Business contingency planning is essential to ensure your business can survive events that are both within and outside your control. For online businesses one key event to consider contingency planning for is the following scenario. What would happen if your Google ranking fell dramatically overnight? Established online businesses with loyal customers would likely be fine but any online business overly reliant on organic Google traffic could be devastated. Think it can not happen? Think again. Leading web traffic ranking company Alexa served notice that broad Google algorithm changes caused drastic swings in traffic by as much as 80% for certain websites. If you visit Google support forums you can validate this phenomenon as frantic site administrators desperately seek answers to what happened and advice on how they can restore their previous rankings to save their business.
What can you learn from other online businesses that have experienced drastic Google page rank changes?
1. Validate that your site is not infected with malware
Many online businesses that experience drastic ranking declines have been infected by malware and are penalized as a result. The best method to validate if this is your problem is to utilize the Google Webmaster Tools suite and perform a malware diagnostics test. If no malware is detected you have likely run afoul of Google for a different reason.
2. Do not expect restitution from Google
A quick scan of the Google support forums quickly confirms that Google regularly tweaks algorithms that will result in changing site rankings that they usually maintain is being done to improve search results for their customers. Most often times that will be the case but that will not make you feel any better if you feel your site has been unfairly removed from the coveted first page of google search rankings. A Google representative will likely advise you to review the overall usefulness and uniqueness of your site content effectively deflecting the question of the appropriateness of the ranking change.
3. Results of algorithm changes are unpredictable
Ranking changes are unannounced and could occur at any time. Site owners that regularly monitor their traffic with analytics software rapidly detected drastic changes but many of us might not be as quick to notice. Would you notice a drastic traffic drop?
What can you do to protect your business to withstand drastic Google rank changes?
1. Diversify your income streams
If you are like many of the frantic site owners in the Google help forum and fail to diversify your business income stream you are at the mercy of Google. Heed this warning and take steps to reach out to your customers directly. Build relationships, build mailing lists, use RSS and take other steps to mitigate the damage drastic search rank changes can have on your business.
2. Build a relationship with a Google support rep
Google support reps are people too so try to befriend one and make them part of your network. Relationships make the world go round so get on friendly terms with someone who might have your back should things go against you for the wrong reasons. If you do not have a personal contact I recommend being polite, factual and taking the conversation offline of forums to increase your chances of getting a satisfactory outcome.
3. Budget for down cycles so your business will survive
Individuals are advised to have a 6-12 month cash slush fund in case of hardship and businesses are no different. If you are reliant on this months income for survival any setback could be a permanent one.
This post should not be interpreted as anti Google because that is not my intent. It is only meant to remind you that uncontrollable events happen and that these events can have a material effect on your online business. You must be ready to anticipate and respond to these challenges when they arise and take the needed steps to keep your business healthy despite the obstacles you may encounter.