In the past many Google penalties were blatantly obvious. You either got traffic or you did not. But as time has passed penalties are getting blurrier, meaning your site can be penalized and still get traffic from Google. Some traffic reductions are due to competitive market forces, some are due to algorithm changes, some are due to automated filters, and some are due to penalties. If you are new to the market (and in some cases, even if you are experienced) it is hard to know which problems, if any, are holding back your ranking potential.
A friend just told me about how his Google traffic went way up after he spoke with a Google engineer, but he didn't want to talk about it publicly. I wonder how many other people are just like him, but don't speak about it or don't know they are penalized? And then I think back to the ban of the official AdSense blog, Brian Clark's PageRank hit, and Sugar Rae's ranking woes, and have come to the conclusion that spam fighting has become more of a shoot first and ask questions later game. They do not make a lot of mistakes, but when your site is just a number, it hurts pretty bad.
From a marketer perspective this shoot first shift is an important one which requires a few things of online publishers hoping to keep their businesses profitable:
- Track your traffic using analytics tools, such that you know if/when something goes wrong, can prove it with hard stats, and can research it more specifically.
- Publish at least 2 or 3 sites in different markets to give yourself additional data points on whether the issue is site specific or not.
- Use public relations and viral link marketing where you once used link buys. If you are still renting links try to make them covert, and offset them with many natural links.
- If possible package your offering as a service, so that you can justify charging recurring, and/or create an affiliate program. These make your income less reliant on search engines.
- If nobody cares that the site is missing there is no harm nor foul. Build up enough social significance that you can cause enough noise if/when something goes wrong such that Google gets enough blowback to fix the issue quickly.
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