After I returned to Costa Rica from a mid-July family reunion in the USA, I thought I’d be more positive, upbeat, and active as the fall busy season for my career in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) heats up.
In fact, I remember stepping off the plane feeling charged up to take on the world by storm. I even downloaded Gloria Estefan’s 80’s hit “Get On Your Feet”, which while definitely epitomizes 1980s pop with its synthesizer sounds, has a good spiritual message that lifts the soul a little bit.
Well, all that began to evaporate about 4 days later. ..
What is my job exactly? Search Engine Optimization is the process of promoting/building a website that will rank on the first page of Google results for important keyword queries that generate leads or customers for a website. For example, if someone types in “Used Cars Los Angeles”, Google will supply them with a list of results. Generally speaking, anything that involves commerce (online or offline) employs Search Engine Optimization, since being placed in the top 10 results will create sales. As a result, the person looking for used cars located in Los Angeles will find a seller from Google’s results, and a transaction is made. People who do Search Enging Optimization create campaigns to get their websites highly ranked in the various Search Engines, because traffic from these search engines creates revenue.
My websites compete in a vastly different market vertical: online gambling. Online gambling is one of the more lucrative verticals online, but it is also very competitive. On top of that, online gambling is under a lot of scrutiny by the USA department of Justice, because a very small minority of gambling website operators engage in illicity activities: money laundering, tax evasion, etc. As a result, most of the USA has banned online gambling in one form or another, despite the fact that there are brick and mortar casinos, sportsbooks, racetracks, and state lotteries in nearly every state of the Union.
Up until returning to Costa Rica, my websites were ranking in the top 15 for football betting related keywords, such as “Online NFL Betting”, “Football betting”, “College football betting” etc. I was looking forward to the start of the NFL season, which is 3 weeks away, because I knew that attaining these rankings in the search engines would mean that my websites would acquire customers looking to place bets. I make money on all losing bets ( or profits to the house ), but if they win, they obviously get to have all their winnings and I am docked money. It’s a commission based system: Website affiliates, like me, will get between 20-35% of any customer losses from clients we acquire. Since search engine traffic is one of the best sources of acquisition for online gamblers, having well placed websites equals more potential gambling customers and more potential profits from losses incurred by the clients.
This is why the gambling niche market is so competitive: If you can acquire a fair number of active gambling clients, you can easily make 1000’s per month.
Caveat Emptor, your website has to maintain its top placement in Google results in order to continue to get new clients. If you’re the 10th or better result, you’re good as gold; but if you’re on page 20, you don’t make a penny ( … who would click through 200 results to find your website? Zilch … )
I woke up one day, now just over a week ago, to find that my highly placed websites had been demoted to 200th or 300th place in Google. I have no clue why this happened, since the Page Rank, a metric used by Google to measure the quality of a given website, was intact and strong. If one’s website gets demoted by hundreds of places, it often means a penalty and loss of Page rank…But, in my case, the sites were demoted by placement, however their Page Rank score was unaffected. This is a contradictory result: If you have high Page Rank, like I do, generally speaking, you’ll be highly placed in Google results. Unfortunately for me, I am now in some sort of Google limbo, where my sites continue to be considered “non-penalized” but also not ranked on page one.
I saw that this happened to a couple other websites, so I know I’m not alone. The real kicker, however, is that it had to happen to me 3 weeks before potential football betting customers would begin to search the web for places to bet. Because my work takes months of effort and calculations, being dropped 3 weeks before the busy season does not allow any time to recover.
At this point, I’m just hoping I’ll get ranked again in time to acquire some customers…
Psychologically, things like this destroy me. I’ve worked on my websites for over 2 years now. They are clean and do not employ shady practices. I’ve also spent a ton of cash and time creating networks, content, and links that bolster the prominence of the sites, which in turn contributes to higher placement in Google. For things to fall through 11th hour like this is absolutely SHITTY and it has put me into a depression.
It’s even more annoying when your sites become ranked behind other webmaster’s websites that are shady, employ dirty ranking tactics, or are completely unmaintained, not up to date, or basically dormant. This really upsets me because I know that for the past several months, these webmasters have done absoluetly NOTHING and their websites get top results, while my websites, which have been nothing but blood, sweat, and tears – not to mention thousands of dollars in investments and hours of hard work, are dropped from the top results for no apparent reason just before the time when top rankings count most.
Furthermore, it embarasses me as a person, because people consider me a search engine opimization expert, but how can someone be considered an expert when their websites are buried on page 20 of the results? In my business, top rankings are what counts. What one did last year, last week, or last month doesn’t mean a thing: Search Engine Opimization is a here and now reality, and if you’re not here and now and making money, you’re no better than the guy who has sat on his ass for the past year doing nothing. Effort means nothing unless it yields quality results.
I realize a lot of my angst comes from BPD in terms of black and white thinking, the need to create a sense of self from external activities, and the need to feel whole despite the fact that I feel totally like crap inside.
This football season was supposed to be where all my work paid off. This was supposed to be the time where I could pat myself on the back and know that the hours of sacrifice and monetary investments would all be worth it.
Now, however, the future looks bleak: perhaps I’ll have to start all over and work towards trying to get better positioned for next year.
There is still a small chance things will work out, but the closer I get to the busy season, the more and more it becomes clear that my efforts, sacrifice, and good intentions will have been all for not.
It is this realization that has kept me in bed 16 hours a day for the past week, where I prefer to let my mind entertain me with random dreams, opposed to living in a reality that is painful, disappointing, and utterly hopeless. Why me?