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It’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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.