Having worked the web professionally since 1995, I can remember a time when we weren't so hardwired to technology. Sure a lot of the elements of online life that we take for granted today were already in vogue back then, like Apple vs PC, inkjet printers, zines (the forerunner of blogs), and even cellphones had already made the scene. The chief difference between then and now was the way in which the public viewed the wired world. Back then going online was more of a convenience than a way of life. While some people (particularly the young) were addicted to certain aspects of technology, more teenagers were hooked on video games then the Internet in 95.
That was Then and This is Now
Flash forward 16 years and the Internet and the cellphone have sunk their technological hooks into every aspect of modern life. Most people would find it hard to function professionally if they couldn't surf the web 24/7 on PC, cellphone and tablet. Gone are the lines that separated one form of wireless technology from the other. Far from simply being able to read the printed word, the twenty first century version of the Internet now offers everything from streaming video to voice activation. But while the web has insinuated itself into our daily lives, has that been a help or a hindrance to businesses on the whole?
Through the Gorilla Glass
If we view the past sixteen years of online "progress" in terms of competition and opportunity we get mixed results. On the one hand, there are certainly more people using the Internet. In 2000 there were more than 108 million people in the US and 360 million people worldwide who were using the Internet. By 2011, those numbers had jumped to 273 million in the US and 2.2 billion worldwide, an increase of 528%. So from a strictly statistical level, the Internet offers more mouths to feed, which is a boon to businesses hungry for more customers.
Now for the downside. Back in 2000 there were lots of search engines that could provide businesses with both position and traffic. Companies such as Alta Vista Ask Jeeves, Excite, Infoseek, Lycos, Magellan, and WebCrawler made it possible for companies large and small to get into the online game. Sure, Google was also in the mix back in 2000, but they hadn't muscled their way into dominance back then to become the 800 lb gorilla in the room that they are today.
While even the smallest of businesses can generate page 1 results on Google today, it is a far more complicated affair. And in the wired world, complicated translates into time and money. Whereas back in 2000, it was relatively simple to have an SEO expert tune up your homepage, in the modern world of Internet marketing, there are 31 points of light that every search engine spider alights on today, including such things as blogs, social networks, backlinks and video. If your web presence is lacking in any of these, or you aren't adding compelling content to them on at least a weekly basis, then your chances of achieving a page 1 result are slim at best.
Back to the Future
Not only are there far more stops on the technology train in 2012 then there were in 2000, but a number of the stops have siderails. Consider social networking. If you are serious about making the grade online, then being on Facebook (the second most visited destination online after Google) isn't enough. You also need to Tweet. Not to mention the fact that back in November of 2011 Google launched its own social network Google+. So if you are looking to make the grade with Google, it's probably a good idea to add this to your online marketing mix as well.
Overwhelmed? Well we're not done yet. Because while more than half of the cellphones in the US are smartphones capable of surfing the web, that doesn't mean that every business in the US shouldn't also take the time and money to invest in a mobile version of their website. Why's that? First of all, in the world of web surfing, it is a fact that in two years or less there will be more people surfing the web via smartphone and tablet computer than via PC and laptop. Add to this the fact that not only do these sites fit smartphone screens picture perfect but mobile search engines as a rule look for mobile sites, and you need to go mobile.
No End in Site
Not only isn't the Internet going to get simpler as time goes on, it is inevitably going to get ever more complicated. As time passes there are going to be more must-have portals and networks that businesses will be coerced into joining, there will be more technological marvels (such as Google Glasses) launched that will not only hit the market, but will be required if you are going to keep up with the Joneses. While you read this article more than 8,000 websites were launched, all of which want to be on Google page 1.
To put things into perspective, while there are infinitely more online opportunities for businesses to engage in in 2012 than there were way back when, remember this: In order to keep up with the herd you have to know where it is heading.
Carl Weiss has been helping clients stay ahead of the herd since 1995. You can hear Carl's weekly online radio show on Blog Talk Radio You can also find out more about the unique way he works the web by going to Access-JAX and Jacksonville Video Production.