10 Ways Internet Marketing Is Like a Ruptured Disc

Ian Lurie

Just about a year ago, I ruptured two discs in my back and herniated another. Or at least the doctor found them a year ago. Who knows how long I was carrying them around like little ticking tissue time bombs.
Gimping yourself that thoroughly makes you think. In fact, you can’t do much except think. So you do it a lot. I’m recovering, slowly, but the parallels between this kind of injury and the pain internet marketing appears to inflict on the unwary masses are inescapable:

If you ignore it, you’ll pee your pants in public

Or something equally embarrassing. A ruptured disc can actually cause you to lose control of your plumbing. Didn’t happen to me, but it could have. Ignore it, and you’re going to have issues.
Ignore internet marketing while the stock market crashes, budgets shrink and your audience moves online and the result will be more like yanking your pants down in public while yelling “WEE WEE, PEE PEE” over and over.

The effects are unexpected

My errant discs are pressing on my spinal nerve waaaay down in the lower back. That causes all sorts of fun randomness: My butt will suddenly go 100% numb; my left leg will hurt when I move my right leg; my foot falls asleep. It’s a cornucopia of random symptoms.
In internet marketing, the interrelationships are many and complex, too. Improve your SEO, and your pageviews go up. Discount your product and you show up on 9,000 sites for the cheap, and you lose your customer base. Spend money on PPC for one product and sales rise for another. The effects are unexpected and random. Sometimes you have to roll with it.

There’s no quick fix

Every few months, I think I’m 100% better, do something moronic like go for a bike ride, and end up flat on my rear end again. It takes a long time to improve.
Internet marketing campaigns don’t develop overnight. If you hire a firm and say “Let’s try it for a month”, fine. But don’t expect much. Really sound, intelligently-planned online marketing campaigns take months or even a couple years to take shape. You have to test things, collect data, revise your strategy, test some more, and so on.

Everyone thinks they have the solution

But very few do.
If one more person suggests that I get acupuncture, I’m going to perforate their kidneys. And no, a chiropractor can’t fix a ruptured disc, unless you count their hysterical laughter upon seeing your MRI as therapeutic. And no, walking on my back isn’t a good idea either, no matter how small your feet are.
Pick out 20 business people, and they’ll have 20 different internet marketing solutions. They’ll range from “post on 2,000,000 forums with a link” to “eBay!!!!”. None will work. You have to talk to a professional, or do a lot of reading (I have a decent internet marketing book right here) if you want to. Just don’t expect an easy solution.

It takes discipline

I have these annoying back exercises I have to do every day. So I sit in my chair, making motions that could be interpreted as obscene gestures, 100+ times per day. I also have to watch what I eat and not gain (too much) weight. All of those things can affect recovery with a ruptured disc.
If you start an online marketing campaign, then stop, then start again, you’ll get results that start, stop and start again, too (at best). Internet marketing takes discipline.

At some point, it’ll make you cry

OK, I never actually cried because of my back. But I didn’t laugh, either.
Internet marketing is frustrating as hell, I do it for a living and it’s still frustrating. You do X, expecting Y, and get Z. You’ll want to cry. Don’t. Learn, figure out why Z occurred, and do a better job next time.

You’ll hate the doctor

My doctor informed me that my injury is common among “older men”. I would have slugged him but couldn’t stand up at the time. Every time he checks how I’m doing, pokes my back, makes me curl up in the fetal position and then grunts approvingly about my ‘great progress’ I want to slug him again. Maybe that’s why he always paralyzes me with pain FIRST, and THEN says how great I’m doing…
Whenever I tell a client that no, sales aren’t up yet, but they’re making great progress because I can see all the new blog mentions and improved time on site statistics, they want to slug me, too. Everyone hates the doctor. He/she is still helping you. Deal with it.

Drugs make you feel better

But they don’t help.
When I first got hurt the doctor gave me a coffee mug-sized bottle of Vicodin. I made the supply last about a year (it was supposed to last a month or two). Man, that’s good stuff. Pop a couple of those and George Bush could win a third term and I’d still smile. But, the next morning, you wake up with a headache, your back is still trashed and you just want another one.
Buy that build-a-million-links-while-you-sleep software program and you’ll feel reallllly good for a while. Then Google bans you, all the stuff you neglected will make your customers hate you and you’ll have a major internet marketing hangover.

You control your own destiny

Ultimately you have to decide what’s right. With my back, I had to use some common sense: Have surgery? Maybe if I was still a competitive cyclist. Otherwise, a slow, long recovery is just fine.
Ignorance is no excuse in internet marketing, either. Common sense will tell you what’s workable and what’s not. If someone tells you they can get spectacular results overnight, they’re liars. If another firm tells you they’ll do good stuff but won’t tell you how, they’re either liars or bad marketers. It’s not a ‘black box’ – make them give you your options.

Everyone’s different

Bottom line: Everyone’s different. My treatment regimen is very different from other folks’, I’m sure. My life is unique (I hope). Your business is totally unique, too.
That makes internet marketing difficult.
It also makes it possible. If your business was just like 10 others, what chance would you have?
You’ve got your work cut out for you. You also have the near-certainty that, with effort and common sense, you’ll succeed. So get at it.

Ian Lurie
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. Finally somebody writes in Internet marketing article I can actually relate to.
    Just like taking care of your back (in the rest of your body) Internet marketing should be proactive and not reactive.
    Don’t wait until problems are so bad that you are spending all your time focused on minimizing the pain.
    Like Ian says, get at it!

  2. This is a great post. I’ve been plagued with back trouble as well (soccer injuries, still playing though thankfully), and the tongue cheek descriptions really made me laugh.
    As an internet marketer myself, I find that one of the biggest obstacles with clients and potential clients is education. The analogy with the back puts it in terms people can relate too.

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