Can You Build A Business Without Google Traffic?

By: Chris Crum - May 26, 2012

ClickZ ran one of those good wake-up call type articles about search marketing. It comes with a Penguin headline, but it’s really about much more than Penguin. It’s about how you shouldn’t run your business relying too heavily on how Google is ranking your content.

How dependent on Google is your business? Let us know in the comments.

The article was written by Sage Lewis, who made one statement in particular, which I think is worth reflecting on a bit:

“It is very possible to build a business without Google traffic.”

It may not seem like it sometimes, but I believe Sage is right. Do you? Can you run a business without Google traffic?

It may mean doing some things differently than you’re currently doing them. In fact, if you were hit by the Penguin update (legitimately), you’re definitely going to want to rely on tactics that don’t involve gaming search results. It’s just not a sustainable business model. Even if you weren’t hit, and you’re managing to get away with something, it could be only a matter of time. If you think Google launched this Penguin update and that’s the end of it, you’re living in a dream world. If it’s anything like the Panda update, we’ll see numerous iterations of it. Google launched 2 Panda data refreshes in April alone – bookends for the Penguin update.

It will be interesting to see how often we even hear about new Penguin updates. Since it’s designed to hit spammers, I don’t expect we’ll see the amount of complaints we’ve seen with Panda, which is more about content quality.

Of course, even if you were not hit, and you aren’t spamming Google, you still shouldn’t be putting all of your eggs in one basket, because Google does make over 500 changes to its algorithm each year. There is always the possibility that Google will make a change that starts ranking other things above you.

By the way, when we’re talking about Google traffic, we’re talking about organic search. You can always buy AdWords ads. Lewis mentions a handful of other online marketing strategies, like AdCenter, Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, display, social media marketing, content marketing that brings visitors directly to your site and email marketing (which still has tremendous effects, by the way).

The good news is that if you run your business, and your content as if you’re not worried about Google, you’ll probably find a lot more ways of driving quality traffic. Furthermore, if you are creating the kind of traffic that does well for other channels, it’s likely that Google will take this into consideration too, and you’ll have a variety of traffic sources, which end up including Google anyway.

As you’ve read over and over again, it really is a matter of providing worthwhile content and products (or just content, if your content is your product). If it’s high quality, and has something to offer that people aren’t getting elsewhere, it is more likely to be shared across various social networks, talked about, and linked to. These things can drive traffic on their own, but it’s also the content that Google wants to rank well.

Google’s advice is not to worry about specific algorithm changes so much, and focus on good content. Sure, it’s possible to play to certain signals Google uses, but that piece of advice really is more than just hot air from Google. There really is a great deal of merit to that mentality.

Still, it nerver hurts to keep up with Google’s latest algorithm changes, and be aware of what’s going on.

Do you think a business can survive without Google traffic? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • John S. Britsios

    After all, since Google cannot handle “Negative SEO”, it is obviously very dangerous to rely on them.

    • Codex-m

      Hahaha. It simply shows their incompetence and arrogance. And their blaming spam on us. Read this analogy:

      a.) I’m a publisher, expert, optimized my site and writes original kick ass content — Google simply scrapes my content and use them in the search results in Glory of Adwords.

      b.) Google value is simply a search engine. The real value that changes peoples lives lies in the publisher content — yet Google is unwilling to help small publishers and even penalize you for the presence of “microscopic” spam on your site.

      Simply ridiculous…Google is Evil. I’m now using Bing as my default search engine, a pure search engine that don’t want to use or manipulate publishers.

  • Jasjot

    Focussing on good content makes sense, but Google is taking out almost every single SEO technique with every update. How does good content on fresh sites come up?

  • Linda Caroll

    Attempting to run a business as though Google didn’t exist IS the smartest and most effective way. It forces you to look for other sources of traffic and ways to generate word of mouth.

    Once you have ample traffic that’s not from Google and word of mouth created outside of Google, that’s when you get Google love. Google’s primary goal (all along) has been to rank quality/popular sites better than sites that are trying to game the results.

    And… those 500 changes a year — they’re not to keep quality/popular sites out. They’re to reduce the number of ways sites can game the results.

    Great post! Off to read the one at ClickZ next.

  • Keiran

    The answer is in the post. Google just wants us to provide worthwhile content so that the searcher can find the information they are looking for.

    People have been trying to game Google, and other search engines, from the word, “go”. It’s not surprising that Google has to keep updating its algorithm to ensure searchers are provided with a high quality service for free (almost).

    Just like someone you want to impress, Google will like your content all the the more if you treat them like they don’t exist. Treat ’em mean to keep ’em keen!

  • elissa

    How are people who make money from seo going to know what to do now? Its all very confusing, I have read to take out all of my keywords and de-seo my sites? is that right?

    • Igor

      How are people who make money from seo going to know what to do now?
      – They need to focus on delivering a quality content and quality partners in the niche so the client can establish a quality network with the people from the business. Quality content will bring people, clients and back links.
      Its all very confusing, I have read to take out all of my keywords and de-seo my sites? is that right?
      – No. Just make your web site better with HQ content.

  • Helen Clark

    I agree with Keiran. It’s your visitors and potential customers you should have always been looking to please and Google’s changes are simple placing more emphasis on this.

    In my opinion, infographics are a great example of this. Their performance comes from people sharing and having a genuine interest in the content, and Google therefore recognises it as quality content and gives the site a corresponding boost.

    At NewsReach we’ve seen this with our infographic and I think these will become more popular.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    You shouldn’t rely on any one source of traffic, Google or otherwise. It leaves your site in a very vulnerable position and could come back to bite you in the end. Even a minor dip in traffic from Google could ruin a site if that is all they had.

  • Troy Johnson

    I agree 100% with this article. I also trust Google would agree with it too.

    I suspect the vast majority of websites obtain most of their new traffic from Google through organic search. As a result Google is currently the easiest way for a website to be discovered without spending money.

    Since there is no way to fully control how one’s site ranks in Google search results, over the long haul, the best thing people can do is focus on their content, serve their clients well and utilize all of the mechanisms to acquire traffic rather than focusing solely upon Google.

    Over the long term this is probably the best way to gain and secure web traffic and good Google rank. Ultimately Google’s search results must accurately reflect the relative quality of sites that provide a great service — otherwise some other search engine will take advantage of the opportunity.

  • Dr RWP

    Good positioning on other search engines (such as e.g. Bing) can bring in appreciable levels of traffic, as well as suitably placed links from external websites etc. I do think, however, that a bit more competition in the search engine market would make websites less vulnerable to changes from any one specific source (such as e.g. Google).

  • Steve Gillman

    If Google didn’t exist I would sell links to relevant sites.

    If Google didn’t exist I wouldn’t have to worry about how many times the word “carpet” appears on my carpet stain site (it is hard not to mention the words dozens of times when linking to pages on “mustard stains in carpet” “remove ink from carpet” etc).

    If Google didn’t exist I wouldn’t have to try to guess why unreadable spam routinely ranks higher than my quality content.

    Providing good content is a start, but ignoring Google and its algorithm is a sure way to reduce one’s income online.

  • Kathleen Nelson

    This article is nuts! We hired four different firms of SEO experts to do this work for over a year, and it never ranked on Google Page One. NEVER. We were INVISIBLE to others searching online. I spent one full year studying internet marketing, joined Warrior Forum, Forum Special Offers, JVZoo, etc. I learned how to do SEO correctly. Google is essential. It is 99% of the web searches, so to imply that Google is not relevant is a disservice to people. Some of the comments above make me want to weep when they de-SEO their site. As a result of my expert knowledge acquired through 18 hour days online every day just to learn it, our site is now on Google Page One for every one of our 35 service categories. I do SEO on it daily. DAILY! Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and the rest of the search engines and feeds are important, but the language of the business is Google Ranking. If you are told differently or miss that FACT then you may as well hang up your title as an SEO expert. Bottom line. You need a lot of “tools” to do appropriate and effective SEO work, and despite the Panda and Penguin changes in Google’s Algorithms you can rank easily
    if you know what you are doing to avoid Google slaps or de-indexing. I got the tools, the knowledge and the savvy and I study SEO daily to keep hip.

    • Bob Malzone

      SEO is spam, end of discussion.

      • Codex-m

        OK so that means Rand Fishkin or Matt Cutts providing SEO advice is a spammer too. Good points.

    • Renaldo

      You joined the Warrior Forum? Isn’t that where all the ‘make money online’ scammers hang out? Better not let Google know you hang out there.

  • Steve at web marketing works

    great headline and stopped me in my tracks. For most small businesses a strong online vidibility is make or break neccesity. But putting the user 1st over optimisation and web marketing strategies to steal a march on the competition is a leap too far for many

  • sj

    I’m so tired of jumping through Google hoops and their dictatorial ways – their search results have gone in the toilet, bringing up directories rather than sites that yield the info searched for and on and on ad nauseum. A world without Google? HOOOOOORAH!!

  • Krishna

    It all depends on your ad/ marketing budget. If you are one who do not spend on driving traffic, the argument put above is not for you. I am writing this from the point of view of very small sites that cannot earmark larger ad spends. In such cases, over 60% of their traffic will be from Google searches alone.

  • Mark

    I think a world without Google would be great! I hope other search engines and social media take over, if quality content is what counts then why does Google currently rank blank pages?

    I have seen more paid links on irrelevant splog posts sine this update than I ever did before.

    I don’t think Google has improved search results at all, another thing I have noticed is site links appearing on adwords ads but not on the organic listings. This is clearly about them making more money.

  • Chad R

    Our business does not depend on Google, although they do punish us left and right due to plagiarism despite the fact the so-called plagiarism is actually law and legal dictation.

  • Craig

    An e-tailer I work for does around $1 million a month of which about $10k is Adwords sourced traffic and $20 to $30k from organic.

    Do the math.

  • Garyb

    I don’t see how you can’t market or sell on the internet without Google search optimization. It is up to the webmaster to keep up with the changes we do it every day for clients. Google is like Microsoft is to operating systems, they were first and everything emanates from the Google platform. With their forward trending in social and mobile search optimization Google like them or not I think will be around as the leader for a long time. So no, your business needs, in my opinion, Google relevance for the near term and most likely into the distant future.

  • Sepatu

    Business without Google traffic will mean largely amount of cost since we have to rely on ads. 80% of visit is Google organic search. Quality content and avoiding automatic, link farm is still sustainable way to exist in Google rank.

  • Coralie

    Burned by Panda and having spent many hours chasing down sites that plagiarised my unique content, I’ve focused on building quality in bound links.

  • Warren Redlich

    For our main site, Google is about 70% of our traffic. No way I’d risk offending! We could live without Google but that would be a huge hit if we lost it or even if we got cut in half. Plus, if Google cuts your traffic there’s a fair chance Bing and Yahoo will adopt similar changes.

    We focus on quality content, user experience, along with sensible bleached-white hat SEO. Right now we’re working on speeding up our site. The project we’re doing looks like we will be cutting our load times in half. That can’t hurt.

  • Susan Grisanti Guitarist

    Yes, absolutely! My friend has a hair
    style business & doesn’t even own a
    computer! He runs local print ADS,
    however he’s been in business for
    27 years so he has a well established
    customer base. I have another friend
    who lives in Ohio who is a successful
    workout coach & offers sewing alterations &
    guitar lessons & once again, no computer,
    just word of mouth! Lucky, lucky people!!!!!

  • Cap’n Cyberzone

    I just did a “Google” search for “search engines” and Google didn’t appear on the 1st page (other than as an ad).
    I would conclude then that Google is no better then all the other “demigods” and “demagogues”, “Do as I say, Not as I do”!

  • Claude Rallins

    Google search bots only crawl the text surface of the web. They are blind to 99% of the web’s text content, in databases, in the cloud, behind code, and walled gardens like FaceBook, etc..

    Bots are also blind to 99% of in-video content… and most web traffic is now video, and will be 90% of all web traffic by 2014 (Cisco).

    Essentially, our leading web site guide is a blind bot, reading braille, in a densely visual rich new media universe.

    “Content is king” is a sales pitch. Don’t blame them for pitching it, blame yourself for buying into it.

    Truth is Google is blind to 99% of the web’s content, it just needs folks to believe its presenting the user with ‘the best content’… which, in its eyes, are sites with lots of text rich “content” pages… because its in the ‘Ad Words’ business.

    A video player site, with far more ‘good content’ flowing through it in an hour (live or video), and presented in a much more engaging way than a column text listings, will most likely be punished by Google for being a “mini-site”. Essentially de-indexed for Not having pages of words Google can generate ads & clicks from.

    Google is well aware ‘the page’ is in the video player itself: email, comments, text descriptions, social networking buttons, the site menu / playlist. All in the player. They know the player is an embed… so the page is actually redundant. But it does’nt matter.

    At this point, Google is aware that making text focused updates to the search algorithm is akin to re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic After it hit the (video) iceberg.

    The goals of the text algo now are to drive more traffic to text rich pages that drive the bottom line (allowing them to a better play in the big content-studio pool), and to marginalize video channel competitors as it positions itself for the really big ad money market… TV advertising -on the search engine of the future, YouTube.

  • Ramiro Rodriguez

    That’s a really interesting question but it is hard to answer. Whether or not a business can survive without Google depends on the type of business.

    For example, 2 of my websites are designed to make money via AdSense and other advertisements so my answer would be no, my sites wouldn’t survive without Google sending traffic.

    On the other hand, my Original Press Releases website could survive without Google simply because I get paid to write and post the releases on the site.

  • Absolute Webworks

    The Google updates have impacted one of our clients severely. The site had their adsense ads across the top so they were eliminated. When we did that traffic dropped another 50 percent. Overall traffic is down about 80 percent. What is interesting is that everything is by the book. There is no tricky business. Because of the tremendous competition for business in these economic times businesses better have alternative methods of generating traffic to their sites.

  • Andrea

    Well I think we do must find a way to get traffic without Google given how Google behaves and RIP to don’t be evil.

    I’ve been hit by Penguin and given that my site isn’t blacklisted and I have received no warnings on webmaster tools I guess I’ve been hit simply because I have a small website with a little wallet. All these updates either demonstrate that those guys at Mountain View don’t really know what they are doing or that they’re going to use every technique, white or black, to push AdWords and Google+.

    Fact: almost everyone around knows that AdWords sucks money with little ROI like crazy and that G+ is simply useless. Imho.

  • Lisa

    This is really a serious discussion.

    What i feel from the latest changes and about recovery is as under:
    1) We have to accept that google has done a change that it feel is right by targeting webspam. But in the process many white hat seo’s also gets affected. This also google knows it, but they can’t help

    What google says?
    They say they need quality content – Good point
    They say they need high quality results links – Good point

    But when we search results there is a mix type of spam and good results. Some have no content but good backlinks or spammy backlinks. So its a mix results due to the algo update.

    Now what can seo’s do?
    Its true that we have to depend on Google, there is no other search engine that gives us traffic which is also a fact.

    Ranking in google was easy earlier by doing the on page and off page activities, but now things have changed. SEO has become hard, its very competitive where now only the strong wins.

    I feel this is the best time to learn how to deal with such situations and how to overcome such situations. This is an eyeopener, tomorrow things can change a lot which we newer expected. SEO’s should be ready for any impact.

    I feel its about more quality, more research, lots of related content, more time, strong pr, deep links, quality relevant links all this is the things at present can be done. And yes not to ignore SOCIAL but all this requires much more efforts and lot of time.

  • makebell

    Yes, running an enterprise without Google traffic is feasible, but the need for certain advertising costs to run.

  • Neo E-Watch Media

    One can build a business with out even a website….there are lots of such business do exist in every part of the world….website gives you a new platform to promote your business on the net and SEO brings traffic to your site.Google being the dominant player in search engine search space brings lot of traffic to your site…if you can make the best use of this platform then why not use it…

  • Tofayel

    Now social media networking is the best way for making business. Depend only one thing can’t be better for us. Various time different way can give us easy win.

  • Sujay Govindaraj

    Its just my heartful comment without any links to my sites & seo tactics and advice for the readers of this blog.

    Recently, I launched a website 8 months ago which became more popular soon as it provides an environment for SEO enthusiasts, business or website promoters, entrepreneurs etc. We have not involved in any of the black hat technique, but the visitors became more sticky to the site as a part of it act as a Social Network.

    We are one of the victim for google’s play, I am really very sad to say that I got hurt many a times from google and almost I felt like it ruined all of my business. For the heaven sake, somehow I managed and business is flowing fairly good, we have employed other methods of online marketing techniques and it may take some more time for the growth, Now we are no more dependent on google and as well we cannot believe them any more.

    I can just give you one hint for the success of your business and that is “BRAND MANAGEMENT”. Once after brand becomes popular and in the words of people; you need not Google or its services.

    It is possible to run your business without google, as we are doing but it takes time to research and money. I totally agree that without google it may become hard for one to reach or to pass the break even point but its possible.

  • Roy

    Google is becoming unpredictable. They are in a large part responsible for the linking practices that are being used. I agree everyone should concentrate on running a quality site, but lets be honest the build it and they will come model never really materialized. I knew people who wrote excellent content and got few visitors because they did not do SEO stuff. If you take a look at every website that is on the first page results you will find they have all been using the same tactics.
    What has most website owners upset is that there does not seem to be a rhyme or reason as to why some websites got hit and others did not. It would be great if Google just laid out the rules instead of making everyone guess. If you do not know what is wrong, you have now way of knowing how to fix it. It would be like if you take your car to get a state inspection sticker and all they said was no due to: “Unnatural automobile process” and then offered no remedy, and not defining what that error means so a mechanic could actually fix it. So you end up replacing parts, inflating tires, changing wiper etc. hoping ‘this will fix it’.

    • http://none google manipulating us

      this is exactly what Google is doing they won’t let you know what is the problem on your sites they will just issue a Ban tag on your website. They don’t inform you what must be done to correct your website issue. This is what I hate Google they don’t value the publishers they think they are the God’s of the internet

  • denzil

    80% percent of my main site traffic comes from Google. I am sure there are a lot of sites with the same numbers. I can survive as long as I can hold my breath.

  • A.I.

    I would just ask a simple question:

    Google’s philosophy is more towards punishing the spam and bad links or for importance to good contents. Is it always possible that some great sites might have gone for bad SEO tactics in the past to keep up with Google and getting punished now even with good contents. Look for it and you may find that it is true.

    Dependency on Google will be there because of costing reasons with alternative methods.

  • hi

    absolutely not!
    not untill when we can drive more traffic from yahoo,bing or others search engines than google.

  • Glen Jones

    It is my belief that a small on line business can survive with or without Google. There is social media, social bookmarking, e-mailing and other SE’s available as well as blogs to bring traffic to your site.

    • denzil

      Glen, take away your Google traffic, what do you have? Google is the hand that feeds, let’s not bit it off.

  • Thielia

    I dont think one can build a business without google traffic as google is the king of all search engines sure there are other search engines like bing and yahoo but can they generate as much traffic as google?

    • http://none google manipulating us

      we made Google think they are king of all search engines now they are abusing there power to kill small business and put big business on top so they can profit big time from this sites

  • Practice Management Software

    Advising your readers to build a business without Google traffic is akin to advising a Japanese person to build a business without considering the possibility of an earthquake. Trouble is we’ve allowed Google to own the ecosystem we all live from. The situation as it stands: like it or not. And when Google makes changes, we all feel it. Think earthquake.

    More fitting to us is to build a by ignoring Google. Maybe they’ll once again fade into insignificance. In the mean time, your competitors who are gaming the system are walking away with the spoils.

  • http://none google manipulating us

    I think you should also make a post “Can Google Business survive without its organic visitors”

  • daniel

    Nope, dont think so. What you have here, are many know nothings, that poke keys on a keyboard. Google is a big liar. They support fake hits, and bill people for them. While everyone thinks, they are getting hits. What is going on, is the frames are being webed up, by hacking pros. They input into webpages, a domino senario of commands, that leaves google clikers, inside the back button on all browsers. What then happens is, everytime someone hates the page they opened, they go to the back button, to go back from where they just came from, and then, boom. Google locks it up. I have seen as many as 10 locks on the back buttons from just a single webpage visit. All of them Google. Anotherwords, if that someone is so persistant to go back to the page they just came from, it would take them more than 10 clicks. Those clicks are being recorded into Google adwords, fakes, and they do belong to someone. So you see, the most of you do not know what a thief is, such as Google. No, we only use google to spread links of ours, we are not with a payable account to them because of their mess that is on their hands, and, all those people who think they get clicks, well, lets put it this way. Yup, they clicked on it alright, but boy they were pissed off when they did. The mouse gave up the cheese. About the only thing i see about Google that is good for the public, is that they have a dictionary, and a translator. As far as to get rich off of Google, good luck. Eventually, they will be forced to shut down adwords. Because of all the insubordinate clicks from people, that had no intention of clicking the dam thing in the first place. Fact is, the Feds already nailed Google once. 500 million. Tommorow, it will be much worse. REALITY – No ten commandments, No economy. It is that simple. Computer 666

  • Amperis

    I agree in what it was said. You can build a business without Google traffic. Google know thinks like “build and we should go”. Great content matters and websites that are not very concerned by SEO will rank higher if it has good content.