On the night of August 8th/9th, fire broke out at one of Google's key data centers in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The fire was later contained, but Google’s core offering — Google Search — was impacted the most and seems like it's yet to recover.
The impact was first noticed by people who have scrapers running 24 x 7. They were alarmed to see exception notifications from all instances but then saw the issues resolve on their own as well.
Next it was spotted by people keeping close eye on traffic and page rankings of their own websites.
Instead of the search results they were looking for, people were showed a 500 server error.
The issues included:
- Not able to access Google Search
- Old pages not visible in Google Search
- New pages not being indexed by Google Search
- Outdated Google Search results were served
- Fluctuations in page rankings
What does it mean for your SaaS business?
If you run a SaaS business, then most of your leads must be coming through organic search or direct traffic. Organic search contributes to 26% of the traffic for most SaaS businesses. If that channel were to no longer exist, it would mean that 26% of your customers & MRR would decrease.
This thought can panic even the most resilient of founders. But thankfully, in this case, the channel is still there & it's down for only some time. You might notice a drop in traffic and hence a drop in leads. Your sales team may not have leads to talk to. Your email list growth might stop as your landing pages might be missing from the search results. All of this might impact your MRR a bit.
Sounds scary, but there's no need to call a board meeting, stop creating content or turn the ship around in search for alternatives. It's all temporary (very hopefully)!
Data tracking tools are not able to accurately show the impact on your webpages. In fact, they show the opposite — unusual spikes and off-the-charts numbers. So don't rely on data at this moment even if you make only data-centric decisions.
John Muller from Google assured everyone through his tweet that things should come back to normal as soon.
Our first suggestion is to stay patient and not make any temporary changes (or any change) to get back to normal. Wait for Google to do its job and if you still see issues, connect with them on your detailed observations.
Also, if you were not ranking anywhere in top results, or your pages were not getting indexed earlier, don't try to blame those on Google. If your content and website needs work, it might have nothing to do with the Google Search outage. Keep doubling down on your content marketing efforts without getting distracted.
This time we knew the cause of the outage and unexpected issues but that's not going to be the case every time. We need to know about any unexpected issues with the pages being shown in search results as quickly as possible.
So figure out a way to receive automated alerting that doesn't have too many false positives (i.e. notification about things that are actually not issues) so you can focus on the real issues when they arise.
If you know of such a system or already use one, do share it with us or on any channels where you actively post.
While you wait for the issue to resolve and get your old content back on track, focus on coming up with new content ideas and creating new content. Trying to improve the ranking at this point would be futile.
If your strategy involves no plans for new content, then you can spend time talking to your existing customers. You can also go through customer success stories to find out more about people for whom you create the product.
Marketing that relies on day-by-day results is fickle. Today it's a system outage that pushed ranking down, tomorrow it can be a competitor that's doing a better job of connecting with their audience. So focus on the long-term goal of serving quality content to your audience over and over so they trust your brand and buy from you.
Moreover, creating content, publishing on Google and getting traffic is just one part of the story. Any disruption in that should not disconnect you with your existing visitors, leads or customers. Think about it — do you have a system in place to capture your traffic and nurture your leads?
If you've been pondering over anything related to how to get better at marketing your SaaS business, contact Inturact here. Inturact is a SaaS marketing agency that can help you scale your business & drive growth.