Posted March 8, 2008 8:39 pm by with 22 comments

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It is smart, it is witty and in some cases it is inane. Gabriel Goldenberg has a post up at that provides a lot of food for thought and in my opinion also gives some poor advice. His is one of those provocative posts that encourages everyone to start thinking about the way they do their online marketing but also reminds everyone to not to believe everything they read.

Gabriel believes webmasters need to become independent from search engines and offers up five tips to do just that. But what I believe Gabriel really means to say is he believes webmasters need to diversify so that they are no longer largely dependant on Google.

“It is time for webmasters to become independent from search engines.”

His fist tip is to use search engines other than Google. Well going back to Gabriel’s initial point, how do search engines other than Google liberate webmasters from search engines in general? As I said, the answer is Gabriel didn’t really mean liberate webmasters from search engines, he meant liberate webmasters from their reliance on Google yet that is not what he said.

The second tip is a good one and one I can agree with heartily. Webmasters must diversify their traffic sources. Search engines shouldn’t be the only way webmasters acquire traffic. Google’s Florida update and the devastating repercussions of that update exist as a perfect example of why diversification is so important. The Florida update should be a constant reminder that if Google or any other single source of traffic is the lifeblood of a business then that business is only a day away from being defunct.

The third and fifth tips are pretty much one in the same and both can be viewed as positive and negative at the same time. Gabriel suggests developing alternative revenue streams both online and off. While I like the idea it isn’t always practical or convenient. Creating alternative revenue streams really depends on what type of webmaster an individual is and what that individual is attempting to accomplish with any given site when it comes to their current monetization strategy.

Tip number four, in my opinion, is the best tip. Create sites you are passionate about! While it goes against some of the ideas the author had in his third tip about monetization, I think it is the key driver for any webmaster to have long-term success. A webmaster should always do what they enjoy so that the work is both pleasant and rewarding whenever possible. I think often times webmasters become so focused on making money or being successful in someway that they forgot to enjoy the process.

The sixth tip, which is “free” and everyone loves free, is to block Googlebot. Now if you are new to internet marketing or naive you might actually consider doing this, but I strongly caution anyone against this course of action. I am sure there are reasons to justify blocking Googlebot, but overall I cannot believe that this is a good tip for any webmaster in general. A tip like this is a serious reminder why everyone must always think for themselves and never believe everything they read. In fact maybe webmasters reading this article should take a look at the robots.txt for the site where Gabriel’s article was authored?

Over all while I cannot agree with all of the Gabriel’s points and strongly disagree with some, I still think the article is a worthwhile read for all webmasters, if for no other reason than to encourage everyone to keep thinking for themselves and get involved in the conversation at large.

(Andy’s Note: Gab responded in the comments.)

  • Haha… Blocking GoogleBot from his site sounds like he’s removing himself from the idea gene pool (search results). Despite doing that to his robots.txt I bet he’ll get a lot of backlinks from the buzz and pull the old switcheroo on us – allowing GoogleBot back in due time.

    Still, it is concerning the stranglehold that Google has on search.

  • I can’t believe this guy recommends blocking GoogleBot!!!!

    He makes good points about diversifying traffic and attempting to rely less on Google but blocking GoogleBot is not the way to do it – IMO.

    Becoming independent from SEs is a good thought but unless a company has a huge advertising budget it’s unlikely.

  • Wow. It’s incredible. SE traffic is the biggest part of traffic for companies with small advertising budget. But if You have a lot of money for advertising, you can block all SE bots.

  • Pingback: » Webmasters Should Expand Their Advertising Scope Search Engine Optimization Journal()

  • Why stop there? Go ahead and block yourself from your own site as well, while you are at it. I actually managed to do this by an accident once on a server level. It was a pain in the back to un-ban myself. 🙂

  • Zen

    No reason to defend the guy if what he did was write a load of bull. Seriously, people should learn not to trust everything they read…

  • I am not a Gad basher, but I heard Gab speak at SMX West’08 and I must say he had some shady SEO technique ideas with “domain name sticky redirects” in essence advocating same content indexed under 2 different domain names = spam. It had Yahoo engineers on the same panel turn beet red, after he showed how Yahoo indexed his same content on #1 and #2 under two different domain names… (or something close like that). He actually thanked them for their love…

    His robots.txt actually allows all access to all robots including Googlebot. Does not practice what he preaches ;).

  • link baaaaait

  • @Jaan – It may be link bait but I am not sure in the long run it benefits his business or his reputation and at the end of the day those are the two things that really matter in my opinion.

    I also think it does a diservice to the unitiated internet marketers out there. By him not even taking his own free advice what does that say about what he is really writing?

  • I agree Roderick. Outing yourself with bad information can never help your professional reputation.

  • Several points to address here.

    1) Roderick, you’re right about the thrust of my argument being becoming independent from Google. I’ll need to fix that up. That said, I think that if webmasters become independent from Google and then dependent on Yahoo or MSN, they’re no further ahead. So it’s about becoming independent generally. And that also goes for who you search with, because you won’t always find what you need if you only search with Google or any other engine.

    2) Regarding my Robots.txt, what does it say about many of the criticisms above when they take my comment about blocking Googlebot out of context? Perhaps you should read my post before criticizing it…
    Here’s ALL of what I wrote:
    “The less relevant its search results, the more you redistribute power as people choose alternative engines to power their searches. I’d like to claim this idea as my own, but I learned it from none other than the grandmaster of search himself, Danny Sullivan. I can’t find either Sphinn comment (he said it twice on separate occasions), but if someone has it and links to it in the comments, I’ll update this post and link to the industrious commenter as well.

    “For yourself, blocking Google might lose traffic in the short run, but if you’re building defensible sites, that traffic should be a minor percentage of what you get. To be fair, this is a tough tactic to recommend, especially as an SEO. I recognize it isn’t for everyone. While I can’t block Goooglebot here on SEO ROI because it would be a credibility bomb (there’s another domain I own:, I am planning to do just that with other sites that are in development.”

    Roderick, I think you need to edit your post to include that in order to be fair. It was there from the first moment I published and your treatment above misrepresents what I said by leaving out some of the context. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but the oversight is glaring.

    3) Diversifying online and diversifying offline are similar, but not entirely the same imho. Going from all adsense to rotating CPA banners in there helps you, but you may still be getting the CPA from Google. Not much better off, are you? If your site supports offline monetization, then you’re not quite as dependent on Google.

    4) As to making sites that you are passionate about … I’m obviously taking my advice there (for all you naysayers :P). I love SEO. And that’s why I put so much into SEO ROI. And it monetizes nicely :).

    However, I share your concern that there may be conflicts in terms of diversifying revenue streams, since most people can’t get passionate about the latest hot-converting CPA offer. In that case – and this is ALSO in the post (some more context which ought to have been given), I think you can do OK if you minimize your time/cash investment with some minisites and PPC.

    5) Marek, did you learn something new from my presentation at least?
    In any case, I’m not sure you understood what I said at SMX. I specifically pointed out that my case study was a fluke, and told audience members to ask themselves what value add a situation like mine adds to search results. Then I continued to share local content ideas to help people come up with an answer to the question of “How do I deserve a second listing in local?” And you don’t need to take my word for it – the slide are available for download as per the email sent out to attendees by Third Door Media.
    Regarding your comment about my Robots.txt, see above.

    So… you’re not a Gab basher but you’ll happily join in, huh?

  • 2 more things I forgot – It certainly was linkbait, but not of the flamebait sort which you seem to have implied. I wanted to attract links for making people think and sharing original ideas. Anyone who’s read the post will agree that the post has at least a few of those, which you yourself recognize, Roderick.

    As to it harming my reputation to be sharing original ideas and advising people against relying on Google or other search engines… I’m not trying to get Google as a client.

    And I explained about why SEO ROI hasn’t blocked Googlebot, Roderick. It seems from reading your comments that you’re looking to flame me, and so I’ll ask you the question of what the goal is there.

    –> What does it contribute to your reputation to say that I’m not following my own advice, as if it were a unique discovery of yours, when I say so explicitly in the post?

  • Gab if the point of your post, especially the block Googlebot part, was about diversification of traffic then I am in agreement. The problem is with these baity type of posts is usually to grab links to it instead of presently exactly what you should do with your website. Newbie’s could be confused with your post, but I do understand the general gist.

  • Jaan, from your comment it appears you still haven’t read the post; read it and you’ll see the idea behind blocking Googlebot. I’ve presented multiple concrete pieces of advice. The robots bit has been the focus of the comments above even though it was hardly the meat of the post.

    Besides that, I’m not one for sensationalism. See this post I wrote before leaving to SMX, for instance (the title is sarcastic/poking fun at a certain type of sensational title):

  • What gab? You clearly list this as you point:

    “6. Bonus: Write a robots.txt that blocks Google’s robot.”
    What am I missing?

    “For yourself, blocking Google might lose traffic in the short run, but if you’re building defensible sites, that traffic should be a minor percentage of what you get.”

    This is stupid idea for anyone and I dont care who or why your online.

  • @Gab – I added a link at the bottom of the post to your reply.

  • @Gabriel

    I am sorry but I don’t believe I need to edit my post. I made your entire article available to everyone and even encouraged people to read your article because I believed it is an important conversation piece worthy of the time I spent to comment on it and worthy of being on Andy Beal’s blog. With that said, my opinion is my opinion and I hope everyone will think for themselves when reading my comments, your article, or anything else for that matter.

    I certainly have no intention of flaming you. If you had written something that I found completely unappealing I would have ignored your post completely and not spent my time addressing it. I think when you place provocative ideas out there you need to be prepared to accept what other people think about your ideas or motivations. Thankfully I do it in a place where you have the opportunity to post comments on my opinion. In fact Andy Beal as gone so far as to add a link to them at the bottom of my post to make them readily available to people who might otherwise have missed them.

    If you look at the body of my contributions to this blog you will see I am always trying to find the missed article that I believe this blog’s audience will appreciate. But I also feel that if something is amazing or possibly poorly conceived and it resonates with me in some way I comment on it. I believe my reputation is solid amongst my peers and I believe I offer advice or commentary to the best of my ability.

    Finally I certainly want to thank you for coming and joining the conversation, hopefully in future we will have the opportunity to discuss these items and others either at a conference or online.


  • Hi Roderick,

    Well, I appreciate Andy’s clarification and suppose it will suffice. That said, while I recognize that you have some valid criticisms (especially as to the confusing language re Google v search engines generally), I think that elsewhere you take me way out of context and the result is the sullying of my reputation in an undeserved way.

    Don’t think people are just reading this and skipping my post? Or that the context is getting lost? Consider these comments:

    “I can’t believe this guy recommends blocking GoogleBot!!!!”
    – Um, look at the context for that.

    “No reason to defend the guy if what he did was write a load of bull. Seriously, people should learn not to trust everything they read…”
    – Yeah, all I did was write bull. Lucky for your competitors, you’re not profiting from it :P.

    “[…]in essence advocating same content indexed under 2 different domain names = spam.
    “His robots.txt actually allows all access to all robots including Googlebot. Does not practice what he preaches ;).”
    – I’m being called a spammer (yeah, I’m sure loads of spammers are blocking Googlebot 😎 ) and I explicitly said that I can understand why you wouldn’t block it.

    @ Jaan – You’re missing the rest of the two paragraphs and the context. As I explained above.

  • Nope I read it all Gab and I fail to see (as I am sure your readers do) your point. Maybe explaining it again for us slow people would help. I am not trying to argue, just trying to understand the logic.

    Telling people to block robots.txt does nothing to prove your point on diversification of traffic. Just tell, show them how to diversify traffic and stop with the dramatic effect of telling people to block Googlebot.

  • The other points like diversifying traffic sources are all standard old advice that has appeared on innumerable sites. He had just one new idea which seems to not go down well with anyone.

  • @Jaan

    I would agree with the statement: “For yourself, blocking Google might lose traffic in the short run, but if you’re building defensible sites, that traffic should be a minor percentage of what you get.”

    While it would be foolish to remove Google as a possible supplier of traffic the point is still sound. If you have a defensible site that has various and numerous traffic sources, then if one should suddenly fail (ie Google dumps you/you dump Google) then it shouldn’t hit you so badly. Way too many sites rely purely on Google for traffic, if Google fails them, they fail.

    Check out this post, you might gain some insight to a world without Google.

    Again, it’s not a case of doing away with Google, but rather a case of not being reliant on Google – there is a difference.

  • Yup I am fully aware of the online world without Google and anyone creating websites in a Google top heavy fashion are doomed to fail. I see it all of the time when taking over the marketing for clients. Most websites are built like a spinning top with Google sending most of the traffic. If they lose Google traffic for some reason that top is going to spot spin right off the table and come crashing down.