Why I Assume My Google Traffic Is Never Coming Back

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A stream of constant and radical Google updates has left the SEO world panicked and confused. While some self-appointed gurus are telling people they know how to make your site “recover” (for a fee), people who really know what they’re doing are seeing things differently.

First Fold Garbage

Being #1 on Google isn’t what it used to be, especially since the September HCU (oh, the irony) update. The first fold on most SERPs goes something like this:

  • Up to 4 ads (Google profits if you click)
  • Block of YouTube Videos (Google profits if you watch a video)
  • Block of Reddit discussions
  • Block of Quora discussions (we are 2-3 folds down at this point, especially on mobile)
  • Another block of YouTube Videos (more money for Google)
  • Another block of ads ($$ for Google)
  • Finally an organic result: and the top 10 results will be from a very big websites, preferably an offline brand, often not very relevant at all, especially if your query was very specific.

Bloggers and website owners building quality sites don’t come into the top 10 most of the time. If Google continues packing the first 1-3 folds with ads, videos, forums and PAA blocks, and searchers don’t want to scroll for an hour, you might as well not rank at all.

Screenshot of ad-filled Google search engine result page for the phrase how to bathe a newborn

Surely They’ll Change It?

Some believe Google is going to change this new format. Soon. Any day now. After all, they need our websites to populate their search engine, right?

I don’t think so. Gizmodo reports from the recent DOJ trial about some internal emails from Ben Gomes, the former head of search:

Google was known for erecting clear barriers distancing the product side of search from the advertising wing so that the former can focus on constantly improving user experience. But the documents presented at trial appear to show Gomes expressing concern that the company could be putting its advertising revenue profits ahead of consumer regard…Gomes, according to the documents, felt like he and others on the product side were tasked with focusing too much on revenue solutions.

What it goes on to describe is Google focusing its metrics on how many search queries were completed, not on how quickly and well the SERPs answered the query. Gomes thought it should be the latter.

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But the former supports Google’s revenue goals. I know in recent years I’ve found it takes about 6 clicks to get anything like an answer to my query. I don’t have this problem on Bing or DuckDuckGo.

The longer you’re in the SERPs and not clicking through to websites, the more money Google makes. They do not want people clicking your sites. They also don’t want users finding what they want and shutting down the search page.

But Why?

Why would Google do this, when it’s clearly not producing a great search experience for anybody? It’s all about money. And the law.

Google is legally required under US court precedent to make as much money for shareholders, every single quarter, as possible. There’s an unrealistic expectation that companies should earn more money, every quarter, until the end of time.

And if they deliberately do anything that results in less quarterly revenue, they will be sued by investors and they will lose. If they do something good for the ecology, pay workers a bit more, make search better for users at the expense of ad clicks – all of that would be wrong, under US law. It’s stupid, but there it is.

It’s obviously not possible for a company to be ever more profitable every quarter forever, so what companies like Google have to do to keep up is find ways to fudge the numbers. They have to at least show they did everything they could to separate people from their money.

I never believed Google’s supposed Chinese Wall. You know how you get around one of those? Separate the two departments, totally and completely… but then have them both report to one person or group. Simplest thing in the world.

What To Do

I’m not going to declare that our lost Google traffic will never recover. It might. But I am assuming it won’t so I can plan accordingly. Then if it does come back, that’s a bonus.

Now is the time to:

  • Focus harder than ever on social media. No, it’s not great, but I’ve talked to bloggers having some success with Pinterest and Facebook (depending on niche). And social media tends to deliver higher RPMs than Google on sites with ads.
  • Build your email list. If you can’t stand email, there are now auto-email generators like Rasa.io, which creates newsletter style emails automatically. Unlike the ones you’ve tried in the past, Rasa actually drives traffic to my sites.
  • Start paying attention to other search engines. If they have webmaster tools, sign up and start poking around.
  • If you build links, rethink how you do it. Imagine if Google didn’t exist – how would you built links then, just to get organic traffic to your site?

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Last Updated:

November 21, 2023

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