Early reports are in confirming the results of Google’s index changes. Yahoo’s Luke Beatty says two-thirds of Associated Content pages have lost traffic, while I’ve heard that total volume declines from Google search have reached 70% on some properties.
For sites like eHow and About.com, which get somewhere between 65%-70% of their traffic from search, the concentrated risk exposure that comes from Google engineers changing the algorithm makes for an unstable and uncontrollable business model.
Never in the history of media has there been such a precarious model for distribution, and the bad decision by SEO-focused sites to try and build a relationship with an algorithm looks worse and worse. The SEO-focused sites kowtow to the algorithm’s desires, as best as they can interpret them. They game their moves internally, based on what they think the algorithm wants, not what the customer wants. And they rely on the white hats, as well as all of the blackest hats they can stomach, just to please the algorithm.
But, unfortunately, the algorithm is capricious and unreliable.
What these companies should do is form relationships with consumers.
That means providing consumers what they want – and where they want it, which increasingly means in their Facebook or Twitter feed, and on their mobile phone.
In the end, this is the only way to create great experiences that are branded in the consumer’s mind today.
My advice, then, is simple.
SEO slaves, rise up – and revolt! Throw out the false God of the search algorithm and, in its place, focus on building valuable content and experiences. Win the audience, not the search.