Andy Hagans used to run TropicalSEO.com, and I’ve reposted his popular quiz as to whether your site was defensible and updated it for 2012.
“In my experience the natural motivation to preserve wealth and income is even more powerful than that to increase it. For us SEOs, this means making our sites, rankings, traffic and revenue defensible.
“The following quiz is a little cheat sheet to let you know how defensible your site is. (For some, but not all of you, ‘defensible’ is nearly a synonym for ‘Google-proof’.)
- Does your site rank in more than one search engine? As Google’s share creeps towards 100%, this question becomes less and less realistic… still, there’s a big difference between 6% of organic referrals coming from Y!/MSN, and [that percentage being] 36%. [See also SEO Mythbusters: It’s Google vs Bing. It’s Really Apple vs eBay vs Fiverr etc.]
- Do you get type-in traffic? Whether type-ins occur because of branding and repeat users, or because your domain is keyword.com, is irrelevant. When people navigate directly to your site, no search engine penalty in the world can hurt you!
- Does your site have a significant number of subscribers? Subscribers can be be to your RSS feed, email newsletter [or Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn Group updates] or anything really–the point is, you have repeat visitors and don’t depend entirely on transient traffic.
- Is your revenue diversified? If a single CPC ad provider like Adsense, or even a single merchant, provides a majority of your site’s revenue, then they certainly have you by the balls. They could cut your payout in half tomorrow without much of an explanation, or they could boot you without appeal or recompense.
- Do you get
bookmarked[shared in social media]? If you’re bookmarked on Delicious [and Stumbleupon] or on people’s browsers, you can count on some repeat visitors and possibly future links.
- Does your site have citations and links that send you traffic? Maybe SugarRae’s Hall-of-fame post makes sense now ;). It bears repeating: When people navigate directly to your site, no search engine penalty in the world can hurt you!
- Does your site have some sort of remarkable value? This question is not asking: is your content “unique”? More like, if your site ceased to exist, would the Web as a whole lose something valuable? Would people’s lives be inconvenienced? If the answer is YES, your site is likely to get future citations, links and bookmarks–and further, search engines will have to think longer and harder before banning you or penalizing you, since not ranking your site might make their results less useful.
Does ‘arbitrage’–CPC, email blasting [Andy means affiliate ads in others’ newsletters], affiliates–make up a minority of your promotional efforts?[Are volatile tactics responsible for a minority of your promotional efforts? Ex.: Spun content, PPC arbitrage, links that will get destroyed with the next algorithm update.] As Brian Provost points out, marketing methods such as these are often unsustainable over time due to increased competition, structural changes, commodization and margin erosion.
- Do you have a strong network in your niche? Maintaining a friendly relationship with bloggers, stakeholders, and even competitors can be the key to standing back up when you get knocked down. Think about it this way–is a merchant likely to screw you out of money if you can get their bad behavior blogged about by industry leaders?
- Are you thinking about/working on defensibility? There are many ways to make a site more defensible that I haven’t listed. If you are actively working on it (regardless of what you call it), you deserve a bonus point. Even thinking about defensibility–if you can apply some of the principles in the future–is going to go along way in protecting your future wealth (and pride).
“Rate Your Site’s Defensibility
Well this wouldn’t be a hokey quiz if you didn’t rate yourself at the end! Count how many times you said ‘yes’ to the above questions.
- 1-3 yes’s: You’re f***ed. Probably better and easier to start a new Web site that has a more defensible idea behind it than to fix the old site. In the meantime the old site can sit as an (indefensible) passive revenue stream. (It may also be a good candidate to unload at Sitepoint.)
- 4-6 yes’s: Your site is like most quality Web sites–you have some defensible traits, but still a Google penalty and Adsense booting (or equivalent) would likely cut your earnings by a very high percentage. Even most quality Web sites are fairly vulnerable.
- 7-10 yes’s: Congratulations, you don’t just have a Web site, you have a real, saleable business.
P.S. Andy if you have an issue with my doing this, I’ll take it down – just email me.
P.P.S. @WillQuick left a great question in the comments: What questions are relevant for a defensible enterprise site? Sure, your brand may be known and getting type-ins, but perhaps it’s still being eroded… In Will’s terms, the site may still be garbage.
Here’s my answer:
Very good question – is this only applicable to SMBs? The answer is that it applies to both SMBs and enterprise SEO.
If you’ve got a big brand but you’re only reliant on your offline campaigns/brand, it’s quite plausible that online brands will overtake you. That happened with Wikipedia overtaking Britannica, 1800 Contacts overtaking offline optometrists, Expedia and traditional travel agencies, Amazon vs Barnes and Nobles, Youtube vs radio, Netflix vs Blockbuster + cable… I suspect similarly so with other brands.
The question in those cases is what your share of voice is in channels where your consumers are looking.
If people are searching for you online and they’ve stopped looking in the Yellow Pages, are you competing online? You were Comedy Central… but is Cracked.com beating you with online video?…
With regards to brands getting traffic from type-ins and having strong and diversified revenue streams … if they’re converting the traffic well, the sites aren’t garbage [even if they’re ugly]. If they aren’t converting well or they’re getting a subpar share of voice … that’s an opportunity to become the next big brand in that field.