Well, Google's at it again! Back in September of 2008 (here), I wrote all about how the good people in the bowels of the Googleplex, in an effort to improve peoples' search results, had tweaked the algorithm just enough that a number of photographers websites fell off the radar. This was happening to a number of photographers across providers, platforms, and hosting companies. This is akin to a "rolling blackout" where whole areas of a geographic region get hit with a loss of power, in a coordinated manner to reduce the load on the power grid. However, in this case, entire sections of the web are getting lost in Google purgatory while the algorithm experts decide if you should return to your "little spot of heaven" or be banished to the hell that is beyond page 3 in the search results.
If you're in that purgatory right now, you're feeling the heat in the form of a fear that you will lose clients, and perhaps never return to your previous search-engine-return-position (SERP). Know this - you are not alone, it's just your time to feel the pain of the "rolling blackout" of Google's dominance.
Make no mistake, friends, about you marketing efforts - SEO is definitively not a "set it and forget it" effort. Get out there and build quality links from relevant places to your website. Switch out your images with new ones - all of these things (and others) are what makes Google happy - fresh content that has inbound links from trusted sources.
If you did a half-hearted SEO effort with your provider, regardless of who they are, and have just let it go - you have little to blame but yourself. If you did a decent SEO effort, realized the results, and rested on your laurels - you have little to blame but yourself. SEO is an ongoing effort that you must stay on top of if you are to experience good results over the long term. Blaming Google or your provider isn't a solution. Am I aware of users of certain providers (NeonSky, liveBooks, etc) experiencing this? Yup. Are they to blame? Nope. Just like some crappy self-built-by-your-college-age-nephew website can rank #1 and then fall off the map, so too, can a $3,000 premium-brand website that was ranked #1 vanish. Your success is up to you.
Since both Rob Haggart's sites, along with those of liveBooks (disclaimer - liveBooks advertises here on PBN) have "shadow" sites showing an HTML edition to be more easily spiderable than a Flash site, let's discuss the concern about what some are worried about called Google's "duplicative content" penalty. On the face of this, it's a flawed argument, because if Google could spider the Flash edition of the site, then there would be no need for the HTML version, right? Thus, Google is blind to the Flash version of a tricked-out site and only sees the HTML version, so how can Google see, for example, celebrity portrait photographer Brian Smith's flash site (here) when it can only read his html version of his site (here)? The answer is, they only see the HTML version.
If you're looking for someone to handle your SEO for you, I encourage you to contact two people I trust on SEO matters, William Foster (a Sacramento-based photographer who does SEO consulting), or Blake Discher (a Detroit-based photographer that also does SEO consulting).
Lastly, unless your name is Richard Avedon, Annie Liebovitz, or some other celebrity photographer, no one is searching for you by name - they are searching for you by geographic region/area, or by your specialty - maryland portrait photographer, or maryland wedding photographer, for example. So, don't go gauging your visibility by a vanity search, unless you're vain.
Search Engines And Your Website (9/26/08)
It's Google's World, You're Just A Small Part Of It (11/28/07)
SEO - Wild Wild West or Reason and Logic? (3/4/08)
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