Taking the Red Ink Pill

circle-688917_960_720Internet marketers have infested the internet for so long that they’re part of the ecosystem. They’re like your brother who keeps trying to cadge rent money and sell you loosies. You don’t exactly like him, but the idea of him gone…

We’re now entering a world where all that shit is just no longer viable. Aaron Wall says it here. The internet is changing, consolidating, and getting harder and harder for little guys. Once, you could register a new domain, spend zero money, and actually rank on Google for stuff. These days, you can sink five figures into a website and attract a number of organic searches closely bounded around “zero”. Search Engine Optimisation was always a bit mysterious. Nobody knew the algorithm by which Google ranked Site A above Site B – but at least we had some decent guesses. Now? It’s fucking impossible.

The three benefits of the internet (from a marketer’s perspective) were: 1) speed, 2) little overhead, 3) potentially viral transmission of messages. All those things come with strings attached. The “speed” aspect means that conditions change too rapidly to be predicted. Having long term plans is impossible, and any success is transient and can vanish overnight. A tailwind that can take you around the world can also sink your ship.

Remember EZineArticles and eHow? It’s been a while since you’ve heard of those sites, hasn’t it? Back when they were ranking on Google, online marketers would write hundreds of spammy articles for those sites, and use the traffic to drive subscribers to their personal lists. Then Google rolled out Panda in 2011, summarily delisted the article farms, and countless online marketers had their income streams obliterated overnight. I still remember the long night of sorrows on the Warrior Forums. One guy actually ended up destitute and selling his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure collection to survive. No kidding.

2) The internet has less overhead, but that means nobody has much of a motive to make things favourable for you or your company. Paying customers get respect. Tire-kickers get shown the door. Anyone who’s ever lost a social media account understands this. Hell, back in the day you could click a copyright claim button on a Youtube video, the video would get taken down with no questions asked, and it would be up to the VIDEO MAKER to prove their innocence! Maybe it’s still that way, for all I know. Unless you’re the guy writing the checks, you’re a shnook.

Is virality on the internet still a thing? This is a much misunderstood term. Virality implies a classic “R > 1” model where content is passed ad-hoc from user to user, gaining strength as it spreads. This does NOT describe the majority of “viral content” on the internet. The main way content gets spread is by famous people sharing it with their followers (there was a study on this, I think). Your best case scenario isn’t “my content will spread like an unstoppable virus!” Think “Ricky Gervais will share my stuff with his 12 million twitter followers!” Yeah, it’s not virality so much as finding someone with a megaphone to shout about your stuff…just like the traditional media the internet was supposed to replace. New boss! Same as the old boss!

Internet marketing itself is a hat with no rabbit. They promote themselves as freewheeling entrepeneurs, brave mavericks thumbing their nose at the nine to five workaday world. In reality, they’re more like hackers. They lucked their way into a glitch in the Matrix, and have earned a pitiful, transient source of income that might vanish at any time…and that time is now. SEO was a glitch. Glitches get fixed. And if there are a few cockroaches hiding inside them, too bad.

Obviously, IMers have to look like paragons of wealth and success to their followers (“fake it till you make it!”), so I doubt you’ll see many of them admit that their cash flow has disappeared. And it’s safe to say that 90% of “make money on the internet” guides should be retitled “stuff that kinda worked back in 2007”.

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