Google’s Glass Ceiling

A small “Google awakening” happened on Tuesday night. There seems to to be a “Google Glass Ceiling” in the serps for certain types of sites. Mileage might vary, but if your site is pulling more weight than Google thinks it should, there is mounting evidence that Google is throttling your organic SERPS traffic. It has been something that has nagged at me for sometime, but I was a little reluctant to risk the collective derision and laughter of the SEO community for bringing it up. But now I seem to be finding followers to the theory.

The awakening happened on a boat on the Thames. Maybe the Glass capsules of the London Eye provided the trigger? Maybe not. But there were 500 people on the boat – and pretty well every one of them is affected on a daily basis by Google… because A4U is by far the largest affiliate conference in the UK and – if Mathew Wood‘s peformance was anything to go by, will soon be the largest affiliate conference on the planet. These guys are good!

So I heard a person say “I can’t seem to break through a glass ceiling of XXX visitors a day from Google”. I then asked another well known affiliate, Loquax, who also admitted that even though his major site had dropped to 10th for his big one phrase keyword recently, his traffic had remained static from Google for nearly a year. Plot it weekly… flatline!

I talked to Jo Conner – with his inspired Can’tBArsed.com, a man who does far too much Tai Chi and far too little “real” work as I understand it. He said the same. I look at one of my own sites, Murder Mystery Games and I see the same. It seems to be that sites are “flatlining” on Google and although everyone seems to be settling at a different number, that number represents Google’s Glass Ceiling for the domain. You can push through it, but you’ll need to do something just a bit more… or at least a bit different.. to break the ceiling and take it to the next level.

 

Now I’m happy enough for Matt Cutts or Brian White or Adam Lasnik or John Mu to jump right in here and say “no, no, no Dixon – you must be dreaming” – but then it’s only going to take a few people to say “hey – yeh – that’s happening to me” for the idea to stick. At that point… if their really is a Glass Ceiling for some if not all sites, then one has to ask if Google are being fully transparent here? (Pun intended… an affiliate suggested I use it… I won’t name him).

 

It doesn’t – on the surface – seem to make sense. Google is all about pushing the best result to the users… aren’t they? But when your site is in that twilight zone of being well enough established in Google to stop looking at the daily rankings with fear and intrepidation, but not established enough to start getting “One Box” results (the ones where you get several links in poition one) on your almost generic brand name, then these are the kinds of sites that seem to be getting the Google throttle. Google knows there are several sites that may offer similar value to the user and it is in everyone’s interest (conveniently including Google’s) to give each of these sites a slice of the proverbial free action… in the spirit of “competition is good as long as it’s all done on Google”.

 

Not all styles of site face this ceiling. WordPress and the general blogosphere really wouldn’t notice this, as the blog content tends to work on link baiting and social network seeding rather than the traditional index to succeed. The result for bloggers is a far more volatile existence. There should be a saying – if there isn’t already – you are only as good as you last blog.

 

What worries me the most, is that if this hunch is correct, why has it taken so long to be “outed”? surely most of us look at traffic not rankings as a better key performance indicator don’t we? Maybe we jumped straight from looking at rankings before the Florida update many years ago all the way to looking at conversions from organic without stopping to look at the obvious middle statistic of the good old fashioned click?