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Google Algorithm Changes Unhinge Site Audiences

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Google

The overwhelming dominance of Google in the online search environment creates both opportunities and threats to websites.

The opportunities exist because of Google algorithm changes. The threats also exist because of those changes.

A site literally can skyrocket nearly overnight in total audience if Google decides that certain site characteristics have become more important. Then it can lose much of that audience because of another change.

The Internet landscape is littered with the dead bodies of sites that have suffered the loss of Google traffic. Some webmasters report audience declines as high as 60 to 80 percent or even more.

“Unbelievable… 6 years daily work on a website, completely gone,” one webmaster said recently. “And now Google is saying: It’s nothing wrong with your site, we just don’t like it anymore. Without giving a hint (of) what we do wrong.”

The impact of these algorithm changes that either benefit a site or cost it dearly are the result of Google’s market share, which various sources put at 70 percent or higher.

How to Survive Algorithm Changes

I started a small regional travel site back in 2007 as a place to experiment with online publishing for my clients. At the time, many other regional sites existed in the same niche and were well-ranked in Google.

Today, nearly all of them are gone. Even major sites that existed 10 years ago are no longer around because they lost huge audiences from Google. Does anyone remember About.com among many others?

Mine still exists because I found a niche within a niche, meaning the content was unique at the time. Unfortunately, since the founding of my site, many major sites have developed some of the same content as the total amount of online content grows much faster than the audience size. As a result, it no longer has the same level of success it had several years ago.

My modest site’s survival has depended on unique content more than any other factor. It also has depended on regular updates, continuous improvements and finding traffic from other sources such as social media, YouTube, advertising and email marketing.

Analytics offer a simple way for publishers to wean themselves off dependence on a single search engine. Simply track the percentage of Google organic visitors versus total visits. Ideally, the total number of Google organic visitors will stay the same or climb. But the percentage of those visitors to the total should decline if efforts to increase audiences from other sources are successful.

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