Is Your Site Defensible? A 10 Point Quiz

In my experience the natural motivation to preserve wealth and income is even more powerful than that to increase it. For us SEOs, this means making our sites, rankings, traffic and revenue defensible.

The following quiz is a little cheat sheet to let you know how defensible your site is. (For some, but not all of you, ‘defensible’ is nearly a synonym for ‘Google-proof’.)

  1. Does your site rank in more than one search engine? As Google’s share creeps towards 100%, this question becomes less and less realistic… still, there’s a big difference between 6% of organic referrals coming from Y!/MSN, and 36%.
  2. Do you get type-in traffic? Whether type-ins occur because of branding and repeat users, or because your domain is keyword.com, is irrelevant. When people navigate directly to your site, no search engine penalty in the world can hurt you!
  3. Does your site have a significant number of subscribers? Subscribers can be be to your RSS feed or email newsletter or anything really–the point is, you have repeat visitors and don’t depend entirely on transient traffic.
  4. Is your revenue diversified? If a single CPC ad provider (ahem), or even a single merchant, provides a majority of your site’s revenue, then they certainly have you by the balls. They could cut your payout in half tomorrow without much of an explanation, or they could boot you without appeal or recompense.
  5. Do you get bookmarked? If you’re booked on Delicious or on people’s browsers, you can count on some repeat visitors and possibly future links.
  6. Does your site have citations and links that send you traffic? Maybe SugarRae’s Hall-of-fame post makes sense now ;-) It bears repeating: When people navigate directly to your site, no search engine penalty in the world can hurt you!
  7. Does your site have some sort of remarkable value? This question is not asking: is your content “unique”? More like, if your site ceased to exist, would the Web as a whole lose something valuable? Would people’s lives be inconvenienced? If the answer is YES, your site is likely to get future citations, links and bookmarks–and further, search engines will have to think longer and harder before banning you or penalizing you, since not ranking your site might make their results less useful.
  8. Does ‘arbitrage’–CPC, email blasting, affiliates–make up a minority of your promotional efforts? As Brian Provost points out, marketing methods such as these are often unsustainable over time due to increased competition, structural changes, commodization and margin erosion.
  9. Do you have a strong network in your niche? Maintaining a friendly relationship with bloggers, stakeholders, and even competitors can be the key to standing back up when you get knocked down. Think about it this way–is a merchant likely to screw you out of money if you can get their bad behavior blogged about by industry leaders?
  10. Are you thinking about/working on defensibility? There are many ways to make a site more defensible that I haven’t listed. If you are actively working on it (regardless of what you call it), you deserve a bonus point. Even thinking about defensibility–if you can apply some of the principles in the future–is going to go along way in protecting your future wealth (and pride).

Rate Your Site’s Defensibility
Well this wouldn’t be a hokey quiz if you didn’t rate yourself at the end! Count how many times you said ‘yes’ to the above questions.

  • 1-3 yes’s: You’re fucked. Probably better and easier to start a new Web site that has a more defensible idea behind it than to fix the old site. In the meantime the old site can sit as an (indefensible) passive revenue stream. (It may also be a good candidate to unload at Sitepoint.)
  • 4-6 yes’s: Your site is like most quality Web sites–you have some defensible traits, but still a Google penalty and Adsense booting (or equivalent) would likely cut your earnings by a very high percentage. Even most quality Web sites are fairly vulnerable.
  • 7-10 yes’s: Congratulations, you don’t just have a Web site, you have a real, saleable business.

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9 comments ↓

#1 chris winfield on 01.03.07 at 8:00 pm

Andy - excellent post (as was Brian’s). The whole time I am reading this - I was thinking “think of it as a business and not just a site” - and then I got to your last line…

#2 julien on 01.04.07 at 5:57 pm

Great post, Andy. Thanks for this advice. When I was contacting you, I was thinking about these very things. Looking forward to reading your blog (I got the link from Aaron).

#3 Solomon Rothman SEO on 01.05.07 at 11:30 am

Nice post! I believe many Search Engine Marketers would greatly benefit from working on defensibility tactics once their clients are ranking and turning a profit.

#4 Incrediblehelp on 01.05.07 at 7:20 pm

Great post. Shows any customer (customer of an SEO) that world is not and should not be, just about Google. Sure it may seem that way now to most not in the know, but thousands of people make great livings online regardless of their positions on Google.

#5 allscoop on 04.27.07 at 7:08 am

Very good post. It is very easy to get distracted or lose motivation along the way. Keep your eyes on the prize at the end. :)

#6 oldschool on 04.30.07 at 12:49 pm

Thanks Andy. It makes sense, and may answer some of the questions as to why people’s sites aren’t worth what they think they are.

My 0.02 is that using the word “f*ck*d” in an article intended for the industry dilutes your professionalism. Not a sermon, just a thought :-)

#7 admin on 04.30.07 at 1:47 pm

> My 0.02 is that using the word “f*ck*d” in an article
> intended for the industry dilutes your professionalism.

You’re right, it does!

Never said Tropical SEO was supposed to be professional, though :-)

#8 xooMan on 06.09.07 at 2:48 am

Have just printed out this article and sticked it to the wall next to me. Will take it down once my site becomes “real, saleable business”.

Thanks for the article.

#9 luk4biz on 03.12.08 at 12:39 am

A quiz that should be taken by all seo’s. Sometimes we are preoccupied with other things and forgot to take good care of the basics.