There have been a lot of TV shows and websites dedicated to surviving the eventual apocalypse. Whether it comes in the form of nuclear winter, global climate change, zombie-inducing chemical weapons, or the rapture, just about everyone has, in some way, thought about the end of the world. But not everyone has prepared for it.
Not everyone needs to go straight for steel bunkers and post-rapture pet care for disaster preparedness. But lets imagine it isn't that crazy to think about what happens when Armageddon comes, especially if its Armageddon for your website.
This past year or so (Happy belated birthday, Penguin 2.0!) a lot of people have experienced the web based version of Krakatoa. Most people have spent a lot of time and money digging out from the ash, some people have recovered, but others are still left to suffer without filtrated, fire resistant shelters.
So what happens if the worst case scenario is real? What if your site gets hit by Penguin or a manual penalty, you lose rankings for your main keywords, and you can't get them back? What if those few precious traffic generating keyword terms are gone from the top 10 forever?
If you've been hit in the past and you haven't recovered yet, it's something to think about. You could be facing a grim new reality that leaves you devoid of the things you've always counted on. So maybe it's time for a doomsday contingency.
Let's say it is game over for any phrases for which you bought links. Now what?
Embrace What's Left
Now that the head terms from the past are off the table, where does that leave you? If you are still getting some traffic you aren't quite TKO'd.
Sure it takes 10 alternate search queries to bring you as much traffic as 1 phrase used to. But a rose by any other name is just as sweet, and traffic that comes in from those other phrases is still traffic.
No, it's not what you're used to or what you had hoped to accomplish by now when things were really good 14 months ago. But it's something. To ignore it, or discount it at this point is the same as ignoring the only oasis in the desert because it isn't big enough.
That traffic is still valuable, and in some cases more valuable than ever. Find all of the keywords your top landing pages are still ranking for.
Hone in on the closest variations of those main keywords that are still getting significant impressions. Feature those more. Find variations of the variations.
Leverage all of your on-site advantages. Even if your competitors who are now out ranking you don't.
They don't have to.
For whatever reason, they aren't damaged goods. But, if you have a penalty or Penguin has hit your site, you sort of are.
Don't write off any opportunity or any minute improvement you can make. It may not get you back where you were, but if the feast is over you've gotta make meals with scraps.
Do More with Less
If you aren't getting as much traffic as you used to, it's time to figure out how to get the most out of the visitors you do get.
Engage your existing customers with loyalty programs, newsletters, email, social media incentives – anything to give someone who buys from you a good reason to come back. Repeat customers are the lifeblood of any business. It's a core principle a lot of us forget when it seems easier to just increase the volume rather than to strengthen the brand-consumer bond.
It's also a worthwhile time to take the resources you previously put into buying links into studying user behavior. If you have a 5 percent conversion rate with your current traffic, sure more visitors could mean more conversions, but if you work on user experience and you can increase that percentage, then you can get more conversions with the same number of visitors you're getting now.
If ROI and the bottom line are what counts the most, links, rankings and traffic are all just a means to that end. Learning why someone abandons a shopping cart or ignores a call to action and fixing it, is just another means to the same end. It only demands figuring out what people want instead of what the search engines want.
Change Your Business
Adapting to change is the basis of all evolution. An animal, a species, adapts to its changing environment and the ones that do it best, survive to pass on their genes. At least according to Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Business have to take the same kind of approach to survival and growth. Learning to change, to respond to the environment in a way that surmounts obstacles.
How you adapt is entirely up to you. It can be a new product line, a series of assets or an original section of content. Anything that is different from anything you've offered in the past.
Diversifying in any of these ways can open up new markets and new fields of keyword relevance that weren't available to you before. Literally changing the scope or variety of what you offer brings brand new factors into the mix and can be ways to pick up new traffic, encourage return visits, and improve your customer experience.
A strategic adaptation is also legitimate. Being a business without an individual identity may have been fine, but now it might be a good time to bring out a singular authoritative voice.
It may also be time to be more interactive on social media, to have conversations with people, not just blast out new content or promotions. The strategy could also include partnerships with people who have different, or broader audiences than yours.
Rebuild Your Civilization
None of these things can get back the keywords you lost. But they can keep you alive while you try to adapt to your new circumstances.
Try not to dwell on what's lost. Try not to fixate on getting Google to like you better for any given keyword.
Instead, focus on proving your subject matter expertise, service, and quality, which will make users like you better. If that is the forefront of your journey, you may still be able to climb out of where you are and re-emerge as a dominant force in your industry.
But if you're paying now for buying links in the past, this may be your ultimate test of survival. Whether you endure is entirely dependent on your willingness to evolve.