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“State-of-the-art” in Internet marketing …

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This is a continuation of an interview where Jay Beavy of the Second Fortune blog on Internet marketing (IM) asks questions of John Vinturella, author of Release Your Inner Entrepreneur (RYIE).

How would you assess the “state-of-the-art” in Internet marketing?

I think that in some ways we are entering a more constructive period in IM. Search engines are leading us full-circle, back to where sites are recognized for quality of content. We are leaving a period of intense reliance on the ability of SEOs (search engine optimizers) to “game” our site to prominence.

At the risk of sounding like an old-timer (which, I guess, I am), there was a time before the Web, when the ‘Net was a text-only medium. If the dialer worked, and the phone at the other end answered, and the sounds of establishing a “ppp connection” were favorable, then, we could explore, for example, Tulane University’s Gopher site. (Show of hands, who remembers Gopher?)

A site was basically a directory of documents, and the documents were generally current and authoritative or their authors would not have bothered to upload them. Lists of useful links were precious, and search engines were just beginning to find their footing.

Once the Web made the Internet sufficiently user-friendly, online documents proliferated. Search engines, rather primitive by today’s standards, took on importance as guides to this wide array of information. And businesses began to see the commercial potential of the new medium.

A new industry was born, SEO, to figure out how to gain top positions on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). For a while, keywords were everything. Here is a quick course in SEO:

Figure out the words or phrases your prospective customers are likely to use, and find out how stiff the competition is for them. Narrow your efforts to those with the best “Keyword Effectiveness Indicators“(KEIs).

Skillfully craft meta statements. Sprinkle your keywords through your text, heavier at the beginning and end, to the proper “density.” Use them in your links and image “alts.” Decide which is more appropriate, a large number of themed pages or a “mininet.”

Once your “on-page” factors are in good shape, work on the “off-page” component. Trade links with related pages, use your keywords in the links back, vary the text of the links. Author and distribute articles …

The process has gotten a bit more rational recently but new skills are being required all the time. Can you build a Google site map? Do you “get” RSS?

Off-page factors are in ascendancy. Link popularity is important, because it is presumed that quality content drives links. This presumption may be a bit shaky, but we sooo… want to believe it.

Sure, there are games still being played. The level of fear that many IM practitioners feel about writing an article is second only to the fear of having to present it in public. So we have software available for compiling our blogs automatically from RSS feeds. And the search engines are getting smart enough to tell authored text from that which is merely “scraped.”

“Fire sales” and giveaways are putting volumes of poorly written and outdated material in the hands of thousands of IMers bent on cashing in on resell rights, and distributing parts of them as original articles. And article directories are increasingly using human editors to qualify contributed material.

More next time…

About John Vinturella

Retired businessman and professor.