Grassroots Convergence – The Changing Web

The first two weeks of November saw me traveling from the west coast to New York, and back to the coast before heading down to Las Vegas. I had the privilege of attending two of the most important annual search and Internet marketing conferences, ad:Tech NYC and Pubcon Las Vegas. As a writer in this space, my goal was to try to speak with as many people as possible in order to figure out where the industry is going in the coming years. Road-weary and exhausted as I am, I feel enlightened and exhilarated. The state of search marketing is stronger than ever. It is however, going to change radically in the coming year.

The first thing webmasters need to understand is how Web2.0 has raised the intensity of information sharing. The concept of using mass or micro-interest communities to basically inform
themselves, has transformed the businesses of the smartest search marketers. An important facet of effective website optimization is the inclusion of RSS feeds and social networking
tags to relevant documents housed in relation to the site. Similarly, new website marketing campaigns often include MySpace profiles, Flickr photosharing and blogcasts of some sort or
another.

The days of the brochure website as an effective marketing tool are long over. While it is ok to carve a quaint niche in your own quiet location on the web, chances are that location will remain quiet unless you use social media tools to attract visitors along with the standard search listings and paid advertisements.

The second thing webmasters should concentrate on is the production of marketing materials that bring radio and video formats to the web. Online marketing is no longer confined to
what has traditionally been considered the online space. Web enabled cell phones, iPods and handheld devices like Blackberries are as important today as desktop or laptop computers were in previous years.

Text and graphic based advertising preceded audio advertising as the radio preceded TV’s promotion of video advertising. It’s sort of like the circle of life in an electronic world repeating
itself again. Video trumps text again. It’s only natural after all.

The very first press conference at ad:Tech was held early Monday morning and I was one of four reporters to attend. That’s too bad because many missed a good story that is based in common sense.

If video advertising works, as we all know it does, interactive video advertising likely works better. That’s the bet many marketing professionals are making going into 2007 as the
annual ad-spend on online video is projected to grow by 89% next year.

According to eMarketer CEO, Geoff Ramsey, the new online media is rapidly replacing traditional advertising channels as younger viewers search the Internet for entertainment. Ramsey suggests by the end of the decade, traditional advertising will be a third as effective as online advertising, citing a March 2006 American Marketing Association Study that says 78% percent of leading advertisers agree that effectiveness of TV ads has diminished in the last few years.

In other words, those expensive ads that drove the development of television are not working as well anymore. TV production values begin to slip and eventually the viewers look away. With
YouTube, MySpace and the general history of user inspired mayhem of the web, more than a few generations are growing up looking online. The older medium is slowly starting to starve while a bountiful new media ad-spend eats TV’s lunch for breakfast.

Money is now trickling down to the grassroots in the online advertising marketplace. While programs such as Google AdSense and Y!SM have provided modest incomes for webmasters for a few years, a very real sense of monetization is present for independent webmasters. There is simply not enough advertising space for the absurd inventory of willing advertisers out there.

Internet users should expect to see a change in the way independent webmasters relate to the products they create and offer for public consumption. Though there are a growing number
of highly creative webmasters trying to produce interesting and stimulating content, the major monetization model of many independent webmasters is to make a number of made-for-(Google)
AdSense sites and placing as many ads by Google as possible, or to create parked domain sites populated with paid-advertising.

Along with an increasing amount of user-made content given and shared freely on the Internet, many are starting to look to the professional content and support offered by major entities such
as the Yahoo Publisher Network or, in the case of professional content creators, successful experiments like John Battelle’s Federated Media. Extraordinary content tends to find its way to
the top and over time the coordination and presentation of extraordinary content is expected to attract far higher viewers and correspondingly stronger advertising revenues.

Populating any Internet site, regardless of its format, with extraordinary content requires mechanical assistance, the type easily provided by the growing number of information feeds
available for webmasters to use and share with others. As most webmasters working in any sector want their websites to be consistent traffic attractors many are finding and making use of relevant, off-site feeds covering items such as weather conditions, news, accommodation references, or general information. This cross-pollination of content is used to both attract and drive web traffic to highly sophisticated landing pages designed to motivate revenue-generating clicks.

Every page is thus thought of as a landing page. Each is treated in that spiritual-scientific Zen-space extraordinary search marketers find when examining a document. One of the companies I stumbled across, Optimost.com, exemplifies how the bar has been raised on what is considered effective, revenue-generating website design. Calling themselves a website optimization service, Optimost works with clients ranging from Time-Life and Overstock.com to clients of smaller SEO firms to focus visitor attention and present advertising options in an optimal layout. Using an on-the-fly multivariate testing process, Optimost selects the page or document layout selected by a majority of site visitors themselves.

Serious advertising money is not only on the table; it is spilling off the sides. The effect of that amount of money spread through the web design, online advertising and search marketing communities is going to make a major difference in the coming years. Production values are as high as revenue expectations and those expectations are rising every day. The market is on the verge of maturing, past its awkward adolescence and well on its way to figuring out what it wants to do for fun; and profit.

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