You've probably seen commercials on TV about starting up your own websites where you can sell products, a service or just offer general advice on a chosen subject.
If you've got the time, knowledge and money in place, then you would be an idiot not to give it a go on the World Wide Web, right?
Well, no, because the success of your website won't necessarily be in your hands.
If you set up your own business on the high street, then naturally you rely on customers to walk into your shop and buy products. In time, and with a bit of local advertising there's no reason that shop can't be a success.
Having a website will in theory give you access to millions of web searchers, but getting traffic to your site will depend on the major search engines ranking your site, in particular Google, who are by far the most dominant.
Those setting up a online website for the first time probably think as long as they build a quality site and follow Google's guidelines, then there is absolutely no reason why their website won't be a roaring success.
You'd be wrong.
Last year (2016) I made a post about how ridiculously difficult it was for me to start my own online business back in 2006 when I had the opportunity to start selling shoes with a company based in my home town. Despite investing thousands of hours, Google wasn't the slightest bit interested in ranking my website, even though it was selling a particular brand of shoes that was selling like hot cakes on my eBay store.
It probably took me approximately one year until I figured out what it took to rank a website in Google, by essentially building backlinks from other websites back to mine. Though Google is approaching its twentieth birthday, it still uses the same unfair system when ranking websites, where in most cases, it relies on the number of links, rather than the relevance or quality of the contents.
Building links before 2010 was relatively easy and generally safe, however, Google has really tightened its belt since then.
In the past, links mostly came from blog comments, directories and social bookmarking sites. Now the vast majority of blog comments are "no follow" and directory and social bookmarking sites are viewed as spam by Google. In layman's terms, the door has been firmly slammed shut on link building.
Google camping down on Webmasters who artificially inflated their website ranking isn't in itself a bad thing, as it has reduce spam and scam websites, but it hasn't benefited genuine small independent Webmasters who work hard, creating a quality site, yet still get nowhere with Google.
The Internet really should be thriving with independent Webmasters either selling products or offering general advice, but it's the complete opposite. Every time you do a Google search, it's the same predictable/borderline useless results from established sites with thousands of links pointing to them.
Google doesn't seem the slightest bit interested in trying to help small independent Webmasters or businesses, and has the most ridiculous, outdated, unfair system when it comes to ranking a website. And even if you're one of the lucky ones, and you get a decent level of organic traffic from Google, the income you receive from your website literally hangs by a thread, because Google can and at any time hit you with a penalty, or even de-index your website, which will result in a slow, if not instant death.
Running a website really isn't straightforward, especially when there is so much conflicting and outdated information out there. Even the software program you've built your website on can suffer technical problems, which in turn can have a negative effect on your ranking.
If you read the Google forums, particularly the crawling, indexing & ranking section, you'll come across a lot of bemused Webmasters who either can't rank their website, or worse, have been penalised or de-indexed. In all honesty, 65% of these cases are usually from spammers who think their poorly made website should be at the top of Google search, but you also have genuine Webmasters who have done nothing wrong, yet get treated like complete shite by Google.
Even Google Search Console (formerly Webmasters tools) is practically useless. Sure, it gives you some options like adding a site map, whether your site has any HTML errors or if it's been infected with malicious code, but it won't give you any help when it comes to actually ranking your website. And their "generic" message that they send when they detect a "violation", are always vague and rarely help Webmasters pinpoint the problem.
Sure, Google are a company who are free to do what they like with their search engine, but if local councils or business treated people who rented the premises the same way it would be viewed as completely unacceptable, if not illegal.
I know Google must remain vigilant and fight spam, but they need to strike a balance, not just rank established websites and think everybody else must invest in their ad platform, Google AdWords if they want appear in the search results.
Being self-employed is really rewarding, and if Google did have a fair system, then the number of people running a successful online website around the world would be in the millions, lowering unemployment and easing the pressure on welfare systems.
Some people will say you should never rely on Google for your Internet traffic, but unless you've got deep pockets to spend on ads or go on a mad social media campaign, your options are very limited.
As I've already said at the beginning of this article, UK workers do have a lot of rights and can't be mistreated by rogue employers, but there's nothing to protect honest, genuine Webmasters from Google, who can in a split second, destroy any online business, and of course the income that comes with it.
Google themselves are absolutely no different from any other online business, where they essentially rely on Windows PC users for the majority of their traffic.
Though Google have attempted to become more self-reliant with their own operating system and browser, it's still Windows PC users (regardless of what browser they use) that provide them with hundreds of millions of hits per day.
Google existence and multibillion-dollar revenue would hang by a thread if Microsoft started blocking or restricting the use of their search engine through their operating system.
Lucky for Google, I'm pretty sure that by law Microsoft cannot impose such ridiculous restrictions, but Google are free to treat Webmasters and their businesses how they please.
By no means do I believe that we should be pointing a gun at Google's head and saying you must do this and that, but having a fair ranking system in place, and being open and honest with genuine Webmasters is a bare essential. For example, if a major algorithm update is on the way, why not inform Webmasters of the changes 2 weeks before it goes live, so they can correct any issues with their site/s and avoid a devastating penalty.
I really do think that governments are shooting themselves in the foot by essentially letting Google run wild, but considering the UK (and other governments) have essentially let them get away with tax avoidance, I'm not expecting the Californian-based company to be regulated any time soon.