I have to say I’m fed up with Google. I’ve been building websites since 1996 and have had to dance to Google’s tune for most of that time, certainly once they became the dominant search engine.
The Problem With Backlinks
I’ve always tried to stay white-hat in how I do SEO and promote websites. And my thanks from Google for doing that? My sites still get penalized from time to time.
The problem today is that it can be very difficult to identify what infringement your website is actually guilty of. Yes, Webmaster Tools can provide some insight there. But what if, over the years, your website has accrued a number of backlinks from bad neighborhoods? Links you may not have created yourself. Links that were created simply because someone in a “bad neighborhood” simply liked your site and linked to it.
If you don’t know these links exist then how can you disavow them? Plus, what about all the unpaid time you have to put into keeping your backlink profile clean? What if you have a competitor who does negative SEO on your site purely to knock you down the rankings?
I’ve heard from other affiliate marketers who have done everything by the Google rulebook and still their websites get penalised. We all know that there are rumors that Google doesn’t like affiliate websites. This seems to back that idea up.
The Problem With Adsense
Back in the “good old days”, Adsense was money on tap. Yes, it was abused with click fraud and Google rightly clamped down on that. Every so often, you might get an email from Google saying that your website was breaking the Adsense TOS and you needed to fix the issue to continue showing Adsense on the site.
And, back in those “good old days” you could have a discussion with a real person who would tell you exactly what was wrong on your site so you could fix it.
I guess Google are strapped for cash because you can’t do that any more – the staff aren’t available. It’s all automated responses with lists of possible TOS infractions your site has incurred. And if you can’t find any such infractions on your site, you’re basically dead in the water. If you can’t find what needs to be fixed, there’s no point in submitting an appeal.
I’ve had several perfectly good white-hat sites, with unique content have this happen over the years. I can no longer display Adsense on them. Google don’t care. While they need webmasters to display Adsense, they don’t need you or me specifically. And if a few websites get kicked out of Adsense incorrectly, too bad.
Another issue with Adsense I’ve seen in recent years is a decrease in the quality and relevance of ads on my sites. I suspect this is because a lot of the small players and businesses have been priced out of advertising in Adwords with the high bid amounts and penalties for “bad” keywords used for ads.
There also seems to be a move towards ads following you across sites. How many times have you seen an ad for some product you looked at on Amazon follow you as you visit different sites?
As a webmaster, I don’t want my visitors seeing ads that are not related to the theme, niche or content on my site. I think this is one of the reasons I and others have seen Adsense revenue fall over those recent years.
The Problem With Ad Blockers
If it’s on the internet, it must be free. How many times have you heard (or even thought) that? It does appear to be the paradigm that visitors to websites work under.
They assume all the content that webmasters publish is free.
They hate their surfing experience being interrupted by ads (which webmasters add to sites in order to at least cover hosting costs, if not to generate a sustainable income).
Now visitors are becoming pro-active in preventing ads from appearing by using Ad Blockers. It’s hard to nail down figures because you get a different one from different sources, but it’s estimated that 25%-33% of people now use an Ad Blocker.
For them, it removes annoying intrusions from their browsing experience, especially on mobile devices. For the webmaster, every use of an Ad Blocker is potentially lost revenue.
I’ve asked several friends and family members (who aren’t webmasters or affiliate marketers) about whether they use Ad Blockers, why, and the consequences of their use.
In every case where an Ad Blocker is used, it’s because they don’t want to see ads (pretty obvious). When asked about the consequences, I always got a blank look. “What consequences?” they’d ask.
“Well, you’re depriving webmasters of potential revenue. Maybe there’s an ad on for a product or service on that site you’d actually be interested in. And if you buy something form or click an ad on that site, that webmaster would get a bit of money. That helps him keep the site online,” I’d say.
“I never thought of that,” was the general answer. “I always thought the stuff I read was free.”
And there you have it, with that last comment. The supposition that webmasters publish content as a hobby for people’s entertainment.
It’s believed that the use of Ad Blockers will almost double in the next 12-18 months.
So, even if you are doing well with Adsense on your sites, expect to see your revenue going down.
The Problem With Chrome
I have a mostly hate relationship with Chrome. There are browser extensions I use that are only available for Chrome. It’s a browser built for speed, but it has memory leaks like a leaky sieve.
And it grinds to halt at least once a day. With the amount of browsing and site building I do, I’d easily open and close over 100 tabs in a working day. Chrome doesn’t clean up after itself when a tab is closed. And, as the day goes on, it chews through more and more RAM until, eventually, it grinds to a halt.
I don’t know what the hell it’s doing in the background but frequently, to un-gum my PC, I have to do a full reboot rather than just close down and restart Chrome.
And during all of this use, Google is tracking everything I’m doing. Privacy is dead. And who’s to say that the profile Google builds up about you (it does this if you don’t use Chrome but still do use Google as your search engine) doesn’t influence how your websites rank. “Oh he’s an affiliate marketer. We don’t like them. Let’s penalise his sites” may be how Google operates.
Maybe that sounds paranoid, but since no one outside Google knows how their algorithms work, who’s to say that’s not the case?
As the saying goes: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”
So How To Unchain From Google?
For me, it means moving in a different direction by adding a different revenue stream into my equation. One that isn’t governed by Google. My plan is to start building a business selling physical products on Amazon USA. There are some difficulties in that as I’m not based in the USA.
But for any products I sell, Amazon will be doing the promoting for me, so I don’t have to worry about SEO or a backlink profile. Google, especially, is not in the equation.
I won’t be abandoning my websites, however. Just putting a little less time into them, time I’ll be devoting to selling on Amazon.
I’ll post my progress and pitfalls here in case my readers might like to go this route themselves.
It’s always a good idea to have more than one income stream because if you only have one, and you lose it, you’re between a rock and a hard place. Having multiple income streams means that while you’ll take a hit if you lose one of them, you still have the cushion provided by your other viable income streams.
While I’d thought about selling on Amazon on and off over the last three years, not being based in the USA seemed to close off a number of possibilities for selling on Amazon USA, for example sourcing items locally and shipping them to Amazon. The shipping charges would have eaten up any potential profits and likely have resulted in me losing money. So I never pulled the trigger…
…until I listened to Jim Cockrum’s podcast: Episode 10: Selling Physical Products w/out Touching Them – From Anywhere in the World!
If selling on Amazon is something you’re interested in and especially if you live outside the USA, this podcast will open your eyes to the opportunity (there are 10 other great podcasts to listen to as well.)
So, I guess I won’t be saying goodbye to Google entirely, but I won’t be relying on it for almost everything I do as I am currently.
And that gives me a taste of freedom again.