This is Part 1 of a two-part series. The recent events regarding Google's Panda and Penguin updates should give anyone who uses the Web to generate business a case of heartburn. If you don't know what I’m talking about, you can, well, Google search “Penguin” or “Panda” and how these algorithm updates relate to your website.

It turns out, that for those of you experiencing great organic traffic with Google Places or the new blended search results, trouble is only an algorithmic enhancement away.

You see, it won't be long before the search engine optimization guys figure out a way to manipulate the data; then Google will have no choice but to reset the algorithm and send everyone for the exits and back to the drawing board.

The Key: Your Email List 
To avoid this online disruption, your business really needs to be built around your email list. I have talked about many Google doomsday scenarios over the years, but Google is really serious these days about getting the best result for their user — whatever the cost. So having an email list of just a few hundred satisfied prospects or customers can be enough to weather a Google search-results storm.

Reasons for Concern
Here's why you need to worry: Say you’re cruising along pulling five, 10, 50, or 100 leads per month from your website, then one day … nothing. Two days … nothing. Two months … nothing, and all of a sudden your once-full calendar is looking pretty empty. So you try to rustle up some business advertising in the paper, or you get some free or paid ads online.

But all the while you are sitting on a goldmine of past customers — you just don’t know how to unlock their value.

Help Is at Hand
But I don’t just scold, I teach — or I at least freshen up what you might already know. If you don’t know how to get at the dollars locked in that email list of yours, pay attention because in Part 2 of this column, I’ll give you some proven ideas on how to put your customer list to good use, and — if you haven’t done so already — how to start building a customer list. So stay tuned!

Read Part 2.