When we started our first website, the playing field for small business was level. In fact, if anything it was better for the small business website because we weren’t restricted by corporate policies, we just made them up as we went along. And there wasn’t much competition not many brands were online, yet. And if you could create pretty good on page SEO, have a couple of directory listings in Yahoo or DMOZ your listing would hover on the first page of search.
And for several years, we didn’t really have to work that hard to stay at the top of our game. Then the game started changing. And the competition started heating up. More and more folks wanted to a piece of the Gold Rush – and why shouldn’t they – it was a VIRTUAL LANDSCAPE where everybody wins, right?
The one thing we learned when Google came out to play was that links counted – and if one link was good — ten links was better (not entirely true, but for the sake of simplicity, it works). Over time website owners began creating massive amounts of CRAPPY content just for the sake of getting links. And I am not saying I’ve never done that – I’m simply saying it worked – good or bad – right or wrong – it worked.
For a long time, the SHEER volume of links needed to compete in a competitive niche was unreachable for many businesses who were just entering the arena. The Panda and Penguin updates from Google are changing that. Google has gotten better and better at identifying quality content and giving it a higher score, and I think we’ll see that continue to change and grow as more and more emphasis is placed on quality and the sites that have quality content rise to the top, and the sites with lower quality falls deeper into the abyss beyond page 2 of Google. In fact, in my effort to match some of the grey hat my competitors were doing, I found one of my own sites moved off to page 3 after 8 beautiful years on the front of Google. And I am working diligently to correct the problem, one piece of quality content at a time.
Whenever I have presented at the Jacksonville SEO Meetup, I have always said that there are choices to be made – risk your own site if you want to do the spammy grey hat stuff, but don’t run the risk of having a clients site banned or deleted because of your grey or black hat choices. I was on the phone yesterday with a colleague, and he said, and I quote, “Michelle, I don’t know why you’re not out there selling SEO services, small businesses are hurting and they need help with SEO real bad.” (He is a dear friend, and he is from Mississippi). I laughed and reminded him that I was “retired” from doing that. But if the right project comes along, hey, perhaps I could be persuaded. ESPECIALLY since the playing field is more level again.
Going forward we are going to do things a little differently in our own business, and if I take on new SEO clients I’ll be doing things differently for them, too. We have been shaken out of our comfort zone, too, thanks to Dan Thies. He reminded me that we (not just me, but all businesses) have to have a better marketing mix, and not rely so heavily on just one source of traffic or one source of business. He is absolutely right. That’s so obvious in the offline world, too. So we are shaking things up over here doing a little business deconstruction so we can grow our online businesses to be even stronger. Doing research, finding new product mixes, establishing more PPC, and the like is kinda fun. I’m like a kid in a candy store with the never ending bounty of information and opportunity.
So to Google, where others have said some really sad, disheartened and sometimes nasty things – I simply say, “Thank you.” Thank you for the opportunity for me to build a stronger business on a more level playing field. I <3 Pandas & Penguins.