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Monday, February 14, 2011

Noise: The state of internet marketing

How's internet marketing doing these days?

I give it a B-. An 80%. The other 20% got lost in the noise.

Internet marketing is growing up!

Marketers with multi-million dollar budgets no longer look at me like a cockroach when I walk into their boardrooms. My relatives no longer think I sell porn for a living. A lot of marketers actually think before they throw wads of money at the web.

And, we've become kind of - dare I say it? - respectable. There are some big, competent agencies out there. Blueglass is thumping around, snapping up talent, scaring the living crap out of boutiques like mine (and yes, that's a good thing). Big brands are carving out chunks of their marketing budgets for us. It's a far more mature market than it was ten years ago.

Alas, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. There are still ripoffs aplenty: The scammers still outnumber the real marketers. Agencies and 'professionals' make ridiculous claims and spread total misinformation.


The worst part is, I think half of them don't know any better. The competence level in our industry is embarrassing.

By the way, I'm not suggesting that traditional marketing was much better. But internet marketing is younger. We can't afford a high yokel factor yet - it tarnishes the whole industry. And that hurts us.

Internet marketing - at least agency- and consultant-driven internet marketing - is under pressure from outside, too.

Many clients are trying to reduce costs by moving internet marketing in-house. They figure replacing a whole team with a single person has to pay off, cause it's, you know, cheaper.

At the same time, the affiliate game is getting harder. A single company - Google - controls more and more of the audience. And they've cracked down on the kind of arbitrage that makes affiliate marketing so attractive. I don't think that's permanent, and the good affiliates still do just fine. But the slowdown is driving a lot of lousy affiliates to sell their 'methods' to unsuspecting clients. That's another huge temptation for business owners looking for easy solutions. Why spend $10,000 on a consultant if you can buy Jimmy John Billy Bob's $200 Earn Money While You Sleep Plan?

Yep. More noise.

We can't keep growing and maturing an industry when the noise level drowns out the music. We have to squelch the noise. A few ideas:

Stop debating the clueless. Arguing with them just makes them look smarter. Don't let someone draw you into an argument about some theoretical 'method' for top rankings.Beat up the bullies. On the other hand, when the scammers use seedy promises to rip off clients, call them on it. Don't 'talk it over'. Don't 'teach the controversy'. Sock them in the mouth.Debate the smart folks. Clarify each other's points, like Jill Whelan did with me last week. That stuff's great, and it's invaluable. It raises the quality of information, and it keeps us sharp for the bullies.Get holistic. If you're an SEO, learn some conversion rate optimization. That way, you can help a client out when the traffic goes up, but sales don't. If you're a developer, learn a little SEO. It won't kill you.Educate. Don't just do stuff. Explain to clients why you're doing it. Even better, coach a fellow marketer who's looking to learn. You are not training a competitor. You are training a colleague.Show 'em the results. Never send a report to a client without showing what's worked, in terms that matter to them. Don't talk rankings, impressions and visitors. Talk leads, pipeline and sales.

There are lots of other ways, I'll bet, to grow and improve internet marketing as an industry. What are your ideas?

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