Like the birth of anything good, there comes a day when the good is replaced with better. Every industry experiences it and every company is eventually shaped by it.
Today we begin a new blog series on “transformational changes in engagement.” Over the last few years we have already begun to see massive changes in how the Internet is changing the way we approach our businesses and connect with our prospects and customers.
We will take a brief look back in the beginning of various online industries and how they shaped our current online engagement and then take a look forward at how future changes will force us to re-consider how we engage with others and build communities.
Today, we will start with Google and the rapid decline of index search and its impact on your business.
To understand Google, one must understand its beginnings. When they came onto the search scene in the late 1990’s there was a lot of competition:
- Ask Jeeves
- MSN Search
- AOL Search
- All The Web.
But there was no clear leader. Content was sparse, comparatively speaking and for those of us who remember using these sites. They were confusing and loaded with news, advertising and all kinds of “stuff” you probably weren’t interested in or needed.
In a CNBC Special in 2009 called “Inside The Mind of Google” they discussed the rise of the company and its controversies at the time. In the show they discuss how these college kids come out with a new application as part of a research project. It appeared to be just a blank page. They asked people to sit down and use it. Because it was just a logo and a box, no one knew at first what to do. They were used to pages being filling with links everywhere and their eyes in overload.
Needless to say, the friendliness of the blank page caught on and it caught on big!
For nearly ten years Google would build its search empire on the user-friendliness of its site. Clean and easy to use was there mantra as it went about the business of “organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful.”
What Google essentially did for ten years is commoditize the internet and all content. Businesses wanted the traffic from them so everyone conformed to their standards and the Search Engine Optimization industry was created with a goal of chasing the money. Who could really blame them, right? Who didn’t want the most targeted traffic full of new buyers? TV, radio, newspaper ads, magazine ads – none of them could offer what Google could offer and for a fraction of the cost.
Fast Forward to 2009 – Google Search Has a Problem
For ten years Google’s growth was unrivaled in business history. No one had ever seen that kind of growth or profit margins so quickly.
But in 2009 a trend started to develop. Google index search had peaked.
From 2010 – 2012 studies began coming out showing that search had started to decline.
Tech Investor and innovator Roger McNamee came out with a Ted Talk and shared a graph that showed that in 2008 Google Index accounted for 90% of all searches done on the internet. But, by 2011 it was down to 50%. Some estimates today suggest it’s now down to a staggering 30%.
That’s still a LOT of traffic, but it’s nowhere near what it was at their peak.
So What Happened?
In McNamee’s 2011 Ted Talk he referenced a whole new wave of specific ways people were getting information they needed and wanted quickly that Google couldn’t provide because the Internet is so full of garbage. SEO had found a way to manipulate the search engine to give page one results for things people weren’t even looking for; in essence it was a bait and switch that SEO companies had been able to pull off in order to help drive traffic to their clients websites.
Google users were frustrated and Google was even frustrated. As I will share in a moment Google decided to fight back in 2012.
What was the real change that put a dent in index search?
New tools emerged to help me better find what I’m looking for without the hassle of searching forever through sites that were manipulating me to see their stuff that had nothing to do with what I was searching for. Here is a list of some of those new tools:
- Wikipedia: Information on a specific subject is all in one place
- Social Media – personal engagement and connections
- Match.com if I want a date
- Yelp for restaurant reviews
- Realtor.com if I need to buy a house
- Trip.com if I want to go somewhere
The list goes on and on… I don’t’ always need Google for the specific things I’m looking for. These sites in essence became highly specialized search engines that offer me exactly what I want.
Today we can find other ways that we meet our audience without Google. Here are just a few obvious ideas:
- Via other influential blogs through commenting and engagement
- Niche websites that cater to businesses or organizations within niche industries
- Social media communities where my audience hangs out
One other thing that hurt Google has been the emergence of mobile technologies. It’s very hard to put ads on a small screen. Yet, mobile devices now account for nearly 70% of all internet traffic. Mobile has caused a steep decline in search traffic all together. In fact, studies in Forbes Magazine I have seen over the last year give a direct correlation to search traffic loss and mobile usage.
However, Google is a smart company and they know this. So what have they done to meet their flexible mission statement? They have diversified the company.
Today the own the largest mobile software platform in Android. It’s said that Android enabled devices are nearly 70% or more of all mobile sales. And, because of Google Maps and their satellite systems they are creating driverless cars that are being approved in several states right now. That’s not all, there is much more they are doing…
Their innovation is staggering and in the near future their empire will no longer be in search but in other things.
A report from The Information (paywall) says the co-founder Larry Page has set up a ‘company within a company’ dubbed ‘Google 2.0’ that will look at the tech giant’s long-term future – presumably for when advertising revenue from search traffic (inevitably) dries up. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/google-20-will-build-airports-and-cities-says-report-9743962.html
But let me say this; that doesn’t mean search is going away. It’s not. It will change as it has continued to change. But what it does mean is that we will have to be forward thinking about how we reach our customers.
The Great Panda Escape of 2012
In 2012 a lot of businesses began to wake up to the reality that we have to stop depending on Google for our lively hoods. Many reputable businesses grew very profitable off of the back of Google. But that also mean many less than reputable businesses were doing the same thing.
Google overnight and without warning changed the rules. This caused some reputable sites to immediately see a 30% – 90% drop in their traffic. In some cases it destroyed businesses completely and put them under. Others had to work a lot harder to make it and figure out how to change their business and marketing models.
Over two years later Google is still making major changes to their search engine and too many are still trying to play catch up in a desperate mode of chasing the cash.
The point is that too many became over reliant of Google when there might be a better way?
How Changes to Google Have Actually Helped Businesses
It’s not all bad; in fact I think this may be one of the best things to happen in a long time. As we go through this series we will see the barrel roll effect on how we reach our audiences and engage with them.
Under the old paradigm, we spent either a lot of time or money (or both) performing SEO trying to rank #1 on the first search result page or as close to number one as we could get. It was really a technical issue over a practical one where we want to put ourselves in front of more and more people doing searches for what we have to offer.
That is where the shift is now happening. We are moving from the over technical reliance of SEO to the practical application of relationship building as I written about through many of my blog articles.
As someone who has owned a web design and development company for nearly ten years, I personally think people were stuck in the allure of Google and how can they make us rich? It’s never directly or overtly stated, but it’s there and we got lazy.
We learned in essence to commoditize ourselves and in doing so we were unable to stand out, be unique or attract those to us who knew they wanted or needed us. We were all just blue in a sea of blue.
Unfortunately, most small business owners today don’t have good networking skills, business sense, or an understanding of what business they are “really” in or what problems they “really” solve. They are no longer sure how to stand out and be different. In days gone by these were normal things that went into business plans.
Business plans were critical because almost every small business had a barrier to entry to overcome and it generally was centered around the need for capital.
Today, you can start a business with virtually no capital, but in doing so you lose the benefit of being challenged to think about your business. That has led to devastating consequences for businesses, their employees, vendors, customers; and dare I say even their families.
Business survival rate is abysmal because in reality business owners started a business and then gave themselves jobs without giving leadership to their companies. Why? Because they don’t know how and have never been challenged to learn how to build a business.
If search is dropping and less traffic is going to continue to come from Google or other search engines, how are we to grow our audiences?
We have the greatest opportunity today to grow our businesses if we do it right! More so than at any other time in the last twenty or thirty years in my opinion.
McNamee shared in his Ted Talk that enterprise software like Microsoft Windows and SAP alone accounts for hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue that are becoming lost for those companies as their older flagship products continue to lose market share. Google is experiencing the same in search. What happens to that money?
A major opportunity is coming for those dollars as new industries and technologies supplant them and open the doors to new opportunities for entrepreneurs.
What are Some Transformational Changes You Can Make to Grow Your Business?
In a previous article I wrote I asked if you were willing to become someone else’s Google?
Major change is coming and already those of us who blog for business are experiencing it in how we write, promote and market our blogs. Gone are the days of just writing and submitting a sitemap to Google through Webmaster Tools.
Gone are the days of just posting our articles on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin and sit back and enjoy the fruit of our posts.
We are going through a massive correction right now and it’s one I think is way overdue. Laziness is being supplanted with real strategies, goals and objectives that are hard work in the beginning but are the foundations of a lasting company.
At the end of this series I will offer a comprehensive way to consider how you can participate in the correction that is already in process to grow your audience and sales. But for now, let me give you a few short ideas:
- Stop relying on Google.
- Stop building brochure websites that say nothing and mean nothing.
- Start making your website the center of your online world.
- Start building your community through genuine engagement and networking.
- Start making others more important than yourself.
One such site doing this today is Aha Now! Aha Now is an amazing self-development community that is bringing people from rented sites like social media groups onto their own site. They offer incentives and awards to those who write, engage and participate regularly. They have the vision and the foresight to understand the concepts I’m mention.
Another great example is my friend Enstine Muki who has created broaded.net. This is a service that bloggers can use to help one another grow their audiences by adding a widget to their site that allows visitors to see other interesting blog articles on another website. Each blogger is creating a self contained search engine of amazing content that is filtered and approved before showing up on another blog. It’s a fantastic idea!
Today my goal was to expose you to the dangers of relying on Google. I am not asking you to ignore Google, I’m asking you to stop being dependent upon them.
Here is what I’ve learned about Google. Google is reactive, it’s not proactive. In the five short steps above I am asking you to lead the way and be proactive. Get out of your comfort zone and start being a leader online within your niche and industry. Give people a reason to want to follow you, learn from you, and buy you!!!!
If you do it right you will build natural organic backlinks through engagement within a growing community that you create. Google will follow and reward you. But, that’s not your goal really is it? That’s just a benefit!
Every business has a cycle, and Google is no exception. Over the coming years search will become a less dominate factor in their business. The proof is in their behavior with the rise of new technologies and capabilities that they are creating. If search were to remain dominant in their forecasts they would not need to innovate. But the truly great companies are great forecasters and innovators based on current and projected future trends.
Google has changed the world and the way we access information. In the next article in my series I will cover social media and how has evolved and where it is heading. Like Google, you may want to consider where your eggs are all at? Times are already changing and so are user habits on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others.
Are you ready to evaluate how to take advantage of the coming changes? AWESOME! Then let’s learn together where social media has come from and where it’s going so that we can take advantage of what is already here and coming in part 2.
If you have a question or comment, I encourage you to leave it below. I would love to engage with you and learn from you as well!