Contextual advertising makes it easy for people who are not good at selling but good at building an audience to profit from their traffic stream. But the traffic stream that contextual ads work best for are search referrals, especially since
- the contextual ad networks are extensions of the search ad networks
- regular visitors learn to ignore ads
- the contextual ads typically have little to no editorial pre-sell
Sorry, You're Done. Thanks for Playing Webmaster
As mentioned on Sphinn, without warning Robin Good recently had his Google search referrals wiped away. In a post about the event he stated:
Google keeps changing and refining its own approach and policies to improve the quality of its results and in this effort, it appears that it may have become more restrictive and intolerant of issues and deviations from the official standards that it didn't bother about before.
The Difference Between Large & Small Publishers
If you monetize via Google's ads, much (perhaps most) of your revenue comes from Google searchers landing on your site, and thus you are stuck with Google's editorial search guidelines, which sometimes shift arbitrarily. In spite of Robin being a premium AdSense partner he was punished without warning. Google does it to their business partners large and small, though typically with more vengeance if the partner is small.
Likely because of Robin's distribution and influence (and the damage it would have cost Google to not fix the issue), Google started ranking his sites again, but that still doesn't change the experience from being unjust:
the fact of the matter IS that GOOGLE CAN and DOES arbitrarily penalize sites without being transparent about the reasons it does so.
Is it right that Google has so much power over my ability to "exist" as an entity over the internet? Isn't this the case, as Fabio Masetti says, of Google being able to play with the same net neutrality issues we fear from large telcos, for by having the mere possibility to switch off any content without official justifications, while asking me to plead guilty before I am even re-considered?
Some of those with a smaller following found their problem never had a chance to be cleared up.
When & Why I Stopped Trusting Google
If you have read this blog for the last month you could probably tell Google recently killed one of my sites as well. While it may have seemed my posts were due to anger, they were more to show how my perspective changed as I discovered and experienced how sleazy Google's business practices are firsthand. I still speak truth, but as my experiences changed so did my understand of truth. I still like Gmail and some of Google's other services, but I am finding it incredibly hard to trust them as a company.
Imagine re-branding a site you built over 10,000 organic links to, only to have Google view it as a deceptive redirect and KILL ALL OF YOUR LINK EQUITY while paying spammers to steal your content.
A single Google engineer can decide to kill the viability of a site because of who owns it. Then they pay people to steal your work. It is a long, drawn out, perhaps endless process to protect work from theft, especially if Google decides they would rather pay a thief to steal your content than to pay you directly. How could they do that without expecting you to speak publicly about how unjust that is?
If I wasn't an SEO they might not have taken vengeance on me so heavily, but because I know SEO, and I shared too much honest information they decided the only appropriate thing to do was to punish me by nuking my site. I respect that perspective, but it doesn't mean that I have any respect left for them.
Google: the Ultimate Parasitic Business Model
The more you trust Google the harder you fall when the day comes that they have a technical error, or one of their engineers is having a bad day and decides they no longer need you.
Relying on them to build your business is like relying on self-destructing genetically modified seeds to boost your harvest.
For a few years maybe the yields are a bit bigger, but then the seed prices go up, and so does the cost of the fertilizer required to make the seeds grow. Your margins keep going down until you are financially insolvent, while the engineering team gets a raise every year.
Why You Don't Need Google
To maximize Google AdSense earnings you have to place the ads front and center, which scare visitors away from your site, and make people less likely to read your site, trust your site, revisit your site, link to your site, or subscribe to your site.
If you don't plaster Google ads all over your site then your site is likely going to be viewed as being far more credible, and easier to link at, subscribe to, trust, etc. As your industry grows you grow faster than competing sites that use AdSense do.
To appreciate the difference between mediated growth with Google and natural organic logarithmic growth you can compare the sites Google just killed versus the growth in earnings of SeoBook.com. A couple years ago Google created a poor relevancy algorithm that filtered out thousands of websites for their official business names. Even when they filtered out SeoBook.com the site still earned 85% of what it made the month prior, and that is with a business model that sold information on how to rank on a site while that site was not even ranking for its own name!
The point being here is that if you use Google you set yourself at a specific spot on the value chain. If you try to maximize those earnings you prevent yourself from growing as quickly as you could/should. If you move yourself up the value chain Google not only controls less of your traffic, but they also only touch the least valuable portions of it. Unless you use Feedburner Google does not control your brand evangelists.
Should you trust your business to Google? Do you trust them more than you trust yourself? If so, submit a job application.
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