The Shrinking Window of Opportunity for Independent Webmasters – Get In Before It’s Too Late
May 15, 2008 - Written by Gyutae Park
Last week I talked about how SEO as an industry is changing but is certainly not dying. This time around I’m going to describe SEO from the perspective of an independent webmaster publishing new sites for profit – much like me and many of you here. How does the changing search engine landscape affect us? What can we do now to capitalize on these shifts?
As the web matures and Google improves its search results with the most relevant sites, it’s going to become increasingly difficult for small publishers to get ahead. Not only will there be stiffer competition in virtually every niche imaginable, but Google will squash smaller sites and slowly but surely take away many of the most effective tactics in every SEO’s playbook by labeling them as “spam” (widgets, paid links, directories, etc.).
Now don’t get me wrong. There will always be a need for SEO as long as search engines exist and there will always be loopholes in the algorithms to manipulate and take advantage of. However, SEO in general is becoming less and less technical and more like traditional marketing (branding, authority, conversations, etc.) If you’re an independent webmaster using SEO for promotion, this is very bad news. How do you compete with huge corporations with marketing budgets in the millions of dollars?
Before you throw in the towel and give up on your dreams of online success, be sure to read the rest of this article. There is hope for all of us, but it doesn’t get any easier here on out.
SEO is reaching a stage in its life cycle where the early majority is adopting. It’s essentially the end of the beginning and in the next 5 or so years, the biggest sites with longer histories will dominate the search engines, and thus the web. It’s easy to see this now with Wikipedia. On the other hand, newer sites without large budgets will have an incredibly difficult time breaking through to the masses and search engines will be adamant about keeping their results pure of new and unproven “spam” sites.
You can see this happening already. Websites of huge corporations like HP are awarded for using shady SEO tactics, while smaller sites are wrongfully penalized in rankings because of an algorithmic shift. In the grand scheme of things, Google does not care about you as an independent publisher. They will always get your content regardless of where it’s hosted and will profit whether or not you’re in their index. It’s only the big sites that they’re really worried about because their inclusion makes or breaks the quality of the search results.
So how does a small website publisher combat all of this? What’s the solution?
Easy. Get big and build authority rather than just sites.
Time is running out and the window of opportunity for independent webmasters to come in and build authority sites is shrinking every moment of the day. If you want a sustainable online business that brings you profit 5-10 years from now, you need to adapt with the times and future proof your sites while it’s still easy to effectively use SEO as we know it today.
How an independent webmaster can prepare for the future
Build authority in your community
Establish yourself as a leading authority in your field. Develop relationships with people and demonstrate your knowledge by being active in the community. Search engine rankings follow people so the more supporters and followers you have the better.
Build a brand, online and off
What differentiates a generic t-shirt vs. a t-shirt from Nike? Brand. The material and the design on both may be exactly the same but the brand name fosters loyalty and a high perception of value. Search engines are less likely to penalize sites with strong brands because if they do, the quality of the search results will suffer. Build your brand, both online and off.
Own an idea
Be the best at something or be the first. If your site is associated with a certain idea (through content or tools) it is less likely to be commoditized with other sites offering the same thing. For example, other scientists have made significant accomplishments in the light bulb industry, but Thomas Edison is usually the one who gets all the credit.
A quality rater document containing guidelines for human editors to use in determining whether or not a site is spam was recently leaked by Google. Study this document and follow it to the T. Make sure you do not give off any signals that would cause a human reviewer to question the validity of your site. Incorporate components that are difficult for competitors to replicate – including a forum or community, a unique product, your specialized services, or branded content.
Don’t rely on one source of traffic
It’s hard to ignore Google when it represents so much of the Internet and a majority of a site’s incoming referrals. However, it’s important to develop other streams of traffic to release yourself from the grip of Google. Build email lists, use social media, and buy advertising – all of these alternative actions will help your site to survive should Google slap you.
Use the SEO tactics while they still work
The most effective SEO tactics come and go like a bunch of fashion fads. Directory links and blog comment spam used to be immensely effective but are now considered useless. Carefully utilize the methods that work while focusing on the above items. This will give you an edge over the competition and will help you to gain market share while you further establish yourself in your field.
Google is starting to kill off small publishers and it’s time to take matters into our own hands by making the search engines need us in their indexes. What are you doing to protect your online business? Get going before it’s too late.If you like this post, subscribe to the RSS feed. Get the latest updates delivered straight to your email or news reader.