The discussion forums this past week or so are filled with sad, unfortunate stories of people seriously impacted by the most recent Google Penguin update. Families whose money has instantly dried up. Kids in college whose parents now have no way of paying tuition bills.
The quick recap of the update is that it was released on April 24. Its purpose was to further eliminate spam from the Google search results.
Search Engine Watch has several good articles on the topic: "Google Penguin Update: 5 Types of Link Issues Harming Some Affected Websites," "Fishing for Insights About Google's Penguin Update," and "17 Ways SMBs Can Survive the Google Penguin Update Effect."
I don't need to spend any time rehashing those concepts or what I think you should do if you've been hit with Penguin. There is plenty of that content. But I want to address those who have not yet been hurt by any of the recent Google algorithm updates. This column is for you. These are five tips I would seriously like to consider:
1. Diversify. If you are getting over 60 percent of your traffic from Google organic traffic you are probably overexposed to the whims of Google. The natural search landscape is constantly changing. Your competitors are gunning for your positions. Google is always on the lookout for a site that is better than yours that should have your spot in its index.
Some things to consider might be:
Always be thinking about how you can diversify your overall marketing strategies.
2. Get honest. If you have been building content that no human would enjoy reading; if you have gotten links from places no human would want to go; if you have been copying content over and over again in an attempt to build location pages or product pages; if you have been building multiple domains to try to rank for specific phrases: Google is coming for you.
You are going to want to pay attention to tip No. 1 even more intensely. Maybe you are still OK with your site(s). Maybe you are still getting a nice amount of traffic from Google. But I truly believe your time is coming. You are on a volatile, risky path.
Your diversification strategy needs to be your top priority.
3. Even great sites need a post-organic strategy. Here's a fun off-site meeting workshop you can try: imagine Google disappears tomorrow. What will you do now?
Develop a multi-tiered plan for generating the same amount of traffic Google organic traffic has given you. If you feel that your business could not survive a loss of Google traffic, you are living in a fantasy world.
It is very possible to build a business without Google traffic. You need that strategy with a plan to build it out.
4. Can you hang in a Penguin/Panda world? So many businesses made a great living by easily gaming the Google algorithm. They have been doing it since the beginning. They bought cheap links out of India; they bought cheap content out of the Philippines. That is no longer a workable strategy for a business.
If you don't have the time or money to invest in great content that generates a wide variety of good links, you need a new plan. Google is figuring out that you are not useful to the web landscape.
You also need to understand that most search traffic clicks on the top five listings. If there are 200 potential pages that could be good alternatives to the current top five results what does Google care if it just removes a few of those listings? Google has plenty of content inventory to choose from.
5. New optimizers, rejoice! If you are new to search engine optimization (SEO), either as an agency or as a business, this is a great time to get started with SEO.
Companies that have been built on buying cheap links and content have a major infrastructure problem. They need to reorganize their company to make a new system profitable. Or, more likely, they'll just go out of business.
This is an amazing opportunity to build an SEO strategy based on compelling content. Great content is going to get great natural links and be rewarded in the social media channels.
The pain some people are feeling now sucks. I hate to see people suffer. But oftentimes these kinds of changes can bring forth an entire set of new opportunities.
Just build great sites, people. It's the only long-term strategy that you can bank on.
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Sage Lewis is the president of SageRock Digital Marketing. SageRock has been a leader in Web marketing since 1999, offering search engine optimization, paid search marketing, social media marketing, and analytics.
Sage speaks nationally with SES and other prominent Web marketing organizations. He is one of the most sought after speakers and coaches in the field of Web marketing. From coast to coast, Sage has trained, coached, and consulted with some of the largest brands and conferences in the country.
Sage is also "The Web Marketing Video Guy" with nearly 500 Web marketing videos published. Sage writes as an expert for ClickZ in the "Search Engine Marketing" section. He lives in Akron, Ohio with his wife, Rocky, and son, Indiana.
His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT