Explaining Quiet to a Shouter

The site was sold to another buyer. The buyer immediately started revising the content to make it “better”. They had purchased it from an expert, but felt there was more to do on it. There often is.

Page by page, the content was rewritten. Link by link, the backlinks were revised – some were deleted because they had been there specifically as a favor to the former owner. Navigation links on the site were also renamed. Part by part, the site was restructured, and pieces were now used in new ways.

A few months later, all search engines slowed the traffic they were sending. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that it was probably due to all those changes.

Are changes bad? No, not at all! But there are good changes, and bad changes. And Search Engines have things they like, and do not like, in websites, so if you make one or two changes that they do not like, they’ll probably forgive you. But if you change EVERYTHING and introduce things everywhere that they do not like, it is going to add up and hurt you.

Am I picking on anyone in particular that I’ve sold a site to? No. This is a common story, unfortunately. And you cannot teach someone ahead of time, because it all has to do with judgment. If I say, “keep the home page content shorter”, or “do not use too many keywords in a row”, or “don’t make your navigation links too long”, then they are going to use THEIR definition of “too much”. And it really varies from person to person.

I can even tell them “keep your nav links to no more than 3-4 words”, or “no more than 4-6 paragraphs on the home page”. But some people still won’t believe it really matters, or they will just gradually add a paragraph or word, then another, and then forget that it mattered when lightening doesn’t strike at once.

Sometimes it takes a while before the boom lowers. Partly because the search engines will not always react immediately, partly because the effect can be cumulative. You may get away with 9 edgy things, but be sunk on the 10th. And then it can take a while to isolate exactly where the problem is.

Normally when a site changes hands, if good changes are made, good things happen. If no changes are made, nothing else changes in reaction to that. Search engines could care less who owns it. Sometimes, more traffic temporarily occurs as a result of aggressive changes, but then reverses when too much is done, or when the search engines finally catch it.

But we’ve noticed that when a site is penalized, or when it drops in the ranks, that there is usually no single isolated reason. That can also make it hard to diagnose, because you have to weigh the factors and see if there are enough to warrant a lack of interest by search engines. Or it can be easy to diagnose it when you look at a site and there are borderline or over the line elements everywhere.

It isn’t always a penalty – often it is just that you’ve loaded in so much hype and drivel that someone else’s site gets to the point better, and rises above yours. Diagnosing that is a matter of judging overall quality. And if that has declined, it is probably why traffic has decreased. Often it isn’t that this element or that element is outright bad, it is just that EVERYTHING is borderline, so the quality of the site overall has significantly declined.

Some people believe that the best marketing strategy is to shout louder. That the person who will get heard the best, and paid the most attention to, is the one who hollers loudest. This isn’t at all true, either in marketing, or in life (just watch a kid tune out who is used to being hollered at, the minute someone raises their voice).

More isn’t always better. Most of the time, a quiet invitation, with good explanations will get more positive responses than aggressive ad copy. Something that is simple to understand, with options for more details will get more trust and buyers than miles of hype filled copy that appeals to greed but doesn’t explain necessary details.

Some people will understand this. Some simply never will. It is like the speed limit. Some people understand that a speed limit means something. They will always go no more than 65 in a 65 MPH zone. Others will push the limit, by a small margin, and swear they never speed. Many will go as fast as they think they can get away with, and then grumble when they get a ticket, say it wasn’t fair, then go out and speed some more. People are like that with marketing and SEO also.

I haven’t yet found a way to teach someone to recognize quality. I can teach them rules by the numbers, but if they don’t recognize quality, they won’t respect the rules. If they are naturally a shouter, then to them, being quiet may mean talking in a normal voice, instead of whispering.

And in marketing, quietly speaking the truth is VERY powerful.

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