Online Marketing is Dead

Online Marketing is Dead!

It’s a quiet week in online marketing when no one declares the end of affiliate marketing, the end of SEO, the end of e-commerce, the end of the gravy-train or something of that ilk.

This post is not about declaring the death of anything, but it’s also not a post to reassure you about the future of online business. Instead, I want to talk about the reality of online marketing and the big mistakes that come with too much optimism as well as too much pessimism about it.

A Step Back

There are many reasons to fear the end of various kinds of online business practices. Google algorithm changes are a favorite,but there’s also twitter banning tons of accounts, Amazon no longer allowing affiliates from certain states, rebill-scam offers being legislated out of existence, heavily funded “big fish” companies stomping all over your niche,… the list goes on.

However, it’s too easy to get caught up in self-pity and panic about whatever the latest change is that has affected or might somehow in the future affect online marketers. If you take a step back, you’ll quickly realize that there’s always something to complain about. And there have always been people complaining. When I first started with online marketing, there were already people whining about some Google update or other and there were already people declaring that it was all over for the “little guy”.

I’m sure this kind of thing has been going on since approximately the second day of the Internet’s existence.

The Arms Race

It’s getting harder every day. It used to be that you could buy 1-cent clicks on Google AdWords for super-valuable keywords and send the traffic directly to an affiliate offer. Those were the days! It used to be that if you created a blog promoting a ClickBank product, you’d immediately get top-listings in Google, because no one else was promoting those products, so your site ranked by default. At least, that’s what I’ve been told (I haven’t been around very long).

On the other hand, it used to be that you had to go through a lot of trouble just to register a domain, let alone build a website! It used to be that people were very cautious about buying anything online. It used to be that not many people were online to begin with. It used to be that you had to do everything yourself, when now you can use an enormous range of tools and services that make a marketer’s life easier (content management systems, shopping carts, affiliate systems, payment processors…).

It’s like an arms race. While the opportunities for making a quick buck are shrinking, the tools and systems that can help you build an online business are becoming better, easier to use and more affordable.

Distractions and Excuses

I’m not blindly optimistic about online marketing, even though I do think it’s still a great opportunity, even if you’re completely new to it all. I assume that online marketing and the Internet will keep changing rapidly and maybe everything we do now will no longer be useful or valid in five year’s time. I also believe it’s likely that a global crisis of some sort will thoroughly mess with us and our businesses, within my lifetime.

But that doesn’t stop me from keeping on working on my business. Here’s what you need to realize: while some are complaining, other’s are profiting. Some people are busy writing forum- and blog-posts about how Google has shut small players out of the search results and at the very same time, other people are getting their small sites ranked for lucrative keywords. I can guarantee you that right now, someone with little to no funding and no connections is working on a website, a service or an idea that will make him or her a billionaire in the near future. They aren’t complaining on forums. They’re too busy making stuff happen.

As an entrepreneur, you are constantly faced with a changing environment and there’s always a new challenge around the corner. And yes, sometimes changes happen that pull the rug from under your feet. It’s good to be cautious. But don’t ever buy into the panic and don’t ever let “the death of online marketing” become a distraction for you – a justification to complain and moan instead of work.

And if you do need a pinch of optimism, think about this: while we don’t know what the future holds, at least we know that people who declare the end of online/affiliate/niche marketing have historically been incorrect 100% of the time. Don’t listen to anyone with a track-record like that.

All the best,

About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Norma says:

    Thanks a lot for this, Shane.

    There is a rather famous marketer preaching all kinds of terrible gloom and doom right now–to sell his expensive product, of course.

    You’re absolutely right, there will always be challenges. The people who are creative and hard working can always find a way around them.

    • Shane says:

      Yeah, some of the complainers are always doing it on purpose, because they know that fear sells.

      Thansk for your comment!

  • Ken says:

    Keeping u straight… :)

    “little to know funding” should be “little to no funding”.

    Spell checkers do not catch those issues. Made similar mistakes like that all the time just to (in horror) read them in print.

    Rock On!

  • Niall says:

    Shane you’re right on the money there – I wrote something similar recently too. A big name guru (lol guru…how egotistical) just mailed on how affiliate marketing is dead. Apparently Adsense is dead, article marketing is dead, SEO is dead…..strange…all still working for me.

    This is just people pushing fear based marketing to sell a $2,997 frauduct created by people I won’t name here.

    Fair play for speaking out!

  • Don says:

    All true

  • Alex says:

    Yeah and did you hear that email marketing is dead too? I got an email about it this morning…


    Seriously good post Shane.

    • Shane says:

      lol, that’s classic. It would be funny, but I’m pretty sure I did get a promotional email about the death of email marketing at some point.

  • John.N says:

    I just switch off when the scaremongering starts! It could certianly get tougher to do online-marketing.. but will it ever ‘die’… I dont think so.

    As long as the ‘world-wide-web’ doesn’t collapse and people ‘sell’ stuff…


    • Shane says:

      Yeah. I’d take it even further than that: even if the web collapses, you can still use the marketing skills you’ve acquired. People will still be needing stuff and buying stuff, I wager.

  • Mark Rudder says:

    I think the doom and gloomers forgot to tell Amazon that e-commerce is over. Inc. alone did $34.2 billion in e-commerce sales in 2010.
    They accounted for 20.7% of all U.S. e-commerce sales of $165.4 billion in 2010.

    Those are B’s for Billions.

    When the going gets tough, adapt.

    • Shane says:

      Thanks for adding these stats!

      I saw something along the lines of “ecommerce is dead” not too long ago and thought it was ridiculous. As far as I know, ecommerce has been on the rise pretty much since it’s inception.

  • Grateful Al says:

    Love the part: “at least we know that people who declare the end of online/affiliate/niche marketing have historically been incorrect 100% of the time.

    So True! Especially if they are chronic whiners and quitters. How many will never know just how close they may have come if they kept plugging along?

    I’ve settled on this as my IM Mantra:

    “I do the very best I can; I mean to keep going. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If I’m wrong, ten angels swearing I was right won’t make a difference.” Abe Lincoln

  • Shane says:

    Thanks. That’s an interesting quote.

  • shmo says:

    Another correction: “you could bUy 1-cent clicks”

  • JayH says:

    Nice rant!
    I had a couple of my best sites “Pandalized”.
    At first I was pissed. Then I realized they really were kinda thin.
    Then I started working on improvements. Slowly coming back.
    It’s easy to be bitter. Better, takes work.

    • Shane says:

      Well put, Jay!
      Most of my sites were unharmed by Panda. With the ones that were hit, it wasn’t too hard to flesh them out a little and get them to recover. We just adapt and survive, as always.

  • Jeff Hampton says:

    One of my earlier experiences in online business was as a full-time eBay seller. When I started getting into it heavily, I found a couple of very popular eBay seller forums.

    And I found that many people there was saying “eBay is dead!” “With all the recent changes, there’s no way anyone can make any money.” People were constantly saying that kind of thing.

    That was in 2001. Now, 10 years later, people are still saying the exact same thing. And in the interim, hundreds — perhaps thousands — of people have become millionaires selling on eBay.

    Business conditions online change quickly. Sure, there are some segments of IM where it’s much harder to compete than a couple of years ago. But there are also many wide open opportunities that didn’t even exist a couple of years ago.

    And the rate of change is only going to increase.


    • Shane says:

      Great example, Jeff!

      In hindsight, it’s always amazing how people can complain in times of such obvious prosperity. Sure, things aren’t all rosy, but at least we don’t have to stab large animals with pointed sticks if we want something to eat. :D

  • Rob says:

    Hi Shane

    I am so pleased you covered this issue because in the last 2 weeks I have received over a dozen ‘IM mktg is dead” sales pitches asking me to buy really rubbish products to “save myself!” The sad thing is that a lot of newbie marketers lose hope when they read that stuff. Anyone who sends me that nonsense now is instantly blocked on my spam filter and I cancel my subscription – I urge others to do that too. Any marketer who supports that stuff can only be out for a quick buck!

    • Shane says:

      Hi Rob,

      Thanks for your comment!
      It is quite sad when marketers fall back on blatant fearmongering to try and sell products. As you say, it’s especially sad when people actually believe them.

  • Matthew N says:

    Hi Shane

    I have subscribed to SECockpit and it is amazing.

    Regarding the competition 1-10… it would be simply amazing if you could make it just the Keyword Difficulty Analysis by SEO Moz.


  • Don says:

    Hey Shane,

    On your “do not buy” list you said: “I’m working on some simple systems that will enable you to get tons of highest-quality links for next to nothing.” Can you elaborate? I’m interested. Thanks!!

  • Hooray for you for saying so, Shane! I feel the same. There’s no need to fear Google changing their algorithms. I’ve been through this like 3 or 4 times now, and every time, alot of people give up and go away, and that means less competition for the rest of us. What you have to realize, is that Google is only doing due diligence, trying to ensure quality content for the reader. So if you concentrate on making your site a good quality site, and then also spend time backlinking and all the other things to help get you noticed, it all helps your site get rankings in the long run. Start with content, know/watch your competition, learn the steps to build links (and now social media, etc), and roll with the changes. There will be more people buying on the internet in 5 years then there are today, so it’s a long, long race, folks. Steady is the name of the game.

    • Shane says:

      Very well said, Danielle! I love it when the comments on my posts are smarter than the stuff I write myself. Free quality content on my site! :D

  • dave says:

    “I also believe it’s likely that a global crisis of some sort will thoroughly mess with us and our businesses, within my lifetime.”

    Thanks for mentioning that. Carrying on anyhow is the thing.

  • Stu says:

    Love the line, “…someone with little to no funding and no connections is working on a website … that will make him or her a billionaire in the near future. They aren’t complaining on forums. They’re too busy making stuff happen.” As Paul Graham says, “Work works.”

    This actually reminds me of an article I once read about the death of SEO. I was a little freaked out at first because I worked in the marketing dept. of a big online company. Then I checked the date on the article. It was 6 years old. I stopped worrying :)

    At some point, we have to realize that the world has been around for billions of years and will still be here tomorrow. So let’s get to work instead of waiting for the end!

    • Shane says:

      Thanks for your comment, Stu!

      I love the example with the outdated article. It’s really the same story after every Google update.

  • Tom says:

    hi Shane,

    An excellent post! As someone who has been around since 2007, bought some crappy products “to make money online” I can attest to the fact that the Internet is not dead.

    Since June 1 I made my first dollar online, my first $10 online, my first hundred dollars online, and am approaching $200 online.

    This is my seed money to attempt some other things online! For me it is a fun time right now. I get to try a variety of new tools that should make Internet marketing life easier.

  • Shane you are right about all this, but one thing I want to add is – that we are all different and for one is just enough to read a sentence about marketing or technical staff and his good to go and for others is not enough to even step by step video , I like the Chriss Farell staff hi is explaining everything just like for people who never did it.
    So for thous who are just starting I amrecommendingg google him.
    Looking forward for your great staff, Ted from Ireland, all the best :)

  • Adi says:

    Great post Shane,

    I’ve got a quick question that’s not related to this post.

    For SEO purposes, is it a good or bad idea to have an inner page within a content website that contains a large amount of links to other pages on my site?

    For example, right now I have 12 links that all link to articles on my site and I’m planning on building more links to more pages within my site on this page.

    Just thought I’d get your opinion on weather or not this will hurt my rankings with the search engines.


  • Matthew says:

    Hey Shane, you make an interesting point. However, entrepreneurs wouldn’t get to where they are without encountering competition. The fact is that every single niche is heavily saturated, if you can innovate you will always have a competitive advantage regardless of how big or how well capitalized your competition is.

  • Bob says:

    As always… great post. Reassuring and inspirational.

    Thank Shane,

    Keep ’em coming!

  • Gary says:

    Where are you Shane?

    Not heard from you in a while now?


  • Gina Reedy says:

    I don’t think that it’s dying at all. In fact, there’s a lot of room for niche and micro niche competition imo. People just need to take action.

  • Ryan says:

    Hey Shane have you looked at for video hosting? Wistia seems pretty expensive.

  • Vincenzo says:

    Hey Shane,
    100% agree with both Norma and yourself. As the ancient Romen used to say:
    Divide et impera (“Divide for lead” for those are not aware with Latin).
    I think this is one of the most lasting strategy yet used for commercial purpose.

  • Chris says:

    Hi Shane! I’m on the internet since 1996 and I had few projects with minor to mediocre results. It was relatively easy, but not super easy. Still, if I’d stick to my mediocre ideas and continue to put my energy into it everyday, today I would probably be a very rich man :)

    Btw. you have a nice blog there, why not start writing on regular basis again?

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