I’d guess that for many companies, not appearing in Google search results would hit their sales leads very hard. For around 75% of the AdWords accounts we manage, their website’s traffic sources chart has ‘natural’ Google search results in first place, and the Google AdWords campaign in second. In addition, most of the people who want to visit a company’s website (perhaps after reading about it, or meeting someone from the business) will just type the company’s name into Google. So you need to be there, it goes without saying really.
A lot of companies have been alarmed, therefore, by recent announcements from Google and Bing that they are actively working on an “over-optimisation penalty” which will penalise websites in the search engine results if they’re clearly engaging in behaviour designed to manipulate those results. I can’t really see what’s new here; the search engines have always done this, but perhaps they’re gearing up to expand the signals which they see as being worthy of penalising.
Should you be worried? I doubt it, unless you’ve been spending money with a low-cost, poor “search engine optimisation” (SEO) consultancy for a while. One of the main tricks these people use is to set up tens of thousands of junk links from low-quality blogs which Google can spot a mile off, and although these can eventually push you up the rankings a little way by sheer weight of numbers, the worst that’s been likely to happen in the past is that Google eventually catches up and starts to ignore those links. Now, it’s possible that the consequences could be worse. Seriously, do not waste your money with these people. There’s nothing wrong with SEO, as the search engines have acknowledged – it’s just a way of ensuring that what your site and its pages are all about is clearly flagged up. But a quality, reliable SEO company will need to charge several thousand pounds a year, and have full access to make changes to your website. If they claim to be able to help you for a fraction of that amount, without touching your website, run for your life.
More reading: Seven Over-Optimization Penalty What-Ifs. Are You Ready for These? on E-Marketing Performance.