For a long while webmasters everywhere depended on Google organic search for a bulk of their traffic. With Google enjoying about 67% of the search volumes, it is easy enough to fall in this trap. It has also been suggested many times that search traffic is better targeted since searchers are already in need for a product, service or information when they type the query in.
What do You Want to Be? A Commodity site or a Brand?
Ultimately your marketing strategy boils down to this one question. Do you want to be a commodity site or a brand? I have run an investment service online for a number of years and over this time I have found my audience seek out my web site by either typing in the site name directly in the address bar or searching in Google and other search engines with the site name. Drilling down in the analytics, it is pretty obvious that these users have a greater interest in my content. They spend a lot of time on the site, sometimes hours, and they visit many number of pages. Conversion rates are very high too.
So how did they initially find the site? Surprisingly, it is not very often through search.
Majority of my engaged users have found the site through referrals from other sites or through social media. I syndicate my articles on many leading industry sites and these users actually seek me out.
Google searchers on the other hand tend to come in, get the answer they want and leave. There are some repeat visits, sure, but they are not so much inclined to stay awhile and explore rest of the site.
My Google Referrals have Declined and I Couldn’t be Happier!
In raw numbers, I am getting more referrals from Google. As a percentage though, my Google referrals have declined from 80% at one time, to now under 30%. My 2nd largest source of traffic is Direct. Some days, direct traffic, including from the email newsletters I publish far exceeds the traffic from Google.
The rest comes from a variety of websites that publish or syndicate my articles. People come the old fashioned way – by clicking on a link.
Google has Slipped in Quality
Looking at the bounce rates and time spent, it is apparent that Yahoo Search sends a better targeted traffic then Google. The various iterations of Panda and Penguin algorithm updates have not really done much to improve Google’s referral quality. After all, it is a 2 way street. Google’s search results can be said to improve only when they get better at matching the searcher with the results and that is not happening.
The problem is quite obvious to anyone (except maybe Google itself). They now spend more time trying to find low quality sites to penalize, instead of trying to find high quality sites to promote. And I would argue that they are failing in that as well.
It has gotten to the point that if you write an epic content that becomes popular and gets heavily linked from authority sites, you start wondering if Google would consider this unnatural and penalize you.
Break this Addiction
Being overly dependent on a single marketing channel is not smart. Refusing to diversify your sources of traffic in the face of the evidence that this 1 traffic source is inferior, is downright stupid. The problem is that we are all addicted to “free”. But believe it or not, we all pay a price for this “free” traffic.
Build out a variety of marketing channels. It could be online and offline. Once your content is popular and the signals are hard to ignore, Google will come around. The more you chase it, the harder it will become.
Ultimately, your goal is not to please Google. Your goal is to provide a product or a service and create value for as many people as you can. By chasing Google, you may also be losing sight of your primary goal, and if you do end up getting tons of free traffic, they will not stick around. What good is that?
Other Marketing Channels Don’t Have to Cost Money
They will cost you time and elbow grease. You will not be able to sit back and tweak your content to make it more discoverable. You will actually have to network and interact with people, be it on social media or looking for syndication partners, or answering your emails/phones. Do this well, and it will get you traffic. Set up an email newsletter and you will make a connection and this will keep people coming back.
Isn’t this how the business has always been done.
Note: There are webmasters who are now actively discussing this which is good to see.
What do you think? As a business owner, do you want to be at the mercy of an algorithm for your business success?