March has brought the effective closure of ‘Build My Rank’ (BMR), along with the ‘laying off’ of thousands of people who relied heavily on the service they once provided. The announcement made on their website basically acknowledged that the vast majority of their network had been de-indexed by Google. For those who don’t know, BMR provided a ‘private network’ of blog/article websites which were utilized commercially by people looking to develop back-link juice for their own website(s).
It was also interesting to see Google anti-spam spokesperson Matt Cutts acknowledge the latest victory and announce to the rest of the Internet black-hat world that they are firmly on the Google radar screen.
“Good to see at that it’s on peoples’ radar that they’re on our radar. :)” was Mr. Cutts’ Tweeted response to the news that ALN, another popular back-link building network, lost 5,297 domains to de-indexing in 1 week.
To many of us who provide white-hat SEO services, this announcement comes as no real surprise. The fight against web spam has been building momentum for well over 12 months, and many of us believe that what we’re seeing unfold is just the tip of the iceberg, any pun WRT the Titanic being clearly intended.
While many ‘exposed’ webmasters scurry around wondering what to do to protect their crumbling empires, it should be stated that now would be a good time to rethink one’s strategy regarding search engine traffic.
What we’re seeing essentially is the removal, in a slow and systematic way, of any and all means of self-influencing the position of your website(s) in Google SERP’s. You were never intended to have the luxury of performing a few simple SEO steps to enable you to beat down your competitors in Google search results. It was never meant to be that way. It was and always has been the simple rule that the Google algorithm should decide what is worthy of high SERP’s and what isn’t.
We are provided with performance benchmarks by Google which allow us to operate on a somewhat level playing field with others in our niche. Then we are told to “just go ahead and write quality content,” whereupon you will be rewarded from the skies. To some of us this is like a child being given a box of matches to play with, but told not to open the box.
The algorithm judges us, ensures we are in compliance and decides based on factors unknown just where we appear relative to others. The ‘directions’ we are provided with include –
* How and what to write, including the standards of our writing
* How and what we can allow to be copied/replicated from our site and where it should and should not be republished
* Encouraging people to interact with our websites, paying close attention to how long they spend reading pages, how many pages they look at and how often they leave having only viewed one page
* Providing ‘hooks’ so that people can talk about our websites in social media circles – Facebook, Twitter, Forums and Blogs (and now of course, Pinterest and G+)
* How quickly our pages should load, how easy our websites should be to navigate (read ‘crawl’)
We are given these performance benchmarks for those aspects of our operation we can influence and told not to focus on those we cannot. We are given optimum page-load times and bounce rates and told to write quality content. We’re encouraged to participate in social media circles and to develop online communities, even if we don’t want to, but never to spam or manipulate.
And as we march to the beat of the drum, slowly the Google algorithm is working in the background to remove and level areas of performance which can be self-affected (read ‘manipulated’).
I’ve heard from many people who feel they’ve been dragged down a path almost involuntarily. They step back and look at their website and how it has been forced to evolve and decide that they’ve built a website to please Google and not their visitors/ customers. Bloated pages of content, blogs which are clearly out of place, poorly produced videos, links to social media sites which are not working in support of their business goals, design constraints observed just to please Google, so on and so forth.
If things aren’t bad enough, the FTC has joined the party. I believe they have a valid role in policing some aspects of the Internet, but there are FTC lead think-tanks currently looking into ways to add additional layers of control over what we can and cannot say, what we can and cannot do. And in the same way Google has taken to making a public spectacle of ‘networks’ who don’t play by their rules, the FTC have made some high-profile take-downs over the last 6 months or so, intended to send a shock-wave through the internet community.
Readers of George Orwell may be seeing some sage predictions unfolding before our very eyes.
What Can You Do About It?
It’s time to look at ways of breaking your dependence on Google and becoming more self-sufficient in the ways in which you attract visitors to your website.
There are alternative ways of attracting visitors and many which can be only marginally affected by Google.
Article syndication, eZine marketing, email marketing, ebook publishing are just a few which come to mind.
But it doesn’t come without some effort. In a sense, Google has made many of us lazy. We’ve started to take for granted the free-flow of traffic on the Internet and just assumed that we are entitled to our fair share of it. Google is a corporation with a board of directors and shareholders – we need to get used to the fact that it owes us nothing.
At a basic level we need to ensure that we make every visit to our site count. Have the courage to look at your landing pages and determine what you think, provides the optimal experience for your visitor. Try to envisage how the page would look if you removed Google as the overseeing authority. Would it still look the same graphically, textually?
Adopt a rolodex mentality to interfacing with your prospects. Do you make it easy for them to contact you? Do you provide an incentive for them to contact you? Do you provide an effective and organized follow-up strategy for your subscribers and contacts? You need to get the most out of each of your visitors and build lists of contacts and relationships which are immune to the whims of Google.
Carl Hruza, author of the popular reference guide series “The Internet – No Place for Dummies,” has operated his successful Web Design/SEO Company since 1998. To receive an advanced copy of the next article, and to learn more about the ways in which you can minimize your dependence on search engine traffic, please visit my website to receive a free report on diverse traffic strategies.