Getting Penalized by Google: An Enterprise SEO Blessing in Disguise?

chadpollitt
Chad Pollitt VP of Audience, Relevance

Posted on February 11th 2014

Getting Penalized by Google: An Enterprise SEO Blessing in Disguise?

What!? How could this be? Getting a manual penalization is a SEO professional’s worst nightmare, right? It doesn’t have to be. In fact, it could turn out to be the best thing to happen to an in-house SEO team or search agency.

Behemoth SEO SlothsFor some companies, search is responsible for large swaths of revenue. In those cases, a manual penalty from Google can have devastating effects on the bottom line. This can be further exacerbated for those brands with strategies built around exact keyword-match domains.

If this happens, the powers-that-be will no doubt be looking for a scapegoat. The in-house SEOs will be concerned for their jobs and the supporting agencies will fear losing contracts.

The truth is that in many cases it’s not the fault of the in-house SEOs or supporting agencies. The blame lies squarely with Google and enterprise executives’ unwillingness to be proactive by embracing innovation in a fast-changing search environment. Once-a-year budgeting exercises and painfully slow procurement tend to further intensify this lethargic behavior.

Google writes the rules and chooses the winners and losers. Because of this, in-house and agency SEOs must be proactive and innovative at all times and not be held back by executive leaderships’ disinclinations.

Behemoth SEO Sloths

Large enterprise organizations are not known for being organic search innovators. In fact, they’re famous for being late majority adopters at best. Of course there are exceptions, but generally speaking this holds true.

Executives at enterprise brands tend to be slow or resistant to change when it comes to just about everything, including search. If it’s not top-of-mind for the stakeholders it’s not top-of-mind for enterprise executives that make final decisions.

Most in-house SEO management is director-level or lower, and the sense of urgency may not be echoed up the chain. In other words, these folks likely warn of coming changes and the need to innovate, but their recommendations aren’t necessarily considered priorities.   

Google the Usurper – Sloth Slayer

Unfortunately, for slow-to-innovate enterprise brands, one update to Google’s algorithm or a Webmaster policy change can lay waste to organic search visibility. These brands also tend to be less willing to invest with agencies offering fresh, innovative and insulative search solutions because it’s contrary to the status quo – even if Google is hinting at a new animal update.    

How penalties can help agency SEOs

Most good SEO professionals that keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry are keenly aware of what algorithm changes and policy updates are likely around the corner. Innovative agencies create solutions based on this.

However, it can be very difficult at times for agencies to recommend, sell and execute these new, innovative and cutting-edge search solutions to enterprise brands used to deploying older search tactics like guest blogging at scale.

That will change quickly, however, if some type of algorithm update or manual penalty significantly impacts that brand’s search traffic. Unfortunately, it can sometimes take an act of Google to get enterprise executives to listen. Agencies pitching true earned media strategies as the Google-proof SEO of today and tomorrow should find many more receptive ears after a rash of penalties.

How penalties can help in-house SEOs

Depending on the revenue impact of the penalty or algorithm update, its effects can reverberate all the way to the CEO. In rare circumstances the media will pick up a story about a large brand using tactics that Google has ignored one day and deemed nefarious the next.

In-house SEOs who have warned of coming changes or the need to be a little more innovative and diversified are much more likely to be listened to and resourced properly for the foreseeable future. This is the moment when their priorities become the company’s priorities.

There will be some cleaning up to do to have penalties lifted, but once that’s done the additional resources and added executive oversight will empower in-house SEOs to accomplish even more than what they were able to pre-penalty.

Ulcers and sleepless nights happen for many when Google shakes things up a bit. There will always be winners and losers, but when this happens there is a silver lining. Its impact will force enterprise executives to take notice because you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Good in-house and agency SEOs will be left saying, “I told you so,” and the next time there’s a change on the horizon, they’ll get the attention they deserve.

If you’re an in-house or agency SEO experiencing penalties or depreciated search results, look to the strategies outlined in the Enterprise Marketer’s Future-proof Link Earning Guide.

Image credit: Flickr

chadpollitt

Chad Pollitt

VP of Audience, Relevance

Chad Pollitt, a decorated Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and former Army Commander, is VP of Audience and Co-founder of Relevance, an online publication solely dedicated to helping marketing and communications executives solve their online content visibility challenges. Named a Top 20 CMO Influencer and Top 5 Content Marketing Thought Leader, Chad also authored "The Content Promotion Manifesto." He is a regular contributor to industry media outlets, including The Guardian, Huffington PostLinkedIn and many others.

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