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5 Internet Marketing Advances I Like, and What They Mean To You

Internet Marketing isn’t all misery and torture.
So, in honor of National Grump Out Day, I dug deep and celebration-worthy advances in our industry:

Analytics: No Longer Death By Details

Two years ago, “analytics” meant “hope for the best”. Lousy interfaces, slow reports, moronic support staff and high costs drove us all crazy.
There haven’t been any revolutionary changes since then. But industry consolidation, for once, may have been a good thing: The state of the art is far easier to use, runs faster, and (apart from the last week) very reliable.
A lot of this, I think, is because of those mergers: Companies are dedicating their additional resources to better interfaces, support and tools that actually promote (gasp) analysis.
What this means to you: You are entitled to great data on your site’s performance. If you aren’t getting it, insist.

Search Engines

A lot of SEOs look wistfully back on the days when they could buy 1,000 links and watch their rankings improve.
I don’t. It was a pain in the butt. I don’t want to be a search engine lawyer. I want to help clients write great stuff and win customers.
Google, Yahoo! and Live are pretty far from perfect: Loopholes abound. But they’re a lot better than they used to be. I, for one, am glad there’s an end in sight to the Wild West days of SEO.
What this means to you: No more shortcuts. Focus on writing great stuff, making it discoverable and search-friendly, and networking with related sites.

Page Optimization: A New Internet Marketing Tool

Page optimization – testing various headlines, graphics and other elements to find the best ‘recipe’ for customer conversion – used to require a PhD. A PhD still helps, but a regular old math moron like me can run an optimization campaign and actually see real, live improvement.
Tools like Google Website Optimizer and the Widemile Optimization System bring multivariate testing and page optimization within reach of just about any internet marketer.
And I don’t even have to know what Taguchi Optimization is.
What this means to you: You can and should always improve your conversion rate. Never settle for ‘good enough’. Unless you’re just tired, of course. Then have a nap, and improve conversion rates when you wake up.

Blogging and Content Management

Take WordPress from 2 years ago and try to install it. I dare ya.
It’s possible, but it ain’t pretty.
Building a web site using Movable Type wasn’t much better. If you want to get an idea of what it felt like, stretch your uvula until it touches your nose, then let it snap back.
You just experienced a 2005 Movable Type/Wordpress site launch.
Both of these industry standard tools (and dozens of others) now stand up well as full-fledged content management systems (CMS for short). So building and launching a CMS-driven site is within reach of anyone willing to make a relatively small investment.
What this means to you: You can have a site that doesn’t require an HTML expert for edits. And you can have that site for a lot less money than you once did.

A fancy CMS, with automatic related links, built-in templating and other whiz-bang features will still cost a pretty penny. But the cost of entry is now far lower.

The Usable Web: Development Meets Design

In early 2005 I tried to buy my wife a gift online. I won’t name the site. But by the time I was done I’d ground my molars down to small, flat nubs that wailed for mercy in the back of my mouth.
There are still plenty of sites like that. But for every usability horror you can usually find a great, easy-to-use site.
OK. I’m exaggerating. A lot. Maybe the horror-to-easy ratio is more like 10:1. But it’s still an improvement.
Why? Because development has caught up with design, and teams willing to take advantage of tools like Scriptaculous that lend new flexibility to site implementations can build some great stuff.
What this means to you: Developers can’t look at a great interface and say it’s impossible. Designers can’t say they have to design down. Customers can reduce Tums intake by 50%.

Still a Long Way to Go

There’s still plenty of internet marketing problems out there:

  1. Most people still believe the keywords meta tag matters. Why is that?
  2. Amazon.com’s interface still makes me cringe.
  3. 99% of site owners apparently can’t string together a sentence.
  4. Security on most sites is porous at best.

I could go on. But I’m all positive today. So I’ll stop.

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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