Spreading our online marketing eggs into many baskets
When the Google update "Florida" hit us back in 2003, we realized we had a problem. Our sales were pretty well gone overnight. That's not a good feeling. At that point, I started looking to see what we could do, and I attended my first "Search Engine Strategies Conference and Expo" in New York. After some trial and error, we are diverse enough that we totally missed a problem recently, which is a problem.
While it's great that we didn't even notice by our sales numbers that we lost our rankings within Google (due to a spidering problem), it's also alarming that we don't have any sort of technology in place to tell me that there is a problem. We have no way of knowing how long our products haven't been listed in Google.
The fact is, though, that many online businesses could be wiped out by not having most of their website listed in Google's index. I have heard of very few people in online businesses that wouldn't be totally distraught at the idea of not having their products listed. I feel so fortunate to have such a wide range of ways to get business now that it isn't a huge problem when we don't have our products listed there, but it also brings in the question: How much business did we miss out on? It also makes me wonder what we can do to put some sort of monitoring system in place to let me know when there is a problem.
One of the biggest obstacles for most of the "Monitoring Tools" is that they violate the Google terms and conditions by doing automated queries. There are a few that use the Google API, but most of the pages that talk about their great tools don't say if they're using legitimate means of getting the data or not. I feel like we really need to get some sort of an industry guideline in place so that it is easy to tell what technologies are used to do monitoring, and maybe even have Google themselves certify some of the tools as "TOS Compliant". I'd hate to get blocked from using their service just because I chose the wrong tool.
That being said, if I had more time I could use the Google API myself to do some monitoring. However, time is a luxury that I don't really have at the moment. As an ecommerce business growing at a rate well above any of our wildest expectations, there is a lot of content to create, a lot of pages to optimize for search rankings, a lot of new compliance directives to follow, new security concerns to address regularly, and a whole melting pot of marketing ideas to consider and implement. At some point I'm going to need to hire an assistant, but until then I'll just hold on and enjoy the ride.