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20 Years and 20 Insights in Internet Marketing

To mark the 20th anniversary of my career in the Internet marketing industry, I thought I’d share 20 insights about website design and search engine optimization for industrial businesses:

  1. The basic tenet to search engine optimization hasn’t changed since Google’s founding in 1998 – you still type keywords into a search box to find what you’re looking for. What has changed is how Google ranks sites; it started with keywords in the keywords meta tag back then and has since morphed into a complex algorithm of more than 200 factors.
  2. There never was or is a “build it and they will come” model for Internet success. When companies first started building websites in the 1990s, they needed to include their website address on all their print ads, business cards, letterhead and direct mail pieces to let people know how to find their sites. Today, earning top positions on search engines via SEO is the best way to promote a website.
  3. Technology doesn’t sell product – content sells product.  Innovations for website design and development might make a business excited about its website but generally won’t increase sales.  It’s the content that’s developed for that technology that speaks to the prospect – low-tech sites with great content oftentimes perform better on search engines and generate higher traffic and click-thrus than high-tech sites that lack appealing content.
  4. Despite tools that enable businesses to build and optimize their own websites, most won’t do it well enough to justify the cost savings because success depends on in-depth knowledge of how search engines work and getting too many details right.
  5. At the same time, most web design and SEO companies will fail in making their clients’ sites successful, if the client isn’t engaged and participating in the ongoing Internet marketing efforts.
  6. Google Analytics is your friend.
  7. Earning a top position on Google used to be easy because there were fewer websites and so few companies that knew about SEO.  Now that everyone’s generally aware of SEO and many more sites at least try to implement the basics of search engine optimization, Google has made it much more complicated to earn those top positions because there are just so many more sites competing for those positions.   
  8. There’s a lot of SEO-related information online.  But without first-hand experience in optimizing multiple sites and monitoring their performance, it can be really difficult to determine which tactics are really working.
  9. Credible SEO firms will always be in demand because the rules of Internet marketing will always change and someone will need to stay on top of that.
  10. There are no SEO shortcuts that Google won’t eventually figure out and make obsolete as a way to improve search rankings.
  11. If someone who isn’t familiar with your business can’t figure out what you do by reading your home page, then your site probably isn’t communicating very well to prospects and search engines.
  12. When it comes to SEO, a picture is not worth 1,000 words.
  13. But, when it comes to the impression your website gives to first-time users, professional photography of your business and products (not stock photos) can make a huge impact in whether prospects consider your company to be credible. 
  14. Trade publications are still relevant – but just not as valuable.
  15. When you find a good SEO company, trust them and stick with it.
  16. SEO is for the long haul – there are lots of competitors trying to take your place at the top of search rankings, if you let them.
  17. Look out for SEO practitioners who promise quick and easy results – there is no such thing in SEO. 
  18. SEO isn’t just about better search rankings – done right, it will generate more business for your company.
  19. Companies always say “their people are their best assets,” and then they forget to use them.  There are lots of folks in every organization who can contribute great content ideas for a company’s website – you just have to ask them.
  20. Everyone thought Yahoo was the biggest game changer in the Internet, until Google came along.  And then, came Facebook.  There will always be new innovations that turn Internet marketing on its head.