My impression is that some business owners are not even aware of being at risk or they choose to ignore the fact. Are you at the mercy of Google and dependent on their products? Here are some questions to help you find out.
Can your business survive without Google traffic?
In SEO circles Google is feared for its power to destroy businesses over night. A small update of the algorithm can make or break a business. Google has almost a global search traffic monopoly. So when they tweak something and your site drops several positions in their search results your overall number of visitors can drop dramatically. It happens to legit authority sites all the time, not just “SEO spammers”, just think about the Metafilter blog.
By now it’s not just algorithmic changes that threaten the stability of your business website.
You can get penalized by Google for manifold even petty offences with a “guilty until proven innocent” process with no real protection for you. Google just decides that you break their rules and kicks you out. There are tedious and often bizarre ways to revoke a penalty but only in some cases months of hard work lead to restoration of prior search traffic levels. Ideally you get one third direct traffic, one third from referrals like social media and other websites and one third from search engines (not just Google).
Is your site fully functional without Google services?
- Do you embed YouTube videos?
- Do you have Google Analytics code in your “head”?
- Do you rely on Google Fonts?
I witness more and more sites that rely on Google services for crucial site elements.
Embedding YouTube videos in a blog post is already risky but on your homepage or about page for explaining your product or philosophy? I reside in Germany where a large number of videos are blocked for copyright reasons. That means I won’t be able to watch your product presentation because it contains copyrighted music for example.
For years Google Analytics required to be added to the head of a HTML page. A few years later Google dropped that requirement but many sites still use the GA code before the website content starts. What does happen when GA goes down or loads slowly? Your website content will not get loaded at all in the worst case. I know that happens from time to time because I witnessed such cases in the past on client sites.
Google webfonts are free font replacements for your boring and by now fuzzy looking standard fonts like Arial/Helvetica or Verdana. Google is actually hosting the fonts for you. They can track your site using the fonts too. It’s like adding a Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools integration.
There are other free web font libraries and numerous higher quality paid ones. Most people seem to prefer to host their fonts with Google. Hosting fonts on third party sites may result in site load mismatches. For example your site might built up faster than the fonts that are stored remotely. You can buy fonts and host them yourself of course as well, just like analytics tool or videos.
Can you measure your online success without Google Analytics?
Like most website owners out there you may use Google Analytics for tracking traffic and sales. That’s not a bad choice but an insufficient one. Google Analytics has some major flaws, it focuses mainly on anonymous traffic so that you have to create workarounds like personas or cohorts to make sense of your website visitors. Other tools allow you to zoom in on actual people in contrast and to track real like customers so that you can serve them better.
Also GA in some cases does not count real traffic but only assesses it by so called sampling. What does that mean? Your data might be inaccurate.
Another reason why your statistics might be misleading you is that GA tends to count the same visitor numerous times as long as s/he keeps returning. Just take a look at my The Old Reader referrals:
Google reports 14 “sessions” from The Old Reader. After a quick look you could assume that’s it’s 14 people who have visited you from the classic feed reader. You have to dig deeper to find out that it’s the same person visiting your site over and over not dozens or even hundreds of people.
As you see 13 of 14 are from Bratislava while one is from a location nearby. So it’s actually the same person who has visited my site 14 times.
I overlooked that several times in the past even though I knew that this issue existed. I always advise to use at least one additional analytics tool to be able double-check the numbers. This is how the same statistic shows up on Woopra:
No need to read between the lines. You can see straight from the start. On click you can zoom in on the person.
Is Google Adsense your sole business model?
This one should be obvious but I had to mention it. Google can ban your Adsense account over night for no apparent reason. How do I know? It happened to a blog of mine. Many people on social media who don’t bother to look up who I am tend to dismiss my first hand experience with remarks like
“only spammers who exploit the system get their accounts banned”.
When that happens I always ask them to review my site and please tell me why Google banned my account and took my money. To this day not one of them got back to me with an explanation. You need to diversify your revenue sources from day one ideally.