Google’s search is tantamount to a “utility” for most businesses.

Google’s search is tantamount to a “utility” for most businesses.

As a user, I enjoy every action that Google takes to eradicate poor results from search results. However, as a marketer and business owner, the mysterious updates, hidden penalties, and unbelievable power they wield online is both scary and bewildering. And while they have competitors, for most of the world when it comes to search, the competition is a very distant second at best.

More than 90% of folks discover us through Google

Just looking at my search results and those of clients, the percentage of visitors that arrive via a google search is staggering – typically, it’ll hover near or above 90%. Even in most worst-case scenarios, Google search traffic is at minimum 50%. Now imagine if something goes wrong or if one of Google’s mysterious algorithm updates were to penalize you. You’re left digging for clues while your traffic plummets or completely disappears, endangering your business - your livelihood.

Perhaps more transparency is required

If Google applies a manual penalty, they’ll usually tell the offending site / company. Armed with that knowledge, they can then work to correct the problems that caused their delisting. And usually they can climb back up the search results ladder in a few weeks or months. But when an algorithm hits you, you’re left to search for clues, to decipher what happened and how to correct it on your own. It can be a crushing blow for large companies and quite possibly put a small business out of business.

So why can’t some hint of the problem be presented to site owners - perhaps via Google’s Webmasters Tools? Understandably, Google’s fear might be that any knowledge of how their algorithms work might allow black hats to circumvent them. But when one company is so dominant in today’s online world - when small and large businesses depend on the traffic that comes from Google - doesn’t that company need to be more transparent? As Uncle Ben told us, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Google could provide some help if not a direct accounting

If Google is fearful of foes unraveling their algorithms, perhaps a happy medium could be found. Violations could be outlined against the broad guidelines listed under Google's Webmaster Guidelines. If your site is found to be violating the guidelines - a simple report card could be presented under Webmaster Tools. Something to direct the efforts of business professionals - who often are secondary victims rather than villains.

Businesses of all sizes have fallen prey to trusting dubious SEO professionals - sometimes long in the past - only to be hit in the future with the repercussions when an algorithm update rolls out. When activities of consultants or former employees results in problems months or years later - if Google still believes in it’s founding mantra - “don’t be evil” shouldn’t it reasonably try to provide some insight into what has caused the site to be penalized?

Just a little help is all that most would desire

When a piece of infrastructure crucial to your business has a problem, you can usually get an answer. That is, if your power goes out, or your water stops flowing, or your phone lines don’t work - you can contact someone and find out why. But if you’re “dinged” by a Google update - you can’t call them for answers or help.

Today, Google can be as crucial to the life of your business as key utilities such as power, water, and phones. So it seems reasonable to expect that Google could provide some type of feedback when your site encounters a problem. Some type of message that will direct you to the problem so it can be corrected. Rather than the current state where your site is penalized but you don’t know why and you’re left struggling to figure out the reasons, and to perhaps save your now failing business during the process.

Jun 19, 2014

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