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November 13th, 2017
15 min read
Are you still trying to play the traffic game from 6+ years ago? Perhaps you are and you haven’t realized it yet.
Because here’s the thing…
If you’re still relying on things like guest posting, SEO, social sharing and backlinks to try to build your traffic, then you’re playing an outdated game. One that has moved on and left you behind.That's because the web, as you know it, is dying. And if you don't adjust your game accordingly, you will get left behind.Click To Tweet
I recently came across a post by André Staltz that was incredibly well written: The Web Began Dying in 2014. Here’s How.
Let me give you the bullet point version:
- Google and Facebook now control over 70% of internet traffic. In other words, these two companies are now the middlemen which control the throughput of over 70% of all online traffic.
- Much of this is do to the rapid rise of mobile traffic, which these two companies control most of.
- This centralization is having a major impact on many industries, including the press. Whereas Facebook used to be a minor traffic source for major media outlets, now Facebook is a major player and can make or break media companies.
- Google and Facebook are both acquiring and/or taking over competitors through their offerings.
- Google is evolving into less of a direct search engine to outside sites, but more of THE source for information. Artificial intelligence will replace traditional keyword search and much more of the information we get will be gotten without ever leaving Google’s ecosystem.
- Amazon is doing to ecommerce what Google/Facebook are doing to the rest of the internet.
- Google is becoming the knowledge internet company, Facebook the social internet company, and Amazon the ecommerce company.
- The web is centralizing around these 3 companies, but is more and more being experienced through apps.
- It is the “Appleification” of the web. The tech giants are setting up huge walled gardens, experienced through proprietary hardware they build themselves.
- As AR and VR become more prevalent, this centralization will only get stronger. Google and Facebook both have major inroads already.
- The internet could evolve into a “trinet”, with most of the internet being experienced through 3 companies: Google, Facebook and Amazon. Internet service providers could even begin offering barebones internet plans with access to only these 3 networks.
This article does a good job of showing how things have changed and where things could easily go.
The original idea of the web was a large, decentralized worldwide network that truly democratized information. It accomplished that mission, to be clear.
But, over the years, things have been centralizing around these big companies. None of it is forced, of course. Truth is, these companies have all provided a better product that is convenient and serves the market well. The market is therefore rewarding these companies accordingly. The result, though, is that they are turning this decentralized internet into more of a group of centralized networks.
- Google will become the place for information.
- Facebook will be for all things social.
- Amazon will be the marketplace.
The millions of independent smaller sites out there become less and less important, less and less of a major factor. And the ones that do make an impact are doing it through these middlemen.
How many ecommerce companies today rely on Amazon’s marketplace for all or a major portion of their revenue? Many. Amazon can make or break businesses.
How many media sites can be made or broken by Google or Facebook? Most. This has been one of the debates in the world of news, in fact. Sites that put out information that isn’t liked can be labeled as “fake news” and are in a position to be killed with the flip of a switch by Google and Facebook.
How many blogs or websites have had major revenue cut drastically because they were overly reliant on Google Adsense and were cut off because of a perceived terms of service violation? What’s worse is that many times the violation was false or something that was inadvertent, but the ban was all done by computer. And there’s nobody to call to get the site put back. It can be a major source of frustration for website owners and put you into a really unfortunate predicament.
How All This Has Radically Changed The Traffic Game
So, you’re working to build up your web traffic in this evolving internet where the gates are controlled by Google and Facebook primarily. First, let’s look into why this means that “old school” traffic strategies have become less effective.
We already know SEO has evolved greatly from the old days. But, it is changing even more. Many top content marketers don’t even worry that much about traditional SEO anymore.
The reason is shown with this quote from Andre’s article:
GOOG’s shift away from Search is a sign how they are growing their strategy beyond the Web. For many years, Google used to be just a tool that played the important role of assisting the Web, by indexing it. Lately, however, it is not attractive for Google to be a mere search engine of the Web. For the purposes expressed in their mission statement, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, the search engine approach has been exhausted. The multi-second path from search query, to search results, to webpage, to information, is too long to provide an ideal user experience. Their goal is to cut the middlemen in that path. They have tried to cut out the results page with their “I’m feeling lucky” button, but without intelligent analysis they cannot reliably take shortcuts in that path. With AI, they believe they can shorten the path to just one step, “get information”, even without searching for it in the first place. That’s the purpose of Suggest.
Ever tried Google Home? You basically just ask it a question by talking to it and it gives you the answer. Google is going out to the web to find that information but then just presenting it to you. You don’t go to the original source.Google is moving away from being a middleman and instead just becoming... the man.Click To Tweet
In this world, then, where Google and Facebook are controlling most of the traffic (over 70%), that leaves the rest of the internet controlling less than 30% of the traffic directly. With those kinds of odds, you can then see why strategies like guest posting have dwindled in terms of effectiveness. Sure, it can still work if done well, but it is much less direct than just going to Google/Facebook directly.
In a world where Google and Facebook are dominating the web experience, do backlinks matter as much? No. If Google is just presenting the information directly, the user will never see whatever backlinks are in the article.
The list goes on…
- Google’s search is looking for signs of authority and social proof on content to show in search results, all in an effort to provide the best user experience. The unfortunate effect is that this makes it harder to “break in” to that with a new site.
- People are more and more experiencing the web through apps and not the open web.
- Facebook is dominant for mobile traffic, yet organic reach for brands on Facebook has dropped.
- More and more of the Facebook experience is moving to never leaving the Facebook ecosystem. Instant Articles serves up web content within the ecosystem from third parties. You can now build your list using Lead Ads without the user ever leaving Facebook. Messenger is evolving into a full customer experience, complete with ecommerce capabilities all within the Facebook ecosystem.
Truth is that today, if you’re still relying on old traffic strategies exclusively to build your blog traffic and your business, you’re playing in a pool which is getting smaller and smaller.
What This Means For You, Your Blog, Your Business
To be clear, I don’t think the independent web is going anywhere. It is just that things are changing. Like it or not, Google/Facebook/Amazon are turning the internet into a trinet. And, if you keep playing in the non-trinet portion of the internet, you will be playing a smaller and smaller game.
None of this was forced on anybody. This is all the market rewarding these companies for a better mousetrap. And while it would be easy to get really concerned about these companies controlling everything, I’m also really encouraged by the rapid market interest and development on decentralization technologies like cryptocurrency and blockchain. That’s an entirely different topic, but the market is definitely moving towards decentralization in many ways.
But, things are changing and you need to adapt.
And the most fundamental change of all is that this is now a “pay to play” environment when it comes to traffic.
These big 3 companies are evolving into utilities, similar to the electric company. And if you want electricity from the electric company, you pay for it.
Free, organic traffic will never die, but it has gotten harder. Reality is that a fundamental component of traffic strategy today is paid traffic.
But, if it is now practically a necessity to buy traffic in order to grow your business, how are you supposed to afford it? Well, again, the game has to be played differently.
Monetization is as much about your ability to GROW YOUR TRAFFIC as it is about generating revenue.
Because you need to be able to afford to buy traffic from Google/Facebook. It is just like a business has to be able to afford it’s own electric bill. It really shouldn’t be looked at any differently.Today, buying traffic from Google/FB should be almost as expected as paying your electric bill.Click To Tweet
But, this is a good thing. Very much so. Because, in order to generate revenue, you have to serve people in exchange. You will need to focus on how to be of service to people in a more direct way… so that they will pay you…. so that you can buy some ads.
How This Changes Things For Content Creators And Media
Media companies (or bloggers) that don’t produce any product or service will have to make some fundamental shifts. Relying on banner ad revenue today is a dying game.Relying on banner ad revenue today is a dying game.Click To Tweet
Ads have become ridiculously aggressive and that is because it is a dying model.
You’re beginning to see major media companies try to shift into a recurring revenue model. Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times are large examples of major media companies trying to make this shift. You’re also seeing a new wave of smaller, independent media sites that are turning to subscription models so that they’re not totally reliant on ads (TheBlaze is one such example). Some even smaller publishers are setting up subscriptions on Patreon for their readers to help fund the content they want.
[NOTE: Here at the Academy, we have the Membership Site Blueprint which is all about turning your site into a membership.]
There are also networks like Steemit where content creators are rewarded financially for awesome content through their own built-in cryptocurrency. I think the world of micro-payments for content is definitely going to increase.
All of this, however, places more and more importance on QUALITY content as well as COMMUNITY. If a content creator is going to charge directly for their content, they need to have the reputation and community to be able to do that. Content alone won’t necessarily entice anybody to buy it… not in a world where content’s perceived value has dropped due to information overload.
This is the internet “growing up”. It is maturing. It is the free market choosing the winners based on who provides the most value. This is natural… and GOOD.
But, content creators need to mature, too, or they will die.
Ads don’t produce value for the user, but only the advertiser. And even that value is dropping due to the things we talked about above.
If you are a content creator or a traditional blogger without any product/service, then you need to play the game differently or you will get phased out. That’s just reality.
Important Action Items
So, what do you do about all this?
I’m guessing that little in this article has been new. Perhaps you just got a new perspective on it. I mean, surely you’ve noticed how Google and Facebook seem to be controlling much these days. You’ve seen how mobile traffic is increasing. You’ve seen AI like Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa that are more and more providing information directly without sending people through to the original source.
Things are changing and you’ve seen it, even if it might not have dawned on you before now on what all this means for the future of blogging and traffic.
So, what do you do about it?
The way I see it, there are two types of people likely reading this article. There are online entrepreneurs (either aspiring, new or experienced) who are seeking to provide a product or service to people online… and then there are content creators who simply want to produce online content and not necessarily get into traditional business.
So, here’s what I would recommend you be thinking about, depending on which you are…
If you are an online business owner (or plan to be), then…
- Place more emphasis on product/service and less on blogging. It doesn’t mean you stop blogging, of course, but you need to keep it in perspective as a marketing channel, and not the main focus.
- Your main goal is to build your list so that you can command attention without having to pay for it every single time.
- Monetization is the aim, by setting up funnels that will sell your product/service. You want to increase your audience, yes, but even more importantly you want to get CUSTOMERS.
- You should be setting aside a portion of your revenue for paid traffic to fuel the machine.
- If you still have a mindset of starting up this business without any initial investment, get over it. Things are maturing, and just like you probably would never expect to start an offline business without any initial startup capital, you can’t honestly expect to start an online business without startup capital either. You’ve got to spin up the machine with traffic.
This is what I specialize in here at the Blog Marketing Academy, and The Lab in particular.
If you are a content creator without any product/service, then…
- I would strongly look at evolving what you do into an actual business with some kind of product/service behind it. This way you can more directly monetize and therefore operate on today’s internet. But, aside from that…
- Realize that the banner ad scene is dying and it is a waste of your time to pursue it as a business model. Wrap your mind around some kind of direct revenue model. If not a product/service, then your content becomes the product.
- Everything you do has to be about growing a community and email list. It needs to be a community you can talk to without Facebook/Google. Your email list is best.
- Either be working to make your content something you could turn into a small recurring revenue program funded by your readers (some use Patreon for this) or some kind of micro-payment model (still a developing area).
- Utilize the big networks in all possible ways, including videos, podcasts, FB groups, page, and more. But, all of it designed to bring people into your core community that YOU control. Then, as your base of support and network grows and revenue grows with it, you can re-invest back into paid traffic mediums to fuel the machine and expand reach.
One thing is clear, either way…
To operate online today, you need a source of revenue. One that you control and doesn’t go through a middleman.
You also need attention. Attention is what powers the internet and all of us online. You will need to buy it… especially at first. However, by building internal assets and your own community, you are investing in your own house where you won’t fully depend on every little move by Google and Facebook to run your business.
This, therefore, allows you to operate in the world of traffic as it exists today and how it will continue to exist into the future.
None of this is anything to worry about or get pissed at. It would be misguided to get angry and resentful about the power of Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. These companies got there by doing what they do better than everybody else. There is cause for concern if they put themselves into a position of censor, but that’s a debate for another time.
As online marketers and content creators, it is great that these companies are in the position of selling you attention. It is predictable. Traffic is a guarantee. You just have to have the right structure and strategy to be able to take part in it.
This is a good thing – and in many ways easier.
Just like it is easier to pay for electricity than to generate your own, it is also much easier to pay for traffic than to generate it on your own. In reality, you will do both.
But, to do that, you need to look at your overall strategy to ensure that you have the ability to pay the traffic bill. 🙂