Everything was so simple then… When search engines ruled the Internet, all we had to do was optimize our web sites to get some love and we’d turn up at the top of the results page. The most effective way to rank highly was to have high quality links pointing to our web pages. These inbound links were the coins that were deposited into our SEO piggy banks. They were the currency of Internet marketing.
Why is this conversation in the past tense?
Because of so-called “walled gardens” like Facebook and iTunes, that’s why.
Earlier this week, I wrote “Search Engine Marketing: I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means” in response to Wired magazine’s article, “The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.” Their point was the Internet is simply a collection of pipes that form a content delivery system. The “Web” is essentially HTML sites that do not block search engines. iTunes is an application, not a web site. Facebook is (mostly) private and can’t be crawled by search engines. They are walled gardens.
This means that search engines aren’t as omniscient as they used to be.
…Which means they aren’t as influential in Internet marketing as they used to be.
……Which means that links aren’t as valuable as they used to be.
During JitterJam‘s weekly Creative Coffee session this morning, we were talking about how to identify influencers in social media. As we kicked around various ideas and returned from tangents, one of the ideas that crystallized was that in our brave new world of social media, the coin of the realm is changing from links to people.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point,” he examines the phenomenon of messages going viral. One of the main ingredients to an epidemic, he suggests, is a set of people with specific gifts:
- Mavens are “people we rely upon to connect us with new information.”
- Connectors “link us up with the world … people with a special gift for bringing the world together.” People tend to think of the Internet as a single, enormous, amorphous glob of people when, in fact, it is a series of groups. Connectors act as the information conduits between these groups.
- Salesmen are the charismatic persuaders.
As we try to establish our own influence online and spread our ideas, we still need to be doing SEO and collecting links. But we need to leave room in our piggy back for the new coins of the realm also; mavens, connectors, and salesmen. They are the ones with the keys to the walled gardens in which search engines are persona non grata.
P.S. If you’re in NH, I encourage you to stop by JitterJam on Friday mornings (8:30 – 9:30) for Creative Coffee. It’s a great forum for idea exchange. Today’s session included Ric Pratte, Marty Watts, Michael Conway, Joe Merrow, and Karen Grimmett.