By Shayne Tilley

Beware of Becoming Search-dependent

By Shayne Tilley

traffic sourcesShayne is reporting this week from Search Marketing Expo in Sydney.

In the first session of SMX Sydney, Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz told the story of a recent startup that woke up one morning to find their organic search engine traffic from Google had vanished for no obvious reason. Traffic from Google for this particular startup represented the lion’s share of their daily visits, so it had a dramatic, and instant, effect on their bottom line. I’m sure this is an all-too-common story of web sites becoming over dependent upon a single source of traffic.

With Search Engine Marketing, particularly SEO, you can never forget that the engines owe you nothing—they act in the interests of the customer experience (usually the relevance of the results that they deliver), which drives demand, and subsequently their advertising revenue. Granted, all of the big players play well with Search Engine Marketing crowd, but at the end of the day, they only really care about what’s in it for them—not for you …

The key piece of advice here then is to not let your healthy search engine performance today lull you into a false sense of security for tomorrow. If a switch within Google gets flicked, or a lever gets adjusted that influences the search engine algorithm, your search engine performance could change drastically. You need to be able to cope with it.

Rand highlighted the need to stay in touch with best-practice SEO techniques, so you can ensure you’re at the forefront of change. From an SEO perspective this is certainly solid advice, but the advice should not just be applied to search. Relying on any one specific channel for traffic is a big risk to take. Each and every source (direct, referral, advertising, social media etc) has some potential for change, just as search engines do.

A well-planned site will consist of an even mix of traffic sources. The site managers will work at building traffic across all channels, rather than focusing solely on one. This way, if the well was to dry up in one area, plenty of water (traffic) would still flow from other channels.

Take a look at your traffic sources in your current web analytics package and ask yourself: if one of these channels stopped delivering traffic tomorrow, what would it mean to my business? If there’s one channel that dominates all the others, it might be time to look at bringing balance to your incoming traffic sources.

  • Lantrix

    I arrived at this article from a twitter tweet, so that means sitepoint is not entirely dependant os SEO :-)

  • monton

    Some good points there, however, it should also be stressed search traffic is often the best traffic to convert traffic into sales or clicks for pay per click ads. When people search for terms, they come with very specific goals in terms of what they are looking for, which is is often not the case with other sources. but I agree, though, that you should also concentrate on getting traffic from other sources. But, then again, if you have a really big established site that has bene geting solid rankings from search engines for yars, it will almost certainly likely to keep doing so as long as you are adding quality conetnt. About.com is not going to lose their traffic overnight, are they?

  • I think people focus way too much on their SEO. What good is SEO, if your content isn’t so amazing that people will immediately bookmark and save for later?

    Not only that, but your site should be able to fit within any changes to search engines. If your site relies on a very unique set of SEO techniques that are new and fancy now, then in the future, your site will be obsolete. Rather than put so much effort into the new techniques, you should simply focus on making the content as relevant as possible, and make it easy to be text-read.

    Make the new techniques implemented in an ‘add-on’ fashion, so they can be easily changed to suit any changes to the actual search engines. Keep in mind that the base of search engines doesn’t really change, it’s just the techniques of recognition that change when people bend them to make the system work for them.

  • Anonymous

    This is good advice. Not only should one be striving to even out the traffic channels, but also take the time to optimize landing pages for CTR and ultimately ROI.
    ~ Jim

  • deardoc

    did he elaborate on SERP/long tail traffic vs non serp?

  • I agree with this article. It also makes me think of how I crack up to see posts from adsense site webmasters when Google makes a big change to their algorithm, yelling at Google about how they are taking away their income.

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