Having been in the Search Engine Optimization business for well over 10 years, it’s a shame that we are at a point when Google’s organic search team makes a change to their algorithm, decides on a whim that a legitimate marketing technique is unethical, or makes an official announcement that SSL is now a ranking factor. It’s sad that we’re at a point that when Google says, “Jump!” we say “How High?”
Google has become a monopoly when it comes to organic search on the web. Now is the time to start breaking up this monopoly. It’s gotten to the unfortunate point where the decisions of a few individuals, Google’s organic search team, can literally put hundreds of thousands of business out of business overnight. I’ve always been an advocate of not relying on something like Google organic search results as your company’s main source of internet traffic and sales. But you and I know that it’s just not the case. Too many businesses have lost, I would estimate, at least millions of dollars (billions?) because of the updates that Google has made in the past two to three years with the Google Panda and Google Penguin updates. Not that these companies had it coming to them: I wholeheartedly think that ultimately the Panda and Penguin updates were good over the long run. But does Google really truly understand the consequences of rolling out updates like this? How many business owners’ livelihoods are going to get hurt?
It’s not just the Google organic search updates and Google “cleaning up the web” and “cleaning up web spam”. Sure, low quality backlinks pointing to your website is unnatural. SEOs get that. And my business has been overwhelmed by all of the requests for link cleanups, and the filing of reconsideration requests because of Google Manual Actions. Of which many I’ve gotten revoked. And some that have not.
But that’s really not the point here. Like I said earlier in this post and as the title suggest: we’re at the point where Google says, “Jump!” and we say, “how high?”
Let’s take, for example, this latest announcement about https now being a search engine ranking factor. The SEO community certainly has made their voices heard, and as I write this, we’re actually still just in the beginning of this new search engine ranking factor, so we don’t know the real impact (whether it truly will affect rankings) and whether or not many websites will embrace this or just brush it off. They will either convert the whole entire site to HTTPS or they won’t. So far I’ve heard it both ways: some won’t be moving to HTTPS. But, as a search engine marketer, I have really no choice but to “keep up with the Joneses” and move my site to https. After all, there are legitimate reasons why John Mueller from Google told us that we should move to HTTPS even if we have a non-ecommerce site:
Some webmasters say they have “just a content site”, like a blog, and that doesn’t need to be secured. That misses out two immediate benefits you get as a site owner:
1. Data integrity: only by serving securely can you guarantee that someone is not altering how your content is received by your users. How many times have you accessed a site on an open network or from a hotel and got unexpected ads? This is a very visible manifestation of the issue, but it can be much more subtle.
2. Authentication: How can users trust that the site is really the one it says it is? Imagine you’re a content site that gives financial or medical advice. If I operated such a site, I’d really want to tell my readers that the advice they’re reading is genuinely mine and not someone else pretending to be me.
Okay, Google, you said, “Jump!” So I have no choice but to spend $30 a year and several hours’ of my time on a weekend moving my whole entire site to HTTPS. Now that it’s been four days since the move, Google has continued to crawl the site. But now that I’ve moved the site from HTTP to HTTPS:
– The site still isn’t being shown as HTTPS in the Google search results. I guess, Google, that you’re just “slow”?
– Traffic is still about the same, and that’s expected. But I had to literally set up thousands of 301 redirects.
– Google Webmaster Tools is not equipped to handle the HTTP to HTTPS change of address. I can verify my new HTTPS site in Google Webmaster Tools as a separate site, and I find that necessary. But again, GWT is not equipped to handle a change of address. I simply cannot tell Google about the change of address, just like I can with changing to a subdomain or from non-www to www.
And then there are all of the changes to WordPress, such as making settings changes, dealing with serving up http images versus https images (a problem I ran into that had to be fixed), and adding the HTTPS WordPress plugin.
But again, all of this time spent, and the fact that I had to spend time changing my site to HTTPS is all of a result of Google saying “Jump!” and I having to say “How High, Google?!?” We are at a point where Google organic search literally is a monopoply: there are alternatives, but as a search engine marketer, web marketer, SEO expert (whatever you want to call me), I work with businesses all day long who rely on Google for search traffic. Let’s face it, Google search drives the majority of the traffic and sales to websites now. And has been for 10 years.
Something has to change. And I don’t exactly think that Google’s going to be the one to change it.