Dear SEOs: Google Owes You Nothing
I have to admit it – yesterday’s column by Ryan DeShazer got my dander up a little bit. Just the headline -- “Doesn’t Google Owe SEOs Something?” -- caught me and wouldn’t let go. So, I decided I’d present the other side of this discussion today on why Google does not owe anything to SEOs.
First, it’s important to clarify that I, myself, am an SEO. And, I like many other SEOs, feel great frustration with Google on a regular basis. But Google doesn’t owe me, or you, anything. Here’s why:
1. Life is not fair.
At home I have two daughters, ages 3 and 6, and I often have to explain to them that life is just not fair -- a basic tenet that everyone must learn. Yes, it sucks. But the best person does not always win, the best product doesn’t always sell the most, and just working hard won’t always get you that promotion. That’s life.
Google doesn’t have to be fair. Google is a business. It has the right to make decisions that affect its business without so much as warning us. Google has the right to make its product better – whether or not WE agree that the change is actually for the better.
2. Google is free, but you have to accept its terms.
Google doesn’t charge any of us to use its search engine or its many tools like Gmail and Google Docs. But in return, as users, we must accept the company’s terms -- essentially the price we pay.
Part of that price is that as content publishers (be they companies, ecommerce sites, etc.) have to constantly respond to Google’s changes to survive. That’s just part of doing business.
Yes, Google encrypted search keywords, and now upwards of 50% of traffic in Google Analytics shows as (not provided). Move on. Innovate. Innovation is what keeps SEO alive.
You also have the right to take your “search business” elsewhere. Don’t like what Google’s doing? Leave it, and use Bing. You’ll make Duane Forrester very happy.
3. Google keeps you employed.
One line that stuck with me from Ryan’s piece was this one: “it’s equally rational to expect SEO practitioners to freak out when Google changes the rules of the game – changes that often seem irrational because of the lack of a believable explanation.”
SEOs shouldn’t “freak out” every time there’s an algorithm change. My phone never rings more than after a big update. I see all sorts of new work from businesses that weren’t prepared for updates or accidentally had rankings reduced because of simple issues.
Google, along with the other search engines, created the need for search engine optimization in the first place –- an entire industry that keeps SEOs like me employed. A recent ranking of U.S. search agencies showed that the top ten U.S. agencies accounted for $471 million dollars (including both paid and organic search).
4. SEO isn’t the only industry dependent on another.
Ryan said, “it’s become plain to me that SEOs make their living off the ecosystem built by Google. They have a right to expect more” -- but I disagree. When I first graduated from college, I lived in the Washington, D.C. area, and many employers there are defense contractors. My first job was working as a designer and editor for a defense contractor.
In 1995, there was a government shutdown. Congress couldn’t agree to a budget, so the government just shut down. When you work for a defense contractor, your company’s revenue comes from the Department of Defense. No Department of Defense funding = no job. Workers at defense contractors lost their jobs or were furloughed without pay. I remember thinking back then that I would never again work for an industry so dependent on another industry.
But frankly, that’s not realistic. It’s not how our economy works. Every industry is dependent on others. Home improvement stores are dependent on good housing markets. Sales of SUVs at car dealerships are directly proportional to gas prices. No matter what the industry, we are all dependent on other industries. And without warning, at any time, fluctuations and changes in one industry affect another. As businesses, we have to learn to adapt.
5. Google doesn’t need SEOs to rank good content.
Ryan also said, “Would Google have discovered the most relevant content without SEO? Probably, but we have accepted the responsibility of indicating which sites and content we believe are most important for a given query.”
Google DOES NOT need SEOs to find good content for them. In fact, many of Google’s updates, like the recent “over optimization” update with Panda, are designed to get rid of terrible content that rises to the top because of poor SEO execution, spammy techniques or overabundance of duplicate content.
In the end, we should all, albeit sometimes begrudgingly, embrace Google and its changes. Without Google (and other engines), what would you be doing right now? The beauty of SEO is its constant change – the constant challenge. It keeps our industry innovating and forces us to create better websites. Embrace it!