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Remember that internet marketing is still in its infancy

My first thought as brainstormed ideas for this week’s post was to write a counter-point to the guest post that Branko wrote over at Aaron’s blog. After all, I make no secret of the fact that I’m refusing to jump on the “Google is evil/a monopoly/ the Death Star in disguise” bandwagon. Google has certainly made their share of unethical or simply unpalatable transgressions of the years, but blaming them for one small business’ failure to innovate and compete in an increasingly competitive online marketplace is misguided in my opinion.

At the same time Branko and Aaron are two of my favorite online marketing people (I even went as far as to show off my tattoos to Branko in an alcohol-induced fit of bromance once) so while I disagree with them on this particular topic, I’ve decided that there’s no reason to delve any deeper at this point in time. People disagree on stuff like this, but life goes on either way.

Besides, this entire topic reminds me of one of my favorite realizations about this digital marketing thing of ours; that it’s truly in its infancy.

What do I mean? Perhaps a couple of crude analogies might help.

  • Internet marketing is about as old now (e.g. roughly 20 years) as the automobile industry was when the Model T became popular.
  • Internet marketing is about half as old now as the commercial air flight industry was when this happened

Basically, what I’m asserting is that rapidly-changing landscaping of the industry that we know and hate love (no seriously, I love this field) is going to continue to rapidly change, rendering the current landscape virtually unrecognizable in the coming years and decades.

For example, consider what will happen when the television industry finally succumbs and reluctantly allows TV to shift from a “dumb” offline media format to a “smart” online media format that allows for robust advertising and marketing analytics and targeting. Or consider what will happen when we finally bridge the current technological chasm that prevents us from properly tracking and attributing consumer behavior and conversion not just across marketing channels but across platforms (e.g. mobile vs desktop vs TV). Heck, imagine what will happen when marketing and advertising can read thoughts psuedo-telepathically?

Ok, maybe that last one is a bit much, but please forgive me. I have a penchant for futuristic daydreaming and it’s been a long day.

The point is that it pays to have a little bit of perspective in terms of where we are as an industry and where we’re likely going. As the events depicted in the aforementioned Branko guest post highlight, those that fail to plan for the future are setting themselves up for a big fall in this brave new digital world of ours.

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  • http://twitter.com/content_muse Anthony Pensabene

    Coincidentally, I saw Slawski tweet this about half an hour ago:

    “If you’ve been practicing textbook SEO, it’s time to burn the textbook.”

    Google is kind of like the adult we ‘sort of’ look up to as teens. When you become an adult yourself, you realize, “Pff, these people don’t have ‘things’ figured out either!”

    Google is just a planet within the Web galaxy, which keeps expanding and bringing new technologies/opportunities.

    Ongoing strategy is an absolute. Don’t get too comfortable running the ‘same plays.’ In a few months, the playing field will shift again, making the play obsolete, obvious to competitors, ineffective regarding consumers, or not as ‘optimal’ as before.

    We’re playing chess while the board continuously shifts on us. It would be a turnoff if it wasn’t so fun to play.

    • hugoguzman

      That’s a great quote! Thanks for sharing it Anthony. Good to know that Slawski is also a fan of astronomy! It’s a great source of marketing (and life) metaphor.

  • Joseph Brown

    Good stuff here, Hugo! Indeed, everything changes and shifts easily (if not instantly) in this industry. It’s just a matter of how we adapt these changes, how we cope to keep the phase, and ultimately how we respond that will determine our long term survival and success in this field.

    • hugoguzman

      Indeed Joseph! Fact of the matter is that there are much larger injustices being perpetrated on Earth’s citizens than the Penguin update. So instead of spending a minute complaining or conjecturing about these twists and turns I just try to improve my ability to predict when and how they will manifest in the future so that I’m prepared to survive and thrive regardless of that inevitable change to the marketing landscape.

      • http://twitter.com/mmhemani Moosa Hemani

        Now this is what I called a solution!

        I see lot of tweets about Panda and then Penguin… people are complaining about how Google is evil… but the REAL point should be the solution of the problem!

        … and unfortunately the solution is that we have to live in the same world where Google will come up with these kind of changes from time to time… the idea is to stop complaining and start doing things to get over the problem. Experiment and make new ways to get success…

        • hugoguzman

          Glad you dig my point of view, Moosa! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • http://twitter.com/miguelsalcido Miguel Salcido

    So I had not heard of this and went and read Branko’s post and yours. I’ll skip over the obvious and throw out some hypotheticals here.

    So this business was probably paying less than $800/mo for SEO, more likely it was less than $500. Let’s say that this was the absolute max they could afford, for many reasons. How can a SMB put a good SEO campaign together for this amount? Well I’m sure you, me, and many other good SEOs could come up with answers. But the REAL issue here is that good, experienced, SEOs are very hard to come by. This is why we all make well over six figures a year. That leaves SMBs with only one option, to go with a cut rate shop or consultant, for the most part. Because lord knows that most business owners don’t have time to research and become SEO literate, following all of SEOmoz’s content and guides and what not.

    I guess its just the reality though. SMBs will continue to suffer. Good SEOs will continue to be a rarity and the ones that do exist are way out of most people’s price ranges. And crappy SEOs will continue to have a market for their services because what good SEO wants to manage 20 $1000/mo small business clients? We all know SMB clients with low budgets are time vampires.

    • hugoguzman

      That’s an extremely interesting perspective, Miguel. Thanks for sharing it. I can’t say that I disagree, and I would add that even if a small company can find a good SEO provider that’s often still not enough because modern SEO in contingent on things like high-quality social content, PR outreach (digital and traditional) analytics, and conversion optimization. And none of those things are cheap either.

      • webprotech

        I totally agree to the statement that “SMB clients with low budgets are time vampires” and you have a very valid point.

        But, SEO pricing varies from country to country and moreover, it also depends on the SEO awareness levels in that country. Just recently @mattcutts had tweeted that the SEO awareness level in US is yet just 20% so in countries where it is much less the SEOs face a lot of problem in finalizing projects and many times have to settle for low pricing.

        But again it may not be necessary that the services may be inferior as companies charging high too may resort to black hat and other quick methods. It is more a matter of attitude and ethics about your work.

        I have written my views regarding Branko’s post in detail in my blog post on :

        http://blog.webpro.in/2012/07/the-website-owner-and-seo-company.html

        • hugoguzman

          Thanks for chiming in, webprotech. I can vouch for the fact that high-priced SEO providers can also be selling snake-oil.

  • Smallbiztrends

    Hi Hugo, I partly agree with Miguel’s comments: what is a small business to do?

    But that’s exactly why Google needs to have more channels to appeal to, and not a “we don’t have time to deal with the world” approach or a “guilty until proven innocent” approach. Or telling people to go a Forums staffed by volunteers, who often are downright abusive to small biz people and newbies.

    I asked a question several years ago in a Google help Forum and found it to be a memorably unpleasant experience, being chastised by perfect strangers whose own sites were — trust me — nothing to brag about. Never, ever again.

    A week ago a Google employee had a thread on his Google+ page and some small biz guy pops in and tells how he’s getting screwed. Everybody and his uncle jumps on the bandwagon telling the biz owner how bad his site is and how he needs a new ecommerce catalog. Granted, most were genuinely trying to be helpful to him. They weren’t trying to be nasty. Yet, the guy had one foot on a banana peel and one foot in bankruptcy court. The advice, to do a complete overhaul of his ecommerce program and website, may have been correct, but it was tremendously unhelpful. He doesn’t have the money and time to do that and still manage to serve customers and pay suppliers and employees. Oh, and keep his marriage together.

    Having spent many years at C-level in the corporate world before starting my own business, I never truly realized the economics of things until I ran my own business. I patted myself on the back because I worked on huge hundred million dollar deals, where $100K was a rounding error — not 5 times a typical SMB annual budget for SEO. It was only when I started my own businesses and became responsible for bringing in every dime that I truly understood the value of money. Luckily I cashed out with deferred comp and stock options, so I could weather the bad times when my business was young. Lots of small businesses have NO cushion. Three to 6 bad months, and stick a fork in them, they’re done.

    I’d just ask everyone: try to walk in the shoes of a small business. It’s easy to say you should have done this and should not have done that — hard to do when you’re one person juggling a gazillion balls at once.

    • hugoguzman

      Thank you for sharing all of these heartfelt details, Anita! I truly appreciate it. Totally can empathize with those small business owners that don’t have the margin for error enjoyed by big business entities.