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Thread: Is the internet for small businesses obsolete?

  1. #1
    Publishing Mentor dsieg58 is a Premium Member
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    Is the internet for small businesses obsolete?

    Man, have things changed.

    The internet, back in the day was supposed to "level the playing field" between large and small businesses. Back in 2000, it did, too.

    But not anymore. Don't get me wrong. I've done well with the internet and it has allowed me to do things I never would have been able to do otherwise. But if I was getting into it now, I don't think I would have a chance. It isn't the same neighborhood. It isn't even the same planet or solar system that it was in 2000.

    First, search engines. In 95% of the niches they are all dominated by big business. You couldn't get a top 3 listing no matter what you did. If you're "whitehat" there really is no such thing as doing your own SEO anymore. Forget what they tell you, or what the flavor of the month is with WSO's. I haven't seen one in YEARS that works. If you do find one, Google will close the hole in 2 weeks and ban your website. Most of the time, they won't even tell you why, or how you can fix it. "Blackhat" SEO also won't get you very far, for very long. It's as bad a "whitehat." Have you noticed the "Google Dance" never seems to effect the big spenders though.

    Since Yahoo and Bing takes their cues and results from Google, you won't have much luck their either in the long run.

    Something might be said for SEO for local businesses, but even then, the top positions are taken with yelp.com, yellowpages.com, whitepages.com etc. Google local takes all the rest.

    "Build an Authority site," they say. Besides the YEARS of massive work it takes, not to mention money, the "Content is King" BS, is exactly that. Have you noticed all the good (private) content sites now are buried in the back pages. Another trend I've noticed is it is only aged domains getting Google love. So if you didn't start your website 5-10 years ago, you have a major, insurmountable, hurdle to overcome. Of course, money can solve that problem if you willing to pay big bucks for an aged, established, domain. Linking is also a failed strategy. It helps, absolutely, but the kind of links you really need to get to the top (.edu and .gov) for the most part can't be had, unless, of course, you have high connections.

    Affiliate websites: Man, I feel for you guys. Google declared war on you. If you don't have your own product, I don't know how you survive. I'm not sure there is any hope at all for affiliates.

    But it seems to me there is no "level playing field" anymore. If you can't afford a minimum of $1000 a month (if you're lucky) to a SEO professional, and another $1000 in PPC, chances are you won't make it to the first page.

    Digital theft has pretty much wiped out the eBook industry. Forget the lip service that is being paid to it. Most anti-theft software only deters honest people. But I can tell you from brutal, hard won experience, that ENTIRE COUNTRIES, feel it is their duty and obligation to distribute your information for free, or profit from it themselves without doing any of the work. (and I do mean fully half the world. Like all of Africa, Asia and Russia.)

    The other side of the coin is that copyright infringement gone off the deep end with the big spenders able to sue everyone in sight, whether they did it intentionally or not. (Getty Images, for example) You can't blame them because of the massive problems in the paragraph above. They are trying to send a message. Instead of stopping the problem where it lives (and has no effect) they are coming after people at home where they can reach them to "Make an example of."

    Also, have you noticed that any negative comment or review about your website or product, somehow, miraculously goes straight to the top of Google and stays there? So much so it has spawned a new "internet reputation management" industry. Funny how you play by Goggles rules and you can't get a top listing. But some hater, flamer, troll or keyboard commando is able to get number one rankings overnight. Go figure.

    As soon as the government figures out a way to effectively tax transactions, that is also going by the wayside. They are doing in now in Texas and a number of other states.

    Ebay and Amazon have control over tangible goods. You either play by their rules, or you ain't playing. Competition on both is overwhelming. Again, if you didn't, or weren't able to build a strong base or foundation in the beginning, you got a tough row to hoe now. Don't get me wrong. Both were great in the beginning. Now it's "meet the new boss....same as the old boss." The internet is now starting to resemble the business world we all came to the internet to avoid. That is, big business dominating and making all the rules. The biggest rule is, let's crowd out small business.

    I'm not trying to pee on everyone's parade, but it is sort of like the 1000 pound elephant in the room no one is talking about, or the flatulence from said elephant we are all trying to ignore. I think it might be time for a new internet.
    Last edited by Kay; 10 April 2013 at 1:30 pm. Reason: Promoting to front page article

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    Brassneck (10 April 2013), cBusiness (22 June 2013), crabfoot (10 April 2013), Dave McM (10 April 2013), David S (10 April 2013), Fish (12 April 2013), grynge (10 April 2013), Kay (10 April 2013), MarkB (12 April 2013)

  3. #2
    Moderator Kay is a Premium Member
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    I feel the pain. It really is much tougher to get started these days. And even if you are established, it's getting harder all the time to stay afloat. The best way to get started these days would be to get into a time machine and go back 15 years. Just think what you could have done then if you knew what you know now. Some of us did get started a while back (13 years ago in my case). I've tried all kinds of things recently to experiment with trying to start from scratch again but it's very difficult - and even then I've 'cheated' sometimes by leveraging what I already have, both in terms of contacts and existing websites.

    Crabfoot started a thread about opportunities for beginners. It's really so much tougher these days.

    However, I don't think that all is yet lost for the small guys like us. But we have to throw out the old teachings and embrace the new. The old school was all about ranking well in G. EP has always advised against concentrating on the importance of that. Back in the days when I was a newbie on EP I sometimes felt my head spin with some of the advice I was getting. Didn't high rankings on G matter? Shouldn't I be spending my time trying to rank well? Will it really hurt me to be so dependent on G?

    Well, the advice was proved right in the end. Luckily for me, by that time I was building my traffic from sources other than G.

    Probably the easiest way to make money online these days is to sell courses to newbies telling them how to make money. Most of them don't work, of course, and these gurus are using tricks to 'prove' things that are very believable, but invariably untrue. They've built their reputations on 'helping people' and all that guff. IT'S NOT TRUE - they're in it for the money. There's no doubt that these guys do make money, but they do it by being a guru to Internet newbies and also by selling stuff that no longer works. Oh, yeah, they're all Panda-proofed and all that. But they still revolve around G.

    If all is not to be lost for the small guys, and the new start-ups, then we need to see a shift away from this obsession with ranking well in Google for organic search and bending over backwards to please their ever changing algo. But as long as it remains profitable for the WSOs and the 'gurus', then we're going to see yet more people going down that route.

    There are countless other ways to get traffic to your site. See grynge's ideas for getting traffic.

    It's more difficult now to start something new on the Internet but it's not impossible. I'd say that the best thing to do is to avoid all the old 'advice' and methods which don't work any more, even though they're still being sold and bought enthusiastically.
    British Expat - helping people to live and work abroad since the year 2000.

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    Top Contributor crabfoot is a Premium Member
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    I don't want to mess up the concept of E-P selling a course for beginners, which has been proposed as a way forward for maintaining the momentum of the forum, but the initial post triggers so many ideas towards kicking action into things. It points out so many things that have gone wrong. Can we see ways around them?

    One thing I've noticed over the years is that the big boys got big by buying out the opposition. Like Major Bloodnock used to say to Moriarty, "That won't work. Offer MONEY". So Gargyl bought a lot of other search engines, and eBay bought Gumtree - just examples of what happened, not comprehensive.

    Exception - Micro$hit. They got rich by exploiting the fact that other companies couldn't afford to defend competitive attacks on their price base and methodology simultaneously, so they shamelessly used other peoples' useful ideas and ground them down into the mire before they could legally retaliate, then settled the lawsuits later, when the competition were bankrupt.

    I'm reminded of those old Western films where the bad guy is trying to control everything he can see by whatever means, and from nowhere a stranger emerges and saves everybody. Unfortunately the Lone Ranger is dead ... perhaps Paul Newman might help.

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    Publishing Mentor dsieg58 is a Premium Member
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    What about a new internet...seriously. I'd pay money to belong to one in which freedom of expression as well as freedom of commerce were guaranteed. You pay a fee for internet access now (ISP) I'd be willing to pay for another if I didn't have the hassles of this one. Cable TV was born because people got sick of network TV programming and their commercials. I know the military and schools created their own as soon as this one went public. I'm not quite sure someone would go about doing it, but if one exists, others can exist too.

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    Top Contributor Dave McM is a Premium Member
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    I love the idea of a new Internet, but I don't see how it could possibly work for very long. The political and economic obstacles are too great.

    Political: governments will insist on interfering. Bang goes freedom of expression. (This isn't altogether a bad thing. Think child porn and terrorism.)

    Economic: perfect competition (freedom of commerce) is a chimaera. You get an unregulated playing-field, and the big boys will be all over it once they hear about it.

    So whatever alternative you come up with will be spoilt within a decade in its turn.

    As ever, the best anyone can do is keep an eye out for new opportunities as they arise and try to get in early before the gold rush starts. The Web was a big new opportunity, it was fun while it lasted, and no doubt new opportunities based on the Web will continue to come along. But they'll be smaller. C'est la vie.

    Quote Originally Posted by crabfoot View Post
    Unfortunately the Lone Ranger is dead ... perhaps Paul Newman might help.
    Er, I'm not quite sure how to break this to you, crabfoot...

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    I agree that what worked in the past on the Internet does not work well for the small guy today.

    In 2006. I created a site on a legal subject matter that I thought might generate a few clients. I basically did all the SEO myself and it was strictly white hat. Somewhat to my surprise, I saw its traffic grow steadily over the next six years.

    Luckily, someone approached me out of the blue last year and paid me a very nice price for it.

    I have to admit that the reason for selling it was not because I foresaw this shift that was already happening, but because the price was right. Massive sites like the Internal Revenue Service, Wikipedia, and even eHow now dominate the top spots for many of the key search terms for which my site used to rank first or second in the search results.

    Today, I think that the growth of my site would be nearly impossible to repeat with a similar 70 to 80 page authority site, even if those 70 to 80 pages cover the topic more thoroughly and cohesively than Wikipedia or eHow.

    I've also seen the same problems that dsieg58 notes with regard to local business listings being dominated by sites like yelp.com or being pushed down on the results page by Google Places. In addition, there are dozens of specialty directories and websites that generate place-specific pages for nearly every small village or city. Looking for a particular hotel's website? Good luck. You'll have to first wade through several pages of listings from hotels.com, Expedia, tripadvisor.com etc. not to mention yelp.com, YellowPages.com, etc... Need a dentist, accountant or lawyer? The directories are different but the problem is the same.

    But all is not necessarily lost. Ten years ago we saw needs and we fill those needs with the tools that were then available to us. If 10 years later I'm still looking to satisfy the same basic needs or use the same basic tools, I have a problem. But other people are seeing the current needs and using the newest tools.

    My former website was built for people like me who were sitting in front of a computer with a keyboard and a monitor and looking for static information. Today, statistics show that a website should probably be built for someone with a smartphone or risk being completely irrelevant in a short time.

    Fortunately, I don't have to make a living from the Internet, although many of my clients do and, in the future, probably even more will. I believe that opportunities still exist for a start up on the Internet. Nearly every week I talk with someone with a new idea or new approach to solving a problem. In many cases, the problems that they are solving are themselves new problems, created by technology and change.

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    I am in a mood today, so if I seem grumpy please excuse~

    If it is too hard or not worth it, maybe you should just quit? I mean, yes the old stuff doesn't work anymore. So what? How do you think the first marketers did it when the internet started? They didn't have anyone to look to for information. Spend your time experimenting. Completely forget about everything you have heard. Don't even set foot at WaFo, let alone be scanning their crap WSO's. Those are all "guru" products - I don't understand why more people don't get that. Try new things. Make your own path, don't wait around for anyone else to tell you what to do. Either they are wrong, or they have done the work themselves to find the new way. 99% of them who do find their own way aren't going to spread it around to people who can't figure it out themselves. Which leads back to most everyone trying to show the way being WRONG.

    I was in this funk too. Then it occurred to me - this is the best time to be in the business. 99% of "SEO's" and "internet marketers" have no clue what to do next or how to get their sites ranking again. This is the time when creative thinkers who are willing to experiment and fail until they succeed will prosper.

    To help sum up the message I'm trying to pass, I will share two quotes from Albert Einstein: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them" & "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."


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    Moderator Kay is a Premium Member
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    Great posting, DNN. I like a good rant sometimes too.

    It's interesting to compare how things were and how they are. When I started out there was no such thing as G. No FB either. No social media or so-called Web 2.0. You just built a website and built your traffic by promoting it on Alta Vista or wherever. You joined various groups, and you included your URL in your email sig and encouraged people to tell their friends about your site. You built it and they came.

    I guess G was a big turning point. At first it seemed great, and striving to get on page one was a worthwhile activity. It could bring lots of free traffic for very little effort. And then it all started to go downhill. When people saw how easy it was to game the algo, so much became automated - site builds, autoblogs, content spinners, etc, etc. Those who had been trying to make an honest buck were squeezed out because often we couldn't compete with this kind of stuff. Then an industry started to grow which taught people how to create all this junk. And I guess it all worked for a while and made some of these MMOers rich.

    But those days are long gone. We know that. But what narks me is that instead of packing up their market stall, accepting that they had it good for a while, they are continuing to sell these past their sell-by-date offerings. THEY DON'T WORK. They probably know they don't work, but they keep selling them anyway. And there are always enough wet behind the ears newbies to buy them.

    I agree that things have changed and you have to be innovative to succeed. At least back in ye olden days we weren't bombarded with a heap of MMO rubbish - a lot of it is very believable. After all, a good conman needs to be likeable and convincing. So, when we try to help people to succeed online, much of the battle is trying to get them out of this darned mindset the 'gurus' have coaxed them into.

    Yes, we didn't have anyone to look to for information back in those days, but equally we weren't being bombarded with misinformation, wrong and expensive advice, and behemoths such as G changing the playing field to suit themselves.
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    Top Contributor crabfoot is a Premium Member
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    A reminder. The Internet is still down there under this thing called the World Wide Web which floats on top of it. Most web browsers don't have the capacity to engage with ftp sites any more, and the search engines don't look down there because no one makes a profit from serving sites that only supply info, with no pics and no ads.

    You can only visit what you know about or are told about. The search engines select what you are told.

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    Publishing Mentor dsieg58 is a Premium Member
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    If it is too hard or not worth it, maybe you should just quit?
    Wonderful suggestion. Thank you. I wish I would have thought of that. But I'm not talking about throwing in the towel, I'm talking about weaving a new one.
    I guess G was a big turning point. At first it seemed great, and striving to get on page one was a worthwhile activity. It could bring lots of free traffic for very little effort.
    Very true.
    It's interesting to compare how things were and how they are.
    That was really the intent of the post was a comparison. Which was why I started the post with "Man, have things changed." I have an eBay sellers account going back to 1998. Like you, I can remember when SEO consisted of putting keywords in the correct place. That was it. That was all you had to do. This was way before Google even existed.
    Yes, we didn't have anyone to look to for information back in those days, but equally we weren't being bombarded with misinformation, wrong and expensive advice, and behemoths such as G changing the playing field to suit themselves.
    My point exactly. But I also agree with others here that Google has become irrelevant to most of us. The thing is, and my point, for someone starting out, search engine traffic is (or at least used to be) the quickest road to success. Newbies nowadays have no such road.
    A reminder. The Internet is still down there under this thing called the World Wide Web which floats on top of it.
    You're right...I had forgotten that. Good point! Once the road has been hacked through the mountain, the heavy lifting is done. You can always lay another coat of tar on top of the old one.

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