What Would You Do If Google Disappeared?
Google giveth, and Google taketh away. Whether you are concerned about Google algorithm updates, such as Penguin 3.0, or other changes such as the ending of the Google Authorship program - it will be clear to you that Google is secretive, abrupt and fairly dismissive of the energies you've ploughed into your website and it's various programs.
It's not a recent thing, is simply how Google has come to be seen.
Google giveth, and Google taketh away.
Google has a market share of 67.3% - more than tripple that of Microsoft/Bing based search engines (see right for full details). With a massive market share it is easy to understand just why website owners will get annoyed and irritated with the elephant in the room shifting its weight "for no real reason" (though I should point out there usually is good reason, website owners just ignore those reasons).
Over the past few years I've learnt that to deal with Google's "tantrum" throwing and avoid being blasted from the search engine skies when the algorithm changes you need to do a few key things. This is how I deal with Google, and how I encourage all of those I work with to think of Google.
1. Put Your Users First
My mantra in working with clients and their websites is to put your audience first.
Your website should be built to serve their needs and not the needs of search engines. Google is not paying you to exist, they don't have a credit card and they won't buy your product or service.
Instead of trying to dupe Google into ranking you well, focus on your user experience, focus on ensuring the flow of a user through the site is truly great. Doing this means you will get more conversions and your bottom line will grow.
Chasing traffic whilst you are not focused on your user is simply a waste of traffic.
As a rule of thumb, if you serve your visitor you will be naturally serving search engines.
2. Ranking is Not a Civil Right!
It's been a while since I've heard a real (everyday) business spout this, but I still see it in the press sometimes. The claim is that any website has the right to rank on Google.
You Don't! - Google owes you and your website nothing.
Google has not promised your website, or any that it will rank in any form. The very notion that because you spend hundreds of hours on your website to help get it ranked means you should be ranked well is bonkers. This simply isn't how any modern search engine works.
If you enter the world of SEO with the idea that you are entitled to rank and that you deserve it more than someone else, then you will simply find frustration is a few moments away and anger will follow.
Take a lesson from my experience, Google owes you nothing, so expect just that.
3. Forget What Matt Cutts Says
Do you want to waste a few more hours in the hope of a slightly better ranking?
If so, spend the next hours picking apart every quote you can find from Matt Cutts, head of webspam at Google. You can try to understand what he means by the word "it" or "you" and whether it changes between sentences - then go ahead and make some abrupt changes to your website strucutre and content just because you think Matt said he loves it.
Or, you could spend the next few hours on improving your customer experience and conversion rates (See #1).
What I am trying to say here is that hanging off Matt, or any other employees of Google's, word is pretty much pointless.
If you stick with best practice and look out for search trends (not just those mentioned in forums) then you will be ok. If you chase rankings around you will find that you have wasted a ton of money for little/no reward and in some cases killed your user experience or been penalised by Google.
Note: For the record, Matt is a great guy but honestly, he isn't the "God" of Google.
4. Plan for Google to Disappear
What would you do if Google were to disappear tomorrow?
I know what I would do, exactly what I do now - what is outlined above.
But just to be clear....
Focus on Your User Experience Stick to SEO Best Practice Look for Web Trends in Your Industry Build Relationships With Customers Build Relationships With Other Websites
Remember Google giveth, and Google taketh away.
Just because you rank highly today doesn't mean you will tomorrow or in 6 months time. You should always have a plan that includes more than just search traffic, a plan that involves building your web presence overall - not just on Google!