Google: The Elephant for Search Marketers

Pierre Trudeau, the former Canadian Prime Minister, once remarked about the United States: “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” Search marketers can say the same about Google. Every move that the search giant makes has some impact on the search marketplace. Google announces major algorithm changes as “weather reports” and indicates how Google expects the change to impact sites. These changes are usually couched in terms of what type of Web spam the search giant is attempting to reduce. Although designed to weed out poor quality sites or those that are gaming the system, these changes frequently catch many unwary sites in their net. In some instances, site owners may believe that they are following the rules.

Pierre Trudeau, the former Canadian Prime Minister, once remarked about the United States: “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Search marketers can say the same about Google. Every move that the search giant makes has some impact on the search marketplace. Google announces major algorithm changes as “weather reports” and indicates how Google expects the change to impact sites. These changes are usually couched in terms of what type of Web spam the search giant is attempting to reduce. Although designed to weed out poor quality sites or those that are gaming the system, these changes frequently catch many unwary sites in their net. In some instances, site owners may believe that they are following the rules.

Few online marketers have developed disaster plans for what to do in the event that their site takes a serious tumble in the search rankings. Many marketers focus huge efforts on improving their search positions, but few plan for sudden, precipitous drops in search traffic. It is incumbent upon all online marketers to build their own disaster plans so that they do not have to react in haste.

  • Do you have a plan for what you might do if you were to lose 30 percent to 50 percent of your search traffic?
  • Do you know the impact this might have on your bottom line?
  • How would you backfill the loss?
  • What other marketing channels could you use to drive sales?
  • Would a huge drop in search traffic cripple your business?

For a pure-play e-commerce business, a serious fall-off in search traffic might spell doom.

Sites do recover, but there is no set time frame for recovery, and the recovery is usually gradual. Troubleshooting and fixing the problems is a time-consuming and costly effort, so it is important to have in place an alternative traffic plan—a search disaster plan. You may never need it, but given that you live next to an elephant with the capability of crushing you inadvertently, it is an excellent idea to have just such a plan in your back pocket.