I’ve been working in internet-based businesses for 20 years now. As such, I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve made a lot of money. I’ve gotten burned out. And I’ve gotten re-inspired. I’ve started working with a few businesses to help them take advantage of where the internet is today. And in a recent conversation with a client, I was asked what I saw as the top trends in Internet business right now. It made sense to put everything into a blog post, but where to put it… oh yeah, here is good. Might as well start blogging again, even if it isn’t about kittens, doggies, kids, or adventures in Shasta. (But yes, things in Shasta are awesome. The kids are thriving. Mark’s business is thriving. My kittens are hilarious, Alex is awesome, and I still miss Riley.)

So, the state of the Web. Here are the trends I see.

mobile-phone-usage

Being mobile-ready is absolutely critical

More and more traffic to web sites is coming from non-desktop sources. Whether your traffic is coming from iPads, iPhones, Android phones, Windows phones, or the plethora of me-too table computers, mobile traffic is dominating. If your web site isn’t mobile-ready or “responsive” yet, now is the time to get it responsive. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business, a personal blog, or a large multi-national corporation. If you want to get found, it is critically important to have a web site that adapts to the device it’s being viewed on.

Don’t know if your site is mobile ready? Here’s a great tool from Google that gives you an idea. If you’re not sure how to get mobile ready, talk to your web developer. If your web developer downplays the importance of being mobile ready, find a new web developer.

Ensuring your site is mobile ready will even determine whether or not you rank in the SERPs (search engine result pages). If you like organic (free) traffic from Google, being mobile ready is critical for your business.

Social media marketing dominates

It’s no secret that social media is the place where people congregate online. What’s growing is how businesses engage with their customers and prospects on social media. Facebook is definitely the top dog at the moment. Untethered by Twitter’s 140-character limit, Facebook allows people — and businesses to engage at a deeper level, interacting in a way that is most comfortable to consumers. While Facebook advertising has been a point of contention for many users, it is one of the most effective and non-intrusive methods of connecting with prospects. Facebook’s depth of targeting capabilities and awesome return on investment makes it my favorite choice for growing businesses.

Of course, other social networks know this. And they’ll also allow for increased ability to target and market to consumers. Advertising is the dollar that drives the internet and makes it possible for us all to enjoy social media without paying for it. Watch for the other social networks to consistently improve and innovate in the advertising space.

Engaging your customers on social media also feeds into your search placement. So even if you’re only focused on ranking in the SERPs, your social media participation is incredibly important to your rank.

But there are still billions of searches performed each month. Search is still incredibly important, and social media involvement supports search.

Retargeting creates assets.

What is retargeting? Say for example you find some great shoes on Nordstrom’s web site. Then, you go check on Facebook and see an ad for those same shoes. Boom, you’ve been retargeted. If you do any online marketing at all, setting up retargeting is very important. It basically creates a list of people within either Google or Facebook that you know are interested in whatever you have to offer. You can set up retargeting for your site as a whole, or your can set up retargeting for each individual content area. If you do it by content area, the segment or “custom audience” becomes incredibly targeted. And it has value. It becomes a method of targeting your marketing quite effectively to each segment’s specific interest.

google-inbox

Email marketing is evolving.

Have you tried out Google Inbox? It’s a nifty little tool for your mobile device that segments your Gmail based on the type of mailing. If you’re an internet marketer, it might be kind of depressing to see your mail grouped in with the latest in spam-related pitches.  If you’re looking to develop a long term relationship with your customers, you’ve got to be very strategic in how you develop and manage your email list. Here are things that are out:

  • Sending out mailings pitching Clickbank garbage every single day. If you’re looking to churn through users and bleed them for cash, go right ahead.
  • Offering lightweight “bonuses” to entice people on to your list and never providing any value to your customers.
  • Using your email list to sell sell sell without ever providing any valuable content to your users.
  • Thinly veiled affiliate offers for garbage products/services (I’m looking at you, affiliate marketers pushing Hostgator accounts. Shame on you.

I’m sure you see some familiar activities that are out. These activities destroy your deliverability, destroy customer relationships, and destroy your business. Your customer’s inbox is the most important piece of internet marketing. It’s the place where you come into their experience most intimately, and it requires a level of respect that most internet marketers fail to grasp. So what’s in?

  • Creating value. Send your customers things that will genuinely help them — sporadically.
  • Respecting your customer’s inbox. Don’t inundate them with emails every day.
  • Use email to invest in your relationship with your customers and prospects.

If you’re having issues with deliverability and low open rates, look at managing your list more efficiently. If your customers don’t find value in what you send them, it has an affect on your deliverability (e.g., the big email service providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc. watch these things).

Manage SEO

Manage your SEO as if it were an asset.

Search placement is no longer something to take for granted. Negative SEO is definitely a real thing, and being targeted by unscrupulous competition happens. It’s going to happen more frequently. And if you shot yourself in the foot with bad link building, it is still possible to recover from negative SEO. If you’re not aware of how and why your rank is where it is, there are tools I can show you that will give you an idea of what metrics go into your search rank. If you’re not ranking at all, there are things you can do to rank again. Negative SEO and penalties are here to stay, and it’s very important to watch your rank and manage your search placement as the asset for driving business that it is.

Content marketing will continue to dominate.

Writing blog posts, creating infographics, and placing articles on web sites that also link back to your own web site will continue to create value both for search engine placement but also for engaging customers and prospects. However, there is a lot of crap out there on the internet. I hope I am guilty of very little crap content generation, but the awareness of how much crap is out there should do one thing for us: make us commit even more towards creating content of value. Make people laugh. Make people inspired. Make people feel good. All of that value does one thing: creates brand recognition and brand loyalty.