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When Google Gives Us Lemons…

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Both Avinash Kaushik and Jeff Jarvis tell us that we don’t own our sites. In fact, our visitors / customers don’t even own our site anymore. Google owns our site.

Need proof? Ask your mom to name her favorite store in the mall. Then ask her to their website online. If she doesn’t use the search bar in her browser or go directly to Google.com, I’ll give you a dollar.

We know people are creatures of habit.  Search engines have become the main touch point in their online day-to-day.  For many people, if you restrict their access to a search engine, they’ll fall apart like I do when I’m given an O’doul’s at a party. Why didn’t your mother try to type the website directly into the URL bar?

On the bright side, when 50% of your natural search visits are from variations of your brand name or URL spelling, at least your numbers look good – that may give you some job security if you spin it right.

But Google is a pain in the ass because with all this ownership and inside data, they don’t really play well with others.  They don’t share.  Take WMT for example – it’s very thin data in the grand scheme of things. It’s like giving a free sample, but never letting you buy the product.

And what’s with the rich snippets?  I give you the content, and you post it in your result pages?  I want people to click through.  How do I know they’re not clicking through?  Because I’m not even clicking through on my own site. I’ve been sucked into the Google vortex.

Don’t get me started on feeds, schema.org, or Google Places.

Granted, there’s a lot to gripe about. When I go to a search convention, I see I’m not alone. I never skip a panel with a Googler – it’s always a fun beatdown.  But the same thing happens every time.  By the end of the scolding, the Googler – be it an engineer or product manager, essentially commits social suicide, as he throws his hands in the air with the answer, “I don’t know.”  As hard as he tries, he can’t answer all the questions he gets.  It’s not always because he’s not allowed to, but I think it’s because he doesn’t know how to.

I think there are ghosts in the machine. I envision Dali painting with a thousands of gears all clumped together.  Turn one, there’s no telling how many others will connect.  At this point, I don’t think Google knows.  They can try to reshape the monstrosity, but at this point the algorithm has to be pretty insurmountable.  Add on top of this, there are several other algorithms running different Google properties that are probably comparably unruly.

But let’s face it.  Google created this mess, and search engines created the SEO – both the good and the bad ones.  But despite the hat you wear, we’re all dealing with our own KPI’s against this mutant algorithm. So are our competitors.  Trial and error, testing, and patience are the key to building your experience. When you put together a marketing strategy, you’re typically trying to overcome an obstacle.  You’re putting together a plan to move past the immovable objects.  Google is an immovable object, so the SEO needs to strategize with that in mind.  That’s far different than what many SEOs do by trying to defeat or complain about it.  Since goal setting is the key to proper strategy, the SEO (and the employer of the SEO) need to plan touchpoints that accept these realities.

Things to ask yourself when choosing your tactics:

  • Why do I think this tactic will work?  (What experience or data do you have)
  • What will this affect if it does not work?  (Will your scheduled touchpoints be affected)
  • What is this tactic’s plan B?  (To stay on schedule, what is your alternative tactic and bandwidth)
  • What are the points where we measure and analyze?  (When do you take a break and make sure you’re on track)
  • When is it time to abandon the strategy?  (Sometimes your best plans fall flat – be willing to accept that)

With this clarity comes opportunity.  Again, many of our competitors are dealing with Google head on, and trying to plow through the algorithm instead of dance with it.  They’re probably granted the same amount of time and budget as you.  SEO is a household word in business, but it’s still rarely done right in the grand scheme of things.  Spend some time with a clear understanding of what Google really is to your website, and spend more time in the planning stage.


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    Comments

    The comments are do-follow. However, any comments that use keyword anchor text as the name will be removed.

    1. Kelly Ballard
      November 2, 2011

      Interesting angle. I think some SEOs would argue that it can be dismantled though.

      Reply


    2. Kelly Ballard
      November 2, 2011

      Interesting angle. I think some SEOs would argue that it can be dismantled though.

      Reply


    3. @billsebald
      November 2, 2011

      There are tribes of SEO’s who focus on reverse engineering the engine. They could be hobbyists or spammers or some other interest group, but my point is that unlike 5-10 years ago, this thing is a mess.

      Some SEO’s are very successful at swinging their sledgehammer into the algorithm and taking out a chunk, and getting good ranking success on some keywords, but nobody has ever really come close to solving Google today. If they have, they sure kept quiet about it.

      Reply


    4. @billsebald
      November 2, 2011

      There are tribes of SEO’s who focus on reverse engineering the engine. They could be hobbyists or spammers or some other interest group, but my point is that unlike 5-10 years ago, this thing is a mess.

      Some SEO’s are very successful at swinging their sledgehammer into the algorithm and taking out a chunk, and getting good ranking success on some keywords, but nobody has ever really come close to solving Google today. If they have, they sure kept quiet about it.

      Reply