What if you were penalized or deindexed in Google? What if you accidentally blocked everything in your robots.txt file? What if you didn’t know you had done something wrong, and you were hit with an algorithmic update that crushed you? For every one of you who sees it coming, there are a ton that don’t.
Loads of people will tell you that doing poorly in Google would crush their business completely. Are you in that position? If so, have you made a contingency plan for how you’ll keep moving if the worst happens?
Imagine that, for whatever reason, you stopped getting any traffic from Google. What would be left? Hopefully, you’re doing okay in other search engines, getting great referral traffic and being easily found on social media sites — but is it enough?
Here’s a sampling of what I see from my own sites and a few from a friend, based on the last 90 days of analytics data:
Site 1: Google Organic: 68.4% Yahoo and Bing Organic: 2.75% Facebook: 2.4%
What this says to me is that if I got booted out of Google, I’d be in a really bad spot. Lots of work to do here.
Site 2: Google Organic: 31.62% Yahoo and Bing Organic: nothing even worth mentioning Referral: over 30%
With this site, the referral traffic is almost the same as the organic traffic from Google. I’m feeling pretty good about this one, although I obviously need to amp up the social and work on getting more traffic from other search engines.
Site 3: Google Organic: 49.9% Yahoo and Bing Organic: again, nothing worth mentioning Direct: 21%
The direct bit makes me happy here, but we need to work on the non-Google traffic overall. Social tends to be decent here when there’s something new on the site, but right now, this still looks like a bit too much reliance upon Google.
Site 4: Google Organic 51% Yahoo and Bing Organic: over 8% combined Direct: 25%
Not much social here but again, the direct bit is good. The Bing and Yahoo traffic is a good start, but we need to amp it up.
For any of the above sites, losing traffic from Google would be a very bad thing. We could keep things running elsewhere, but we need to do a lot of work outside of Google here.
So what can we do? What can you do?
Be found somewhere else, period.
If the main way you get business is through being found in Google, it’s time to get scared enough to start focusing on how to get found elsewhere. What follows are some ways to get your business in front of prospective customers — without relying on Google.
I’ve seen a few recent articles recommending that people stop giving away their content to other sites and start keeping it on their own sites. While I do understand that point of view, I have to disagree with it — especially because of my own personal case.
Sure, I could invest loads of time in bringing back my own agency’s blog, but would it ever reach the same audience that I can reach from writing on this site and others? Not a chance. Those sites have the power of the other authors and a great team behind them and there is no way that I could compete with that. Why spend time writing a post that’s only going to be read by 15 people when I could spend that same time and have it read by 1,000?
You don’t always have to build content, though. In some cases, it’s useful simply to participate in existing discussions about your industry. A lot of discussion about content happens outside of the content itself — meaning not in the comments section — so figure out where it’s being talked about and join the conversation.
I’ve seen some amazingly long and deep G+ threads discussing articles which had no on-page comments. I’ve started reading blogs written by people that I hadn’t heard of until they reached out on social media.
I’ve seen some people giving great answers to link building questions on Quora and started following them on Twitter, which led me to read their content. Find out what sites are right for your business and get active on them!
Word-of-mouth is powerful. There’s a pink VW that is driven by the owner of a local brow salon in town — and, while I can happily say that I have zero plans to ever have my brows done there or anywhere else, if anyone were to ask me if I knew of a local brow salon, I would immediately give them the name of that salon. Billboards, subway ads, flyers — these get noticed, as well.
It’s hard work getting a great link on a heavily trafficked site. I’m not suggesting that you identify a site with 1 million readers and then start flooding them with emails where you beg for a link or offer to pay for one.
I am merely suggesting that, rather than evaluating a link prospect based on its potential to boost your rankings, you should instead consider whether or not you’ll get any relevant traffic out of it.
Despite what you may have heard, directories weren’t all discounted completely (though they should not form the bulk of your backlinks, which sadly I do still see happening).
Some people actually do find help by using a directory. Maybe they don’t know where else to look and that’s how they’ve found who they need for the past ten years. For whatever reason, it’s worth being found in one if it has the potential to drive traffic, and that’s probably best decided on a case-by-case basis.
I’ve had maybe two people turn down an interview request. An interview on someone else’s site gives you a link (hopefully!) and you have the benefit of someone else promoting something that contains your link and your information.
If you interview people, you’re learning more about each other, and that increases the odds that they might send you a referral one day — whether it’s by linking to you or giving your name to someone who needs your services. It’s a great way to make a connection.
Most cities and towns have these whether you know it or not, so ask around. It doesn’t have to be directly related to your niche, either; so, if the only event that’s happening is one for business owners or professionals to do a meet and greet, go to it.
Alternatively, you can set up your own event. If you have a brick-and-mortar, go spend $100 on some wine and cheese, and host an hour-long open house, asking people to drop off their business cards and take yours.
This is a great way to get more exposure, provided you have the qualifications necessary to speak. If you don’t, then attend one — and instead of sitting alone taking notes, go talk to people. Give them your business card, ask for theirs, go have coffee or a drink together.
Just as I’ve found some great people through Twitter or through reading one of their articles, I’ve found them through their presentations on sites like SlideShare.
I’d heard very mixed opinions about someone that I was considering working with on a project a few years back, and it was after viewing his presentations on SlideShare that I came to the conclusion that he really did know his stuff.
It’s not too far of a stretch to assume that, at some point, you might have a problem with Google. You can of course choose not to plan for it — to sit back and hope it never happens. But, based on all the panicky emails that I get every month from webmasters who never thought they’d be hit but were, I do think that’s a very short-sighted choice.
It’s hard to take the time to be pro-active when you aren’t having a problem, but it’s even harder to put together a successful plan when you’re sitting on the edge of losing your livelihood. You probably have a backup in case your store manager gets sick, right? It’s time to start treating your online presence with that same sense of seriousness.