Being found in the first few search results of Google is one of best forms of advertising you can get. And this is largely what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is designed to do, optimize your web assets so they’re ranked highly on popular search sites. Sure, there are other sites and other considerations but Google and Bing are by far the biggest ones.
If you’re highly ranked for searches on keywords that people use when they’re looking for your product, you probably generate a bunch of inquiries that hopefully turn into sales. While this strategy can certainly pay off, it can often be a double edged sword as the relatively inexpensive and effortless success can cause you to slowly put too many of your lead generation eggs in one basket.
What’s the harm in this? Ask Experian, whose stock dropped 4.5% ($477,000,000 in market value) in January of 2014 because their site rank dropped by 25% in search visibility. While you may not have that much at stake in your web ranking, it’s worth considering why this happened as well as the breadth of the issue.
Since your site is ranked according to the private criteria of the search sites, which all differ, your site must be setup to follow all of the rules of these sites. One major issue is that the sites don’t publish the exact rules because you’d game them to get listed higher. For example, the list below is presumably what Google humans give human coders as what they’d like the Google algorithm to use as listing criteria and is as explicit as Google gets when it comes to revealing how they determine your site’s rank (you can find this on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog):
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
Now, let’s say that one of the search sites that you’ve been depending on for leads changes their secret recipe for listing your site (yes, the one you didn’t know in the first place) like Google did with a program they launched in 2011 called Panda. It reportedly affected as much as 12% of all search results1.
Think of the business that was lost immediately that couldn’t be recovered. Sure, Expedia’s stock went back up, but many smaller companies suffered and continue to do so. Ralph Slate, 43, of Springfield, Mass., also says he’s getting pushed way down in the rankings as a result of the recent changes. Traffic to his site, HockeyDB.com, is down by roughly 30% from the 50,000 daily visitors it was averaging prior to Google’s update.
While detailed discussions of the initiatives that were/are responsible for these changes are outside the purview of this blog, they’re worth checking out (listed below). Since Google’s launch, there have been some 55 updates to the search algorithm that presumably affected commercial websites’ results and leads generated. The three recent updates that you may want to check up on are: Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird.
The point is to diversify your lead generation and business development efforts, particularly if you’re relying on a system, company or team for the majority of it. Consider having a backup plan in case you’re hit with an unexpected system change, illness (or worse) or a labor workforce issue that will cause you pain immediately.