The end of Market Samurai? The art of risk assessment and how relying on Google can be a mistake

The end of Market Samurai?If you have been involved with Online Marketing for any amount of time then you will surely have heard of Market Samurai.

It is promoted by many marketers and bloggers as the ‘must have tool’. It always you to research competitors website information including ranking, backlinks and other basic data.  In reality you can do almost everything it does online for free already, perhaps the tool just made it easier to organize and store your research. You paid a one time fee and could use the software ‘forever’.

I often wondered why so many people promoted it so heavily. I guess it was a combination of facts that newbie marketers would not know much about SEO research so instead of using multiple sites to find all the information, Market Samurai offered it in one place (major convenience). Alongside the fact that Market Samurai had generous commissions for each sale and thus added another revenue source for many marketers.

I happened to be on a marketing cruise with the creators some years ago. Really nice guys, and from conversations with users of the product, it clearly helped a large number of people.

However last week, members of my mastermind group began asking question as to why the software was not working. Apparently it was not finding any results.

Market Samurai bases it data from search engines, which in essence means Google. Most marketers use Google for all ranking based SEO information as the search engine commands the lions share of traffic (I believe over 80% of all search engine traffic with all the other making less them 20% combined).

Then today, comes the news that they have to either drop their ‘one time price model’ or drop their results from Google. Google had made changes which rendered their software incompatible. They were kaputt and had no way of making it work without paying Google tons of money for daily data.

Strange as one of the guys on our mastermind had purchased the software on a ‘one time payment’ basis just last week, when the software was not working!

There are some very basic business lessons in this case, which I’m sure are going to become more apparent over the coming week.

In Google’s defense, Market Samurai were making a very comfortable living off their data, so they have every right to demand people pay for that data. What perhaps Market Samurai forgot to do is ‘risk assessment‘ – a topic I opted to study extensively in my MBA.

Risk assessment is a very valuable tool that many Online Businesses fail to even consider. It basically involves you considering worst case scenarios and risks in order to incorporate practices and guidelines to handle situations quickly should the risks materialize.

Here are some risks that I believe Market Samurai could have explored in greater details:

 

What are the dangers of relying on Google for our data? 

This is a risk that has clearly come true. Relying solely on any one source for your key business, means that your business almost ends when that source is shut down. If you website or business bases its income solely on Google traffic, then just imagine what would happen when either Google decides to change the way it works with you, or it decides to de-list you completely.

Your whole business will come to a stop and you will be left in tatters simply because you put the power of your business in their hands.

NEVER PUT ALL YOUR BUSINESS IN THE HANDS OF ONE COMPANY – DIVERSIFY YOUR RISKS 

Always diversify your risk. Never rely on just one source, try to add multiple sources. This helps protect your business and can even help you create competition between suppliers.

Take a look at your business now, and consider just how much you reply on one particular method of traffic or income.

 

If Google is a risk to our business, how can we help limit this risk if the worst is to happen?

Market Samurai team have put themselves in a very tricky position. After relying on simply one main source, they are now asking people to keep using their software with an alternative source of information (they want to use Bing, which is largely considered to  small to be relevant in SEO circles) or to pay for a monthly fee for maintaining their service.

Something which will prove very difficult because they failed to train their users to use the alternative sources or to pay a monthly fee.

If they had assessed that Google was such a big risk, then they really should have integrated Bing into their software long ago. This would have done two main things:

  1. It would have allowed their software to still run if Google shut them off
  2. More importantly, it would have trained their users beforehand that Bing could be a viable source of information too.

What they have done so far, is largely educate people on the benefits of Google for SEO. Switching users mindsets now will prove incredibly difficult.

Always assess risks and educate your users on possible alternatives you may use BEFORE a disaster strikes.  

Change in anything is often difficult to accept. Starting a new diet regime or exercise plan often proves very difficult until you really start seeing benefits. Trying to switch users over to a service they already see as inferior, will be a very difficult task. Not impossible but very difficult.

A little planning and integration in the past, could have avoided this complete nightmare scenario.

Look at the alternatives in your business and educate customers to use them. If you use only one supplier then add a few more just in case one goes Kaputt, in order to ensure your business can keep running with minimal disruption (you do not have the hassle of finding another supplier and training them as you have been doing it slowly for month or years before the disaster struck).

 

Final Thought 

I will write a more detailed post on the basics of risk assessment for Online businesses in future post. I hope today you take the lesson of the mighty Market Samurai and take a deep look at your business and the risks you are exposing yourself too.

If you have question before then on risks in your business, be sure to comment below and I’ll try my best to answer.

9 Comments

  • Reply January 29, 2012

    Dave

    Great article Dee, I’ve been a user of MS since it launched. I agree with your thoughts that users like me are now feeling hard done by that we will now have to switch to Bing data. Especially as we all try to optimise our sites for Google. Might be time to go back to manual searches and spreadsheets!

  • Reply January 30, 2012

    Dee

    Not quite spreadsheets as they are a lot of other resources out there already! If you have Firefox then install ‘rank checker’ it is free and checks your rank for hundred of keywords at once. I love it, and since I only run it once a week at most, it is ample.

    As for Market Samurai – I’m receiving a lot of private messages from people telling me the issue has been around for weeks before they admitted it. Somewhere along the line things have gone wrong and perhaps not handled as honestly as we are led to believe.

    My comments on their page got deleted yesterday which is interesting. I simply asked if the software isn’t working and they are making urgent changes, then why are they selling the product as originally advertised? Fair question I would believe, and something I know people close to me are annoyed about as they paid money for a product that MS knew wasn’t working right.

    This will definitely be an interesting story to watch.

  • Reply January 31, 2012

    Alesia

    Dee,

    Even though you are basically right about diversifying risks and ‘never putting all your eggs in one basket’, in the case of MS, what they did wrong was NOT choosing to rely on Google (IMHO), but choosing to collect Google’s data in a way that was risky from the very beginning.

    I think no sane SEO can consciously choose not to deal with Google nowadays. Say, you are an SEO consultant from France, where Google accounts for over 90% of all the searches. Most likely, your clients would want to optimize for Google. And, most likely, you’d need a tool to run rankings reports for hundreds of keywords investing minimum time.

    So, instead of trying to avoid dealing with Google (which is, like I said, not an option) every SEO software provider needs to create a solid architectural base for their tools BEFORE they launch them – the one that will stand even if search engines change their ways.

    [Your links were removed as no linking/self promotion in main comments allowed = backlink still intact]

  • Reply January 31, 2012

    Dee

    Alesia, I just check your site, and I have heard a lot of good things said about your products, especially the ability to produce SEO reports that can be branded for clients.

    Perhaps the main point of the article fits with what you are saying. They did not consider the risks of relying on Google and thus as you say, perhaps did not collect data in the right way.

    If you would like me to review you products personally, let me know.

  • Reply February 2, 2012

    Tim Thomas

    Hi there

    I came across this and thought it would be worth commenting.

    I’m sure you know a lot of MS customers have been experiencing issues with key word ranking checks.

    There are some other solid platforms out there; online tools would probably be best as you don’t have to worry about your proxy servers. Analytics SEO, Raven, SEOMoz and WebCEO are a few examples.

    [Advertising statement removed by admin - not allowed in comments]

    Regards

    Tim

  • Reply February 2, 2012

    Dee

    Hi Tim

    Sent you a message. Seems a lot of Market Samurai rivals have been very active with comments this past week! Look forward to testing your solution.

  • Reply February 24, 2012

    Laurence Samuels

    Being a user of MS this is disappointing news but things happen.

    The fact is that Google has a lock on the search engine business and they are well within their rights to do whatever they please (as much as it pains me to say that).

  • Reply February 26, 2012

    Dee

    Laurence keep an eye out for my new 6 month long review of alternatives to Market Samurai. It’s going to be interesting!

  • Reply April 3, 2012

    Travis

    liked the post dee. I was a market samurai user but the technical issues have been too much for me.

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