Monday, February 9, 2009

Ethics And Internet Marketing - Are You Adding Value?

By Damian Papworth

I entered the internet marketing industry around 2003. It all started for me with an affiliate program and a pay per click campaign. Back in 2003 there were not many savvy Australian internet marketers so I had very little competition for my campaign for quite some time.

I watched as more and more people entered the market though, forcing click bids up. I watched while Google changed their rules, time and time again making it harder for affiliates to make money with pay per click. I watched and worked up to the point where the time involved in managing pay per click campaigns as an affiliate, was no longer worth the commissions the campaigns earned.

So I changed my approach. I started to build websites and learn about search engine optimisation. I still used PPC marketing, but to drive traffic to my own websites while they optimised in the organic search terms. The result for me was half a dozen highly optimised and profitable website businesses. Of these, only one has its own product. The others either promote affiliate programs or sell advertising space.

As my skill grew, so did my reputation. The result of this was a continual stream of business owners who, having heard of my expertise, wanted to hire me to sort out their web presence. These business owners all had two things in common. They all saw the potential the internet had for their business and they all had been taken advantage of by unscrupulous internet operators who took their money yet added no value. So I took them on and applied the same strategies to their websites that I applied to my own. Much to their delight, their websites now create business for them.

That's the problem with internet marketing. Its not a university degree, its not a regulated industry. Anyone can and does call themself an internet marketer. That's why internet professionals as an industry have such a bad reputation. Our industry is packed with graphic designers who know nothing about marketing and professional marketers who know nothing about the internet.

Every week I see how these charlatans work. They prey on the assumption that their clients are ignorant. Despite the fact they know so little themselves, they assume their clients know less and therefore can be baffled with a few technical phrases and a pretty graph.

For example, my tourism business hires out surfboards on Australia's Gold Coast. Do a Google search on "Gold Coast Surfboard Hire" or even just "surfboard hire" for that matter. I'm sure you'll find me, mine is Gold Coast Surfboards. Clearly for the product I am selling, I am very well optimised in the search engines.

So I have a website which is supporting a business perfectly. Its optimised in the search engine for the search phrases which are popular and relevant to the service. Despite this, so called internet "professionals" contact me every week trying to sell me their SEO services.

I think I've figured out what these charlatans do. I think they find a small business website and mine the search engines for "sort of" related terms, until they find one which is pretty low on Google. For my website, the type of terms that they come up with are "Surf Accessories" and "Holiday Rentals". Terms which are related but not really relevant. Once they have found one, they'll construct a sales pitch based on the traffic they'll send my website by optimising it for those terms. Of course there is always a decent amount of scare mongering in these sales pitches, telling me how much of my business is going to my competitors, business which I can claim for my own.

If I didn't understand internet marketing, I may have used these charlatans. I'm sure many small businesses have been convinced by their slick presentations. And at the end of their work though, I would have a website which attracts completely irrelevant visitors. People looking for surf accessories or people looking to rent a hotel room, or car for their holiday. This probably would have undermined the optimisation work I did on "Surfboard Hire" and related terms as well, meaning my real clients would have gone to my competitors.

If you are a small business owner and get approached by an internet marketer who is going to "turbo boost" your business by getting it up to the top of Google, look carefully at the words they are suggesting they will do this for. There are lots of phrases which anyone can get to #1 as there is no competition for them. This is because no-one uses them to search. So before you sign up an internet marketer, try and get a good understanding of what your clients search for on Google when they are looking for your product.

If on the other hand you are not being hassled by these salesmen, yet understand the potential the internet has for your business but don't know where to start, I recommend you start asking around your circle of friends. Try and find an operator that someone will recommend first hand. Just make it clear to them though you are looking for an internet marketer, not a designer. There are plenty of students or graphic artists out there who will be happy to take your cash and build you a masterpiece. It will be such a pity no-one will be able to find it.

Finally, if you are one of those internet marketers who abuses our great industry by running around, trying to extract a pound of flesh from every business you come by regardless of the value you add, change your ways. This industry is big enough for everyone so there is a place for you. But skill yourself up and don't sell your services to businesses that don't need them. Only sell your services where the person paying for them will benefit from them. Your reputation, your business and our industry will flourish if you follow this code. (By the way, its called being ethical) - 16651

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