Happy Google Index Day

The last couple of months have been a little nerve wracking for me. Google stopped indexing us.  

Google sent us a notice saying...
"While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your pages
were using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines, which can be
found here...
"
Its a long story about why they stopped indexing us, and its a little techie.  The net-net was some content with links to buy Viagra (why is that always that product?) were inserted into some user generated content.  Of course we remedied that immediately, removed the  offending profiles and clicked on the Google webmaster page to re-index our site.
And we waited.... 
We would have loved to follow up with Google, but you can't contact them.  You simply submit
and wait.  You might get an automated response.. but nothing you can reply-to. So everyday we resubmitted our site.  Finally 2 months later we are back on the index.  The funny thing is that although the offending content is gone from our site, Google themselves have kept it cached. (cached means they are showing an old copy).  So our site does not show it.. but Google does.  That's ironic.  I guess the act of taking us out of the index was less about quality and more about a rap on the knuckles for Awareness

This was a minor inconvenience for us but some companies draw most of their leads from search engine marketing.  Had we been one of them, this episode in the Google penalty box could have been devastating.  While researching how to fix the issue I found that there are a ton of companies in the same boat.  Although Google's mantra is "Do no evil", when they pass judgment, there is no way to connect with another human being to remedy it.

During the episode, our Google Adsense ads continued to show.  So Google had no problem showing a link to our content as a paying advertiser, just not in the unpaid search results?  Should Google's mantra be "Do no evil unless you pay us"?

Search is now a small part of peoples online marketing toolbox.  More and more brands (and I mean notable brands) are creating Facebook Fan pages, YourTube channels, LinkedIn groups, and Twitter accounts to represent their products and companies.  Serious effort goes into building these as destinations where customers can go for information and to meet other customers.  At the drop of a hat, LinkedIn could change its rules and remove your group, or limit your interaction. Twitter could remove your account as too commercial.   While these sites are free, the time and effort invested in them can be significant.

So what is a company to do? Of course as marketers we want to get in front of the millions of eyeballs on these sites.  If you are an established brand its important to diversify.  Is Twitter a fad? It doesn't matter if you have not put all your eggs in that basket.  A few smart tools and you can participate in several places at once.  This very blog post will automatically be published as a link in Twitter, which will update my FriendFeed, and my Facebook account.  With a little more effort I could syndicate it even more broadly. The key is to "own" the customer interactions.  Its nice to get comments in YouTube, but if possible bring that customer back to your site for the discussion. Create a Facebook fan page, but in it promote your own community.  In your own community you have access to the profile info that your customers share, and the content.
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