Google is heading in the wrong direction – I decided not to follow

by Jonathan Gebauer (@jogebauer)

(Disclaimer: The following represents my personal view of SEO and the monopoly in the search engine market.)

There is a reason this blog and this site are called “The Social Marketers” and not “The Online Marketers”:

We love social media marketing. We’re not very keen on SEO and SEM. Why?

Anything related to Search Engines makes you depend on one single company: Google.

Google, in most parts of the world, simply rules the search engine market. If Google doesn’t like what you are doing, there is no alternative route. You live by Google’s rules; you fly under the radar, or you die. As simple as that.

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Yes, there is Bing, and a couple of others, but if you honestly examine your traffic, how much do you get from other sites than Google? If you are thinking SEM, do you think about strategies involving all your advertising traffic to be bought from somewhere else and keeping Google Adwords out of the loop?

Chances are that at least 90% of your search engine related traffic will come from Google related services, and that makes you depend a lot on one single company – and that company doesn’t owe you favors. They change something small in their algorithm, and you lose half your traffic. It happened to me – it can happen to you.

Now you might say that Google is only downranking sites for employing “Blackhat” tactics (meaning either tactics against their guidelines or flat out illegal tactics), but there are always innocent bystanders getting caught up in the crossfire. And Google will change their guidelines from time to time.

The social media industry and the social media marketing industry is a little different – because there is not just one social network. There is healthy competition.

Even if Facebook would decide not to show content from your website at all anymore, you could still try to go for traffic from all other social networks. If Google decides to completely deindex your site and you have Google in place as your main traffic source – well, you are effectively dead.

A healthy social media strategy optimizes for different social networks, which is not possible for SEO – because Google does have close to a monopoly for most of the industry.

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Check out our ebook “The Social Traffic Code!”


Google’s actions are not predictable from the webmaster’s point of view

A while ago, one of the most effective SEO strategies was guest posting. As a best case scenario, this would mean that people would write quality articles on highly ranked blogs – which would then link back to their sites and would increase their rankings.


The reality created a problem for Google: Bloggers and SEO’s would create crappy content, exchange guest posts for money and negatively affect Google’s algorithm.

Well, what did Google do?

They had the “Head of web spam team” (crazy job title, isn’t it?), Matt Cutts put out a statement, that guest blogging for SEO is now dead and that bloggers probably shouldn’t accept guest post at all!?

They also followed up with downranking a couple of article and guest blogging sites.

And now?

First: Guest blogging for linkbuilding and SEO still works – and works great. The real lesson here is: Google can come at any time and take your rankings away.

Second: Google wants to tell you who can publish on your blog? WTF? This is your web presence, your own, personal media outlet, your sweat and your tears. Google is a company, it neither has legislative nor judicative powers.

Third: There is nothing wrong with guest blogging – quality guest posts are one of the things that make the blogosphere great. If Google cannot filter out crappy content, it’s not your job to improve their search engine.

What Google is currently doing is identifying behavioural patterns on the web that hurt their search engine (yes, their search engine – that does not equal the social web). They then put out an announcement that they don’t like it and make an example out of a few sites that have been doing it.

They scare the shit out of people.

But they only have the best for their main asset in mind, the search engine. Not your best interest. They are protecting themselves and they don’t care about anything else. And they don’t do that mainly by algorithmic changes, but by manual actions.

And even if you never thought about SEO at all and simply ran your site the way you liked it, you might one day wake up and find that you lost half your traffic.

This won’t happen in social media – and the simple reason again being that there is competition. Even Facebook cannot dictate what people like and share because the have to be careful about what they do. They sometimes make slight changes to what they do and change their newsfeed algorithms, but the general principle stays the same. People like BuzzFeed content – so BuzzFeed will get traffic.

There are many, many SEO tactics that Google simply wants to scare you out of doing. The latest example of this are Private Blog Networks – read this article on Viperchill for an overview.

Google may claim they are doing these by algorithm changes, but the fact is: Most of these strategies will still work, and the professional SEO’s are still using it.

But for the small, one-man-band type of site, the risk might be too high. Which brings me to the next point:

No matter what they say, Google will never favor the small playersGoogle is heading in the wrong direction

Being largely based on the links between websites (with their social experiments having failed most of the time), Google’s search engine takes ages to react to new sites. Niches are running out. And the chances are that you simply want to run a site in your area of expertise, not a site based around a carefully researched niche which still is not covered well on the web.

What do I mean by that?

Well, take this blog for example: I’m a social marketer. That means I am active on the topic of online marketing, and that is probably one of the most covered topics on the web. I am also competing against all the big online marketing companies and blogs out there: MOZ, Social Media Examiner, Content Marketing Institute, Kissmetrics, …

There are literally thousands of sites out there, writing about anything social media, content, online, SEO, …

All of these have had years to perfect their rankings, build links, connect to each other, …

We started this 5 weeks ago – and we are quite happy with our traffic. All of that is social traffic.

SEO? Go home – we have no chance. Social media? Here we can compete. Because within social media you get your chance with every single piece of content you write. Every image you publish has a chance of getting a few more viewers.

Should you ignore SEO? Hell no!

Don’t get me wrong – I am not ignoring SEO. I’m not ignoring search engines.

But I live a life without depending on them.

If you want to go for SEO there are a few takeaways from this article:

  • Mistrust Google: If you want to rank well you have to do what works, not what they say works.
  • You are always at risk.
  • You are putting yourself at the mercy of a company that has a monopoly.

I also recently read an article, that stated that you need to keep yourself from using Google services: If you want to hide what you are doing from Google, there is no Google Analytics for you. No Gmail.

Social media is simpler. More honest. It lets me concentrate on the marketing part of my job. That is what I do best.
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This article was proofread and edited by myself with the help of Grammarly. If you are blogging in English and cannot afford a professional editor, Try Grammarly Now! It rocks.

  • Harold Compton

    Sorry to hear that you disagree that the cases I worked on were clearly in violation but that is what was. Wholesale buying links, follow links on numerous blog comments they posted and variety of other actions that were clearly attempts to manipulate their ranking due to massive inbound follow links.

    • TheSocialMarketers

      I don’t disagree on the cases you’ve seen. Just that this is all that is happening.

      There are a lot of cases that are not corresponding to this mindset.

      • Harold Compton

        I do agree and my only frustration is that there are still a lot of sites ranking well that are violating the guidelines. Like I said, I have not had a client that got punished and was not doing anything wrong. I am hopeful that they will continue to refine their algorithms so that all the guilty parties receive the same punishment and those following the guidelines benefit. As long as they are the 800 pound gorilla we can complain but it is their game so follow the rules and chances are you will not be hurt.

  • Ira Haberman

    There is no substitute for quality content. No algorithm or search engine can disputed great work.

  • Robin S

    I came. I read. I learned. Thanks!

  • Paul Racko

    Great post here Jonathan. Thank you for expressing what many are feeling about Google’s “monopoly” (technically not a monopoly, but rather, largest market share). The good news is that this can be changed… by regularly using their competitor’s search engines, keeping default search set to Yahoo in Firefox, referencing Bing and Yahoo when discussing search techniques and tactics in blog articles, using Vimeo over YT, referring clients to Yahoo and Bing PPC, etc. etc. It seems that even when you play by the rules with good clean white hat tactics, Google comes along and craps all over great organic results with their local packs and reviews, favoring “their” *scraped content and paid clicks* (AdWords) over organic, yet penalizing those who pay for links and clicks outside of Google’s control. In the end, the masses’ feet will do the walking and yet another new search engine will rise to the fore as they always have in the past. Ultimately, the market talks.

  • scamo

    This article and some of the answers from the author in this discussion really need a paradigm change.

    Google is a company and needs to create revenues and a profit. There is no denying that. It is a rule of any company’s existence and I don’t think Google has any issues with that rule either. Because, despite your complaining, they’re search engine is the best out there. It is used, because you, as a user, get good results to help you find what you are looking for. That “good result” is their bread and butter and it is very much within their rights to do as they think necessary to get those good results to you. Simply put, Google is the most used and thus, has the largest market share, simply because they do a great job at search.

    That is looking at Google from a user’s perspective.

    As for the content provider’s/ web site owner’s perspective, the bad apple’s always spoil it for the rest. There are a ton of idiots out there, who ARE NOT interested in doing things the hard, laborious, painful, sweat creating ways. They are out for the “cheap buck” by abusing Google’s and other advertising system’s website monetizing offerings, by using blackhat SEO tactics. They are the one’s running a questionable commercial endeavor and they are the ones who should get the blame for Google’s reactions and then you complain about Google trying to keep them in check and then say it is all of our faults, the users, for letting Google do so? I am NOT at fault and I won’t let you blame me for Google doing their best at trying to keep the assholes in the world in check and causing issues with those who are legit. Come on! Please don’t talk for me. Talk only for yourself!

    Although Google is a great search engine, it isn’t infallible as a company either. The bigger question is, is their heart still in the right place and I say most certainly YES! I say yes, because they simply want you, as a user, to get good search results. They do this because they know, if that is the case, people will continue to use their search engine and their adverts have value for their own customers. You know? The one’s paying for it all, even the money you get from Adsense placed nicely at the top and bottom of this page? How can you condemn Google for bad doing and still use their monetization system? So hypocritical……

    All the crap that might happen in order to give users a great search experience, including the mistakes that are made to get there, are a part of any business life. Whining about them will get you and me nowhere. So stop it. Google isn’t the problem. Us users of Google’s search or the legit content creators aren’t the problem. The problem is clearly all the shysters out there, who try and trick the systems for their own monetary advantages. They are the real problem and unless you have a direct way in how we can help Google fight these “Pests of the Web”, I think it would behoove you to hold back your incorrect opinions about Google being the bad guys. They are just trying to do a job as best they can, like the rest of us……excluding the shysters.


  • ankur

    Google is a giant with roots so deep and penetrating at an even faster rate, its time build your own idea give it a shot here get a consultation before judging your idea we can help it make salable too.

  • Davidcarondc

    Bro, You have Google Adsense running on your website. Which means that you’re benefitting from Google’s ‘evil’ monopoly. I have no respect for hypocrites. What say you now?

  • DC_Copeland

    When Bing throws £70 of advertising at you for free and you can’t spend it due to low traffic I think that says it all.

  • Robert Klein

    What do you think the push toward semantic will do to SEO? Because it seems like at the moment (I found this article from a twitter share, so I’m late to the party here), the little “fact boxes” that you get from certain queries give us a glimpse into the way that webmasters will be punished for good behavior. That is, their site’s content has been deemed valuable by Google, and so it will be delivered to them–directly from the SRP, never sending any traffic. Now, this is great from a user’s perspective, but it does seem to be something that webmasters would wonder why they’re playing along with. But the fact is, a webmaster is ultimately trying to connect with those users, and the weirdest part of Google’s push for semantic is that it means that great content that answers questions will be packaged up by google and delivered directly, so content for social and aggregators will be the arena of competition and search will be more for users looking for answers. What happens to SEO then?

  • Gail Gardner

    Thanks for sharing this post with me. We must understand that we are not Google’s clients; this is best explained in a video at the top of While they use money to keep score and take money from people with ads and the stock market, this isn’t really even about money. It is about power.

    For any who think only people doing “black hat” get penalized, I assure you that is naive. Any site can lose not just 50% of their traffic and not just because they did something “wrong”. I’ve seen traffic to sites drop 70% overnight on sites that never did any link building and never had an SEO.

    If you want your eyes opened, plug your URL into the Google Penalty checker at (free to see older changes in your traffic in a very visual manner – they charge to show you recent traffic changes).

    Every site is constantly affected. It benefits Google to constantly churn what sites are on page 1 as that ensures businesses must pay for ads if they want consistent traffic from Google.

    Ads are risky. Where once you could drive converting traffic easily and safely, that is no longer the case. Without exact match a large percentage of ad spend is wasted. With distribution fraud, advertisers are paying for worthless clicks and can’t prevent it.

    Every major site goes through the same process. They gain users at the beginning by making it easy to make money. This ensures rapid growth. Then over time, the make it harder and more expensive to generate a profit. Facebook is an excellent example of this.

    The best strategy is to make hay while the sun shines. Jump in early and get serious about making money while you can. When it becomes harder, instead of focusing on getting back on a platform what you never will by design, move to the next platform.

    Measure your results and constantly change what you’re doing. Never put all your eggs in one basket. Get high quality content online that makes it clear what your business does and why it has value. Deliver it directly to people you identify as interested.

    Most businesses will benefit more from focusing on fewer “leads” and narrower niche groups instead of trying for fame and quantity and hoping your target audience sees you in the sea of overwhelming activities online. Identify where your buyers hang out and spend your time there. Focus on building relationships instead of huge followings.

    If it isn’t clear to you how to do that, get a consultation and develop a clear strategy. Learn how to do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you. If you don’t want to interact with your buyers, you are stuck being a pawn in Google’s game to get search traffic.

  • Ferdi Zebua

    Both Facebook and Google dictate what contents float to the top of their respective search-list/news-feed based on their respective business interests. They’re both 800-pound gorillas.

    There are people who complain that their sites are buried under Google Search. There are also people who complain that their much-followed Facebook Page posts are not showing up on their followers’ Newsfeed.

    And then we get to this situation where paid traffic is easier to achieve and more reliable to sustain than organic traffic; exposure becomes a competition between ad networks, where you either pay for traffic to Google Adwords, Twitter Ads, Linkedin Ads, etc.,etc.,; thus you have to *pay* to get consumers to even *look* at your sites; barely Attention, nevermind Interest, Desire, or Action.

    Meanwhile consumers (that is, ordinary people who surf the Web to read/get informed/be entertained/etc.), are complaining that marketers have ruined the Web… that it’s no longer fun… that it’s depressing… (whatever that means…)

    This may all seem very depressing, we may see this all as a threat, but of course where there’s Threat there’s also Opportunity.

    There are issues of Distrust here. The winner will be those who can Build Trust….

    /thanks @risma_sjahrir on Twitter for pointing me this way.

  • The Tao of Questy

    Some of the comments are missing the big point, search engines = Google 90% + every one else 10% ; Social media, there is still a good mix. Many Twitter fanatics don’t use Facebook, and vice versa. Tumblr is in it’s own little world, as are Pinterest users. You can still find your niche without being at the mercy of a single source.

  • Dave Watts

    maybe you had some dodgy links pointing at your site

  • Dave Watts

    Actually I think that Google wants to be the best engine, then they are in a more competitive advantage. If they flooded their search page with loads of ads to ‘make more money’ no one would use them as the content found would be annoying and not relevant. Sure Google can improve, and like you say quality back links tends to favour established players other other smaller player’s web pages (which may actually have better content but get down scored over poorer back links). Ideally Google should allow you to control the search engine according to your needs (relevance/quality of content vs back link score) then you could decide to go with the established players or the new players with better content.

  • Glenn D. Bearsky

    Normally I’d bristle at the assertion that: “Anything related to Search Engines makes you depend on one single company: Google.” — Bing and Yahoo used to provide a safety-net that kept many of my sites viable regardless of Google’s slaps.

    But that changed in 2015. While the Google obsessed SEO community wasn’t paying attention, Bing did some significant knob twiddling (especially around Aug/Sept) that’s damaged that safety-net of traffic. And the effect seems to be passing through to Yahoo – and Meta Search Engines like DuckDuckGo and others.

    Double-Down on Social, kids!

  • michael balistreri

    However disgusting, slimy, unethical or, obnoxious, google is just another tool.
    Rather than throw ’em away, learn how to use your tools better boy.

  • Karl Bantleman

    I always say to our clients that the best to way to do well in Google, is to ignore what is and what isn’t working. If you connect with the right people and promote your brand the right way, you will naturally get some good traffic. Rankings can take months/years to have a positive effect on your website and, as you’ve said, if you put all your eggs into Google’s basket then there’s a good chance that your website will be fried!

  • Marianne

    Great article! I myself am a digital marketer so I need to make use of SEO when building websites and writing blogs but have found that social media is starting to be the more stable source of traffic!

  • Michael Opolski

    This was a great article.

  • Danielle D Charene

    Speaking of fine, can Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., even LinkedIn, actually fine people for honest mistakes made when promoting companies or products that we believe in? I’ve been feeling like the SEC has also secretly been breathing down my neck as a result of hashtagging and blogging about my online character, so in 3 years I have yet to make a cent, despite having a Google Domain. Strangely enough, I TRUST Google. Very much, in fact, because I feel a strong sense of safety and security the moment I see the logo, name, or the opening search page of Google. Screw all this algorithmic bs. I guess I’d rather be SAFE than sorry. I’m not the best advertiser or marketing guru. Share good content and do it from the right place in your soul and maybe, just maybe, you will find that Google protects you more than hurts you. It’s worth a try 🙂

  • Ameer Ahmad

    It is sad because as we can see google have wide varieties of platform. It is very hard not to follow on what they want to happen. I really think you’re right according to this matter.

  • Scott Biddulph

    Good post. We use Facebook, Twitter, and others as our most viable outlets for generating traffic to our blog. Without evening knowing we were doing what you’re sugesting, I can say that after reading your post, Facebook is our top hit genertor. Google is like third on our referals list. Great info. Thanks.

  • Bodynsoil

    Agreed, recently my inbox received a notice from Google that my site had to many AdWords hits and they closed my account. I explained that I had done nothing, perhaps I was sabotaged as I didn’t have a large amount of click-throughs but had someone who wanted my domain. They didn’t care about my response and that was the end.