What I Really Think of Google: A Post I’m Embarrassed to Write

68 amazing comments

Google metaphor

Most people reading this probably do some blogging SEO.

And everyone knows about Google updates like Panda and Penguin.

If you’re interested in all of that you might also be critical of the way Google sometimes favors certain websites in the search results – even when they might not deserve it.

It can seem really unfair.

Well, I have a kind of unpopular opinion about all of that.

I’d be really interested to hear what you think.

Why I love Google and why it’s embarrassing

Here’s the thing.

When you work in an industry like blogging, internet marketing and SEO, you start to notice that a lot of the other people working in that industry are anti-Google.

Or, at least, they say very anti-Google things.

It’s kind of a “cool” position to take.

But I have always found that a little bit strange.

Why?

Because without Google none of us would have a job.

I wouldn’t be able to work from home full time making a living off the internet. My affiliate sales would be non existent. My traffic levels would be dismal.

I’d probably be out doing letter drops or advertising in print.

And I think that’s worth pointing out.

A pre-Google world wide web (Ugh, I’m getting old)

When I was in high school Google wasn’t really a thing.

The net was only just really taking off and things like Alta Vista and Ask Jeeves were the most common ways of searching for things.

Now, it is possible that one of these search engines might have taken the place of Google and grown to become the innovative, environmental friendly, search giant that we have today.

But I doubt it.

Of course, Google isn’t perfect.

People criticize them for privacy concerns, a lack of competition and, as Glen often does, being potentially a bit hypocritical in their SEO guidelines and practices.

They’re still the best around, though.

And I honestly do believe that, unlike a lot of corporations, they do have good intentions interwoven with their profit making.

What most SEOs are actually mad at

When you really take a look at it I think most SEOs are mad because they made a mistake.

They relied on Google.

This is something I’ve written about before but I find myself wanting to mention it every year or so as the issue re-surfaces in new and unique ways. And it is something that every single blogger should be aware of.

If you hear about an SEO or a blogger hating on Google it’s usually because they’ve had a penalty.

Hell, it happened to me this year too. (More on that another time)

But the blame really should be on ourselves for relying on Google for too much of our traffic. We don’t own our Google rankings. And as unfair as it can seem, Google is well within their rights to put your site wherever they want.

This is an extremely unpopular view – and I know I might get some flack for it amongst my colleagues. But if you’re building an asset that relies totally on Google for your earnings and traffic then I think you’re asking for trouble.

A smarter way to view Google?

Of course, this stuff only applies to Google in its function as a source of web traffic.

But in that regard I think bloggers, website owners, small businesses, internet marketers, etc. should really only view Google traffic as a bonus, not a given.

This is especially true if search traffic is becoming your major source of income.

Because if you’re building a business that only gets traffic from Google then you are taking a massive risk and you’d better have a contingency plan. People who build websites specifically for the purpose of ranking them through SEO “tricks” should really be factoring in the fact that they might get banned.

I don’t want to come across as gloomy and pessimistic here. There is nothing wrong with trying to get more search traffic. But if you have one blog or one business then you’ll want to be doing things like:

  • Making more meaningful connections
    If you really want to grow a blog the thing that makes the biggest difference, in my experience, is the meaningful connections that you have with mentors, colleagues, readers and so on. That network can be a huge protection.
  • Saving money for advertising
    It’s a wise idea to put aside some of the income that you make from Google traffic so that you can learn how to successful advertise your blog should you ever need to. Advertising is a really good idea anyway, but if you get a penalty you might have no choice.
  • Growing your referrals regularly
    If you look at your analytics you’ll want to see a nice split between search traffic, direct traffic and referrals. Ideally, you’d like to get the majority of your traffic from a wide variety of other website referrals. Never stop growing them, even when you’re search traffic gets big.
  • Diversifying mediums, not just sources
    I’ve mentioned getting traffic from different sources, but you also want to start diversifying your mediums. That means writing long form content, building a podcast and shooting videos. It means looking at developing infographics, tools, plugins, apps and trying to keep abreast of any trends that might present a new opportunity.
  • Building an active mailing list
    I know we talk about it a lot here but getting more email subscribers should really be the number one priority for anyone who is focusing their energy on one blog or one business. These guys and girls will keep you alive if anything goes wrong.

To me, all of these things make your SEO strategy more well rounded. They afford you a little bit of space should anything go wrong somewhere along the line.

How do you view Google traffic?

I know a lot of Tyrant Troops are intensely interested in SEO and getting more Google traffic. Have you ever had a penalty? Are you worried that your blog might be a little too reliant on one source of visitors?

Please leave me a comment and tell me about your situation.

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68 Comments. Join in. *Closed after 30 days*

  • Joe Large

    Sort of reminds me of dissing Microsoft..yes they can be a pain, yes they do stuff that causes you hurt or ill will..but so does a car. They are a tool, not a lifestyle.

    As the doctor said in “Andromeda Strain” as they were going over all the procedures to find out the alien strain….He points to the other scientist’s head and says. “Don’t forget computer #1”..good post.


    1. Ramsay

      Ha ha. Nice one, Joe.


      1. Manpreet

        Before reading this post, I had been in the gang of Google haters. But now.. I don’t know.
        What you said is completely right. Why we curse google or even want google to favor us? It is their will what they want to do with their search results. We shouldn’t be bothered about it.
        In fact, we should be working on building our own readership and customer base that is not entirely governed by Google


        1. Ramsay

          πŸ™‚


    2. Megan

      “They are a tool, not a lifestyle.”

      I love this!


  • Naija Housewives

    I love google. I hardly do any SEO at all and I don’t really use social media to promote my blog, but Google makes it easy for me to research before I write.

    Building an active mailing list is very important (that’s how I got to see this post). And you don’t have to rely on another business completely. Relying on someone else’s platform 100% is always a mistake, be it Facebook or Google. It is important to build your own community.


    1. Ramsay

      Perfectly said!


  • D/C Russ

    I’ve always just seen it as making a presence..not with algorithms…but with people.

    It doesn’t matter how sophisticated technology becomes…there will always be a need to connect with other people.

    I think in the grand scene of things, that’s what the Google penalties teach us.

    You should be grateful when you get bitten. But most people whine and complain about it because that’s all they know to do.

    Google isn’t holding you back. It’s pushing you to change course…to redirect your ship.

    Be grateful.

    And if you get dinged, just focus on providing more value to more real people.

    Great article, I’m totally with you brother.

    Keep trucking!


    1. Ramsay

      Interesting perspective but I imagine that’s a pretty healthy way of looking at it. Thanks for sharing.


  • Daniel Richter

    Nice post!

    Visitors via Google make up a huge share of my traffic, like 70 %. Then there’s 20 % direct (of which some is from the mailing list) and the remaining 10 % is social and referral.

    Not really sure why it’s come to that. Maybe because my post are kind of infrequent (2-3/month) but of the evergreen-and-keyword-researched kind.

    Definately looking to diversify this, but not quite sure how.


    1. Ramsay

      I would just focus on writing a bunch of super brilliant evergreen articles on other websites. See if you can get them ranking for the long term. At least that spreads out your SEO load.


  • Bill

    I like the tips that you have in the article here because like many I have relied on Google and then gotten stiffed from a penguin update.

    Years ago I was getting 90+% of my traffic from Google, getting lots of adsense revenue and felt like I was on top of the world. I was using software like everyone else to pick up crappy backlinks and then Penguin hit.

    Overnight I lost 90% of my revenue. And it never came back.

    I have diversified, I have a list, I make sure I keep promoting content, I form relationships and promote anything I think my readers would need to see.

    But of course Google still hates me. They hold a grudge longer than anyone.

    The trouble I think is that by owning such a large part of the search market Google does also have a responsibility to make sure that they give and take with webmasters and blog owners. They take advantage of content created by others to be the search backbone that they are and then they try to keep that traffic for themselves. Those billions of dollars made are partially created by them but mostly created by the people that have created content that people are going to the internet for.

    All of us need to make sure that we do look at all sources of building up our web properites like you have written about here but also we need to make sure that we are respected for the content we create by treating Google as a partner and not as an overlord


    1. Ramsay

      Did you do a re-inclusion request?


      1. Bill

        No, I do have all my pages still indexed. It is just that they have very low rankings. Stuff that was in the top 5 for competitive terms dropped to 100-200 in the rankings. Google recognizes all my links including those they do not like. Lots of good links and lots of “bad” links and they never go away


        1. Ramsay

          Part of the re-inclusion is making a statement that you won’t buy links again. You might find it helps. You can also de-value those links.


  • chris

    I was hit by Peguin (I think it was a peguin…they all look the same). My numbers started dropping. I didn’t know what to do. In desperation, I checked every bit of my site as possible and using some free SEO Audit checklists I found on the net.

    I discovered two things;
    1. Once Google posted an update to that algo, my numbers shot up higher than ever before.
    2. During that frantic drop in the SERPs, I found I was doing things wrong but also not doing things to the extent that I should have been doing them. I’ll just say this – don’t assume using an SEO plugin is all that’s needed. There was a lot that I needed to fix or change in my site that was more than just the plugin settings.

    Fast forward to today.
    I checked my Bing stats (yes, I said Bing) after reading this post. Turns out that a recent change in my site permalinks didn’t work as expected for the site tags. Worked for everything else…ugh.

    SO WHAT DOES A WEB SITE OWNER DO?

    Recognize two things;
    1. Search engines change their algo’s so they can present the user with the most useful information. If they can’t, they go out of business. Good for them. Does it mean we need to jump on our site and make changes every time they do that? No.

    2. EVERYONE needs to perform an occasional SEO audit on their site. You can do it yourself or hire someone like Yoast. Think of your site as man in a business suit. Amongst the competition, you are all dressed up. Upon closer inspection, one guy has his tie on crooked. Another has a small stain on the shirt. Another has scuff marks on his shoes. It’s those little things that put you at the bottom of the list.


    1. Ramsay

      What did you do to your tags?


      1. chris

        I started in Drupal, years ago, and when I ported to WP, i kept the structure. So, all my articles were
        sitename.com / category / post title
        But category was literally “category.”

        I recently went through and did a re-direct and permalink change so all articles would be sitename.com / post title and old links in the SERP’s would redirect to get the updated location.

        From a few minutes of research, all the tag links on my site are good but Bing has cached the old location that includes the word “category.” And for some reason, my redirect isn’t dealing with those.


  • Philos

    Your post reminds me of one I wrote awhile back, ‘Why I sometimes fear Google as a blogger and internet entrepreneur’ – notice the word, ‘sometimes’.

    Well, when you look at Google, sometimes it feels like this company trying to create a service in every niche (search, cars, ads etc) and at times you look at it (their big world) and where you stand (a small player in the big world) – and yes, you take notice of and appreciate all the good they do – and you believe they will continue being that way. But as a human, sometimes you can’t stop thinking, ‘What if?’ – a question that sometimes leads to curiosity and a race to look for alternatives.


    1. Ramsay

      Yes that’s very true.


  • Kathleen Bailey

    Great post as usual. I remember Ask Jeeves and Altavista. That’s what I grew up with as well (and I’m not old so neither are you!) I never understood everyone’s dislike of Google either. They are a company too and they can run it how they want. Like you said, we don’t own our Google Ratings. We don’t have a RIGHT to have them where we’d like them. Something important to remember.


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for telling me I’m not old, Kathleen. πŸ™‚


  • Hernan

    I agree with you and
    I like your quotes:
    *”Because without Google none of us would have a job”.
    *”to view Google traffic as a bonus, not a given”
    Your advices are gold:
    *Making more meaningful connections.
    *Saving money for advertising.
    *Growing your referrals regularly.
    *Diversifying mediums, not just sources.
    and this is the best, for me:”Building an active mailing list”


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks Hernan.


  • Jeevan

    Reminds me of your wonderful blog about the millionaire mindset (thanks a million by the way…so validating, inspiring and life changing)…it’s a challenge in the end, just like every other life challenge to be more resourceful, positive and free. Thanks for another inspiring read Ramsay!


    1. Ramsay

      Oh I totally forgot about that post!


  • Shayna

    Agreed! It forces you to build a genuinely strong brand, business, and following.

    I have never liked the “build a portfolio of 500 content-thin sites by outsourcing articles to spinners / poor writers, get ’em ranked with SEO of sometimes questionable methods, and earn from AdSense and affiliate sales” business model. Yes, you can make money with it (at least until Google slaps you down) but how much real value are you providing to the world?

    Sometimes I use Google keyword research simply to find out what types of things people are searching for so that I can include key phrases in my article titles, and then I write real, helpful posts on those topics… which are happily shared by my visitors and subscribers. That’s the extent of my “SEO”!


    1. Ramsay

      That’s a big point for me too – what good am I doing. I just can’t get motivated for work that’s just about gaming a system.


  • Diana Marinova

    Great post and a bunch of important reminders – thanks, Ramsay!

    I don’t quite agree that without Google we will all be out of a job. I think now it is more true than ever that online marketing is all about building relationships and caring about your readers/customers/whoever it is that you are trying to reach. Ad you don’t really need Google for that, do you?

    That aside – yes, relying too much on Google is not good for your blog. I am afraid i am guilty of that. But what can i do – Google seems to like me πŸ™‚

    It has become a cliche, but i truly believe the more you write for your readers (and not for SEO), the more Google will like you and favor your site in its SERPs πŸ™‚


    1. Ramsay

      As long as you have a back up plan.


  • Suzanne Fluhr

    Whether we like it or not, Google is the elephant in the cyber-room—-and I don’t just mean Google search. To one extent or another ,I use gmail, a Google calendar, Google analytics, Google+ (which I still don’t understand ;-), Blogger (my original blog site); YouTube, Picasa, Chrome bookmarks, and the G cloud drive. There are probably other applications I use that Google owns or facilitates that I’m not even aware of. As I learned when Google axed the Google reader, if something is not working for THEM, they can and probably will, at some point, pull the plug on it. I use all those services for “free”– if they think I need to see ads for oboe reeds because I once mentioned oboe reeds in a gmail, so be it. I’m mostly annoyed at them for ruining my view of penguins and pandas and making me suspicious of all cute animals. πŸ˜‰


    1. Ramsay

      Ha ha. Poor penguins.


  • Clive Bunch

    I have to say Google is not popular with me after spending a lot of time and effort with the “Author” scheme it was dropped, typical Google.
    We don’t need Google, they need us! If Google closed shop tomorrow sure it would be inconvenient to say the least, but another search engine would soon take its place, that is certain.
    I say wake up Google we are your customers as much as the general public that use you for search purposes, bloggers and internet marketers spend serious cash with you, look after us!


    1. Ramsay

      That is also a good perspective. Thanks for sharing.


      1. Matt

        “But in that regard I think bloggers, website owners, small businesses, internet marketers, etc. should really only view Google traffic as a bonus, not a given.”

        I totally agree. I wish I could find a way to convince clients this.

        I have a site that’s over 15 years old and I’ve never spent much time worrying about Google. And strangely enough it hasn’t hurt me. The only time I took a noticeable hit in traffic was when I made two stupid mistakes by removing content from the site.

        The first one allowed a competing site to spring up, which took most of my forum traffic. And when I decided that keeping the forum open was pointless (because no one was posting), I deleted it. I later discovered that Google had indexed many of the posts. Posts on topics that apparently many people were searching for (judging from my analytics). I tried to put it back up, but my database backup was corrupt. Lessons learned!


        1. Ramsay

          Ah, that’s a shame! Back ups are always iffy.


  • Danny Brown (@DannyBrown)

    Interesting take, mate, and completely agree that a lot of the folks pissing on Google at the minute are doing it for selfish reasons, as opposed to actual ones.

    Where I have the biggest gripe with Google is the power they wield. It’s not (or shouldn’t be) a search engine that dictates what makes for good content and what makes for bad. The reader does this – no-one else, not even the blogger.

    The web is meant to be open – Google are closing it down by hiding the content that they may feel is poor, but is actually really useful. And that can never be a good thing.


    1. Ramsay

      Yeah this is a really good point and something that I have been thinking about lately since I read an article in the Guardian (can’t find it now) about how Google is “curating” our history and culture and it’s a bit scary. I’m just not sure I see the alternative…


  • Rodney Robinson

    Thanks for sharing your insight Ramsay. This is an eye opener. Since I have just started my marketing blog, I have paid much attention to Google and subconsciously relied on it for a majority of traffic. I’ll make sure to balance this focut with referral traffic and other sources. My major goal is also to grow my subscription base. Great post. Appreciate your thoughts.


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for commenting, Rodney.


  • Sara

    I AM old, so was already well into my working career when AltaVista and Ask Jeeves were the ‘go to’ sources for online info! I remember at one big corporate AltaVista was the one-click search engine loaded into our intranet. Anyway, one consistent theme across my long career is that everyone hates the biggest guy … I’ve worked for the biggest guy in an industry and I’ve worked for the not-biggest guy in an industry. And everyone hates the biggest guy. Must be a psychological syndrome with a big name. So google, Facebook, whoever .. if they’re the biggest guy we don’t like ’em. My view: get over it. As you say here, pick out the bits you like, ignore the bits you don’t, the biggest guy is normally not that sensitive to what’s around because .. well .. they’re the biggest guy they don’t need to be, and be thankful because the biggest guy normally drives the market and hate them or not you are benefiting from that.


    1. Ramsay

      Do you think there is something to be said for arguing with the biggest guy in order to help keep them accountable?


  • mikk

    I have tried all my best to rank well on Google ,but I ain’t getting it…that I think, because am still in college and have no much time to dedicate..so,before now, I already made clear to myself that building a business that depends on Google is a big risk. so I only pay for adverts and am doing fine. My main goal is to make sales and receive subscription to my mailing list….@ramsey,do you have a material that I can use to master seo in few weeks?it’s only few weeks to Holiday.thanks


    1. Ramsay

      My best advice would be to check out viperchill.com


  • chris

    Clive mentions a good point, Google Authorship. I’m really surprised they dropped it. The only reason I can imagine is it took away from adsense clicks. So adsense users might have been asking to add images to counter-act it. When I think about all of the stuff google has tried, from g+ to authorship to the different algo updates (most of which have been good for everyone), dropping authorship is the only thing that’s surprised me. But that’s ok. Did I mention the importance of a newsletter list? πŸ™‚


    1. Ramsay

      I think perhaps it was more about AdWords ads in search results because they didn’t have photos with them.


      1. chris

        I meant Adwords. Dang. Thanks for the correction, man.


  • Roxie

    First of all I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask
    if you do not mind. I was interested to find out how
    you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing.
    I have had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
    I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally
    wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints?
    Thanks!


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Roxie.

      Awesome question! Personally I just try to write no matter how I feel. Some days I don’t want to do it at all. But if it’s really not flowing my best strategy is to take the laptop and go somewhere new. Just being able to look at a different cafe or viewpoint sometimes makes the words come.

      Hope that helps.


  • Rich

    Great post, I have really come to realize that I am too dependent of google. Really liked the part in which you said that, google traffic should be seen as a bonus. A real eye-opener for me.

    Do you know any good websites for fitness/body weight training related guest posts?

    Thanks in advance!


    1. Ramsay

      I’d start in the bodybuilding.com forums. Huge community there.


  • John Gates

    I think that what people need to remember is that the Internet is the window to the world, and Google, more than any others like Bing, or Wikipedia etc is the window to the internet, or more correctly, the magnifying glass to the window.

    We can’t live without it, we are forever wondering what they will come up with next, and we are just, plain fascinated by it. It is the “elephant in the room” and it’s just that a lot of people are not used to living with an elephant in their room ………yet. It’s a new paradigm. …. and it ain’t going away, so embrace it, and give it time. It’s only one generation old, really.


    1. Ramsay

      Kind scary, I find.


  • Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Ramsay,

    A funny thing happens when you become grateful for what you complain about, or what annoys you: you learn a valuable lesson in seeing the good in all things, and the good in things flows to you.

    Wonderful post and lesson.

    I’ve never, ever relied on Google – lazy SEO for years – so I’ve been untouched by any update, and I happen to love the search engine for all of the information I can find through it. Folks who rail against the site for any reason weren’t around in my good old days, when you actually had to get your butt to a library, to do reports, to research stuff, and to find specialized information in any area.

    Yeah, I’m really old πŸ˜‰ Seriously though, I’ve always focused my blog on sharing value and building relationships, to Google proof myself, because unless I change my values, my friends aren’t going anywhere…..but of course, Google changes frequently…..so I could build my blogging business on lasting friendships, who promote me and inspire me, and many of whom buy my eBooks or hire me…..or I could build my blogging business on a fickle search engine.

    I go with the former, and I’m darn grateful to have such a blessed search engine/site/revolutionary concept at my disposal, because it really is quite a freakin’ marvel to me, still.

    Thanks Ramsay. Tweeting soon.

    Ryan


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks Ryan. Really nicely put, as always.

      You stuff seems to be going really well. Seen you mentioned around the place a lot lately.


  • bbrian017

    Hi Ramsay, in one hand I think if Google didn’t exist we would have a similar company doing the same thing, I do understand the point however and you’re right, I’ve always had a love hate relationship with Google and s till to this date, I’m not a big fan, but take note I hate my cell phone provider but I still pay them every month lol. At the end of the day like my cell phone company Google offers value and this value cannot be ignored.


    1. Ramsay

      Yeah I agree. I’m just not sure whether that other company would have as good company ethics as Google. Not saying they are perfect, but they try on issues like climate change, etc.


  • Katie @ The Perfect Brownie

    You know, I think I would have agreed with you on this a few weeks ago.

    However, I ran across the story of what happened to real estate agents across the US when Google decided to punish realtors for linking to each other. Overnight, people who had families to feed and mortgages to pay disappeared from their local search results and lost up to 90% of their business. Search engines are how most people find a realtor these days and in most cases a mailing list wouldn’t have saved them. Out of a job, POOF, just because Google says so.

    I thought that was incredibly unfair and callous to do to a group of people who, by and large, were just average people trying to make a living.


    1. Ramsay

      Yeah that kind of thing is strange. I don’t know about that particular story but I know a lot of “mom and pop” operations suffered when local listings disappeared and the Panda updates started favoring bigger companies.


  • I. C. Daniel

    Beautiful design you’ve got here Ramsay. Nice! I love it!

    I like what you share and I subscribed. Will see on your next updates.

    Kind regards,
    I. C. Daniel


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks!


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  • Aaron

    Interesting.


  • Jill

    Thanks Ramsay, another great post. I always look forward to reading your blog. Sometimes it takes awhile to get time to read it but I always know it will be interesting and informative. The last few days I have been ‘googling’ things and I got switched over to Bing. I’m not sure why this is happening but I find it kind of annoying. (I’m not very techie) I didn’t think I really cared much about search engines but apparently I have a bit of a brand identity issue!


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  • mohammad umair

    The situation of bloggers remind me of a popular Hindi saying which roughly translates into,” In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”

    They just don’t have much option.


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