As a small business owner in the online niche, I have to make a confession: I’ve gamed Google for too long, often unintentionally – so long that, eventually, I reap what I sow.
You see, I own and run sites. Starting up 5-6 years ago, I didn’t really care about search engine ranking. At that time, I know a thing or two about SEO, but I have no interest in getting my ranking up.
I was initially not really into blogging. But I tried it anyway and started a blog, Noobpreneur.com, mainly to document my online entrepreneurship journey.
The first thing I tried to make my mark in online business was starting up an e-commerce site selling natural treatment products.
I’ve managed to sell 1 product (yay?) and the business went bust. I’ve spent too much resource on the site and “forgot” the important ingredient for success: I didn’t equip myself with Internet marketing knowledge.
After trying various niches in online business – web directories, affiliate marketing, and so on – I finally found my focus in web publishing and business blogging. Since then, via numerous trial-and-errors, I managed to build a couple of good blogs.
I blog away freely, without thinking about money keywords, keyword density, etc.
As time passes, I soon realize that it’s important for me to rank high on Google. I’ve read many resources, which told me that Google delivers highly targeted traffic. I’ve proven myself that the traffic Google delivers worth a mountain; so I tried to optimize things for Google.
Now here’s the mistake I make. I build my blogs on a fragile foundation.
What a fragile website foundation can do to your business
You see, I follow some experts who have helped me a great deal in building my blogging business. Most of them are fantastic, but some of them are, um, “experts.”
Unfortunately, as I follow the right ways taught by real experts, I also follow the wrong ways taught by the so-called “experts.”
It’s my biggest strength, but unfortunately it’s also my biggest weakness: I practice what I’ve read; so, I implement what I just learned straight away on my blogs – for better or worse.
I’ve managed to grow my blogs, with 2 highlights in the pack: One managed to reach 4,000 visitors/day and the other one is close to 1,000 visitors/day – thanks to the organic traffic I get by ranking high on excellent keywords in my niches.
Both have gained credibility and both have good brand recognition. As both are in the (higher paying) business technology niche, so yes, the revenue was great.
What did I do, exactly, getting such amount of traffic?
I’ve created opinionated content; I challenge people’s mindset – and hope to change it; I explain difficult subjects in layman’s term, to help my readers understand better about some obscure topics. Those are great in giving my blogs exposure, and people do link to my posts.
Unfortunately, I’ve also practice greyhat and blackhat SEO tactics – often without realizing that what I did was risky.
I’ve sponsored WordPress themes – one of them were a hit, sending me tons of backlinks; I bought links on high PageRank sites; I built link wheels; I exchanged links… those are not illegal, but those are against Google and other search engines’ TOS.
I’ve built time bombs for years. The detonators? Google Panda and Penguin.
I’ve survived the first Google Panda update, but finally, Google Penguin caught me red-handed. The time bombs explode – BOOM! and the ground was shaking and breaking apart, creating cliffs easy to fall into.
Overnight, my top two blogs, as well as some of my other blogs, were pushed over the cliff and started free-falling in traffic.
It’s been 13 months since the jump and the aftermath is really disheartening.
Today I’ve lost nearly 90 percent of my initial traffic on both blogs. Funny, my other blogs seem not to take much damage. They are hanging on pretty well – with or without Google traffic; in fact, some of them ranks better – without any prominent link building efforts.
As my top 2 blogs rely heavily on organic traffic, they are now suffering the consequences.
I’m not alone
I don’t know what others do with their link building strategy in order to recover from Google algorithm update slaps, but reading people’s story about Google algorithm update, it seems that recovering from Google algorithm traffic is a near-miracle thing.
Businesses – CheapOair got hit; these big sites got hit, too. Blogs – Kim Castleberry’s blog got slapped by Penguin 2.0; Ana Hoffman’s blog has dropped 60 percent in traffic; and numerous others got hit, as well.
Is there any hope?
Yes. However, you need to be willing to do things the big guys do. And reading Sam McRoberts’ article, you can be sure that if you are not a brand and are not willing to turn your business into a brand, you can bid farewell to organic search.
And unless you have $1,000s in SEO budget to fix things up; unless you have hired genius writers providing authoritative content for you on regular basis. Unfortunately, those are luxuries for many of us – including me.
Matt Cutts also mentioned that it’s possible for individuals to get big brand search visibility. How? Create authoritative content. A great advice, but I honestly think that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What’s the point of creating great content when nobody reads it? The bottom line, you need visibility, and to boost yours, you need SEO. You need to be credible. And often, that’s not enough.
I’ve personally fed up with pursuing organic traffic. In fact, I’m breaking up with organic traffic. I think the way to go today is social media traffic and any other kinds of referral traffic – and, again, start building your online brand.
In the end it’s all about mindset, really. If you focus on your readers and give value in return for their time spent visiting your blog, then you’ve achieved your goal.
What about the whole thing about small business SEO? Well, if you can start on a clean slate, building ground up doing the right tactics and strategy, and start building your small business website as an online brand, you have a good chance in competing with the big guys, SEO-wise.
Search engine traffic? Um, I no longer put that on my priority list – it’s too tiring and resource-consuming trying to hang on. Things have changed and we need to continue to move forward… starting with boosting online brand and acquiring referral and direct traffic.
So, what’s your story with Google algorithm updates? Are they doing your business good or the other way around?
About The Guest Author: Ivan Widjaya is the Founder/CEO of a small business blog, NoobPreneur, a small business online magazine, OnSMB, and several other business blogs/online magazines. He is a Web publisher, Web property investor, blogger and Web property builder.
Online Marketing Strategy Photo via Shutterstock