Why You Can NOT Rely Solely on Organic Search Listings for Traffic and Revenue

Every time I take a peek into the Web analytics accounts for a blog or especially an online store I see something I consider to be VERY frightening! The percentage of traffic and sales being derived from traffic from only one source is frequently 50-70+%!

Can you imagine what would happen to your blog or business if your traffic and sales suddenly dropped by 50-70%!

Don’t think it can happen? It does all the time. The most famous blogger Darren Rowse of ProBlogger and TwiTip wrote an excellent post about his own experience of losing two-thirds of his traffic and income. He has covered this subject several times:

Do you notice anything about the dates of these posts? Remember in the post just prior to this that I mentioned pay per click bid prices having artificially high minimums? Those coincide with organic listings swinging wildly but mostly dropping. (Some have to go up for others to go down.)

If your business normally sees a major increase in sales – or even makes the majority of sales – during the holiday shopping season what would YOU do if your traffic dropped in the middle of the optimum sales period because your organic listings suddenly dropped or completely disappeared from the first page of the SERPS?

How long have I been warning about the dangers of having all your traffic and sales coming from the same source? Have you done anything about it yet?

Still not convinced? There are others who have recognized how dangerous this is. The featured home page discussion at WebmasterWorld (Mar 27, 2009) is about Making Your Business SE (Search Engine) Proof.  I know you may be busy blogging or running your online store so you may not see all the uproar whenever there is a new Google Dance.

These issues are not new as this excerpt from Gazumped by Google Florida Update from Nov 25, 2003 indicates (note that the date of this post also coincides with the holiday shopping season):

Thousands of web pages have been suddenly demoted in the Google search results, primarily on the main commercial search terms for which they targeted their pages to be replaced by other sites who, in the main, referred to the search term obliquely. Several were the main shopping portals or business directories which gave listings for companies who may provide the services requested, many were not. “

Techcrunch has even suggested What An AntiTrust Case Against Google Might Look Like. For several days now I have been searching for specific posts, forums, or pages to illustrate the current state of online sales. I wanted to provide more real life examples from etailers.

With the enormous number of online stores that would seem to be easy to research. Have no Internet retailers asked for input since 2007 when their sales dropped?  Do they not visit forums any more or ask around among their peers? Perhaps that information is not as easily located if the discussions take place on Twitter or other Social Networks or maybe it is not easily found in the indexes?

Whatever the cause I have decided to publish this post as is and hope that those involved in ecommerce will share their stories and experiences in the comments here.

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LATEST ON GOOGLE SEARCH ALGORITHM:

ONLINE RETAILERS REPORTING TRAFFIC DECLINES:

  • Answers.com Reports Traffic Down 28% After Google Algorithm Change (Aug 2. 2007)

GOOGLE DANCES:

DEALING WITH DROPPING SEARCH TRAFFIC:

ECOMMERCE PREDICTIONS:

The above predictions are far different than the results of the Merchant Circle Small Business Economic Stimulus Survey (Feb 25, 2009). The answers to this question are of particular concern:

Month over month, how would you say sales and revenue for your local business have changed?

Severe Decline        31.5% (3,411)
Moderate Decline    41.6% (4,509)
No Change              13.6%  (1,471)
Moderate increase   12.3% (1,331)
Strong Increase         1.6%    (178)

Total survey respondents who answered that their sales and revenue had declined: 73.1%

Survey participants who answered this question  10,830
Number who skipped this question   49

Total respondents  10,879

NOTE: The question specifically asks about LOCAL business. We have no way of knowing how many of those local businesses are brick and mortar, have ecommerce stores, or operate exclusively online.

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More Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

  • Tired of focusing on SEO or just want some great new ideas to work on? Check out the 115 Marketing Strategies for Small Business from the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur Blog.
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Gail Gardner

Small Business Marketing Strategist at GrowMap
Creator and owner of GrowMap.com, Gail is primarily known for mentoring small businesses and encouraging bloggers to join collaborations to share skills and support small business.

Comments

  1. I still get over 95% of my traffic from Google with just 2 main keywords. Frightening. Bing simply doesnt like me

  2. What exactly the term “Organic Search Results” means? and on what logic are the search results ranked?

  3. I agree “You can never rely on anyone type of traffic but organic is the best because of the high standing it holds for Google, pagerank, alexa ranking, etc.” Organic for me is the best. Check out Search Engine Marketing.

  4. My main focus is still on Google. In the beginning you have to focus your resources on one thing. Or else you won’t get anywhere with all the methods you try to implent.
    I do find it a bit scary putting all my bets on one horse now.
    You never know what Google will do next. But I do find it difficult to find other ways to get traffic that work as good as Google does.
    Danny would love you to read ..Black & Decker NPP2018 18-Volt Cordless Electric Pole Chain SawMy Profile

  5. Roger Gordon says:

    Interesting that this post was made back in 2009 when there was a lot more ‘gaming’ of Google still going on. I think people on average are a bit more tuned in these days to what G wants and are in a position to benefit from updates such as Panda rather than suffer as a result.
    Roger Gordon would love you to read ..Unique Article Wizard Ongoing DevelopmentMy Profile

    • Hi Roger,

      Since this post was written I have seen the traffic coming from Google as high as 98% and have had some success at obtaining traffic from other sources. See my Local Search Case Study.

      I believe it is naive to assume that if you try really hard to be good boys and girls that Brother Google will look upon you with favor. I am reminded of people who think if they drive just perfectly they will never get a ticket – and are surprised when they are stopped for having “dim license plate lights” or even though they signaled they “didn’t signal far enough before the intersection”.

      Also since I wrote this post we all have a new challenge. Incorporating social media activities and recent blog posts into the serps is creating massive churn on page one. While many will be thrilled to have their 15 seconds of fame, being unable to get consistent traffic will be the long term effect.

      As usual, this behavior will be rolled out gradually so that most will never notice the CAUSE of their decreasing traffic and sales.

      I also predict that Google will use the Chrome block data as the perfect excuse to lower ranking or even delist sites just as Automattic uses Akismet to silence the voices of the most active commentators. I wrote about those issues in my post about Crowdsourcing Fail.

      You do know that many consider article marketing and using Unique Article Wizard ‘gaming’ Google? I love the guest posts UAW sends. I have it installed in my golf blog and this gifts blog and believe it is a worthwhile system to use.

      I don’t do it myself any more because I suspect that unique to the paragraph level is not unique enough. When I need article marketing done Ron Cripps does it for me as he has a method to make the posts and articles unique to the sentence level.

      Unfortunately for Ron, just after he published this post on Why You Should Still Be Writing Marketing Articles traffic from Google to his site dropped off a cliff and months later it is still clamped down.

      Did you see my post about the Panda update severely affecting Google’s competitors? Many quality sites that I use and recommend regularly including ShopWiki for their Shopping Buying Guides and TheFind shopping comparison site were affected.

      See that post for the difference between the number of small businesses you can find to buy from on those sites compared to the few and almost all corporate brands Google shopping gives us. THAT is the future according to Google: big brands.

      Aaron Wall wrote a brilliant post around Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s now infamous Internet Cesspool quote. That link goes to my comment regarding how that will affect Internet users.

      There is only one real solution: identify INDEPENDENT alternatives (i.e. non-corporate controlled) to everything Google and encourage everyone you can reach to use them instead. Google is the company store and if we don’t support alternatives there won’t BE any alternatives. I encourage those who are willing to hear to see my posts about Free is NOT Free and There is No Google Fairy.

      growmap would love you to read ..Google Results Image: Paid Versus Organic ListingsMy Profile

  6. You can never rely on anyone type of traffic but organic is the best because of the high standing it holds for Google, pagerank, alexa ranking, etc.
    Trailers and Reviews would love you to read ..Source Code TrailerMy Profile

  7. Depending solely on Organic Search is not really a good action. As they can be instances like this that’s inevitable!

  8. A website’s traffic dropping by as much as 50%?! Wow. That has got to be one horrific situation to be in. I had no idea that organic search listings could be so volatile, let alone unreliable. This definitely changes the way I am thinking; I am going to do as much as I can to advertise and gain listings. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. If you run blogs relying solely on organic search engine traffic, this not a good thing to do. I like to use article directories like ezine to drive a lot of my web traffic. Because these searchers usually convert into sales.
    Best Home Gyms would love you to read ..Stamina Home Gyms – Popular Resistance Training Exercise MachinesMy Profile

  10. I agree that organic searches using search engines is a must but I also agree that we should not count on just one form or source just like the post indicates. Nice post with many links.

  11. Bali Villas says:

    hey nice post and really bali is very interesting place for holidays.

  12. SEO Cardiff says:

    Nice post, will definitely recommend your post to my clients.

  13. I completely agree here with the author. If all the traffic is coming from same source, it’s a caution as it can disappear any time.

  14. Well organic seo is very important for us. and If you use this then you found that your site increase naturally so not be frightened
    internet knowledge would love you to read ..Multimedia componentsMy Profile

  15. It’s scary how these dances seem to occur just before the major holidays. It’s like a conspiracy. I have to admit I’m almost 90% reliant on SE traffic, though not all from Google. On the whole I find Yahoo and Bing to be steadier than Google once you can get ranked.
    James would love you to read ..Weight Loss 4 IdiotsMy Profile

  16. ppc search engine internet marketing says:

    This could be a big questions that need to be answer. There are lots of strategies on how to increase traffics for websites and also there are some list that being shared also. But may be it won’t work for them and gonna try a new one in order to solve this problem.
    ppc search engine internet marketing would love you to read ..Site MapMy Profile

  17. Thanks for the article. I think I have to look into other strategies because the organic results are taking quite some time.
    .-= kody@power 90 ´s featured blog ..Tony Horton live on Fox and Friends June 6 2010 =-.

  18. Hi,
    I am agree with your points. I really enjoyed while reading your blog since you always come with something new which may not be find in other blog. keep posting….

  19. I totally agree with you and I think it’s really necessary for any online business to look for several options and don’t rely on a single source of traffic. I do have an online business and after reading this post, certainly I will have to revise my strategies and think a bit more cleverly to ensure a continuous growth and success of my business.
    .-= Brian@lemon juicer machine´s last blog ..A manual juicer is the perfect addition =-.

  20. This post is really an eye opener for me. For quite awhile now, I’ve really been relying on search engine traffic to fuel my business. It’s really tough to ask this, but what else should I be doing? How can I get that extra traffic to my sites, without relying on the SE’s? A little help would be great, thanks!
    .-= Brett@Government Grants´s last blog ..Moms: Use A Grant To Go Back To College =-.

  21. I rely almost soley on organice listings but I also do some form of social marketing and viral video marketing as well.

  22. Free ads Company says:

    How often do you change what is on your blog ? And how do you know what the people are looking for. I want something different and not the same thing everyone else is offering.

  23. Hi,

    Web marketing these days is not just optimizing your site for organic search but much more than that.

    You have social media optimization and paid search which I think will carry more weight age in the near future.
    .-= Ricky@ Retail India´s last blog ..Retail Industry in India =-.

  24. its true.you must get into all sort of things to marketing your product online. relying on organic search only will bring chaos if search engine changes it’s code…

  25. Affiliate marketing blog says:

    A lot of stuff in this post, great job. I don’t like relying on organic search listings, but what can we do if google already owns 90% of the “internet” ?

    Everybody knows a bit about Google “bad” intentions and maybe you’ve even heard of some cases in which Google “helped” some websites out there. Not to mention their problems with affiliate marketers. But in fact we are dependent of Google in some big ways.

    I don’t like that, but I must admit it. And the organic results they are showing in their listings so far are the best relevancy. So … stick with it. :)

    • Hello Affiliate Marketing,

      As I just replied to Tina there is no one easy thing to do that generates even a fraction of the traffic Google does. That is why we have to focus on every other traffic source we can find, get active in Social Networking, and – and I am very guilty of falling down on this one – capture your visitors in your own private list!

      I am researching the best processes for doing that and will post them soon. For those who want to get started now AWeber is the best choice I know of because they have the resources to keep email sent through them deliverable.

      As for best relevancy I much prefer the results I get using the DuckDuckGo search engine to Google’s any day. I have it and Zuula in my Firefox search engine list. I use the Zuula blog search because it sorts by both recency and relevancy and pulls results from various sources.

      If only I could get Zuula to add DuckDuckGo I’d have my best search engine solution!
      .-= Internet Strategist @GrowMap´s last blog ..Social Networking is NOT Chat =-.

  26. But i don’t support this idea of replying more on other sources for traffic other than the organic one. Other sources are important but they can’t draw much traffic to your website until you got a website similar to Tech crunch or Mashable.

  27. It is an overwhelming amount of information, but I don’t think the idea is new. Essentially you are stating what has always been the model in traditional businesses. For example there are a few businesses that were 70-90% dependent on walmart and walmart would squeeze and squeeze until there was nothing left to squeeze and these businesses would be gone overnight when Walmart would pull the plug.

    • Hello Pina,

      Not all business practices are ethical. We would all be better off if this type or practice was widely condemned and can each make a difference by using alternatives and voting with our dollars. If the general public really considered who suffers when they buy at Wal-Mart perhaps they would make choices that improve the world.

      Shopping locally, supporting our local businesses, adding reviews (both positive and negative) to Local Search Directories and other sites – all of these improve our local communities and that in turn improves our lives and economies.
      .-= Internet Strategist @GrowMap´s last blog ..How to Add Your Free Business Listing to infoUSA =-.

    • I have to rely only on organic search results, so its tough

      • We can only rely on organic search since we are not allowed to advertise our site. So that presents a whole nother challenge, but we get by on a lot of social media and blog post, guest post and such. I wish it wasn’t so, but organic is the only way we are allowed to go.
        Jonny would love you to read ..Welcome to the New Extreme Home WorkoutMy Profile

  28. I truly believe in organic searches as people do go for the organic results and as far as search engine concerns it is important to have a trust on the organic searches……

  29. I agree with you. I heard from someone they say I shouldn’t rely on only one. I should make two or more because if something drop I still have another.

  30. As compared to PPC,natural SEO will prove more cost effective , and so generally would be the first choice for any business.
    Natural listings results in a far greater exposure across all search engines than pay per click, (unless and until you PPC campaigns, which can expensive) to increase the targeted traffic to your website.

    • When ppc was more honest I recommended that every business do both. There is one advantage that ppc had over organic search: you can land specific keyword phrases on the very best most relevant and most likely to convert page. Organic does not do that nearly as well. Unfortunately Google’s ever-expanding broad match has damaged the usefulness of ppc in that area.

      The warning I am sounding that few seem to be getting is that having too much traffic coming from one source is extremely hazardous to your continued success. Google ppc and Google organic may or may not be two sources.

      Businesses MUST start diversifying. NO, your efforts will NOT bring as much instant traffic or sales as search or ppc. YES, it will take a long time to get enough incoming links and listings from thousands of sites to make a serious difference. That is why they need to do it NOW while they have that time – not later when Google may pull the rug out from under their business!

      Internet Strategist’s last blog post..We Miss The Golden Days of the Internet – Pay Per Click Advertising Circa 2003

      • Hey guys

        I hope Allen had made his point very much clear that why organic seo is important and what a website can gain from organic SEO.

        I want to give emphasis that in PPC the major issue is click fraud which really hurts any website owner which is a total loss in terms of visitors as well as money.

  31. Multima$tery says:

    Thanks for the details much-needed info. Webmasters definitely shouldn’t only rely on just one method of traffic. Seo is just one way, there are others ways to build traffic as well like social marketing and other forms or viral marketing strategies.

    • Hello Multi,

      I just found a great new search engine that I really hope will catch on and give Google some real competition. Check it out at http://DuckDuckGo.com. I’ve added it as another option to the existing FireFox search box. Their results have been far better than Google’s.

      Internet Strategist’s last blog post..How to Create a Successful Blog Based Business Part 1

  32. Its really a tough work to manage the ranking and traffic. But nice to learn a lot from your ideas.

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