I’ve heard all sorts of tales regarding what went on in the “old days” of internet marketing.
In fact, some of the stories, such as how easy it was to rank in Google by artificially stuffing articles full of keywords make it sound like the Wild West!
But these kinds of things, to me, are really just anecdotes.
I can’t comment on them directly because I didn’t get started online until 2010.
Before that I was tucked up in the corporate world, completely unaware of what internet marketing was. I was commuting and working to pay the bills as the vast majority of the population in the developed world still are.
This said, I do think it is worthwhile comparing how things were in 2010 to now, 2014. Not least because it is all too easy to lose perspective on the current state of play we find ourselves in.
Doing full justice to this comparison would probably take a 20,000+ word essay so instead here are some thoughts that you might be able to relate to.
In 2010 virtually every beginner’s course I came across told you to get traffic by either:
a) Ranking in Google (SEO)
b) Using Pay Per Click (PPC), probably in Google or Yahoo
Now, as is the case with most newcomers I didn’t like the sound of (b), so I went for (a).
Problem was in 2010, the tide was beginning to turn away from SEO in a big way.
First article directories (such as Ezine articles) stopped driving so much traffic, then “blog networks” were banished by Google followed by, later on, the infamous Panda, Penguin etc algorithm updates.
Today, in 2014, it still amazes me the sheer thirst for training on SEO from newcomers.
They buy endless amounts of courses on “getting to page 1” even though 99% of people selling them never use SEO themselves.
Seems like “SEO is Dead. Long Live SEO!”
That, in my opinion, is the bad news.
However, the good news is that a whole host of newer traffic strategies have made traffic more accessible (and more certain) than ever before:
a) Instead of article directories, broader Content Syndication methods like very targeted guest posting, features, interviews and integrating your content in high traffic areas of the internet work extremely well. Ok, maybe some of these are not so new but they are relatively more important anyway.
b) The rise of the Groupon-style Deals websites like Udemy, MightyDeals and AppSumo are becoming ever more powerful and diverse in niches. They give us direct access to hundreds of thousands of hungry buyers (i.e., not just people who have a lukewarm interest).
c) Facebook Ads have become a brilliant way of building an audience, an email list and making sales very quickly. Of course, Facebook came on the scene well before 2010 but the traffic opportunities that it offers have only really taken off much more recently.
2) Designing Websites & Webpages
In 2010 I built websites with:
a) WordPress (for blog, full websites)
I still use this today and it’s getting better and better.
The plugins and themes that are available are really moving to the next generation and we are starting to see things that were never possible before (including the new breed of “zero-abstraction” page design where what you type in the editor is exactly what you see on the published page).
b) Kompozer (for sales, squeeze pages)
If you are a more recent arrival on the internet marketing scene than me then the chances are that you won’t have heard of Kompozer at all!
If so, how lucky you are.
It’s a free HTML page creator. You design a webpage (which never seemed to come out as I quite hoped by the way), save the files to your computer, FTP it up to your server and cross your fingers.
Oh, and if you need any changes, just repeat that process 😉
Joking aside, I shouldn’t be too harsh, it’s really fine in itself and serves the purpose.
But today, we have countless plugins and systems available like LeadPages. Not only are systems like LeadPages unbelievable quick and point-and-click in nature but my web design skill set has never even been close to creating high converting pages like this.
This is a more tricky one but I’d say with internet marketing and online business booming and massively outstripping the broader economy (even during the post 2008 recession), it’s no wonder that the quantity of information has exploded.
It’s so much easier and cheaper to learn and get started now than it was 2010.
Back then, virtually every video I saw seemed to try and sell me a $37 product (via Clickbank, before they cleaned up their platform) using fast cars, mansions and fake actors!
Since then we’ve seen a lot of actually useful information be delivered at better price points, even down to the Warrior Special Offers which can cost $7+.
In terms of the quality end of the internet marketing educational market I for one see a real significant improvement.
This said, with the extra quantity there is also a huge amount of junk and, dare I say it, useless rip-off hype that is still around.
That’s always a risk of course but at the end of the day it pays to do your homework remember the buyer-beware mantra. By following this I personally very rarely refund anything I buy but I do know I can if I have to.
Finally, on this point, the quantity does mean a bigger risk of information overload.
With experience cutting through this becomes easier and easier but it’s still very challenging in 2014 for people starting out.
All the more reason to do the homework and be careful who you trust and follow when it comes to web-business education.
Although there are pluses and minuses, to me things are much better, easier and cheaper than they were in 2010 when it comes to starting a successful online business.
Not only that but when I began the economy was pretty much in meltdown with the worst recession since the Great Depression. Of course, I still did it but that’s another reason it’s better to do it today.
Or course I wouldn’t change a thing… BUT if I were forced to start again with a choice I’d definitely opt for starting today rather than back in 2010.
Would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this! Past experiences, ideas, points of agreement/disagreement – they are all welcome. Click SHARE/TWEET if you enjoyed this and drop a comment below… Rob 🙂
I’ve thought I would have been a lot further along had I started sooner, I mean it just makes sense right? If you start sooner you should be able to accomplish more. What I hadn’t factored in though was the progression of technology and it’s ability to simplify what used to be difficult or time consuming. As the old Virginia Slims slogan said “we’ve come a long way baby”
Thanks for your comment. Other things being equal, more time you equal more progress of course. But of course other things can distort that relationship all too easily. We certainly have come along way and the rest of 2014 should be very exciting indeed. It’s a great time to learn, build and generally get stuck in!
Great insights as usual, and I can attest to and have expereinced most of what you stated here.
I started online in 1996 and it was both easier and harder.
I had to learn html on my own and build actual websites, now I use WP exclusively (so much easier).
Article writing for ezinearticles could get me an almost instantaneous influx of traffic; even that is not as easy as it used to be.
Never one to chase SEO, I am not as frustrated as some marketers have been.
I am still wrestling with information overwhelm and that is one of my focus in 2014. I have to become more discriminating in my choice of sources nad resources.
That makes a lot of sense. I think one of the main things to take on board is being adaptive to the changing environment. Of course, it’s a fine balance between getting sucked up in gimmicks and fly by night ideas and another sensibly evolving our businesses.
Good points well made and thank you for you contribution 🙂
I sat in on your webinar last Wednesday so that’s how you got my email address. I was really pleased to be notified of this post because as someone who has been making peanuts online for way too long your webinar and many of the points in this post ring true. I’ve done it mostly all, Adsense, Article Marketing, Built a big site to promote affiliate links, SEO for single product sites. As you say it’s hard and slow.
Just finished going over the webinar again and that with this post ring very true to me. Refreshing! Thanks.
That’s great to hear and welcome to the Gain Higher Ground blog! When you have a moment check out some of the top posts on the right hand side. If you’ve been enjoying the content so far then I think you’ll like those too 🙂
Cheers and all the best,
I remember the days back in the mid to late 90’s. It took months for people to develop anything. The fact that we are now at a stage where any individual can potentially run a worldwide super business with a relatively few clicks is amazing and inspiring.
Excellent point. Of course it requires a little time, effort and money to invest but what doesn’t? I perhaps should have mentioned things like fiverr.com too because outsourcing and automating is getting easier as time progresses as well.
Your thoughts are always appreciated, thank you.
What a great article well in 2010 i was truck driving nothing to do with computers now since jan 2013 have been trying to get my head around this internet thing but its hard trying to sort out the good stuff from the rubbish and it seems a lot of these internet guys just want ye money so one has to be carefully but i do like your site its so imformative and there is a lot of imfomation on it so thamks rob
I am with you there Trevor all the way in agreeing with your comments on
the way Rob lays out the information on his site, he is not like some internet
guys , out to do nothing but take your money without remorse .
Thank you Jeffrey, much appreciated 🙂
I firmly agree that relying on Google Ranking is pretty much a waste of time – however, it is as you say, amazing how many Newbies are actually being lead in this direction and think it’s the way to go!
That’s not to say there aren’t marketers around who actually make a lot of money with Niche Sites; relying on their experience, SEO, and a very healthy budget to get them ranked!
I have to say I do agree with Google – Re: Blog Directories, there were a lot of low quality articles to be found, (and not so long ago!) so since this ‘clean-up’, I feel the quality of content on websites and elsewhere has improved dramatically – which proves that Google did the right thing, on that score anyway!
I’m sure most of us would agree that WP is the best thing since sliced bread – and getting better all the time – I don’t know how I’d manage without it! I’d have to add Lead Pages to this as well – it has made creating landing pages pretty painless.
I’d agree that those people starting out now have an easier learning curve but on the other hand they are up against really professional online marketers, with big budgets to spend, and sometimes, (not always) a team of people working for them, so I’m not sure that 2014 is an easier start – it might have been better in ‘Wild-West’ times, when it was a free for all and everything was easy! – so they say!!!!!
Very interesting to get your views on this, thanks for taking the time.
Great post Rob. So many changes and very timely for me starting afresh. Starting with your workshop in March (London) Bring it on! I am definitely guilty of the ‘shiny object syndrome’ too much overload and need to focus.
So glad you can make it Jo and looking forward to seeing you there!
Thanks for your input.
I started in 2007 and quit my day job in 2010 so I’ve seen the best and worst of both periods.
Like most people I started out with SEO and today SEO still accounts for 95% of my income.
If anything I would have to say that SEO is much easier now than it was then, mainly because Google have snuffed out most of the “black hat” tactics.
Of course there are ups and downs with regular search engine updates, but if you learn to weather the storm it can pay off handsomely.
There’s nothing to beat FREE (apart from your time) traffic, and knowing that every time you make a sale …. it’s pure profit.
I think you and Pearson are on the same page when it comes to this (hopefully page 1 as well!).
Thanks for your views 🙂
SEO is certainly not dead. Trying to fool Google is what no longer works.
I have one site that has been number one for its term for over ten years. One secret for this is that the site has lots of links from good quality sites. The other is thebig effort I make in posting to different social media sites. The key to both of these is to produce interesting and original content.
Someone else who does this is Rob Cornish. Look at the way that he has constructed this post. Nothing really new in it but he approaches it in a way that is really interesting and unusual and makes you want to pass it on to your friends. And note how he promotes his posts by email.
Of course, all this is much harder work than pushing a few buttons in some spammy program. But SEO still works, if you have something original to say.
Thanks for your comments and thoughts on this, much appreciated and it’s always nice to get an alternative angle 🙂
I too started out in 2010 and to me nothing much has changed, there are different strategies and different ways of getting traffic but it all comes down to “things” that evolve.
For example let’s take a look at calculators, microwave ovens, cell phones these products simply evolved just like the internet. If there is no need for SEO how will one get to the “first page/spot of google or any search engine.
The way SEO is used has changed and is constantly evolving I guess it’s a matter of perspective concerning SEO. I stated earlier how nothing has changed what I mean is SEO, PPC, CPA, Clickbank,…etc…they’re still here some have been cleaned up (as you mentioned concerning Clickbank) but the basic premise of them all is still here.
Facebook has just made a change. What marketers know and have to continue to do is evolve also. I’m glad I started in 2010 because of the terminology used and just plain ole what I have learned up to this point.
I didn’t know what a plugin was when I started, I didn’t know how to upload a theme, heck I didn’t know what a theme was. I was TOTALLY new to IM and didn’t have a clue (not that I have a clue now..lol) but I’m better than I was and that came with experience.
So I wouldn’t say starting now in 2014 is better I would just say to some one START!
Excellent to get your experience and take on this, thanks very much for your comment 🙂
I’ve talked about SEO in the past a lot on the blog and elsewhere and perhaps I should have clarified my points above more. SEO has a big role in certain areas like local business marketing or for large corporations who can allocate a slice of the marketing budget to ethical link building. Also, of course there are millions of web pages that all rank at number one in Google. With enough work anyone can displace them too. But in my experience of on the ground marketing and knowing many people who are successful that started recently, very very few use SEO. And my real point I guess is that the ROI of SEO has dropped massively relative to other traffic methods.
This said, if it’s working for you and making money then great! This is all just my opinion from my experience after all.
I think we probably agree on much of the rest of your comment. Perhaps just we differ a bit in the choice of terminology e.g., “evolve” versus “Change”.
And couldn’t agree more on people just starting!
Another great and informative post from you! Very interesting to hear your take and contrast from 2010 to now.
Cheers Tim, glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Internet-based marketing has changed, but I put it to you that the better grounded one is on the fundamentals, the less shocking the changes feel.
For instance, technical SEO, such as subscribing to link farms or joining BLOG networks, once yielded great results. That was not going to last forever, as the search engine companies developed algorithms better able to penetrate the subterfuge. It should not have been surprising, since Google et. al. had tremendous commercial incentive to nullify technical SEO for the benefit of their paying advertisers.
IMHO, over-reliance on WordPress is a blossoming problem. If you choose to use WordPress, don’t rely upon it exclusively. Blithe application of plug-ins that one does not understand is part of the problem. Another is the huge & tempting target that WordPress has become for the “bad guys” out there, much as Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer are. Better to use WP for quick, hit & run campaigns rather than treat it as your business foundation. As my post-college daughter is wont to utter, “I’m just sayin’.”
Of course the huge, elephant-in-the-room change agent currently is the social media phenomenon. I so look forward to watching it collapse of its own weight. (As a corollary, I so admire Facebook’s prior owners for having taken the public-offering money and run with it. They made the offering in the teeth of the Unnecessarily-Great Depression in the United States, when it didn’t seem the proper time. Well, it was as good a time as it was going to be.) Until then, figure out how to ride this pony, because it offers much free and low-cost exposure.
Stay loose. Keep learning. That is your best hope.
Very interesting and thanks for your take on this…
I’m struggling to agree on WordPress but I would concede that it might be an issue for some. Perhaps people need to watch carefully to make sure they keep their WordPress sites nice and tidy with only a small selection of quality plugins…?
This is a very interesting post. I do agree with quite a lot of what was said. I think Google acted very great with its penalties, lets face it, if they didn’t, content on the internet would be much poorer. They actions brought improvements which is good. There is still too much rubbish online and newer persons such as myself have got to be very careful or we would be ripped off. There are a few people who I have met online who I do trust and You are one of those. In conducting business These people will always receive my favour ahead of any one else.
Keep the good work up.
Thanks for your comment and kind words.
Obviously it’s all hypothetical as none of us have a time machine to choose change things but I thought I’d field the post anyway to see what people thought.
Great to hear your thoughts and thanks for taking the time 🙂
Interesting post. I agree that technology has become a lot easier and this is no longer a barrier for most people wanting to enter the business. On the other hand standing out from the crowd has become harder. A cardinal rule in business is that what the majority can easily do is not profitable. There has to be a barrier where the majority give up and the minority that can power through begin to make decent money. The people who are able to stand out from the crowd and be seen (i.e. the really good marketers) are those really making decent money and IMHO that part of it has become harder.
I think you have an excellent point there.
Standing out is definitely something that can be difficult. On the other hand it’s not that difficult to break through in my opinion mainly because there are so many “and me” style sites and marketers. I think perhaps this is a topic we should return to again on the blog – thanks for your thoughts!
Great post, Rob. This is my question to you (and anyone else who may want to answer):
From your post, and certainly the comments here, the big thing I’m finding is that if you create great content, don’t game the system, and get quality links, you can do well.
Here’s my question though…what do you do if you’re on online entrepreneur who wants to get into a variety of different niches that you don’t have personal experience in or tons of knowledge–but still think you can create a quality resource because you’re a good writer, dedicated, and are willing to delegate writing responsibilities to others that know a lot about the subject?
Essentially, how do you reach out to other people who have tons of experience and passion and authority in your niche, and essentially try to build a relationship with them (and hopefully get a quality backlink in the process) when you, conversely, are approaching your niche website from a pure business standpoint–and they are likely approaching their website from more of a “I have experience and passion in this niche” standpoint?
Of course, not everyone who gets into ANY business is a die-hard or deeply passionate or fully experienced about said business. But I’m just looking for advice on how you essentially approach people in your niche, hoping to one day lead to a quality relationship and backlink, and feel comfortable and credible enough to discuss a partnership with them when the niche you selected was picked because you felt it was a great opportunity to create a wonderful resource and business, but NOT because you have a good deal amount of experience, knowledge, or passion?
And when I say passion, I want to make sure I’m clear: I think you can have passion for creating a very helpful and wonderful website that you know other people are using and enjoying, while not necessarily having a deep passion for the topic of the actual site. In other words, your passion lies not in the actual topic of the niche site/business, but more so in creating an excellent, helpful online business/niche site.
Thanks in advance.
Thanks for your thoughts on this and glad you liked it!
Really approaching people for joint ventures is all about relationship building. It’s a BIG topic of course but essentially meet people online or offline at live events and see how you can help them. Suggest that you write some content for them, provide a testimonial for products of theirs that you like, interview them, etc. Then keep in contact and be as friendly and helpful as you can. This builds relationships such that you can possibly work with them in the future.
Very hard to do this question justice but hopefully that helps a tiny bit!
Great article Rob, you have managed to distill the essence of how much change has occurred in the past 4 years. I began seriously looking at internet marketing about 18 months ago, and even in that time the game has completely changed. What has not changed is the difficulty of the newcomer to choose one direction to get going, it seems this is the major stumbling block for so many people, being able to identify one market, or niche to focus on and commence doing business. If there was a training product that focused exclusively on this topic, I’m certain it would be a smash hit…thanks for all your help Rob, you provide a huge quantity of genuine information before you even get to selling.Cheers.
That’s great to hear and thank you for taking the time to hare your thoughts here on the blog 🙂
All the best, Rob.