The Future Of Online Marketing
Once upon a time in the distant past, the Internet did not exist. In order to achieve business goals, a company had to have a lot of money to spend in the appropriate mediums (e.g. print, radio, television, direct mail). Also, it was incredibly difficult for newcomers to break into business prominence…without a large budget and excellent strategy, small local businesses tended to stay small and localized.
The Internet changed everything. It quickly became the great level playing field where a small business or individual could compete on equal footing with big business. With a top search engine ranking for a relevant term, the “little guy” could access markets he/she never could have accessed and way back then, David beat Goliath early and often online.
The early search engines were very susceptible to “gaming” and the first SEO’s figured out how to manipulate the search engine rankings for their own purposes and profit. Once big brands figured out how they were shut out of this new growing channel of commerce, they did two things: They attempted to adapt to the new medium. They also let it be known to the search engines that they weren’t happy with their “top positions” being usurped by the newcomers.
The search engines reacted by doing the following: They created more and more sophisticated algorithms that became much harder to manipulate. They also introduced “paid search” which allowed any business to buy a spot at the top of the search engine rankings for a fee.
Out of this new set of circumstances, SEO became a much more sophisticated science and the people who could influence the search engine algorithms for their own (or their client’s) profit became very prized and sought after as the online channel exploded in popularity. Paid search also became a necessary component of online marketing with a whole new set of rules and experts. Social Media then exploded, bringing with it its own set of rules and experts. All three channels began to converge and overlap each other. Specialization and micro-segmentation of online marketing became essential as well as the necessity of channel experts to work together to further the business needs.
Back to SEO, Google (pretty much the only game in town), diversified from “10 Blue Links” to becoming a series of different verticals with Web being the most prominent. Video, News, Images, Local and Shopping also had to be accounted for. In addition, Google personalized and localized their results, marginalizing the value of rankings (in favor of “traffic”) and making the field of SEO both very tactical and very technical, but much less susceptible to “inappropriate” manipulation. It became nearly impossible for a brand not to capture a branded natural search and so long as the brand participates in the paid channel, they would capture the lion’s share of those searches as well. Brands also had huge algorithmic advantages in capturing meaningful non-brand search traffic.
Success SEO requires a huge commitment of time and resources. Brands possess these assets. Individuals and small businesses usually don’t…and that’s why the playing field has now tipped heavily in the favor of brands. Today, a business has to transform themselves into a brand in order to have any chance of online success.
Currently (as in pre-Internet times), in order to achieve business goals, one needs a large budget to spend in the appropriate mediums (e.g. SEO, PPC, Social Media, Content, Display). It is incredibly difficult for newcomers to break into business prominence…without a large budget and excellent strategy, small local businesses will tend to stay small and localized. I do not expect this to change.