Imagine you had a friend in a relationship with someone who was unreliable, secretive and made big decisions without regard to their well-being. Beyond that, the person in question is insensitive, self-absorbed and sometimes downright cruel.
You'd tell your friend to kick the loser to the curb and find someone who deserves them. You'd tell them they were better off on their own. You'd advise them to focus on making themselves better, instead of being subjugated by a significant other who doesn't appreciate them.
Well, Google is a bad boyfriend. And that's my advice.
Let's be honest, all of us in the making-money-online business have been in a polyamorous courtship with Google for a long time now. Look at the guy next to you in the search results, yup, he's your sister wife.
But like any relationship, if you're looking to the other party to define you, to bring quality to your existence, you're doomed to disappointment. Ranking well in Google should be an extension of the fact that you are the best at what you do.
The expectation of ranking should come as a result of a consistent effort toward being the most competitive, most relevant, most knowledgeable and most trustworthy competitor within your space. Chasing rankings instead of chasing those goals will only lead to a continually punishing, continually unfulfilling dysfunctional relationship with Google.
Love Your Rankings, Whatever They Are
Learn to let go of an obsession with perfect rankings. Try to imagine a world in which you didn't care whether Google thought you were hot.
We all ask ourselves the same questions; Does Google like me? Am I good enough? Am I as pretty as the girl next to me?
Maybe you are, maybe not. But it shouldn't matter whether Google thinks so.
When you look at your site, do you see the value? Real value. Try looking, not as you on the inside, but as an outsider, as an unbiased customer.
What about you means that you deserve to be one of 10 of the best of the best in all the world? There are only 10 spots on the front page, and that's growing fewer and fewer with local, shopping, images, etc.
The diversity of Google's search results pages adds its own opportunities for varied assets done well. Though making videos and getting added to Google News to share great content is a totally different endeavor than making them for the sake of trying to jump on a bandwagon.
Focus more on being ranked because you're the epitome of information in your niche. If you try to do it the other way around, you wind up coming off as inauthentic and it's desperate. It's like the chick macking on the bartender at last call. Don't be that girl.
Confident Sites are Always Attractive
If your business relies too heavily on organic search traffic from Google, maybe it's time to alleviate that dependence. That reliance takes a lot of power away from you and gives it to someone else.
Granted, there's always going to be an inequality of need between websites and search engines, but search engines don't and never have existed for the site-makers. They are and always have been for the site seekers. Sites that are built for the middle man, the search engine, and not for the site seeker are sort of missing the point.
It's one thing to want to have a smartly constructed, crawlable, well-structured, clearly defined website that makes it utterly clear to any crawler where the content is and what it is about. That is just good business. Like basic hygiene, and matching socks.
You also need to be aware of some of the trickier technical missteps, particularly larger websites and ecommerce sites. SEO is an essential undertaking, but it's about so much more than just trying to rank for one or two top phrases.
Caring about smart SEO is one thing, but obsessing over search engine traffic and rankings is another. The same way it's one thing to work out to stay healthy, but it's totally different to work out like a maniac to stay attractive to someone else. We'd call the former friend an "inspiration" and the latter, we'd coach for low self-esteem.
How are we any different Googling the same phrase every day just to make sure we haven't moved down even a spot? Being secure in your own worth means never having to worry if you're good enough.
There Are Other Visitor Fish in the Sea
In spite of how good the relationship can be with Google, when things are going well, it still isn't Google's job to make websites money. So let's consider for a second that we absolve Google of that responsibility. Instead we start to see rankings and traffic as a perk of the relationship, rather than the foundation of it.
If you have a site that is mindful of all of the technical and strategic necessities involved in good SEO, then the rest is just about being yourself and keeping your options open. People use search engines at such a great volume that it's absolutely possible to forget they use other means of web travel too.
There's no guarantee that taking the time to invest in a well-planned, meticulously executed social media campaign is going to get you all of the business a number one ranking will for any given keyword. In fact, it's unlikely. But it could certainly bring you an ROI on the project and it could raise your brand visibility, drive new visitors, turn former one-time visitors into returning customers, affect direct traffic and grow your listening audience for future efforts. And that's not too bad.
Some search queries are always going to be the Quarterback/School President/Debate Team Captain. They will be lusted after by everyone. But maybe try a drama kid, or a band geek, or the yearbook editor because they have something to offer too. And that's coming from a former drama kid, band geek, and yearbook-staffer.
You Can Still Be Friends!
We will never be entirely free of search engines, but that's OK. We love and we hate them for everything they do and don't do. For everything they were and for everything they could be. But maybe, just maybe they're not ready for the same kind of relationship we are.
Maybe we need to give each other some space to figure things out. In the meantime, we can work on ourselves and figure out who we are outside of a co-dependent romance with search engines. We'll always want the traffic and rankings from they can give, but it's time we tried something different, too.
Even though saying goodbye to a relationship of any kind can be hard, when you know it means moving on to something better, sometimes you have to do the hard thing. But don't worry, we'll still hang out with Google, we have a lot of mutual friends.