Live by Google and Die By Google

Google can be your best friend.  It is still the biggest search engine out there and if you run a website or blog I can guess that a big portion of your traffic comes from Google.  That is why we install the SEO plugins on our blogs and try to make everything SEO friendly.  If you are one the first page of search results for a given topic that can mean thousands of hits a month from Google alone.  Now what if Google changed their algorithm and now your site was blacklisted or not indexed correctly?  This is what has happened to my site and not only is it costing me traffic, but revenue as well.

I own and operate ThinkComputers.org, a computer hardware review site.  Up until a few years ago our traffic was about 35% search engines and 65% referrals.  Now it is about 65% search engines and 35% referrals.  This was mainly because I finally moved the site over to WordPress.  With WordPress I was able to customize my permalinks, add SEO plugins and easily create a sitemap for Google to read.  This of course made the site show up better in search results for the products we reviewed and that increased our traffic as well as revenue.

As far as SEO we really did not do that much else.  The plugins we had running were only the All in One SEO Pack and Google XML Sitemaps.  The only other SEO we really did was change the permalink structure to thinkcomputers.org/%postname%/.  This still gave us really great results and I was happy to see the increase in traffic over time.

This all changed right around February, I started to see an immediate decrease in traffic.  At first I thought it was normal because January is always our biggest month because of CES.  After still seeing a decrease over the next 2 months I knew something was up.  So I went digging in our site stats only to find that our traffic from Google was practically cut in half.  To give you an idea here is our traffic from Google in January 2011.

And in July 2011.

As you can see the traffic was basically cut in half.  This is a huge amount of traffic and something that you can’t replace.  Obviously since many of our ads are CPM-based our revenue has gone down tremdously as well.  This is a killer and can potentially put websites out of business.

After doing some research on the February algorithm change it seems the change was made to weed out content farms.  Obviously ThinkComputers is in no way a content farm as all of our content is 100% original.  We also do not do any black-hat SEO, the only SEO we were doing is what I mentioned above.  So why were we hit? I really cannot even tell you.  So what are we to do?  After reading around I found that I could submit a reconsideration request on how Google indexes my site.  So I tried that and I received this response:

“Dear site owner or webmaster of http://www.thinkcomputers.org/,
We received a request from a site owner to reconsider http://www.thinkcomputers.org/ for compliance with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

We reviewed your site and found no manual actions by the webspam team that might affect your site’s ranking in Google. There’s no need to file a reconsideration request for your site, because any ranking issues you may be experiencing are not related to a manual action taken by the webspam team.

Of course, there may be other issues with your site that affect your site’s ranking. Google’s computers determine the order of our search results using a series of formulas known as algorithms. We make hundreds of changes to our search algorithms each year, and we employ more than 200 different signals when ranking pages. As our algorithms change and as the web (including your site) changes, some fluctuation in ranking can happen as we make updates to present the best results to our users.

If you’ve experienced a change in ranking which you suspect may be more than a simple algorithm change, there are other things you may want to investigate as possible causes, such as a major change to your site’s content, content management system, or server architecture. For example, a site may not rank well if your server stops serving pages to Googlebot, or if you’ve changed the URLs for a large portion of your site’s pages. This article has a list of other potential reasons your site may not be doing well in search.

If you’re still unable to resolve your issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.
Sincerely,
Google Search Quality Team ”

Basically this means their new algorithm screwed me over and there is nothing I can do about it.  So my only real option is to continue to work on SEO and pump out new content.  If you have experienced a large change in traffic caused by Google’s algorithm changes let me know in the comments.

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71 thoughts on “Live by Google and Die By Google”

  1. John Pope says:

    Sorry that you are in the same position as most tech site owners (including me).
    The new Google Panda update not only chases content farms but also gives ‘priority’ in rakings to bigger sites like Gizmodo and Engadget, leaving smaller sites to starve for traffic.

    All we can do is keep hoping 🙂

    1. Graham Lutz says:

      On what are you basing the assertion that the new update gives priority to the big sites? I haven’t seen anything that would suggest that, but I’d love to hear what you know.

    2. If you guys are going to fight for high competitive keywords from big and authority sites than chances are less to rank.

      So start go for your local base technology

  2. Louie Sison says:

    🙁 i think i live by google and die by google as well…

  3. Graham Lutz says:

    From looking at your site, I can see 2 things that could have caused the drop. The whole new change took into consideration input for a group of “quality raters” who told Google what they did and did not like about sites. That input was then used in updated the algorithm.

    1) The auto play video ad on your sidebar could drop you in the rankings. Auto play video is something that most people dislike, especially when it’s an ad.

    2) The content doesn’t start until below the fold. This seems to be one of the factors they take into account and it may be time to shrink the header.

    Just my two cents…hope it helps!

    1. Bob Buskirk says:

      The auto-play video was only added a week ago, so that has nothing to do with the ranking.

      Hrmmm I might try shrinking the header, thanks for the tips!

      1. Graham Lutz says:

        I’d love to stay in touch and see what works for you and what doesn’t. I think the ads above the content and above the fold might have something to do with it.

        Check out last friday’s “whiteboard friday” at SEOMoz – he talks about this just a little bit.

        1. Maximum ads are on header. Google large rectangle is famous for it.

      2. Kevin Kimes says:

        Have you checked to make sure nobody is copying your content elsewhere? This could cause significant ranking problems.

    2. thanks for the tip didn’t know header size was a factor.

      1. Virtual Tour says:

        I didn’t really realize this at all either. Really good to know!

    3. Didn’t know that either. Hmmn. Seems our design niche needs an SEO-savvy update 😛

  4. Maybe it’s time to be a little more proactive with your SEO campaign, like what you’re doing with this blog? 🙂

  5. SEO Pro says:

    Excellent post. Not only because its accurate but its very timely for one of my prospects to visit and read. For some reason, they don’t connect the dots on how important on-page optimization is (seo friendly) and that WP is far and away the best platform to use when it comes to having a professional and easy site to add good content to and build your online presence. Now that Google+ is live, it makes it all the more important. Strong work!

  6. PPC Ian says:

    SEO is an incredibly volatile field. Hang in there and keep doing what you do best. Eventually, the hard work will pay off and you’ll be back!

    1. @ Bob …

      Did you analyse page by page.

      Did you studies which page traffic dropped and which one is still as old one.

      Study according to this and you will be able to get some clue.

      If you have links from contentfarm sites such as hubpages or ezine than remove them and see the effect.

      1. Bob Buskirk says:

        Hrmmmm I will look into that….

        1. Please update us after you took these steps …

  7. fazal mayar says:

    I love google, im trying to write a lot of posts with revelant tags, this helps a lot

    1. Do not forget the importance of title and first para.

      Also add keywords where it needed most. Add photos and video by using alt tags.

  8. Kevin Kimes says:

    This is why it’s important to diversify. DIVERSIFY!

    D I V E R S I F Y ! ! !

    Have a successful blog? Grow it even more with PPC traffic. Start another blog in another niche. Take up performance marketing (AM / IM). Build a web store supplied by a drop-ship company. Etc, etc.

    Everyone running an online business needs to diversify. Build new divisions within your company for each branch of this industry. Duplicate your existing success into other niches (i.e., don’t run one blog, run 4 on 4 different topics).

    This way, a huge change to one part of the industry isn’t going to tank your whole business.

    1. Bob Buskirk says:

      Yeah totally, I just started a online reputation management / social media management company….it is basically saving my ass right now until I get this all figured out, if I ever do!

      1. Kevin Kimes says:

        Bob, why are your comments blue here? I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else, besides John, have blue comments. Not even Mr. Kwan.

        But, great to know that your diversification is helping. 🙂

        1. Bob Buskirk says:

          Um not sure why they are blue…??

    2. Two thumbs up to you Kevin but there are few blogs which are close to everyone and because of that they trapped.

      A true businessman always go in your mentioned way.

  9. rakesh kumar says:

    Same here man, Google has decreased my page ranking but it is indexing my site almost every day. As you already said ” It like content farm” and our sites are not so much large and their is no other way to increase our ranking except – A more home work.

    One more point , Do you think now we have to do our SEO manually.
    Waiting for your kind reply.

    1. Yes this is the time for manual link building and manual seo.

      Hire those people who do it manually.

  10. Michael Kwan says:

    Hey Bob, 65% + 45% = 110%. Let me know how you’re getting that extra 10%! 😉

    1. Bob Buskirk says:

      Haha….I meant 65/35….lemme fix it!

      1. lollllz …. michael got sharp eyes

  11. Naveen says:

    I advertised my site on google too, but i’m not getting that much traffic. maybe im using wrong keywords .

  12. I work only to be on top of Google, use the All in One SEO plugin, very good links, guest blogs, write articles for newspapers with links, etc. 95% of my traffic comes from Google.

    1. 95% Traffic from Google … That is simply awesome.

      Would love to analyse your website … So you do only these things for link building.

      1. Hi ZK,
        No, I read and do comments to get the right information and sometimes get answer of thing that interesting me. Maybe therefore I follow and read your blog.

        1. Glad that you like our blog.

          Would love to read if you have any suggestion so that we can make WebtrafficROI.com more professional.

    2. Kevin Kimes says:

      You’re very susceptible to the same thing which Bob’s site has suffered from. If Google makes an algorithm change which destroys your rankings, your business will be sunk. Diversification also means getting traffic from multiple sources. 🙂

  13. Sadia Komal says:

    Of-course when we created a website first we keep google requirements in mind

    1. Yeah Sadia well said i like your thoughts about Google requirements in mind..

    2. And what are those requirements … Would love to know from you.

  14. I got the same problem… my blog was a pr4 but after the change my blog is now a pr3 (traffic also went down)… google you know 🙁

    Jorge

  15. I use Google and also love it,Google is one of the best Search Engine.
    It is the most relevant Search Engine which provides you with relevant result.

  16. I also had a problem with one of my blogs, I lost more than half of my traffic 🙁

  17. No doubt about it. Google has become so inevitable in internet marketing stuff. They people are dynamic with clear vision of strategic nature. I like Google and its product but we should not be dependent of it as it is highly vulnerable and continuously changing industry.

  18. It is a very bad news and it can be happen with an ones site. We really have nothing to do in this matter.

  19. Google is Almighty and we have to do nothing in this matter. I’m filling this too with my site and this is really a bad news for me too.

  20. google is giving an plenty of option for the users its really nice to have them on our site

  21. fas says:

    Well the fact is that Google also has no clue.

    1. its helping the users a lot

  22. Marc @QrRage says:

    I own an operate several websites. been through this deal many times. The initial algo change is temporary, yes temporary. Don’t understand why many people freak out, it may dent your site for a few weeks but put the hammer down and force your site back up there.

    Juice your site with more links and some unique slang-like content (don’t use spun crap), it will bounce back. Imo, the engineers at Google are baffled at what it’s search engine does sometimes, “hey, we didn’t program it do that?”. Google is it’s own entity, much like Skynet…

    – Marc
    QrRage.com

  23. shekhar says:

    That’s very true, google is at time at least once a year very unpredictable. That’s why if you think that 60% traffic must be organic in that case don’t only rely on Google to send visitor , also try bing and Yahoo seriously, ( If not doing it ). They are lastly catching up in the competition.

    1. Kevin Kimes says:

      Yes, people need to diversify, as I keep mentioning. Diversify traffic sources, diversify income methods, diversify business models.

  24. complete newbie here..no idea aboout page rank and all..
    but one thing i know is few of my articles are on the first page of google search…and am so happy for it…

  25. Arun says:

    Yes mate, the new panda effect has really cornered many webmasters, mostly content farm sites, hard luck to you mate.

  26. I think it’s also true for me. I can live without Google.

  27. Google is Almighty and very Powerful what so ever and we need Google to understand our web content.

  28. Google has change his Algorithm.

  29. Haroun Kola says:

    I also think that Google’s changed algo is to blame for the shifted SERP results, my own site hasn’t seen much change, I’m also using WordPress (which is a great CMS for search engines) and I wish that you regain your traffic back!

  30. Liem Saty says:

    I really liked your article John, very helpful. But can you help raise the ranking of my site? Thanks John

  31. Bakhrul says:

    Your title is look powerful, i’m very like your review…oh my..google @#$%$#@

  32. Google is my heart,would like to say a very insightful portrayal for the time, considering recent events. Facebook searches outstripping Google, referral/recommendations more sought after than information and the removal of Eric as CEO.

  33. And i appreciate your hard work and this very informative post.

  34. google has become part of everyones life

  35. Sahil Kotak says:

    This happens frequently to my sites when they update there algorithms, I get screwed!

  36. Health Blog says:

    Yes I agree, Google is still the best and can be worst, if you do not abide by rules of Google, as I have seen myself for some of my blogs.

  37. Sean says:

    In my case I see one of my sites change on Google from day to day! I’ll do a search for one of my terms and see several of my pages on the first page of Google. A couple of days later, only one will show. Every so often I see my main keyword page drop to page two only to appear in the number one position a day later!

  38. Forex News says:

    Of-course when we created a website first we keep google requirements in mind

  39. Forex News says:

    No, I read and do comments to get the right information and sometimes get answer of thing that interesting me. Maybe therefore I follow and read your blog.

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