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?