Imagine taking a trip to the mall. You enter it and start shopping. The first store you approach is a computer store. The one next door is also a computer store. You find this unusual. You walk around. The entire mall is filled with 100’s of stores, all of them computer stores, and all of them selling identical products with identical store fronts. You start thinking about this. How can they compete against each other? How do they survive?
In the search engine optimization field we come across this type of situation all the time except for us it concerns web sites as opposed to actual physical stores. Today people still have the expectation that they can have an idea, create a web site and the world will beat a path to their door. They put up a site selling the same products or services as hundreds of others and wait to get rich. Any sane person can see that this could not possibly work. But we see it again and again. The internet is cluttered with this type of business model.
It’s obvious that these people have unrealistic expectations of what the Internet can now offer. They are living in the past. Six years ago it was relatively easy to get highly ranked as there were fewer sites which meant less competition. Relatively few of these sites were optimized making it easy for an optimized site to get high placement in the search engine results.
Since that time the number of web sites has increased dramatically and there has been a steady growth in the need for acquiring high search engine placement. High rankings are still possible but it is a lot trickier and requires skilled optimization expertise to get ranked. This has led to an increase in unethical companies who will use any short term “spamming" method to get their clients ranked. The result is that many of these companies and their clients are getting banned from search engines. These spamming companies are partially to blame for the fact that it is getting harder and harder to get ranked in the Search Engines. In an effort to get rid of their spam techniques search engines have to keep finding new ways to block them. An unfortunate consequence of the fact that the search engines are required to protect the integrity of their results is that many hard working legitimate web site owners get hit with the changes and lose their rankings in the process. Last November Google did the now infamous “Florida update" designed to clean up spam and in the process literally put many online services out of business. Unintentional on Google’s part but disastrous for many ethical web sites owners especially since it happened in November just before peak holiday season for online store owners.
The other major factor involved in getting high rankings is the rapid growth in the number of indexed pages making the web so much bigger and making the search engines job of returning relevant results so much harder. The new Microsoft search engine preview is showing millions of pages competing for search and just recently Google has doubled the size of its index from 4 to 8 billion pages. Those that stay flexible and continue to evolve will make it. The rest will go out of business.
Most new traditional businesses are considered start-ups for the first three years of existence. The lure of high yield and fast results for online businesses has resulted in many want to be entrepreneurs. Up until the present time many entrepreneurs have viewed an online business as a way around the hard work and financial investment of traditional bricks and mortar businesses. This does not work anymore. Now a sustained effort is required both physically and financially to get an online business to succeed. This is true for even the best new business idea. For an online business to succeed in the current climate a much more “bricks and mortar" approach needs to be adapted. A new online business will need a well thought out business plan, market research, a clear understanding of their demographics and funding.
So what about our companies that are involved in search engine placement? Search engine optimization companies will have to adapt in order to survive. Search engine optimization is vital for businesses that are serious about an online presence. However, these businesses should be made aware that it is going to cost money and be a long term process. Online business and traditional business are getting more and more alike!
The Internet is finally moving from a tactical marketing sideline to the core of large-scale, major marketing strategies. Natural SEO and paid SEM will become integrated together into an Internet or online marketing strategy. This field will incorporate business, marketing and technical strategy.
Larger companies in traditional businesses now bring in an increasingly greater percentage of their revenues online, and they are transforming their businesses in the process. Online companies that are serious about making it will have to dedicate time and resources to the cause. In the past mid-sized and large corporations had advertising budgets to give to their advertising agency for their services. The smartest will ensure that there is a budget set aside for Internet development within these organizations which will be given to dedicated Internet specialists to handle their search engine placement for specific brands and markets.
So the glory days of the Internet are over. However, the effort and financial resources needed to get search engine placement are still worth it. It is a fraction of the cost of traditional media marketing methods such as advertising, TV, radio, print, etc. It is also the way to ensure that your drive for competitive advantage will continue both in the short term and into the future.
James Peggie is the Director of Marketing for Elixir Systems – a search engine marketing agency located in Scottsdale, Arizona. Their website is located at http://www.elixirsystems.com and their blog is http://searchblog.elixirsystems.com