Everything just got a bit harder with the new Google Caffeine update for the search engine. If you haven’t heard about it yet you can check out the API to see how your website will rank in the new engine compared to the old engine.
I would say that most people began to understand the old engine in a logical way from experimentation over time and many businesses thought they were just “following the rules” building sites in a way that fit with that logic. Now the new engine will be completely different and all that work will be gone. I looked at some sites and saw how they will compare between the 2 and the results are a challenge.
One site went from 12th to 44th for a key search term. Another went from 5th to 23rd. It is almost universal that everyone who develops a business model around search will be hurt by the change whether they are spammy or not.
I am all for reducing and removing spam/affiliate networks/link schemes from google to reveal the real content but the actual companies with the products/services/tools that businesses and professionals use will be hurt by the update and some may suffer financially as a result. Google just doesn’t have the human ability and reasoning skills in a robot algorithm to tell whether a site is spam or not. They’re going after spam and hurting other legitimate businesses.
Investing in marketing might be something we start looking at like investing in stocks/bonds/401K/the market. They have had long standing recommendations on asset allocation between stocks/bonds/international funds/currency and other types of investments. They associate risk levels with each one and say things like; invest the percentage in bonds that matches your age or diversify and reallocate to maintain that level of diversification between investment types 2-3 times per year.
Investment Strategy with Marketing may look the same someday. SEO might bring in X% of revenue and cost Y% of budget but is highly risky, so you don’t invest as much in it, because it is all potentially going to vaporize when Google decides to update. Things like Branding on TV and Radio and Outdoor are more expensive and not trackable, but companies have been using them for decades and they are very low risk. You spend that money on awareness and people know who you are after that. PR is another wild card and social networking (viral) marketing is another component with low cost and high risk.
Companies may want to diversify their marketing and advertising dollars based on risk as well as the ROI because within a few clicks of a mouse in California, the entire web changes and all your efforts may go up in smoke. This idea definitley favors the old methods and in some ways, internet banner ads. Display advertising on the internet is way undervalued right now and people are also starting to look at ads online like they used to on TV. They are actually paying attention sometimes. The conversion rates have gone down on average, but for mainstream brands and trusted sites they are near 5% (up from .01% years ago) when you include post impression data (people who never clicked, but went to your site anyway).
So, I guess the mood I am feeling today is one that is cautious optimism about old advertising methods in light of Google pulling the rug out from under companies, in the way they always do. It doesn’t help that adwords pay per click costs are as high as $20 for many mainstream words and can go as high as $100 perclick. Then when the conversion rates are so low, nobody will pay that. Most of my clients are abandoning ppcads and someday may do the same with SEO. It just doesn’t pay.