Don’t put all your eggs in Google’s basket

I believe you should not depend on the search engine traffic for your business success. This may sound strange coming from a search engine optimization professional, but if you think about it, you’ll see this position makes total sense.

A good SEO knows you can’t control your rankings in the free search listings. You can attempt to influence, you can try to suggest, but you have no real control over your rankings. And a good SEO knows it’s dangerous to base your entire business on something you can’t control.

Imagine a community newsletter. It carries some paid ads and features some content, and in order to attract readership, it allows local individuals and businesses to run classified ads for free. Members of the community know this newsletter is a great resource — and as a result, many people turn to the newsletter when they’re ready to shop… so most businesses in town make sure they’ve got some kind of classified ad running each week.

For a long time, one business dominates a particular section of the classifieds. Their ad is well-written and seems to be always listed first, and because of this they get a steady flow of new customers.

After awhile, the company loses sight of the fact their ad is free, and their ad placement is entirely controlled by the newsletter publisher. They come to count on their ad always being first, and they come to depend on the new customers this proiminent ad placement brings them. They never bother to set up any other advertising channels, and they neglect to budget any money or time for marketing activities.

One day, for whatever reason, the newsletter publisher decides to shake up the ad order. Suddenly, this business finds itself down in the middle of the pack, while one of its competitors now occupies the coveted first position. The flow of new-customer traffic suddenly dries up, and the business finds itself in trouble.

While they can complain to their friends about how “heartless” the newsletter publisher is, and how the publisher doesn’t seem to care about all the lives being “ruined” by his “reckless” actions, the truth is, the business owners themselves are to blame. They let themselves be seduced by the siren song of free advertising and lost sight of the risk they were running.

You must be in control of your business and your traffic. When you have good rankings, take full advantage of them, but never forget they’re simply the icing on the dessert cake, not the meal itself. If you want to build a successful business for the long term, your marketing plan must be solidly grounded in factors you can control, and must be designed to spread the risk in the event any one marketing or advertising channel dries up suddenly.

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