Back in the mid 2000's I was working heavily in the SEO aka Internet Marketing industry. During this time getting traffic from search engines was all the craze and was becoming a really big thing. If you could get your site ranked on Google for certain keywords you would get a TON of traffic and consequently make a lot of really good money. There were tons of opportunities at this time and many people were finding ways to take advantage of this free traffic and rank their websites on search engines.
So this whole SEO industry became really big and everyone wanted to be a part of it. Now this whole search engine industry created a shift in the way many people did business. What started out as businesses looking to supplement their Yellow Pages and other forms of marketing with search traffic soon transformed into these businesses building websites specifically around the parameters needed for getting traffic from search engines.
Let me say it another way.
With SEO people started to focus on building the marketing side of their business completely around search engines. Since at the time, and still today, Google dominated search traffic people would build websites specifically for Google and begin to rely specifically on Google for their marketing. Where before search engines people may have focused on their brand and relationships with people, after search engines people were focusing less on the brand and more on what Google wanted.
What ultimately happened is many people became dependent on Google. Rather than marketing through alternative channels many, many people became super focused on one channel: Google. And it makes sense of course. Google was giving way better ROI. You could spend a lot less on SEO and if you ranked on the first page for some decent search terms the sales would just pour in.
Google obviously provided and continues to provide a valuable service with their search engine. The problem is people would forfeit their other marketing channels and put all their eggs in one basket. Google was so effective that nobody would want to spend their money anywhere else.
But search rankings change. And Google doesn't always keep your website ranked high where traffic comes pouring in.
So what many of these people who relied completely on Google started to notice was that once Google started to make some changes to their algorithm their website would drop and they would lose all their traffic. So they would figure out what changes were made and then they would make those changes and work their way back up the rankings. And then more changes would happen. So they would make those changes, maybe build a few other websites and continue to grind keeping up with the latest Google algorithm changes. What people didn't completely realize was that their business was building completely on Google. They now depended on Google for traffic and they were now subservient to Google. If Google slapped their website and they lost traffic they were screwed. They had all their eggs in one basket.
Your Internets are belong to me
And this is what happened. And it got worse and worse as time went on. Google got smarter and smarter with ranking websites and it became harder and harder to use tricks to get your way to the top. This all reached a peak in 2011 when Google released the Panda and Penguin updates. At this point they had become really good at detecting spam websites whose sole purpose was to help rank websites without providing any real value. And once Google rolled out these algorithm updates many people who built their business on Google realized that they held very little power. At any time Google could take away the traffic you depended upon. And they did it to countless people and destroyed a large part of the SEO industry overnight.
From Decentralized to Centralized
The Internet started out as a network of many different computers sharing information. When people put websites up they are doing so in a decentralized way where other people don't control this website. But what ultimately has happened is people like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Reddit and others have come along and said, why go with the hassle of building a website and not just distribute your information through us?
We started out decentralized with websites owned by different people. Then for a brief period we had a time when RSS was a really big thing where people could subscribe to a feed for a website's content. RSS was a very interesting concept because it centralized and organized content in a still decentralized way where website owners still controlled their content.
But with the advent of video, social media sites and other things becoming more popular on the Internet things like RSS were replaced by Facebook and Twitter. Why use RSS if you can more easily have all your content and subscriptions managed in a way better UI, with way better features, with way better notifications, with way better communication, etc.? The centralized approach was just too good.
The technical nature of the Internet makes it hard to build a website that allows for many of the things people need. You can't really build a community like Facebook into your own decentralized business site. You can't easily build video uploads and distribution through your business site like you can with Youtube. Even with open source software it is still inferior to the polished service specific platforms built by experts like Youtube and Twitter. These guys got it dialed in. That's all they do.
So what has happened is we have shifted from a decentralized web to a centralized web. We have given up control over our information for convenience in getting it out there. Rather than building our own Youtubes or Instagrams, we instead just use them. And these are centralized businesses that control our information. We no longer own our information, they do. And I'm obviously not saying it's a bad thing. They provide a valuable service. That's why people use it. But it's worth noticing. It's worth understanding that we have shifted from running and owning our own web information to having others run and own our web information. We have given away control. And this is similar to what happened with Google and all the people doing SEO. One change on Google's part for whatever reason and your information is gone. They hold the cards, not you.
Social Media Demonetization and Ban Hammers
I bring this up because this obviously ties in with what is going on with Youtube demonetizing videos, Twitter and Facebook banning accounts and all the rest of it. Your Youtube channel isn't fully your property. Sure you control it somewhat and can upload videos and that kind of thing. But if they want to nuke your account they can. If they deem that you're hurting their business they will just shut you off.
And we have seen this with not just Youtube, but with all of them: Facebook, Twitter, etc.
So if you're in it for the long run it's important to have some type of strategy behind all of this. You shouldn't just only have a single Youtube channel and hope for the best. Sure get started and build and do that. But if you're getting some traction you need to learn how to spread out a bit and control your future. Don't give all your power away. Build an actual brand and business that can't be shut down by somebody else.
I really like how www.infowars.com has done this because they're smart enough to understand that they need to have their own brand outside of just Youtube. They use Youtube as a supplement to their brand, not as their brand. You need to use these channels to supplement your main entity that you control. You need to build your brand and your business instead of just your followers or your likes. People need to know about you and where to find you outside of just social media channels.
If your only online presence is a social media presence, then you are building your house on a very shaky foundation. At anytime it may be swept away.
Filed under:Internet / Tech, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google, SEO