, and it surely won’t be the last. As we speak it’s considering amending its suit against Google. However, Google has a strong record in court, and KinderStart will be better served by generating new avenues of traffic in the meantime.

What You Can Do

You don’t need to wait for a Google-emergency to take action. Dedicate some of your online marketing time to creating as many paths to your Web site or blog as possible. (Many of these endeavors should also increase your search engine rank.)

I’d recommend:

  • Google Adsense. Yes, it may feel wrong to spend money with the very company who just removed you from page one, but if you need to keep the traffic flowing from your best keyword searches, PPC is the way to go. Plus, you can always shut it off once you’re back in Google’s good graces, or use a competing advertising vendor, like Yahoo or MSN Live.
  • Article marketing. Start by writing articles that address the needs of your best prospects. Use article distribution services like iSnare.com or ThePhantomWriters.com to have your article published in dozens or hundreds of relevant sites and ezines that all link back to your site.
  • Business blogs. By having multiple Web sites (yes, a blog is also a Web site,) with unique, quality content, you’re diversifying your portfolio, and protecting yourself against the shifting sands of search engine algorithms. Plus, your blog can help drive more qualified leads to your site for conversion.
  • Commenting on related blogs. Read the most influential blogs in your niche and participate by commenting, appropriately and intelligently. If you’re truly adding to the conversation, other readers will click on your name to follow you back to your Web site or blog to learn more about you.
  • Email marketing. Although not-as-sexy, customer retention will probably give you a better return on investment than customer acquisition. Get site visitors to subscribe to an email newsletter and provide them with quality information, subscriber-only discounts in your online store, or whatever else will keep them coming back for more.
  • RSS feeds. A staple of blogs and podcasts, many Web sites are now offering RSS feeds to their visitors who chew feeds. Although it’s primarily for early-adopters only right now, this is an easy way of letting interested visitors stay up-to-date with new information published on your Web site without having to regularly return…which they’re not going to do otherwise.

These activities will help minimize the impact of the whims of the search engine gods that may temporarily or permanently wipe you from the first page of your prospects’ search results.

Build as many paths to your Web site as you can; that way, if the main road gets washed out, there will still be plenty of ways for your best prospects to reach you.

If you need help developing alternative paths to your Web site, please contact flyte new media today.

–Rich Brooks
President, flyte new media

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