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Decreasing Google Dependence: A Growing Trend

Google Can Be a Great Source of Traffic, But It Shouldn’t Make or Break Your Business

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John Citrone, editor at the online writing community Xomba.com, says Xomba saw Google’s Panda update coming, and started preparing last summer, when it started to draw up a plan to prepare for an “algorithmic shift” from Google.

“Around the first of the year, we began creating a new site design with new community networking features for people who want to express themselves in more than 140 characters,” he tells WebProNews. “Our new design will reduce or eliminate our dependence on Google to bring us traffic through its search results; our focus is to build a community of people who want to network with each other and share their experiences and their passions.”

“Xomba’s approach to revenue sharing is similar that of HubPages and the like, but we will no longer emphasize that aspect of writing at Xomba,” he says referring to one of the sites that got hit hard by the Google Panda update. “We are, instead, changing the way people approach writing online.”

“We were lucky, considering the broad-reaching impact the Google changes have meant for sites like ours,” Citrone tells us. “We have been preparing for this for quite a while, so though we may have experienced an immediate hit, we are confident that our site relaunch will not only put us where we were pre-algorithmic shift, but will also mean more independence for us in the future.”

“In the past, Google was our primary source of traffic, but last summer we decided to make changes that would offer us more flexibility and independence,” he continues. “We knew this would be important if we wanted to remain viable in the long-term.”

“Since we are moving toward building a community of users, we will capitalize on integrating with existing social networks like Facebook and Twitter,” he adds. “We have created a host of networking features within the site as well, to offer our users greater command over where their content is posted and how it is being viewed. We’re more interested in building a community similar to Twitter or Tumblr than competing with ‘low-quality content farms.’”

While most content sites rely on Google or search in general for the bulk of their traffic, Xomba’s approach reflects a newer way of thinking throughout the web – that less dependence on search (and being less at the mercy of algorithms) is a better approach for a sustainable business. In other words, it’s best not to put your eggs all in one basket.

Sites are likely to find their best traffic sources to come from the channels in which they put the most effort into. If SEO is your game – and you really take it seriously – you probably get most of your traffic from search. If you ignore SEO, but spend endless hours improving your social strategy, you probably get more from social channels. Of course a good mix is ideal, but the point is, there are potential traffic sources besides Google.

That said, Google is an incredible force on the web with its huge share of the search market. It’s hard to trump Google visibility, but people are spending a great deal of time these days using social channels, and compelling content is what people are sharing.

“Last summer, we decided to push our users toward posting substantive content and promoting it through networking features,” says Citrone. “We even went so far as to change our posting rules to raise the ‘quality’ bar. We want users to post content they care about. Our position is that content that is well-put-together, content people inject with their own passion, will find an audience. It’s also something they can be proud of and promote independently, without relying solely on Google.”

“All user-generated content sites could be considered content farms,” he says. “But let’s be clear: We don’t employ writers nor do we instruct our users on what to write about. The term ‘content farm’ has taken on a stigma that is unbecoming, and it certainly is not what we are about. We want people coming to Xomba because the content is strong, entertaining and substantive. If it hits high in search engines, great. If not, it’s still worthwhile. That’s what matters to us.”

Sites most commonly lumped into the content farm category (the actual definition of the phrase is widely debated) are also going out of their way to improve quality. Demand Media, which is often the first company associated with this label in the public eye (though the company itself will have no part of it) has been particularly vocal about improving its quality – even long before the Panda update – and even long before its recent IPO.

The fact of the matter is that most sites with large amounts of content have a wide spectrum of quality. Demand Media’s properties are included in that. Demand has been making high-profiles deals with brands and celebrities to enhance the quality and perception of the content it offers. The company has also put an increasing amount of focus on social media – less dependence on Google.

Demand Media is looking at implementing some kind of “curation layer” to its content, which the company has said will be a way of “using (something like) Facebook” as a way to give feedback on how helpful articles are. They would then use that feedback to improve the quality of content.

HubPages has taken steps to improve its own site search – a good way to keep visitors from going right back to Google to continue searching for what they’re looking for.

“We foresaw the Google changes and have been working hard preparing for them over the last year,” Citrone tells us. “This seems to have kept us in front of the curve. Specifically, over the last couple of months we’ve informed our users that we’re raising the standards for acceptable content.”

“The new website is being built with a philosophy similar to websites like Twitter, but for people who want to write more than 140 characters,” he says. “There’s a high demand for this kind of community, especially now with the fall of ‘low-quality’ ‘content farms.’ Our success should not be determined by changes in any search engine algorithm, but by the acceptance and enthusiasm of our audience.”

Xomba Redesigns Site, Hopes to Reduce Dependence on Google For Traffic
Xomba is in its final design stages and is ready to launch its new design strategy next month. While we have yet to see how effective Xomba’s redesign will be itself, the philosophy behind it is dead on. Create a great user experience that makes people want to use your site. The best traffic is direct. That’s the traffic that sticks around for a while and comes back after it’s gone. Never stop looking for ways to improve the user interface of your own site.

As far as referral traffic, Google should not be ignored, but there is also a growing number of potential new sources as more ways to share become available – new social channels, new mobile apps, etc.

Decreasing Google Dependence: A Growing Trend
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  • http://www.webguide4u.com Vivek Parmar

    Google is one of the major search engine and many users use Google over any other search engine and if you are using Google Adsense then it becomes necessary to get organic traffic so that you increase your earnings easily

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    “Xomba’s approach reflects a newer way of thinking throughout the web – that less dependence on search (and being less at the mercy of algorithms) is a better approach for a sustainable business.”

    Nothing NEW about that at all. I’ve been preaching that philosophy since I first joined the Web marketing community in 1998.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      You’re right. It’s not necessarily a new way of thinking in general, but it may be for some that have put been putting all of their eggs in the search basket.

  • http://topcarinsurances.net/ sarah

    i agree with xomba 100%. If you think clearly about your business, it’s better to start decreasing your dependence on Google search engine. Why? Don’t put your eggs in one basket!. Ok, at this time Google is powerful search engine but they forget about the huge increase of their user is mostly recommended by blogger. Internet user need other search engine that can be competed with google. It would be bad if the major search engine just controlled by google

  • http://www.feelfree.co Guest

    Its just a matter of time before the Google fever get ass butted. Its scare that without google online business kinda struggle. FeelFree.co only gets <10% of its visitors from Google anyway so the Panda matter's not.

  • Justin

    I have a couple of observations on the issue:
    (a) Its evident that Xomba seeks to rely less on Google’s organic search and bank on traffic trough the network sites instead. This works fine if revenue generation is from non-Adsense related sources. But if you have Adsense on a site and want to do away with Google organic traffic, then that seems mighty flawed. More so if you expect to have traffic from within the Xomba community. In such a case, it seems improbable to expect the community people (who’d know what adsense ads are) to click adsense ads legitimately. The strategy to ignore Google therefore seems a tad misplaced.
    (b) Xomba has transited from “Show & Tell has Never Been so Rewarding” to ” Write Online & Earn Revenue” to ” A Writing Community”. Clearly the emphasis has shifted from “writing for money” to “quality writing’. This is a great thing. However from what I have read on the web and experienced/interacted on the site, with overall theme change Xomba seems to have changed its posture too. From being ‘responsive ‘ & ‘considerate’ the site seems to have become ‘snobbish’ & ‘boorish’. How else do you explain the predicament of so many writers who were a part of the erstwhile ‘Xomba community’ during its formative years but have now been left in the lurch / abandoned just because the profile of the site is changing? There are umpteen users whose accounts have been summarily blocked in the name of “weeding out” What worked for the site a few weeks ago is now inadequate. Despite several mails there has been no word from Xomba & the staff. The staff which was so responsive before seems to have turned haughty. Is corporatization or success taking its toll?
    (c) If you visit Xomba you will notice one remarkable thing. You will not find even a remotely negative comment on the site. The reason is not difficult to learn. The moment you say something adverse on the site, the user account is blocked with a terse mail informing that there has been “violation”. That would be mostly the last you’d hear from the staff. For this reason you’d find most users not only quickly agreeing with the staff’s proposals, but providing glowing compliments to innocuous changes. The users (those that are left) seem simply scared of getting blocked indefinitely. That’s not surprising because – Xomba is not a leveled playing field anymore. Alas there is no policy for user account reinstating.

    “John Citrone, editor at the online writing community Xomba.com, says Xomba saw Google’s Panda update coming, and started preparing last summer, when it started to draw up a plan to prepare for an “algorithmic shift” from Google.”
    To surmise :
    – Google is far too powerful force to be ignored
    - Shutting down communication channels has never helped. An growing site grows wit h its users. You can’t shun them.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I don’t think they’re looking to eliminate Google traffic. Just not be so dependent on it.

    • http://Xomba.com Nick Veneris

      Hi,

      This is Nick of Xomba.com. I just wanted to say that we do not delete negative comments, unless they are abusive. We welcome criticism.

      The only accounts we block are those that violate our posting policy. Most of the time these accounts are re-activated. However, we’re not going to allow people to write overly promotional content. We’re not an article directory.

      Feel free to email us with specific issues.

      Thanks.

      • Justin

        Nice to hear from the Xomba CEO, direct.

        Blocking accounts with such broad based terminology as “violating posting policy” is a bit unfair. More so when the affected users have been long term Xombies (having grown with the site) and see their pleas to reinstate blocked accounts go unanswered.

        Believe me Nick, a transparent and better blocking/reinstating system (like the good old days) would not only bring back zing into numerous blocked users hitherto languishing & lying demoralized but also would send the right message to new user/writers joining Xomba. This would be a fitting advertisement of fairness and magnanimity in the midst of a new makeover of the site. Who knows some of the oldies could be better spokesperson of this writing community.

        Just because people have been writing promotional content in the past does not mean they cannot switch over and evolve to writing meaningful “quality content”. If Xomba can change/evolve, so can the Xombies who have been a part of the family. Not all users are evil :-)

        Nick, lastly I greatly appreciate your personal presence in responding.
        (Hey it looks like Xomba still retains its luster, eh?)

        • http://Xomba.com Nick Veneris

          My best advice would be, if you would like to discuss a specific user getting blocked please leave us a message on our contact form.

          Thanks again.

          • Justin

            Nick, sorry to be a bother, but there are a few old timers whose accounts are blocked and the all communication lines are closed. This perhaps was the only way left to reach you.

            But I will use the contact form again like you mention. I hope I am not singled out for ‘treatment’ :-)

            I hope you will leave a word with your staff to respond please.

            Thanks for replying, Nick.

      • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

        Thanks for chiming in Nick.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/internet-marketing-consulting.htm Nick Stamoulis

    This is why it’s so important for companies to not put all their marketing eggs in one basket. Sites that relied solely on Google for the bulk of their traffic were in for a major shock when the update knocked them out of the search rankings. Sites should create a diversified approach so that if one area goes down, the site doesn’t go down with it.

  • Adsense Publisher

    It’s kinda funny, we actually rank ok for some good search phrases in the other search engines, so if searching just changes to other search engines, I don’t foresee much of a problem for us. Since then we use Adsense primarily I suppose it just means that Google will save on bandwidth a little. :)

  • http://linkwheelservices.net aditiya

    Now, hard work again to rank again..

    my litle blog is still my mine..

  • http://www.rickgrossman-blog.com Allan Steinberg

    Unfortunately, every internet client that walks in my door states that they found us on Google!

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Well, it’s good that they’re finding you. It’s a challenge no doubt, but that should be considered a good reason to place more focus on developing other traffic sources.

  • Intheknow

    I think what Xomba is trying to accomplish is a good thing. My website is 10 years old and 50% of my traffic is from search engines, 25% is from referring sites, and 25% is direct traffic. I make good money from Google Adsense and only about 10% of my search engine traffic comes from Google .

    If I can do it with my small little site, there is no reason why Xomba can’t succeed doing it. You just need to let everyone be aware you are out there. If they like what they find, they’ll return.

    • Sgarry

      So the comments made for Nick, the Xomba CEO, bringing to his attention some irregularity has been deleted from here. It is a bit surprising that a point of fact is being wished away like this.

      At the least a message can be left as to why the comment has been removed.

  • http://www.seochemist.com Oli

    Xomba needs to fix it’s own reputation before it really starts worrying about Google, never met more annoyed writers than the ones who wrote at Xomba and slowly watched their benefits get chipped away.

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