How Will People Find Your Site If Search Engines Didn’t Exist?

Summary (for people who don’t have time to read blogs all day. We should be building stuff instead of bitching about Google, yeah?): If you depend on Google to survive, your site sucks. If your site gets the same level of traffic from Google a day but your daily visits isn’t rising, your site sucks. For big companies, SEO is just an afterthought. has a few SEO flaws, but it doesn’t matter.

Big Companies Are Already Highly Visible

In the white hat world, you need to develop a valuable product and then launch a marketing campaign to bring eyeballs to your product. If your a newbie webmaster with a domain name no one’s ever heard of, you have a long road ahead of you. First, you need to build a product to sell (aka. website). Pour millions of visitors on a piece of crap and your conversion ratios will look worse than plentyoffish and traffic will go right through you like you weren’t even there. Once your done developing a great product, you need to go on a marketing blitz, because the greatest website in the world will sound like a tree that fell in a forest if no one knows your site exists.

On the other hand, Universal Studios, MGM, McDonalds, IBM, Apple … these companies existed long before the birth of search engines. These companies have access to mass media (TV news, commercials, billboards, radio, newspapers, magazines, movies). They branded their names permanently into our collective psyche. Even if Google didn’t exist, people know how to find them on the web.

Google is Just a Middle Man

When do you need Google? You need Google when you’re looking for something but don’t know where to find it. But as time goes on, you figure out where to find whatever you’re looking for, so that Google becomes a middle man you no longer need. If you were looking for Ali Larter’s pics, for example, you might first surf Google Images. If you were looking for a list of movies she starred in, you go to imdb. If you wanted to know the names of Asia Carrera’s kids or if she’s still having financial problems, you either go to her official website or go to Wikipedia. If you wanted to buy a DVI adapter or a new PSU, you go to newegg. If you wanted to download MTV videos on YouTube that might disappear by tomorrow. you visit keepvid. If you felt like stalking Vanessa Fox, you’d go to twitter (Vanessa, don’t worry. I’m too busy to stalk anyone :D).

See? If you know where to find what you’re looking for, you don’t really need Google, do you? (unless you’re thinking of sites like Webmasterword with lousy search features)

For Big Brand Names, SEO is An Afterthought

For companies like Universal Studios, SEO is almost an afterthought. The bulk of their “marketing” that’s been going on for decades penetrates households that don’t even own a computer or don’t have enough money to pay for internet access.

If you already got high visibility, all you really need to do then is build a razzle-dazzle 59 points out of 60 website that turns your visitors into marketers.

Building a Website with Compounding Traffic

Have you ever lost thousands of daily uniques because your Google ranking suddenly tanked?

You have? Ok. But what happened to 30,000 people that visited your site last week?

If your site’s stickier than cyanoacrylate, 100 daily uniques from Google would pile up into 1,000 visitors/day after 10 days. Do you see that happening with your site? If your site’s traffic isn’t rising, you need to work on content, not SEO. I’m not just talking about building more pages. I’m talking about injecting value into your site, making it amazing, mind-blowing, unforgettable. Sure, adding more pages targeting more phrases might increase number of incoming daily hits, but what good does a million pennies in your pocket do you if you have a gaping hole in your pocket?

In investing, you look for high interest rates that compound year after year after year. Investing $4K a year in a Roth IRA at 8% average interest rate, for example, will turn you into a millionare in 30 years all thanks to compounding interest.

Most people know this, yet they often don’t put much effort into building a website with compounding traffic.

Universal Studios Can’t Care Less About SEO

Universal Studios obviously hasn’t bothered to SEO their official website,

  • 100% Flash pages like this makes some SEOs frown. But see, it’s a dichotomy: on the one hand, people say SEO is 99.9% about links. They also say all Flash and no text is bad SEO. Makes you wonder if people spreading these ideas are capable of logical thinking.
  • Home page redirects to index.php. That’s not necessarily bad if it was a 301 redirect. But it’s a 302.
  • The second site: search result triggers a 404.
  • According to the home page META keywords, the home page wants to rank for matt damon,ppv, vod, on demand, pay-per-view, jerry springer. Despite the TBPR 7, ranks for none of those words because the IBL anchor texts are untargeted. According to SEO Digger, the home page does rank for over 637 terms.

It doesn’t matter though. If Google vanished tomorrow, people will still visit What will happen to your site if Google vanished tomorrow?

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5 Responses to “How Will People Find Your Site If Search Engines Didn’t Exist?”

  1. Good stuff! just a tiny “but” … the homepage redirect should be a 302, like they have it. A 301 would be incorrect.

  2. “the homepage redirect should be a 302, like they have it.”

    Hmm…why is that, John?

  3. Oh ok, I think I see your point:

    “With a 301 redirect you are effectively telling the search engine that the URL needs to be removed and the new URL needs to be indexed.”

    If I installed a 301 on / to index.php (which I didn’t suggest, but lets for a sec assume I did), would be de-indexed and be replaced by index.php - assuming I’m reading you correctly.

    But guess what, I’d install the 301 on index.php to and make the index.php go away.

  4. Man,

    where were you all these months? I often try to find some interesting SEO stuff to read, but fail, cause internet is full of ‘experts’. I don’t understand why you don’t rank higher, nor more people link to you. I found your site by pure accident.

    Your first paragraph is probably one of the smartest SEO things I’ve read in a while.

    Anyhow, I do have to rant about Google little more. Why? Because I used to really like that company, their mission, their founders, and all the cool things they were making. However, since they went public, their business practices are not so idealistic, and their slogan ‘do no evil’ seems like a prophetic self reflection. Also, their mission ‘organize all information’ seems not to be primary, judging by how they eliminate pages from indexes. Their servers probably cannot compete with enormous number of dynamically generated pages from all the millions of websites on the web.

    I don’t have problems with people making money. In fact they deserved every penny of all the billions they made over the years, until nofollow!

    There is a saying, ‘give person power, and you will get to know him’.
    That is happening with Google. They (deservingly) have monopoly on internet search, and now they are misusing it as well as the structure of the World Wide Web, and the way it was incepted to work.

    They do want to skew SERPs towards their sites (video, youtube, books, etc), which are appearing more and more in organic serps, and in time it will become more boring searching with google just to find another google site.

    Anyhow, enough ranting. I need to do some work.
    Good night.

  5. “I don’t understand why you don’t rank higher, nor more people link to you.”

    Yeah it would be cool if I ranked higher, but I’m not looking for this blog to be my meal-ticket.

    I agree Nofollow is problematic for Google. I mentioned several times on Sphinn and Google Groups that Google cannot make people shoot themselves in the foot or to ring the door bell before robbing Google’s house. Google has to build a security system that doesn’t rely on webmaster cooperation.

    “They do want to skew SERPs towards their sites”

    Like anyone else, sure, they’re going to promote themselves. Google is made up of thousands of people and many of those people aren’t as sharp as Vanessa Fox, Adam Lasnik, or Matt Cutts. My run-ins with several Google Adwords reps have proved that some Googlers need hand-holding to think straight.

    But I do like Google alot as a success story, and I also think spending too much time talking about Google doesn’t help anyone from getting any work done.

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