Does Your Blog Pass the Google Test?

61 amazing comments

Google. One of the greatest inventions of all time.

The search engine that changed the way we look for information, advertise and communicate with each other. And for the most part Google is a blogger’s best friend, capable of sending tens of thousands of targeted visitors to your website every day.

But there is a dark side. A dark side you might not have thought of and one that may have a dramatic effect on your online success and financial safety.

In this post I am going to talk about what I am calling the Google test. Read it and find out whether your blog passes.

My first blog: loved and hated by Google

I need to start this post with a little bit of a background story – a story about how Google both loved and then hated my first blog. Fresh out of high school and obsessed with fitness, martial arts and lifting weights, I started a blog about my training ideas and within a very short time gained a huge amount of traffic from Google thanks to some excellent rankings from some very popular keywords.

Soon the money started flowing in from Adsense and within just a couple of months it was paying me a modest but very helpful amount that covered all of my expenses at the time. I was absolutely chuffed; my first ever blog going strong with just a small amount of effort. And then blogging disaster struck. Google banned me.

Getting de-indexed by Google
For no reason and without any warning my fitness blog was banned. I woke up one morning to find that my site had had about five visitors overnight, down from a usual 1500 to 3000. I started to panic. Why had they done this? What had I done wrong? More importantly, how was I going to pay my bills? I went to Google and looked at all of the keywords and phrases that I usually ranked for and found that my site was completely gone. Not just penalized a few ranks but completely removed from their listings.

In an instant I had gone from earning a full time income to being essentially unemployed. And all because one website had decided (for whatever reason) that I was no longer welcome in their search results. Our love affair was over.

My blog just failed the Google test in the worst possible way.

Does your blog pass the Google test?

If you want to earn a decent income from your blog to pay the bills or maybe even support your family you are going to have to pass the Google test. In fact, you can’t just pass, you need to get straight A’s. So now you need to ask yourself:

  • Does your blog rely solely on Google traffic?
    Go and log in to Google Analytics (ironic?) and take a look at where your traffic comes from. Look at that pie chart and see what percentage is from search results and then what percentage of those search results is Google. If you are anything like I was in 2003 then I am betting the Google part of the pie chart is completely devouring the other sections. For me, direct traffic and referrals was bringing barely any traffic whatsoever.
  • Do you have a strong social media presence?
    How much traffic are you getting from sites like Facebook and Twitter? More importantly, how much traffic could you generate from these sites if you needed to in a hurry? It is vitally important that your social media accounts do more than just function as a place to chat and hang out. They should be forming a basis of constant traffic.
  • Do you have backlinks that send relevant visitors?
    If Google de-indexed Blog Tyrant from their search results I honestly wouldn’t even notice much of a drop in traffic. Why? Because I have guest posts and backlinks from sites like ProBlogger that continue to send me a stream of relevant and interested readers.
  • Do you have a strong and loyal mailing list?
    As I say in my free ebook and elsewhere on the blog, your success depends on how strong your mailing list is. You need to gather as many subscribers as possible; people who love your content and who interact with your site in a meaningful way. This last point is the most important of all of them.

If you are relying solely on Google for your traffic then you are not building a safe online business that can weather the storm. I am not the first person to say this either; Brian Clark mentioned it years ago and Shoemoney talked about it in relation to John Chow getting banned and then re-listed on Google. You need to focus on building a site that has a firm grounding in email subscribers, RSS subscribers and traffic from other sources.

Diversification on many levels
In case you missed it, my guest post on ProBlogger last week was all about diversifying your online businesses so that you have short term, medium term and long term projects. This strategy was told to me by my millionaire uncle when I was young and is something I have (since the fitness blog incident) taken very seriously. This post about traffic is another aspect of that idea: diversifying is essential.

The net result is good for you and Google too

The net result of all of this is actually positive for both you and Google. Why? Because Google likes quality sites that provide value for visitors. That is why they have built such a successful search engine. They want to send people to websites that look good, solve problems and make people happy. And, incidentally, that is exactly how you get more people to subscribe to your blog, get backlinks from other blogs and go viral on social media. You should aim to do well on Google but you should be able to survive without them.

So the big question is: does your blog pass the Google test? Please leave a comment and let us know what your Google traffic/other sources ratio is like. How would you fare if they banned you tomorrow?

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

  • the Blog Tyrant

    By the way, the blog got re-indexed within a few months.


    1. ChromaticDramatic

      Why does Google de-list a site? Is it because you weren’t providing interesting content? ie, people finding you because of your keywords, and then pretty much jumping ship from Adsense?


      1. the Blog Tyrant

        Hey CD.

        Nah nothing like that. The site was a lot like this one; lots of good content and detailed articles.

        My theory is that a competitor lied and said I was selling or buying paid links or something like that. The fitness industry is full of a lot of dodgy individuals. Of course I have no proof but seeing as I never did anything wrong this is all I can come up with.

        Tyrant


  • Roger

    My current ration is about 50 – 50 which is fairly good for DIY information which normally relies about 80% on search alone. An excellent point, though, about diversifying your traffic sources as well as your income sources.

    If everything you rely on originates from one or two sources that needs to be changed. As you’ve pointed out, if one disappears it could have extreme consequences (but you already know this) 🙂


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      So how could you diversify your site Roger?


  • Shivam Vaid

    @BlogTyrant – I am curious to know if you could ever figure out the root cause why your blog got de-indexed from google.

    In my own case, search engine traffic amounts to about 70% and rest is either from backlinks or social media. This is not a great situation to be in and I realized the same when traffic suddenly dropped drastically this June when apparently google made some changes in the way it indexes. Though the situation recovered eventually but I had some real tough days contemplating my next steps.

    But yes I agree that diversification is the key today and that for matter in any field of life. You should not be dependent on entirely on an external single entity (which you do not control) for your own success.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      So what is your next move Shivam?


      1. Shivam Vaid

        I have had limited success with social media ( twitter and facebook ). I am contemplating writing some good guest posts to increase the blog visibility and get loyal subscribers in the coming days. I hope it works for me 🙂
        BTW – you did not respond to my question in the earlier comment..


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Hi Shivam.

          Check out the first comment. Answer is in there.

          BT


  • Shaun

    Hey Blog Tyrant,

    Diversification definitely looks to be the key, but most people still tell you to optimise for Google. All that time spent on SEO doesn’t count for much if you get banned!

    Good to hear you bounced back. I’m pretty sure you will be ok this time around even if you were banned. All that good content is bound to get you a stack of loyal followers.

    Cheers,


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Yeah you need Google, you just also need to function without them.

      How is your site?


  • Pete"BloggingGenius"Carr

    This is a very good point, it is easier now to get traffic from so many sources, i do quite a lot of video, so traffic comes from that (not just youtube, google owned). I also send my written content to various sources, articles, pdf’s and carnivals. I would hope that I could pass the test, about 30% of my traffic comes from the serps, but then again it is quite a new site.
    Pete


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      30% is a good level Pete. Although, if you got de-indexed you would lose those Google Vids.

      Tyrant


  • Rachelle

    Google is only about 30% of my traffic, furthermore I’m not sure that it’s really essential, I have learned an awful lot about SEO but the only thing I rank for are long tail keywords.

    I primarily write for content and information for my landlord audience, I have done some keyword searching. Still most of my Google traffic comes from very unexpected spots… for instance I wrote a post about raccoons infesting a rental house and I get traffic from that post. Because most of my posts relate to something I want to communicate and not SEO it’s interesting what gets picked up. Search traffic keeps growing and I figure that quantity matters especially when trying to predict long tail keywords. I post almost every day.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Don’t poo poo those long tails. They sure do add up!


  • David

    I’m seeing different traffic patterns depending on the size of the site and the strength of its SEO… some websites are 75-95% Google organic but others are 45%.

    I think the issue of telling or correcting google if you are getting traffic completely off the mark would be helpful. As Rachelle wrote about raccoons infesting rental houses and she got a spike in traffic about “hunting raccoons” or “raccoon fur products” it’s not really benefiting her and the visitors are getting not what they expect and leaving. Her advertisers aren’t getting quality traffic that is clicking their ads and she is diluting her niche audience of landlord tips/guides.

    Of course you can always look at the content and re-write part of it to make it more relevant but sometimes it would be great to add a negative keyword like you can in AdWords to say nope not relevant.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      That’s a really interesting idea David. I think I would be too nervous to block any keywords on any of my sites, even if they were quite irrelevant.


  • David

    But see that’s the issue many people are fighting to think about today, but you have to think over time if you want to increase eCPM rates you need to have quality not just quantity. To get the best advertising rates you need to have advertisers over bidding to make sure their Ads are showing on your Adsense/Chitika banners because they know the clicks will lead to conversions/sales.

    If the big sites are getting sub $10 eCPM rates and they have lots of traffic wouldn’t it be better getting $150 eCPM if your traffic was on target. I know that Google would be concerned you would just cherry pick the best and most relevant like you currently do with AdWords.
    But i think long term if Google is a large chunk of your traffic you need to be examining the quality and relevance of the keywords.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m going to bed now but I’ll write some more about this in the morning.

      Thanks David.


  • Heather

    I would do just fine if my blog was de-indexed. ALL of my traffic is direct or Tom referrals. Google has me indexed, but doesn’t like me much. I get virtually no traffic from search engines. Usually that depresses me. This article cheered me up a bit though! I do fairly well without any search engine traffic.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Why do you think you don’t do so well on the SERPS Heather?


      1. Heather@Family Friendly Frugality

        I think up until recently I didn’t have a clearly defined focus. I didn’t know much about SEO and what I knew about keywords could fill a thimble. I’m getting a bit more search engine savvy now though.

        It’s tough, because I want my blog to be a bit of everything and search engines don’t really like that.


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Yeah the SEO game changes so often anyway. Its hard to know what they want sometimes.

          BTW – Your comment goes to my spam section. I wonder why?

          Tyrant


          1. Heather@Family Friendly Frugality

            I’m trying to have a tighter focus (in fact started another blog for more misc stuff) now and hopefully search engines will be kind to me soon. I am always so shocked when people say that all of their traffic comes from search engines. I guest post, comment on other blogs and I’m active in social media…otherwise I’d have NO traffic!

            You know, there are quite a few blogs where my comments often give me an “awaiting moderation”, or simply don’t show up at all. I have no idea why, I have never spammed anyone in my entire life, LOL. Maybe it’s because I have “@” in my name (because I tend to write my blog name as well as my first name…).

            Thanks so much for bringing to my attention that my comments are going to spam. I always just assumed I was doing something wrong, or my comments were getting lost in cyber space!


  • Jacob

    On one of my sites, Google accounts for 51.68% which is cool, but at the same time, does have me worried. I definitely need to develop a stronger social media connection to keep an eye on that and try to push that to a level more comfortably around 35%.

    On my other site, Google only accounts for 34%, but since it is about a game that is going to be released in another five months, I am actually hoping to increase this so that when the game is released, more traffic is sent my way. However, here, as well, I need to work on developing a few strong links. Fortunately, I have a solid backlink from one of the developers of the game so it’s sending pretty amounts of traffic.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Jacob are we talking about Battle Field Vietnam here?


      1. Jacob

        Nope. We’re talking about Star Wars: The Old Republic.


  • Annette

    41% of my traffic is from Google. Several years ago, just starting out, I applied for Adsense and was denied as I did not have a privacy policy. Google will not reconsider me even after the policy was added and content boosted. Not sure how to proceed from here.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      That is very strange indeed. If you can’t get approved what are your plans for making money on your blog? This might be a good opportunity.


  • Carolee a.ka. Blogging Biz Mom

    Thanks for referring to your last guest post- I was going to mention the post to my accountability partner and had forgotten to make note of the link.

    I agree- you must diversify- for one thing Google changes it’s mind what it’s looking for at times…

    You are not the first person that I heard of that happening to with Google.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      How’s your traffic mix going Carolee? Would you survive a black listing?


  • Terry Dunn

    I’ve heard similar advice about diversifying, but there’s nothing like a real story to make the message stick. I’m curious about how you got so many visitors so quickly to your blog.

    Terry


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hey Terry. Seen the post in the side bar about 11,000 visitors? That has a lot of tips in it for BT.

      On the other site I think it was a mixture of luck an Google’s update at the time.


  • Mars Dorian

    That’s interesting Tyrant,

    but I’d argue with the mailing list.
    Do you know Ev Bogue from farbeyondthestars, or Dragos Roua (from the eponymous blog) ?

    Both of them don’t have an email list and earn a full time online income. They get least 20,000 visitors a month and rely on affiliates and their own products.

    So, success does NOT depend on an email list (even though it could help for some).

    I believe anything works if you do it your style, and you do it hardcore.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hi Mars.

      Interesting. To be honest my first reaction is to cringe at that information. Imagine how much money they could be earning had they converted even 5% of that traffic into email subscribers.

      That Ferrari money. 😉


      1. Mars Dorian

        Yeah, maybe. But some people feel uncomfortable having an email list – because the reason for it is clear: to make money.

        They prefer the non-intrusive approach, and if it works out for them, that’s what I call epic authenticity.

        I have an email list myself, and although it’s steadily growing, I’m not too mad about it. Or I need a better way to use it awesomely.

        I respect people who do things their way, despite having the “world” tell at them: this is how you have to do it if…

        It all depends on your values and mindset.


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Hi Mars.

          Another interesting point.

          I guess if you were blogging not to make a profit then that would be very relevant. Personally I don’t feel guilty about the idea of profits, especially when providing a lot of goodies for free.

          Point taken though.

          Tyrant


  • Ryan Renfrew

    Whats uuuup Tyrant? Hope your having a killer day?

    I have just started a blog (1 month)and havnt botherd with any SEO yet – still trying to find a niche and focusing on great content. Only have 1% from google, lol.

    I was just wondering, has any one tried to make a blog without any google traffic. I know that its ridiculous not get even some traffic, but could make a good case study.

    What do you think? would there be a niche for totally social media targeted traffic? or any other source for that matter. Just a thought?


    1. Heather@Family Friendly Frugality

      Not tyrant…but yeah that would be me. NO google traffic. All social media, direct, and referral sites.


      1. Ryan Renfrew

        Hey Heather, Thats cool you dont need any google traffic. Is there any particular reason why you dont have google traffic?


        1. Heather@Family Friendly Frugality

          Honestly? Because when I started I had never even heard of SEO. I’ve just recently started narrowing down my focus.

          Don’t get me wrong, I’d love traffic from search engines. When I tell people my stats, they are always shocked I don’t have any search engine traffic. I work hard promoting my blog though. Guest posting has been my ace in the hole.

          My niche is also quite competitive, so the keywords I would ideally go for are way out of my reach. (of course I knew nothing about this when I started. I just blogged about what I was passionate about!)


          1. shaun

            Hey Guys,

            There has been a fair bit of discussion about Social media Vs SEO lately. There is an interesting point of view on SEOMOZ with an example of non-google traffic (but it is a bit skewed) here is the link if you are interested http://goo.gl/WekxH

            Cheers,


  • Udegbunam Chukwudi

    Google accounts for 60% of my traffic and I’d be lost without it. My social media networking skills are just not good enough to generate any traffic as I’ve got a day job, an internet connection that sucks and little time to spend blogging.

    I just pray I never fall a victim of Google’s ban and if I eventually do, it will be @ a point in time when my blog is pretty strong to stand on it’s own 😉


  • the Blog Tyrant

    Thanks for the brilliant comments while I was asleep guys. Nice to see the community working here.

    One example you can look at for non-Google case study is John Chow. I linked to a story above but Google “John Chow banned from Google” and you will see what he did.

    Tyrant


  • Rachelle

    The net never sleeps 😉


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Don’t I know it…


  • Tito Philips, Jnr.

    In a way I’m glad I passed the almighty google test as most of Traffic comes from outside google, majorly from my viral efforts on social network sites, only a few percentage of my traffic comes from google.

    However, I do have a question, what would make google ban or de-index a site? what are the offences that trigers such penalties?


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Oh no! Tito has commented which means I get auto emails til the thread closes! Ha ha ha.

      Hi Tito. Google doesn’t want you to buy back links. That is the main offense. If you sell links on your site or buy them on others and they find out about it they will ban you.

      Don’t ever do it.


  • humpadang

    hi!,
    thanks for the insight..i was also banned by google. i guess disabling my account amount to being banned..anyway i read in your post that john chow got banned and then re-enlisted..i would very much appreciated it if anybody out there can help me to re-enlist into google..thanking you all out there in advance..


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      All you can do is go to Google Webmaster Tools and request that they re-list you. Its totally up to them.

      Good luck!


      1. humpadang

        thanks bro for the info..


  • Brian Haferkamp

    I guess I’m in the minority here. Or maybe it’s just a sign of getting into the game only months ago. Over the past month, 85% of my traffic is from referrals and 14% is from direct traffic to the blog. I get less than 1% from Google, so I’d be golden without them. I’m not really selling any products or services and the people who would come to my site are probably not looking on Google to find my community. Few people wake up one day and think, “Hmmm…I think I’d like to find a collaborative photoblog.” They’re coming because I’ve done the work of inviting them or their friends or friends of friends.

    I also get tons of traffic from stumbleupon because the photo content just works well with those users. Other than that, it’s all about Facebook and Twitter for me. I’ve got posts linked into those two networks and that’s how I spread the word. It won’t catch fire that way, but those visitors are actually the best — they stay longer and look at more content. With social netoworking, I can get more visits that are targeted and meaningful, important when I start to monetize the blog.

    So, at the moment, I’m completely Google-proof and the numbers keep climbing steadily each month with the occasional spike in traffic from an image being passed around on stumbleupon.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hey Brian.

      What’s the bounce rate like for the Stumble traffic? I’ve found that they don’t stick around too much but rather just keep clicking that Stumble button.


      1. Brian Haferkamp

        @tyrant:

        It’s actually not as bad as I’ve heard or as everyone imagines. For the month, my stumbleupon bounce rate is 58%, which is about 8% higher than my site as a whole. I would have assumed it would be higher, but it’s not. One reason could be that it’s a photoblog.

        The fact that my site’s a photoblog also makes it much more suited to stumbleupon traffic. People can click through many pages relatively quickly, as opposed to having to read a lot.

        Using stumbleupon was actually a strategic move for me. Because of the habits of the users (lots of bouncing around) I read that it was good for photos and video. So I get every post up onto stumbleupon as quickly as I can. I think it’s important to understand the strengths of each social networking site so that you can tailor your efforts to sites that fit your blog. Read that somewhere and it has worked for me.


  • Adam

    Of course, this topic is covered to death in just about every SEO forum on the Internet. Most have a sticky thread at the top about “what to do if you have been banned.” SEOMoz has a great flow-chart you can follow to see exactly why you were banned and how long the ban is likely to last..

    I’m personally interested in just what you did that got you that ban? Care to share?


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hey Adam.

      You’re right about it being covered.

      Check out the very first comment for what I did wrong.

      Tyrant


  • raybak

    I also got one of my sites banned when I started blogging. It was about poems and the famous poems that I posted there were off course already there on internet and I got penalized for duplicate content. I could never get it unbanned from google till its death.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hi Ray.

      That is really interesting. Did you discuss the poems or just post them up?


  • Jef Menguin

    Very interesting. I like to increase my email subscribers precisely because I do not want to defend on Google. I am happy that many of my keywords ranked well here in the Philippines. But most of my visitors come from other websites.

    Thank you for sharing a very valuable information.

    Jef Menguin
    Philippines


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