Small business websites often struggle to get traffic. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is thought of as the solution to this problem. To those that run small business websites, successful SEO is seen as getting to the top of Google. Unfortunately, this view leaves the small business at serious risk.
Eggs, Meet Google
Lets assume that you got to the top of Google organically* (no matter how you did it) and the visits and sales started rolling in. Great scenario, right? You’d ramp up production accordingly (assuming you were selling a physical product) to meet the demand. I’m not assuming some avalanche scenario here, where you are overwhelmed with orders but a more manageable growth curve that allows you to ramp up in a manageable way.
So, in this scenario, business is humming along and everything is great and then Google goes and changes their algorithm and you are no longer on the first page of search results. Visits and sales drop immediately and now you are left with excess production and inventory.
Yeah, but how often does Google change their algorithm?
Oh, only about 500 to 600 times per year. Fortunately, major changes are only done occasionally, but it only takes a minor change in their algorithm to have a major impact on your bottom line. Looking at the changes listed in the Moz.com timeline, even the minor changes could have significant impact. Here are a few that easily could do harm to a business that relied solely on Google for their search traffic.
- HTTPS/SSL Update — August 6, 2014 - After months of speculation, Google announced that they would be giving preference to secure sites, and that adding encryption would provide a “lightweight” rankings boost. They stressed that this boost would start out small, but implied it might increase if the changed proved to be positive.
- Pigeon — July 24, 2014 - Google shook the local SEO world with an update that dramatically altered some local results and modified how they handle and interpret location cues. Google claimed that Pigeon created closer ties between the local algorithm and core algorithm(s).
- Panda 4.0 (#26) — May 19, 2014 - Google confirmed a major Panda update that likely included both an algorithm update and a data refresh. Officially, about 7.5% of English-language queries were affected.
If you think that this is a hypothetical scenario, check out these articles from the Wall Street Journal, As Google Tweaks Searches, Some Get Lost in the Web or Sites Retool for Google Effect.
Eggs, Meet Amazon
This type of scenario isn’t limited to Google search results. It’s a similar reality for those that sell in the Amazon.com marketplace as this Wall Street Journal article points out, Sellers Need Amazon, but at What Cost?. The dilemma for Amazon sellers is that there is not only a risk of an algorithmic change but also a risk of Amazon changing their merchant policies. Additionally, Amazon makes it clear that you are selling to their customers, not yours. That’s difficult to swallow if you are the one creating the product that is being sold.
The solution to both scenarios is to diversify. You can’t simply rely on Google to send you traffic. You have to seek out other ways to bring traffic to your site including other search engines, industry specific websites, social media networks, email marketing campaigns, professional networks and local affiliations. By diversifying in this way, you protect yourself from any one of them damaging your business.
What Do Your Numbers Look Like?
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Where does our traffic come from?” If you are asking yourself that question and can’t come up with an answer, or someone within your organization to give you that information then we need to talk. You need to install some sort of analytics on your website that allows you to track traffic sources. Fortunately, it’s a fairly straightforward process and Google Analytics is a free solution that will give you the information that you need.
- Organically - as opposed to through paid search ads
- Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/9LRP5L