The Internet Mountain
Having worked in the online marketing industry for over 10 years, I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go. I’ve also seen companies ascend the mighty internet mountain, only to pass out from the lack of oxygen and come tumbling back down.
Currently, there’s little doubt that Google stands atop that internet mountain. They’re the biggest, the baddest, and the most influential company on the internet, in my humble opinion.
If you want to find something on the internet, you most likely resort to using Google to find that something you’re looking for. This is especially true with finding businesses. However, I believe that the war for internet supremacy, while currently dominated by Google, will not ultimately be won by that behemoth.
Who do I believe will be the victor when the dust settles? Currently, I believe that company to be Facebook. Now, this could change. A newcomer could come on the scene and dethrone Facebook. My real point is; the internet won’t be won by a search company but rather a social media company. Here is the reason why.
Organic Search Bomb
Any business owner that relies on organic internet traffic has probably had the following experience.
One day, a business owner wakes up and sales aren’t coming in as regularly or perhaps the phone isn’t ringing as often as it usually does. Flummoxed, the business owner does a quick analysis of his company’s online marketing channels and finds nothing out of sorts. Then, he goes to Google and types in a familiar keyword that brings up his company’s website in the #1 spot.
To his amazement, his website isn’t in the top spot anymore. In fact, it’s all the way down at number 6!
He quickly calls his webmaster and asks all the usual questions. Did something happen? Did we do anything? Is something broken?
More and more I’m seeing this happen with my clients. And the funny thing is, it has nothing to do with what they’ve done, but rather, how they’re now being viewed. And the one doing the viewing is Google.
Maybe it was a Panda crawl, maybe it was Penguin or maybe it was some other covert aspect of Google’s algorithm that no longer likes the company’s website. The point is; they’ve taken a hit. They’re revenues have taken a hit. And this drop in rankings has caused serious damage to the company.
I’ve seen entire companies fold because of organic search problems. I’ve seen layoffs and downsizing due to this as well.
Social Media: Steady as She Goes
Now, let’s examine how this scenario would play out if the company we’re discussing drew most of their customers in through Facebook.
The business owner wakes up one morning. His sales are steady, his calls are coming in as expected, and his company is humming along. He logs into the admin side of Facebook and notices that his “likes” have jumped from 62,125 to over 63,000. Great news!
He gets his marketing department to develop an online promotion and posts it on the Facebook page. At which point, a good number of his followers share it, like it, and redeem the offer.
And this brings me to the point of this article. A company’s followers on Facebook won’t fluctuate due to an algorithmic change on Facebook’s part. The number won’t shoot down due to something completely out of the company’s control.
Yes, the company’s follower number can take a hit with bad press or a mistake on the company’s part. But, those actions are not nebulous and they’re usually easy to identify and find a solution. Unfortunately, the Google algorithm isn’t as easy to decipher.
Google’s Ultimate Downfall
As an SEO (search engine optimization) consultant, I read hundreds of blogs from industry insiders and Google employees. And I’m shocked at the lack of consensus on what actually affects Google rankings. You could take two “experts” in the SEO field and ask them what are the top 10 ranking factors and you’ll get two very different lists.
This also brings up the point of Google’s willingness to change the rules of the search engine game. They will make broad changes to their algorithm that affect thousands if not hundreds of thousands of companies and give little or no notice of the change. (Exact match domains, anyone?)
Whereas, Facebook actually seems to want to help companies increase their reach and exposure. (Graph Search, news feed optimization, etc.)
All of this doesn’t even take into account the fact that people trust a friend’s referral over an organic search result, but that’s an argument for another time.
The bottom line is this. Companies are built on the idea that they can make projections on revenues. A big part of those projections is their marketing. More and more, companies will find that social media offers a steadier, more efficient, and more reliable medium for marketing over organic search rankings. As this shift continues to take place, you’ll see more companies divert their marketing dollars towards Facebook.
There are already signs of Google losing marketing dollars to Facebook. And the pace of that loss is accelerating.
I don’t know when Google will get light-headed from lack of oxygen, atop the internet mountain, and come tumbling down. But I do know that Facebook is well stocked with mountaineering supplies, and they’ve made base camp just below the summit. They’re just waiting for their opportunity to ascend.