The First Age of The Internet is fast coming to a close, and with that comes the removal of early opportunities and low-hanging fruit.
That means if you have a serious plan for a website, you need to push on getting it out now, and fast.
If you have a website without a business plan, you need to push on getting one drawn up now, and fast.
I’ve been at this conclusion for a while, but the issue of urgency is speeding up.
For too long, natural - and gameable - search rankings on major traffic providers such as Google Search, Yahoo! Search, and MSN Search meant that you could develop potentially profitable traffic, and earn a good ROI on it.
However, we’ve seen Google pushing more aggressively on limiting the avenues of exploitation in it’s algorithm.
Let’s get something clear - the sites I SEO and link build for Google are quality sites, with quality content, and offer real value for users.
I work with clients with long-term business models, aims, and goals. I don’t look for quick fixes and easy cheats that offer short-term gains but long-term losses (ie, a ban from Google).
But that’s not Google’s interest.
Google is interested in rating sites by an objective and unadulterated standard. That’s means a ranking system free of outside influences - such as more aggressive link development strategies.
When I look at some of the absolutely base mass spamming crap that is constantly pushed at Google, it’s not hard to sympathise with their position.
However, the inevitable collatoral damage will mean that quality sites face an uncertain future when it comes to natural rankings on Google.
So if you want to develop a long-term business on the internet, you need to look away from links and towards social media.
It’s almost 18 months since I boldly proclaimed Links are dead - long live links!. The point of that article was that Google would be looking more and more at user data to shape their search results to that objective standard.
Even before that, Aaron Wall - one of the most clued up marketers I know online - had stated that Google would be likely to tap into user data via Google Accounts.
And data is something Google have been aggressively chasing, collecting, collating, and mining - whether via Gmail, Google Apps, tracking clicks on search results, desktop search, feed reader info, and so on.
Michael Gray, another of the internet’s leading search marketers, recently posted on how Google’s collection of user data can be leveraged to fight “spam”.
The overall result from this is that Google’s days as a traditionally links-driven search engine are numbered. Links have no long-term future for direct ranking on Google.
Instead they will need to draw user interest and attention - whose validation could then have an indirect impact on search results. And not simply for ranking, but even just on issues such as indexing and inclusion.
So what does all this mean?
It means that, if like me, your business model has been squarely built on free search-engine driven traffic, then it’s time to evolve or die.
Now is the time to look at your overall situation - your stable of websites - and decide which to build a new business plan around - a business plan that can sustain you with defensible traffic.
That means selecting the sites you have the most passion for, can assign a budget for, and still expect to make a comfortable profit with.
And that’s what I need to do now.
Like a number of webmasters, I have a lot of websites, but only a small number of strong performers.
It’s time to look at these and decided where the strengths and weaknesses - remove those that are a waste of time, consolidate others from many disperate sites into single stronger sites, and consider making the strong sites stronger.
Ultimately, all of the ones that remain need to be able to provide real quality user experience, and push to advertise this via links on social networks, in an attempt to gain general internet user approval that Google is so keen to track.
So far many of us have enjoyed opportunity simply through having a passion for our subjects. But now is that time to ensure that if you want a long-term future for your projects, that you start them now, and build them for mass-user attention and interest.
It’s time to plan and really work out how you are going to leverage the imminent future to safeguard your future. Or else face the internet growing without you.
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