Let me put it to you bluntly, in case you didn’t already know…
The days of the destination site are over.
The days of thinking about indiscriminately scaling traffic, and then working to “monetize” are over. (were a long time ago)
And the days of finding a model “after the fact” are over too.
And for you and I that’s all a good thing… if we’re able to adapt.
Will you adapt?
There’s been a shift over the last year or more driven by fundamentals of the internet environment, the sheer mass of content out there, the collective evolution of competition in niches, and the realities of the economics of marketing and advertising online.
It used to be that online companies could find traffic sources, buy it, and hope that it converted.
For every company that didn’t have a clear strategy on Where traffic would come from, What the traffic cost, and How Much they’d make back over X amount of days… there was still a funny way of hanging in there for a while and fumbling their way through to enough customers and revenue (unprofitable) that an exit or additional financing could materialize.
But it certainly wasn’t sustainable. Just hustling and hype. Short term faux-sustainability.
The real numbers of these traffic and destination businesses told a grim story that the founders tried to reframe with misleading charts and press releases. They didn’t want you to see and understand the numbers, because the fundamentals were flawed.
This was what was going on during The Age Of Traffic.
That age is over.
Next came a wave of smarter businesses marketers that understood the value of targeted Quality Traffic over traffic for traffics sake.
These people knew how to spot and identify market niches online, they knew how to read the tea leaves of keyword research, and they knew how to create compelling content or products to meet the desires or needs of real individuals that made up a niche of targeted traffic.
Hundreds and thousands of businesses have prospered and jumped to the ranks of a 2, 3, 20 or 30 million dollar a year businesses in this way, and they did it through a relatively simple formula-
- Create a service or product of real value that solves a real and existing need
- Find your real target market through testing
- Invest the time and effort it takes to create real value in content and products for this real target market
- Find a way to convert your real target market in some way (subscribe, buy, use)
- Follow up, often, and don’t be afraid to market and ask people to come back, try and buy
This formula was some of the focus of The Age of Conversion.
That age is largely over too, but the fundamentals of the Conversion formula are still as important now as they were then.
By the way, I talked about some of those old conversion fundamentals for internet marketing as they relate to the very first impression people have of you and your site/service on this quick ditty about Landing Pages. (*Hint- note the more “social” elements I’m testing and thinking about)
So, what’s happening now? Where are we going?
I see that we’re moving into a time I think of as The Age of Attention.
For most companies starting today online, the Conversion Age is over because of the rising cost of marketing and advertising online, and the added challenges of standing out in the crowd of existing products and businesses in most markets and niches makes competing very hard.
Building a large email list isn’t as straightforward as it used to be.
Driving traffic and getting it to convert at or above the minimum you need it to isn’t as easy as it used to be.
And prices are still generally rising in online ads, even with the downturn in the economy. (although Google Adwords hasn’t grown the same 5-8% this year in average CPC that it has steadily risen other years, from what I can tell across lots of different areas)
We’re now moving into a different time where existing companies who already have significant brands and audiences have a real advantage over companies that don’t and are starting out.
The barrier to entry for real online success has grown significantly over the last 5 years- both because of the Price of trying to compete, and because of the challenge in trying to grow your audience and the amount of Attention you can get.
Attention here meaning Qualified Traffic or Views of your message that were either referred, posted or bought.
Here’s a quick example of a barrier to entry for new companies, and the challenges in gaining Attention…
Google’s algorithm looks to favor bigger existing brands in a variety of search categories and keywords, where they didn’t before. The simple existence of Site Age in obtaining ranking in search results shows this… although age and audience awareness/attention/links can often go hand in hand.
Sites that alread have more Attention will be getting more Attention. And Attention seems to lead to more Attention.
Here’s an interesting article related to the value of links that older sites and businesses build up online. I found this quote particularly insightful:
“[There is...] the law of “preferential attachment” as it is also known, wherein new links on the web are more likely to go to sites that already have many links, proves that the scheme is inherently biased against new and unknown pages.”
Now, considering this, and consider the fact that even some of the more well-funded, experienced, web savvy people who used to be of the Conversion crowd are now changing or augmenting their methods of communicating, promoting, and growing their businesses.
Traffic and Conversion aren’t the game anymore. Everyone, even the Internet Marketing crowd, now wants a Brand, a Community, and an SEO strategy.
I found this article about the Two Tribes by Sonia Simone on Copyblogger a great insight into those still Traffic Age-minded, and those still Conversion Age-minded.
Here are some things I’m seeing as important and true in the new Age of Attention:
- Brands used to be a bad word to Internet Marketers. Now they’re essential.
- Great content alone, now matter how great, won’t win you enough Natural Search traffic to make it
- People online are starting to want and trust “in network” information, not interruptive ads and marketing
- Google is changing, can make or break you in a day, and can’t be depended on
- There are starting to be some cool ways to build attention directly in social media. Especially Twitter
What changes are you seeing?
What’s stopped working that used to work for you and your business?
How has social media, and thinking about Brand and Attention become more important to you, and changed your approach?