I heart Google. I really do. They have created the most incredible search engine that has not only allowed the easy acquisition of information, but allowed me to work from home running online businesses that I love. For years they have sent me hundreds of thousands of visitors to dozens of sites. But things are changing. The latest trends are showing that Google’s now taking your traffic for themselves.
In this post I am going to show you what I’m talking about and then discuss a few ways that you can ensure your blog survives.
How is Google taking my traffic?
The first part of this post needs to be dedicated to the idea that Google is taking your traffic. And we need to start by reminding ourselves that it is actually Google’s traffic. You see, Google is a website too and, although they are built around sending people to useful websites, they are also interested in increasing traffic levels on their own website. In that respect they are just like any one of us.
So how are they taking traffic?
Well let me start by saying that they aren’t doing anything underhanded like hacking your site and stealing visitors back. What they are doing, however, is keeping visitors on their results page as opposed to encouraging you to click through. Let’s take a look.
Example 1 – Going to the cinema
A few years ago when you wanted to find out movie times you had to look on the cinema’s website. Not any more. Take a look at the screen shot above where I have typed in the name of my local cinema here in Australia. As you can see, Google’s first result is no longer Hoyts’ website; it is theirs. The sessions times are now right there at the top so you no longer have to click through to the website to find out what movies are on and when. In fact, you can click that link at the top and get this:
This page shows you all the movies and their times for today as well as allowing you to change the day of the week or the location of the cinema. The result of this is that these cinemas would be losing a lot of traffic to their websites; websites where they promote special offers, discount clubs, etc. I wonder whether they have noticed a decrease in loyalty?
Example 2 – Sport results
The Super Bowl was on Sunday and, as you can see from the screenshot above, you can find out the score of the game by just looking on the results page. Now, this is not so much of an issue for big events like the Super Bowl but for smaller domestic sporting events like AFL, soccer, etc. you would think that a lot of newspaper website, opinion blogs, etc. would be losing traffic because people don’t need to delve deeper and read content to find out what happened.
Example 3 – Preview feature
If you take a look at the image above you will see it is an example of Google’s relatively new preview feature where you click the magnifying glass on the right and get a snap shot image of what’s inside. I’ve taken a screen shot of how my post on selling a blog for $20,000 would look but the important thing to remember is that this feature can stop people from visiting your website. Copyblogger has an article about it here.
I often find myself clicking the magnifying glass and judging the website before I even visit it. If the design doesn’t look clean and professional I just don’t even bother. Now, this isn’t a place where Google is directly choosing to keep visitors on their site but it can have a similar effect.
How to ensure your blog survives
Now, I don’t really think that this is at the stage where blogs would be shutting down because of the changes. Its not that bad. But the trend is indicating that Google will be trying to keep more traffic on its own sites for its own products and programs.
Its not like we have to panic or anything, but we should start to think about it. Here are some important things to do and remember:
1. Grow that email list
If you have a large and flourishing email list it doesn’t matter what Google does. Sure, you might take a hit if they stopped sending you any traffic but you will be able to absorb the impact if you still have thousands of loyal readers to read and promote all your content. Focus on capturing email subscribers. Here is some advice in that regard:
- How a 30 minute reject post brings me hundreds of subscribers a week
One of my guest posts on Problogger all about how I turned a rejected guest post in to the current offering and why it works so well.
- How to get more email subscribers
This is my debut guest post on Copyblogger and is all about a few little tricks you can implement to get more email subscribers. Its all about the mindset you need to get people in.
- Why I switched to Aweber for my blog’s email list
A recent post here on Blog Tyrant about why I switched and why you should too. The wonderful thing about this post is all the comments from people with similar/different experiences. A great knowledge base.
After years of blogging and website marketing I can honestly say that focusing on gathering highly active and interested email subscribers is the best thing you can do. I hope this is something that you take a way from my site.
2. Create that blue-shirt trust
Remember that post I did a while back on increasing conversions? It was all about how you need to make your site rock solid trustworthy if you want to convert people in to subscribers or fans or customers. It is now more important that ever, especially with the preview feature.
Make sure your design and layout elements are clean and easy to navigate. Make sure your logo and branding is interesting and sends the right messages. Ensure your content is the very best you can put out and really helps people to get something new and beneficial.
3. Create an addictive blog that is sticky as hell
My first ever post on Problogger was all about how to make your blog addictive. And the reason why this is important should be self evident – you can’t afford to lose anyone.
If you own a website that has been affected or is likely to be affected by the new Google then you need to start making sure you retain as many visitors as possible. They need to be converted in to Twitter followers, Facebook fans and RSS subscribers. They need to go gaga whenever you post a new article. This loyalty and deep interaction is something that very few bloggers prioritize over social media and search engine traffic.
Its a shame because one or two loyal visitors are way more useful than 100 who leave right away.
4. Forget about Google
The last point I want to talk about is that you need to forget about Google. This might seem a little bit confusing so let me explain.
- Google should not be a main traffic source
I have said this a million times before. Think of Google as a bonus. If you got banned from Google tomorrow you should be able to survive. In this respect you need to forget about them.
- Focus on your amazing website and content
The second way you need to forget about Google is in terms of writing for search engines. Don’t write to please Google, write to please people. The flow on effect of this is that Google really likes that too!
Of course I don’t want you to turn your back on good SEO practices or anything like that. Rather, what I am saying is that you need to go way beyond Google and look to other sources of traffic like referrals, Youtube, social media and direct traffic. That is the only sustainable model.
The good news is that Google is growing and so is the number of people using it. In reality you should find that you get more and more traffic from them in the next few years, despite these on-site changes.
What do you think about this?
I’d love to know whether anyone has been affected by this or has started to make changes because of it. Do you think it will affect your blog? Lastly, do you have any other ways to make sure your blog would survive if Google went away tomorrow?
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I really like the way you conceive your strategy leaving Google aside.
Every time Google announces a change in the famous algorithm the blogger community gets scared. It’s good to find tips to help us survive without Google.
Thanks BT. Master Class, as usual.
Thanks Cristina. Hope it helps.
I think Google is making a good change, a change that will help bloggers with original content stand out and grow. My blog theapptimes.com has seen great improvements already after Google ranking changes. I hope that several bloggers will benefit from this. And all robots will come to a standstill, as they add no value to the web.
As for the point you mentioned about aweber, new bloggers find it much expensive to move to aweber. They rather use MailChimp or something similar who offer a certain limit for free.
Some of the changes are good, I agree. But some of them hurt. Like recently they changed it so only the big content sites like eHow get traffic and a lot of well aged and well linked articles from smaller sites lose out.
Having been involved with other online businesses it has been crippling the way Google keeps revising their algorithms and your traffic numbers vanish over night. I am glad to see you are showing that Google isn’t the end all be all of the internet.
Care to share about your experiences Kim? This really interests me.
You’re bang on. Diversification is key. While search might bring some people the bulk of their traffic, it’s unwise to rely on this one source. It’s like running a business and only having one supplier. Or one client.
Of course, wanting to diversify is one thing. Having the time to diversify… that’s quite another!
Totally agree Dean.
How are you doing today?
For a blog you actually don’t need Google to get big traffic, although it can help.
Guest posting, blog commenting, Twitter and Stumbleupon (and other social media)are very effective ways of reaching a lot of people that will become repeat visitors of your blog or even subscribers.
I totally agree with building a list through Aweber, and the use of Popup Domination helps enormously with converting visitors into subscribers.
However, Google has the potential to send you thousands of visitors a day if you rank highly for certain keywords. Is it not worth it to have a VA who builds links to your older articles on a daily basis?
Yeah, agree. I had one fitness blog that was getting 3000 to 5000 hits from Google per day. Too big to ignore.
In a way, I’m not terribly worried about Google changing things. Sure, my new site gets about 12% of its traffic from Google, but a solid 50% of my traffic is coming from Facebook (mainly FB) and Twitter…and let’s be honest, I don’t even really understand how to use Twitter in any meaningful way. And FB? One link to my writing page, one link to my wall, spaced out to hit during different times of the day. If I was one of those people who posted their links 18 times a day, traffic might be higher, but I can’t bring myself to do that to my friends.
For my other site, Google would have to start providing extremely in-depth recaps of Dexter eps within an hour of each episode airing, combine bizarre fringe theories into humorous terror and talk empaths down from the mental ledge in order to keep from sending me the traffic. Something tells me no one is interested in doing that, least of all Google.
Then again, I’m always *me* when I write. I just happen to have written so much boring, erm, optimized content for clients that I’ve learned how to weave in my keywords without breaking the conversation.
Now, once I launch my event planning site that highlights local vendors…yeah…Google’s changes will probably keep me up nights. Oh, wait, no. I already don’t sleep. No change there. 😉
Jen, where does your FB traffic come from?
Um…from Facebook. (Oh, you wanted the non-smart @ss answer? No fun.)
I use FB Share instead the like button because it’s more noticeable when it posts on FB. All my non-fiction blog posts auto post to my writer portfolio page; all my fiction blog posts and chapters auto post to my author page. As part of the auto feed, a link posts to the respective Twitter account (be it me or fiction pseudonym). All my tweets auto post to my personal wall…when the API is functioning correctly.
Beyond that, I share the links to the posts I feel could be most useful to others on my personal wall manually. After that, it’s up to my friends and contacts to continue sharing my content on FB…and they do. I’ve also noticed that friends of my friends have begun to share my links as well.
Right now, I’m trying to decide if I should go ahead and launch the page for The Positive Piper to split it off from all the other madness I post…or if I should hold off a bit before I start the FB community.
I’ve always wondered about the Share V Like button issue. Copyblogger uses the share – I’ve never really seen the use in the one I use. Maybe I should switch?
I took a survey of all my friends about which one they liked better. Only one said she liked the like button. The main reason I picked it though, is because the like button is barely a blip on my news feed when I look at what people are sharing…but when they use the share button, I get the article pic, the title and my hand-crafted excerpt in their news feed. I figure it gives me a better shot of getting a click.
Looking forward to when I have more diversity to my traffic. :/
Only about 20% to 25% of my traffic comes from Google. I was worried about this before I read the above post.
Most of my new traffic comes from referring sites e.g. Twitter and the places where I write as a guest writer or expert contributor.
Whenever I attend a networking event, and hence hand out business cards, my direct traffic goes up.
I think these two sources: direct traffic and referring sites will help my blog to survive and grow.
Google traffic is a bonus.
My blog’s success is related directly to how many hands I shake each month.
I think 20% is probably the perfect amount actually. Nice work!
You nailed it when you said ” Write for people not for Google ” !
Work hard, provide quality content and your readers will become your greatest cheer leaders! I believe it’s a good thing that we go back to word of mouth and ignore expensive advertising.
Yup…google is sure getting better at keeping traffic to themselves. All this means is that blog content ought to get better, deeper, substantive rather than superfluous (where the hell are these words coming from? lol)
As a blogger, all I have to do is make sure google cant extract “me” into their preview page. The info I offer will have to be received from me, and I dont think (I certainly hope) google will never get so good as to replace what I can do. And if they do, then I didnt deserve it to begin with.. 🙂
That’s the main point isn’t it Dino? Unless you inject that personality in to the story there is no reason for people to hang around.
What about offline promotion?
Tightly targeted direct marketing works decently for some segments. This works in tandem with building a list. It’s hard to imagine, but many people don’t live and breathe the internet — they know how to use it but they are not what you would call blog readers.
Say you want to attract doctors to your really awesome medical newsletter — you could find out what doctors need to need to know right now. For instance in the states all medical records are moving to digital and doctors are expected to comply within a certain number of years. You could use your tech expertise to review/critique the available medical record platforms (some of which may have affiliate programs).
Then you could send a direct mailing piece which could turn those into doctors into readers (And help ease them further in to the tech world).
Also, in that context call it something other than a blog…
Leigh you are increasingly coming here and leaving better and better comments.
I love it.
First off, I appreciate your detail in this article.
Second, I’ve learned to ignore Google…and search engines in general.
Let me explain…
1. I studied SEO in the early days of SEO when SEO was new on the scene. Therefore, I tend to write and work with SEO concepts usually at play.
2. My site has been around long enough that the long tail draws in a lot of google traffic. The long tail is when people search for odd phrases that are more and more likely in my articles because of the increasing and large number of articles I have.
3. Search engines don’t have the implicit trust value carried when someone tweets a link to my site, posts on their facebook account, or emails their friends.
All that being said, search engines get a site traffic but it’s not always the right traffic for a site. Social networks drive quality traffic to a site.
In the old days, I used to follow the different search engines and the changes google was making. But in the end, it comes down to this…using the basics of SEO and spending time on quality content and building trust with your visitors is where you will see your site blossom.
Very interesting Chris. Are you page views higher from other sources?
Search Engines (57%)
Direct Traffic (20%)
Looking at the time spent on the site, search engine visitors spend less time.
ps. glad to see you back on BT.
Oops, posted under wrong email addy. “)
Create a native or web app.
Really if things get that bad, people who are content generators will shut down or block Google.
This is all about eyeballs on their site to increase CTRs on paid ads.
So this will really kill things like the cinema example above or people who rely on eyeballs for ads (which is a cr@p business model anyway). It’s going to kill the sites that have easily parsed bits of meta (like the cinemas).
For someone generating content, thoughtful, more lengthy, interesting content, I don’t think this is a threat.
Their preview button is a good filter though. Sure will sort the cr@p out.
Agree about the preview button. But, sometimes, a good site just doesn’t look good that small.
I’m not too worried about Google giving out advice to landlords anytime soon.
However a good blogger friend of mine says specifically that searchers monetize blogs, basically the people who search on google are the same people who click adsense if they don’t find the right thing on your blog. That makes the blogger money. Many, many blogs use adsense to make their dough.
I have found that because of long tail keywords the people who search my blog can be right off the money. It seems for instance that there are very few pest control bloggers 🙂 One article on raccoons in rental apartment gets at least 10 hits per day but the exit rate is 100%. The search phrase is “kill raccoons” and at one point I mention in the article that it’s illegal to kill raccoons. Now if I put google adsense for pest control companies on that page, it would probably do very well.
So for many bloggers, adsense pays the bills so any change to their search statistics means a big deal. I don’t have adsense on my blog because I don’t like the way it looks. Plus it’s my belief that an e-book or something like that will do much better than any adsense. I somehow ended up with adsense on my RSS feed and I made 1$ in about 6 months. I’ll try not to spend it all in one spot.
Your right. The sites I have and have had that get 2000 to 8000 visitors a day from Google all do extremely well on Adsense.
I like your thinking, BT.
Number 4, second point: ‘Focus on your amazing website and content’
Yes! Really, quality content is THE most important element; everything else, although important, is peripheral.
Quality content is also the hardest to replicate, so you’ll be heads above the competition.
Agree Amanda. Nice to see you around the blog!
Isn’t Google sneaky? I’ve completely ignored using SEO techniques on my blog and just focused on content for the reader. The result is less than 6% of traffic from Google, which is pretty average to say the least. I agree that relying on it can be dangerous, but a bit of a “top up” would be nice!
I think a certain amount of SEO content might be needed, but finding your own traffic is really the key as @Diggy has pointed out above – 67% of my traffic is by referral…
Enjoying the rain?
Yeah I think SEO is vital. Its not like you want to discount Google, just not rely on them.
Bit sticky outside! Shame I watered the lawn last night too!
I’ll have to start injecting a bit more SEO content and see where that takes me.
Some good points here about the importance of diversification. Thanks for the screen shot of Hoyts at Norwood – just up the road from where I work!
I think the important thing is to make sure there are a number of different ways that people can discover your web site and connect with you. Google is one of those ways and, at the moment, a very effective one. Ultimately, the type of content they can aggregate is very generalised i.e. sports scores etc. As a few people have pointed out, there’s always a place for a blogger with unique content.
Allan there are so many followers of Blog Tyrant from Adelaide! Weird. Where are you working?
Forget Google? Blasphemy!
I agree with Chris and say: Focus on unique (KEYPOINT) and great content that’s also optimized for search engines. Ignoring search is a mistake IMHO.
I like how “only” 20% comes from google…
I think you’ve got to have your fingers in many pies, as the saying goes. Google is an excellent way of getting yourself known globally, but all that will only end up with one click to your site and then they’re gone again, not interested in your website.
UNLESS you do the decent thing and improve your content, improve your web design, network consistently and do the hard work required to build up your website. Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, there’s many ways out there to build your name.
As another saying goes, “The harder I work, the luckier I get”
Well said Stuart. I like it.
Great stuff. I’ve been watching the changes on G**gle, but wasn’t really thinking about how they affect my blog. The bottom line is to keep doing the things that most of us have been doing–grow the list, grow your social media footprint, and produce crack-like content.
Crack-like content. Ha ha. Oh the imagery.
You need not ignore them but you should simply use them, like they are using you.
Of course most of us are already using them, we have google analytics.
Thanks for such a wonderful post…
Well said indeed!
Wow. Bt. This article really spoke to me. I read the headline and thought, “great, another article hating on Google.” But you laid it out very well. And had some great takeaways. A lot of stuff I hadn’t considered before.
Great post and you just jumped up a few slots in my book.
Love it! Thanks Brandon.
I will take”Forget Google” as the best advice I got from this post. Our website must not be dependent on search engines. It is possible that two more blogs will get the first two slots, and the likelihood that you will get less traffic is expected.
Creating your own tribe, people who think that you have something good to offer that they will keep on coming back to your website and recommend you to others.
Oh, just a thought. I think we should be like Google. Give our readers all the reason to stay longer in our website.
Just a thought, but has anyone given any consideration as to the implication of copyright with Google’s new preview feature? It’s one thing for their search engine to display a meta title and description, it’s another thing to display a snapshot of your content. Food for thought.
Bruce A. Walker
good question. But I’m afraid the rules when it’s about Google are very easy: you want your site to appear in our search? then we are going to show a preview of it.
Yes I understand – Google is now the big bully on the block.
It used to be Microsoft. But after 25 years and a major antitrust suite, Microsoft is a lot more humble. Did you know you can actually call Microsoft and talk to a person?
Honestly, I don’t know of any laws that would REQUIRE any action on the part of a web publisher to protect their copyrighted material. Rather, Google would have to inject a new directive in the robots.txt file or meta settings in the HTML header (subject to them getting it approved of course) that would grant them permission to show previews. See the distinction?
In other words, as respects copyrights, I don’t have to protect myself against you! You have to get my permission to use my material.
So, maybe this new “preview” feature is Google’s big snafu! We’ll just have to wait a year or so and see if some New York attorney files a class action suite on behalf of 30 million web site owners. Ya think?