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Why Do Site Owners Continue To Ignore Google?

Andy Williams

by Andy Williams on 27th November 2012

Complete DenialIt’s the end of November and this is usually the time when we all start to see those “Review of the Year” type posts or “My Favourite Google Update in 2012”. So I naturally thought I would think about my review of 2012 to see if there was anything I could add to the mix.

Unless your head has been in the sand you will be more than aware that 2012 has largely been a year of updates. Penguins and Panda’s continue to dominate and continue to attack, sorry update.

Much has been written and much has been said. Many have been affected to some extent. It’s all been said, it’s all been dissected and it’s all been reported on.

People of the world are now pushing their Brands, removing those dodgy links and creating amazing content.

Aren’t they?

Well actually no.

Despite a year of updates, a year of panic and a year of waking up on a Monday morning wondering what gems Google will have released while everyone was enjoying their weekend, there are still those who think this is all happening to other people.

Alright it’s not been Armageddon for everyone and those who were playing by the rules will have been fine but we are now certainly playing a different game.

While we are very thankful for the transparent and strong relationship we have with our clients we hear time and time again from others than it isn’t always easy to encourage best practice for numerous factors.

The problem is there are still a very high number of site owners who still think that despite all the updates, all the lost rankings and all the lost traffic, Google are lying to them.

There is this bizarre notion that that no matter what carnage is going on its all still a lie.

So my main question from 2012 has to be:

“Why do site owners continue to ignore Google?”

I wonder how many digital marketers, SEO’s, search specialists etc. can all think back to at least one case from the last 12 months where they can sadly say “I told you so” to a site owner who refused to listen to the warning signs and sound advice, that is now paying the penalty?

Trying to convince someone that their site is in breach of the Google guidelines to the point of a possible penalty only to then be ignored or told that there is no proof is a seriously frustrating situation.

In these instances in the end you start to wonder if you care about keeping their online business a success more than they do.

Ok, it’s not always as clear cut as that:

  • Some companies can be left high and dry with no idea how to edit their site or what dodgy work has even been carried out “on their behalf”
  • Some are at the mercy of a web developer who is the only one allowed to make any changes. He certainly doesn’t believe in SEO and so he will be damned if he is going to carry out any of your recommendations
  • Some may have been sold a site that promised all the SEO functionality you need but in reality you can only change the Home page Title tag and all the content is generic
  • Some just simply don’t have the knowledge to undo the spammy work their last “expert” created

These aren’t necessarily the people I am referring to here. More often than not if there was something they could do, they would.

No I am talking about those who have dabbled, the ones who know a bit or have read a bit about SEO. The ones who refuse to believe that all the dodgy stuff their web developer (because he also knows a bit about SEO) carried out for them is harmful. The ones who for some reason don’t believe the Google guidelines exist or that they simply don’t apply to them.

It’s one hell of a denial. Sites have been hit left, right and centre.

Google quite openly make their guidelines available to anyone anywhere and yet still some site owners refuse to believe they are breaching the rules.

Not since Al-Sahhaf famously declared on TV “There is no presence of American infidels in the city of Baghdad” while American Tigris tanks passed behind him has there been such a display of denial (Ok that may be a bit dramatic but you get the idea).

More than ever before companies need to really take in and understand what Google have been doing. Considering the amount of companies who rely 100% on their Google rankings for business (which is a separate gripe in itself – why on earth would anyone place their entire online business success on a 3rd party search engine?) it drives me nuts the amount that they dismiss any need to abide by their rules.

(From an organic point of view) There is one thing all online companies need to understand and I mean really understand: Google don’t have to organically show or rank your site. It’s as simple as that. Google isn’t there to represent you in any way. Google’s only mission is to provide their users with the best organic search result relevant to the search term they enter, nothing more.

If you use Adwords you can certainly bid your way to a listing but from a natural search point of view Google are mainly driven by providing great content and relevant content.

Now there are those who may (and in some cases rightly) argue that Google don’t actually do that. I am sure we have all searched for something and been completely stumped as to why we are seeing the results we are.

But the underlying fact is that if you want to stand a chance of appearing within THEIR Search Results you have to play by THEIR rules.

This never seems to sink in with some.

The attitude that everything is rosy at the moment blinds them. After numerous updates they are still sat pretty on the first page so quite clearly these rules don’t apply to them. No it’s aimed at the bigger companies, not us.

The sheer frustration this causes is huge.

Desperate Man

It’s like hearing a weather report about an incoming hurricane, knocking on your neighbours door to warn them that it’s time to leave the area only for them to turn around to you and say “look it’s sunny outside, there’s no storm coming”.

Google’s like a sniper at the moment, slowly picking off all the rule breakers one by one with each update. With each round that is fired we all tentatively open our eyes to see which sites have been hit. It wasn’t their site this time round but we all know that the Google sniper will get them eventually. No matter what Al-Sahhaf says.

Duplicate Content

One of the big issues has been duplicate content. The Panda algorithm looked to find quality content and siphon out low quality and duplicate content (or the lack of originality in your content).

Considering the first Panda update was back in February 2011 I can’t believe the number of companies who still don’t believe that this is a genuine threat.

How many sites are still sat there with literally thousands of pages of duplicate content? And how many of those site owners simply refuse to do anything about it.

You warn them that a storm is coming and they do… nothing.

You try again (ignoring the opportunity to question why on earth there are thousands of pointless pages in the first place) but still this refusal to believe they will be hit helps to shape their reply. You provide them with a number of safe solutions, ask if you can go ahead and implement them.

However the site owner is sat there seeing that they haven’t been hit so far so why on earth would they be hit in the future.

OK, well when Google do find you (and they will) you won’t even be ranking for the location your office is physically in let alone all the other locations you have created hundreds of generic geographic pages for. You don’t even offer your service in West Byfleet, why have you got a page for that area? Never mind. Sigh.

Here it is straight from the horse’s mouth.

Spammy Link Building:

Spammy links – Penguins hate spammy links (or unnatural links as they like to call them).

Ill-advised site owners may come to you with thousands of toxic links; they may have already been hit. It’s time for you to clear them up.

However this can be a long and very drawn out affair especially given that with every turn you find more.

So why on earth do these same site owners then continue to build links in exactly the manner you have spent so long advising them against?

Again it’s like there is this underlying denial that it was actually those links that were responsible for their recent slide in rankings and traffic. It must be something else, it’s certainly not all the spammy blog comments they continue to leave.

Again, straight from the horse’s mouth.

Hidden Text:

Why? Why are people still doing this?

What are you thinking? The clue is in its name. Try and hide it from those Penguins and they will hit you.

It’s simple – if it’s hidden you really shouldn’t be doing it.

Who ever talked you into this was wrong and potentially put your entire business on the line.

What amazes me is (firstly) that this is still carried out and (secondly) the way site owners will argue with you when you recommend that it is removed.

Yet more none believing – “I’ve not been hit yet – therefore I don’t see why I should remove it”.

This has to stop. Not only is this a seriously old hat technique but why hide anything in the first place?

Look it’s straight from the horse’s mouth.

Scraped Content:

This can either be a misguided belief that scraping the content from a trusted site will be good for them or they are simply too lazy to create unique content of their own.

Either way these people had better stop.

So is this about site owner’s not believing or sheer laziness?

I think it could be laziness. Writing your own unique content takes time and who wants to take time when you can cut corners right? And if you aren’t going to write it yourself it is going to cost you. So why bother?

Because Google will hunt you down that is why.

If you can’t be bothered to write your own content then actually you can’t be bothered to succeed. So you won’t.

What’s that over there? Oh it’s straight from the horse’s mouth.

So Why Do Site Owners Think The Rules Don’t Apply To Them?

What if this was actually Google’s fault?

How many times in the past have you played everything by the book for a client only to be constantly beaten by a site breaking all the rules? We must have all come up against this at some stage?

In the past Google have been very good at preaching their rules but seriously terrible at practicing them.

I have even attended Google seminars where they declared that negative SEO simply didn’t work. You have never heard so many groans from an audience full of digital marketers. We all know it does, most of us know cases where it has worked. This declaration was typical of Google’s old stance on penalising the game beaters. For all the hot air they simply didn’t and to an extent couldn’t do anything about it.

So expecting site owners to now believe that actually they will get hit may be asking too much.

Have they all spent so long playing it by the book, getting nowhere that the only way they could compete in the past was to play against the rules?

They have heard it all before, we have told them over and over again that they will be penalised if they carry out certain practices and each time they are faced with the competition doing everything they can to game the system and actually winning.

How can we now expect them to act on our advice?

Of course not all have this state of mind – some simply just refuse to believe they will be hit all the time they are sat at the top of the SERP’s. The sales are coming in; business is great, what on earth could possibly change?

When a site owner is sat in that type of position are they really going to remove elements that may have got them there in the past?

Possibly not and to that extent I understand why they wouldn’t.

The frustration for us comes after you have provided the evidence to them, given them examples and sent them the Google guideline links. Even with all the information and your expertise to hand they still won’t budge.

As digital marketers it is as much our jobs to educate as it is to carry out the work. Making sure clients understand the work we do and why we do it is highly important.

This is especially important when you are faced with a site owner who won’t believe the Google bible. It may well be an uphill struggle getting them to listen but the more you communicate the more they “should” listen. And who can blame anyone who has heard it all before (over the last 6 odd years) and never seen the actions to back up the guidelines?

So while we are sat there fighting a losing battle with site owners who refuse to move out of the way of the oncoming car crash should we actually be blaming Google?

Image Credits

Denial and Man Looking At Computer In Desperation from Big Stock Photo

Andy Williams

Andy Williams

Andy Williams, our DADI award winning Digital Marketing Manager will be giving you useful insights into local search and the overall SEO landscape. Andy has over 9 years experience in the SEO industry including 2 years as the in-house SEO consultant with a leading Web Design company.

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  • Amy Fowler 27th November 2012

    Great post Andy; I feel your frustration :-)

    Reply to this comment

    • Andy Williams

      Andy Williams 27th November 2012

      Thanks Amy,

      I would imagine there are quite a few people out there who have come up against this at some stage in the last year.

      Reply to this comment

    • Andre Yong 5th December 2013

      Great post. We are a New Business Agency who are always trying out new techniques. As noted below, maintaining your site can be very time consuming too and as Amy pointed out it can always be frustrating! Best of luck!

      Reply to this comment

  • Jim Seward 27th November 2012

    I don’t think it’s that site owners ignore Google, after all, if they did that and carried on as if Google didn’t exist, then they wouldn’t have anything to fear from the updates.

    The problem is that people have been able to game Google for so long, that they think they can continue to get away with it. @wilreynolds (at searchlove) likened it to that part in the matrix where Neo is on the roof and avoids the bullets until he’s eventually hit, and that’s what’s going to happen to people who continue to try and game the system. He also said Google’s not going to stop, and he’s right. So you need to be able to do this


    otherwise, you’re eventually gonna get hit. Do things right, and it won’t matter what Google throws at you. You’re gonna be fine

    Reply to this comment

    • Andy Williams

      Andy Williams 27th November 2012

      Hi Jim,

      Fair point. I think there are possibly a few different mindsets as to why site owners continue to play by their own rules.

      I think the underlying fact has to be exactly what said – do all the right things to start with and you will never have anything to worry about.

      Reply to this comment

  • Wesley Brown 27th November 2012

    Another fantastic article guys!

    Reply to this comment

  • Paul McRiley 27th November 2012

    This piece is starving for an editor.

    Reply to this comment

  • Steve Fair 27th November 2012

    We spent 5 years at the top of Google for the phrase “new business agency”. Over the last few months, we’ve slid to 5th (or 4.1st/th if Webmaster Tools is to be believed) while making changes to adhere to Google’s rules. It is quite frustrating, but we continue to make subtle changes and test each for a while to see if it helps or hinders. We avoid and spammy links, update our blog fairly regularly and I’ve even been learning to use Rich Snippets. For a tiny company like ours, it’s a lot to be doing when there’s already so much to do just to get your actual work done!

    Reply to this comment

    • Andy Williams

      Andy Williams 28th November 2012

      Hi Steve,

      Maintaining your site can be very time consuming especially when you still have a business to run but the hard work should pay off. Keep going and keep up to date with everything Google are putting out there and you will reap the rewards.

      Reply to this comment

  • Darren Candler 27th November 2012

    Great Article Andy, As previously stated I dont think its them ignoring, It that they dont really know.

    There is alot of old information out there that people still seem to swear by. Its going to be a tough 2013 for them I think if they dont start looking at the whole picture.

    Reply to this comment

    • Andy Williams

      Andy Williams 28th November 2012

      Hi Darren,

      There sure is and many is the time that someone has read an old blog post or article believing it to still be relevant.

      If you are searching for information or tips always look at the date it was written, tactics do go out of date.

      Reply to this comment

  • Stacey Mayer 28th November 2012

    Oh boy, I had to laugh when you mentioned hidden text! Yes, it’s still out there! Funny how old tricks seem to stick around so long!

    Reply to this comment

    • Andy Williams

      Andy Williams 28th November 2012

      Hi Stacey,

      Scary isn’t it.

      It’s almost like some site owners think “I am too small for Google to worry about, they won’t notice if I just hide a bit of information here”…

      Oh dear :)

      Reply to this comment

  • Scott Cole 28th November 2012

    Great article, I expect this to resonate with a lot of digital marketers.

    One aspect I’d question is the following:

    “If you can’t be bothered to write your own content then actually you can’t be bothered to succeed. So you won’t.”

    I guess this depends what success is to the site owner right? I know of plenty of guys who still have sites which largely consist of scraped content from a variety of sources, which, bring them in a fair amount of cash each month. You’re right in saying that there’s no longevity in that approach, and it certainly is lazy as hell, but ultimately it can be a really successful approach depending on your goals as a site owner.

    Reply to this comment

    • Andy Williams

      Andy Williams 28th November 2012

      Hi Scott,

      Very good point. I guess everything is judged by the success you are looking to gain.

      There are of course sites out there that have scraped content and are successful but if you are looking to simply fill your site with other people’s content on pages where you really should be selling your own business and your unique services then you may not get very far.

      Reply to this comment

  • Judith 28th November 2012

    Love this, Andy! ;-)

    In some industries and local markets I see sites ranking above the fold that really makes one wonder why Panda and/or Penguin seemed to have no effect. Could it be in the more spammy markets, the least spammy still rise to the top?

    Clients in those industries look at me like the crazy lady when I advise they should not do what those sites are doing (and apparently ranking well for) to retain rankings for the long haul.

    Even sending Google TOS and Webmaster Guidelines links fall on deaf ears in lieu of believing what they see in the SERPs.

    I think some that ignore Google do so because what Google states you need to do is not reflected in the SERPs. Why do the hard work when not doing so seems to work well for their competitors?

    Off to Tweet this now!

    Reply to this comment

  • Mel Egerton 13th March 2013

    Hi Andy,

    I think it’s all down to people believing they’ll never get caught.

    They’ve become accustomed to having it all their own way in the past since gaming Google was so easily done. I think this has lead people to believe that Google is a wee bit dim and as such could never possibly catch them out.

    The best part is when these people are penalized in the future they will cry like a baby, and announce to anyone who will listen that Google is victimizing them and shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it!

    Reply to this comment

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