How Internet Marketing Changed Since 2002 – and How It Stays the Same

by Val Danylchuk from Web Tracking Guide

When starting my new online project, Web Tracking Guide, I decided to review everything I knew about Internet marketing and try to find and adopt the new trends in the field with an open mind. It turns out not so easy, when you know a few proven techniques and are used to rely on them. But to my great excitement, after breaking the initial psychological barrier, I revealed that there are several really effective new promotion techniques, and at the same time, they are all based on the tried and proven principles.

So I decided to write this article and summarize what changed since 2002, when I started my first successful online business, and what principles still hold true.

Blogs replaced email newsletters

First thing I noticed, the ezines and newsletters, which were the backbone of most successful online marketing ventures, have been pretty much replaced by blogs. Yes, there are still a lot of great newsletters running, and it is still a viable technique, but the trend is clear by now. Most new popular publications are delivered in blog format.

Everywhere you go online, there are lots of opportunities to connect your blog or Twitter feed, and it is silly to ignore this. Email subscription is usually offered as a back up option for people who are not comfortable with news reader software yet.

RSS solved the spam problem for subscribers. For publishers, it removed the “guilty until proven innocent” attitude from hosting providers and personal email services, and threw away the double opt-in hurdles. It also added endless new opportunities for easy syndication, automation and integration. You can now publish to your website, RSS feed, email list, Twitter, Facebook, Digg and dozens of other places with a single click of a button.

Yet the essence remains the same, and the old saying, “the gold is in the list,” still holds true, only now it is your Twitter followers list, or a virtual list of your RSS subscribers. The bigger your subscriber base, the better income opportunities you have, the higher your presence on social services, and the more authority your blog has in the eyes of the community and advertisers.

Social networking is everywhere

In 2002, you could call it a fad. In 2006, you could say it was “not your thing”. Today, you simply cannot ignore it. Facebook is #1 most popular site in Alexa rating, and according to Nielsen, US consumers spend about 25% of their online time on social networking sites.

I have already mentioned Twitter and Facebook followers, which are now much easier to attract than email subscribers. Social bookmarking is another great opportunity for extending your online presence. At the very least, if you are not familiar with social media, make your blog friendly to Facebook, Twitter, and most popular bookmarking sites. Today’s blog widgets make that easy.

Rich media has gotten more popular

Text-only articles are now perceived as lacking appeal. Graphics are taken for granted, podcasts are old news, and video is on the rise. YouTube is the #3 most popular website, according to Alexa. People like watching videos, Google gives them great rankings, and there are excellent social sharing features that your viewers use actively.

I won’t be surprised if in another 8 years YouTube channels or something similar replaces today’s blogs as the most popular online marketing medium. They may take the lead in total subscriber base even sooner.

SEO also became more social

Link exchange, one of the main traffic building techniques since pre-Google nineties, is now considered a form of artificial PageRank manipulation and search engine spam. After Google’s raid on automated link exchange farms in 2008, it is nearly impossible to convince anyone to exchange links. Even though it is a perfectly ethical and effective technique, as long as you link to relevant sites only.

PageRank greed killed the natural linking; “nofollow” attribute partially solved that but restored plenty of junk links and greatly reduced the benefits of link baiting and natural links for SEO purposes. “Build it and they will come” strategy didn’t work well in the past, and now it is even worse, contrary to what Google seems to suggest in their webmaster guidelines.

Google dictates the rules even more firmly now in SEO world; luckily social media now provides some backup as a traffic source.

Inbound links are still one of the heaviest ranking factors, and you need plenty of them. Today, you have to be very creative and communicate a lot with other webmasters to get those links.

If link exchange was you favorite link building technique, I recommend you to discover guest blogging. But forget those boilerplate emails, you need to create quality content to get your links now. This is where Google’s policies made the world a little better for most web surfers (a term from the nineties, nevermind) and much harder for you, the webmaster.

The good news is you will receive nice exposure and direct traffic from your great guest articles, too. In fact, this technique is nothing new. A lot of marketing experts advised writing guest posts for email newsletters, and many people did that with good results. It’s just more popular with the blogs now, because there are fewer good alternatives left.

Another social link building technique to explore is bookmarking. Nothing beats a good link bait, and social bookmarking services will help you leverage that technique by increasing the initial link bait exposure. Even though some of the links will be “nofollow”, you can still get a decent boost both in direct click-through traffic and in search engine rankings. The links from social bookmarking sites are also worth something by themselves.

Content is still the king

I doubt this will change any time soon. You need to produce a lot of quality content to be successful. Today, you need quality writing both for your own posts, and for mostly any place where you want to place a link – other blogs, comments, bookmarking sites, forums, everywhere.

One tried and proven SEO technique that still works without major changes is article submission. I heard rumors of its death, so I tried to promote a new website using article submission alone. Within a few weeks, I got my first rankings, and there was a visible correlation between submitted articles and ranking improvements. The effect is weaker than 8 years ago, but this technique is still a valuable addition to your toolkit.

To summarize, you now need to link more responsibly and create even more good content, but there are also plenty of new exciting opportunities, and with the increasingly obligatory direct communication with other webmasters, you will develop a lot of great social connections very quickly.

Val Danylchuk is the author of Web Tracking Guide – an easy, step-by-step tutorial on tracking and maximizing your online profits. If you liked this article, visit Val’s Web Tracking Blog for more.