Google Does Impact Many Small Businesses

Mar 14, 2007 • 8:02 am | comments (9) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Like with the Florida Google Update, many stories came out with businesses going belly up, due to the huge changes with Google's algorithm. Since then, the industry took a focus on balancing paid and free listings - but it isn't always enough. As study after study has shown, the free listings do have the potential to send a huge number of buyers to your site, even if you do paid, some businesses still need the free results.

A thread at WebmasterWorld tells a story of a business that had no choice but to layoff 3 of their workers recently. I normally would tell such a story, but this individual small business owner has been a WebmasterWorld member since September 7, 2001. He started his e-commerce business 1998 and been through Florida, been through 9/11, he has been through a lot. But he couldn't hack it.

We have been absolutely bludgeoned in the last couple of months - google organic referrals are down 50-70% (depending on which hour you check). Most all of our losses have come from our long tail keywords.

These are the stories that make me think. At what level has this e-commerce business utilize paid search, shopping search engines, local search and all the other verticals - in order to supplement the organic listings? It is hard to say, and I am not someone who should be judging. Someone who has been in the business since 1998 and plus, has been a WebmasterWorld member since 2001 - you have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

We wish you and all those like you, the best.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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03/14/2007 01:04 pm

I would hav to say that I highly doubt he has done much in the PPC side of things. I am continually amazed at how many businesses and business people don't realize that free organic listings is a very risky thing to hang your business model hat on. Not saying it isn't worth the effort, because solid organic results will generate great returns, but by not focusing some major efforts on SEM/PPC, and learning anything and everything there is to learn about your specific business in that marketplace, you are going down a VERY slippery slope. Straight forward basic business logic is just not used by a lot of people who are getting fat and lazy on the organic listings. The search engines make money on the PPC ads, and they will continue to do things to increase revenue and profits. Expect more updates of this kind from the SEs, improving PPC capabilities and platforms and a more competitive SEM/PPC marketplace. Without experience, data and knowledge in this SEM/PPC space, you simply won't survive in 5-7 years with just free listing, blackhat or whitehat SEO efforts as we know them today.

Sara G

03/14/2007 01:44 pm

One thing I don't understand is this: when I am searching, I NEVER click on the ads. Even now that I use CPC for my own business and understand how it works.... it just isn't something I do. Maybe because I am searching for information 95% of the time rather than products or services... Am I an exception from the norm?

Jon West

03/14/2007 01:47 pm

His over 200,000 subpages probably got banished to the Supplemental index and that's why he's lost his long tail traffic. If I knew his URL I could give an accurate diagnosis but that's just my blind $.02.


03/14/2007 06:17 pm

I don't tend to click them very much but if they're related to what I'm searching for (such as flights, lawnmowers or self-inflating ware-cows) then I'll certainly open a few of them. Mainly the top ones rather than the ones on the right. And those review sites never get a look in. Sara G, I think you may well be the exception to the norm. Norm.


03/14/2007 06:32 pm

Google's algorithm changes every time, so unless you're very adept in SEO by continually developing new strategies, your business is going to be a dinosaur just like the above. PPC is getting way more expensive these days, so I'm not sure how small businesses can keep up with the Google's inflationary pricing.


03/14/2007 10:14 pm

I fully agree with rusty & Red. Anyone resting on their organic laurels are foolish. How many times do people need to be slapped? Jumping into PPC out of desperation is almost as dangerous as not getting into the game at all. Better to be adept at the game *before* you're forced to play it :(


03/15/2007 02:08 am

I don't want to be a wise guy, natural search results are great but it's crazy to have all the eggs in one basket. I find that if you do not constantly change your site etc. the natural results to go down, it's even natural, as the competition does not sleep either and new content is added every day. What's fashionable one day is out the next so the algorithm too. So if you see a slump in traffic, adjustment is neccessary maybe even with the merchandise. 3years ago, I said that I don't need a Website, today it's a must - Adjustment

Justin Seibert

03/15/2007 12:56 pm

Sara G - I don't think you're an exception. I speak with a lot of people outside of the industry and ask about how they search. Answers range from people like you that never click on them (whether or not they're aware that the ads are paid) to people that use both. I personally tend to visit ppc ads when I'm looking to buy; natural when I'm researching, although those aren't hard and fast rules. It also seems to vary by search engine. Take a look at some heatmapping / eyetracking as used in MarketingSherpa books or Enquiro. You have to pay for them, but the ones we've purchased have been well worth the value imo.

Cvos SEO

03/15/2007 10:38 pm

The problem (as always) with Webmasterworld is they never allow for specifics or URL's. If this person was allowed to share their website with others the owner would be able to get a lot of advice on how to fix his ranking problems. Yes its tough to maintain natural google rankings, but thousands of sites are managing just fine, and growing. One recommendation for this ecommerce owner is to start uploading funny/informational product videos on Youtube/ifilm/metacafe/yahoo vid immediately.

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