I’ve been making money online every year since my first affiliate commission from a web host in 2007. You never forget your first time! But now, I’m wondering, is it getting harder to make money online with Internet Marketing in 2020?
I need to backup and explain …
I’m talking about individuals and small businesses here. How easy is it for normal people – people like you and me – to make money with a laptop and an internet connection?
And, I’m making a comparison between the early years of this century and now because the landscape has changed massively since I started my entrepreneurial journey.
Making money online in the naughties
The Internet in the early 2000s was very different. It was a more democratic mix of inter-connected websites, some big, some small. It was comparatively easy to set up new websites and get traffic if your content fulfilled a demand.
There was no WordPress, virtually no social media, and Google was a cool new west coast start up.
Midway through the 2000s we had an explosion of blogging and micro-blogging – “web 2.0” or social media was born. But that was nothing …
2007-8 – not just a financial crisis
In many ways, 2007-8 marks the beginning of the modern age of the internet. Many seeds that were sown in this period that have caused cultural shifts that will have repercussions for years to come …
- 2007: iPhone first sold
- Having been bought by Google in 2006, YouTube launches advertising in 2007
- 2007: Twitter launched. GitHub, Android, and AirBnB appeared, and the “API era” started growing fast.
- 2008: Facebook goes worldwide
- 2008: Bitcoin invented
- Software, networking, and storage all melded together into what we call “the cloud.” Google Office/Drive starts up.
So the old distributed, accessible, open web is starting to be broken down into a series of centralized “walled gardens”. A few large monopolies are starting to dominate access to the world’s information while more and more people access the web via mobile devices.
2010s onward – further consolidation of monopolies
Amazon goes from selling books to selling everything to everybody. In 2010 the company had 12 fulfillment centers in the US and 8 in other countries. By the end of the decade, it has over 75 fulfillment centers in the US and 52 in India alone.
In 2011-2, Google, with their Panda and Penguin updates, moved from being a search engine for the democratic web and instead started favoring only big websites and themselves in search results. So much so that now less than half of all searches on Google result in a click away from Google.
In 2016, Glen Allsopp showed how Google returns sites from just 16 companies in all the most popular online searches.
During the 2010s, Facebook added more than 2 billion new users. It has over 2.45 billion monthly active users as of the third quarter of 2019. Very nearly one in every three human beings on earth has a Facebook account.
From a distributed, accessible web to walled gardens
The Internet goes from a more democratic, distributed collection of interconnected websites to a larger beast increasingly controlled by a few huge tech giants. You may think that this makes it harder for the independent entrepreneur to make money.
Twenty years ago, online marketing was a very young industry. With the advent of the Internet and social media, suddenly there were a plethora of new ways to reach a market.
When new industries are in their infancy, they provide the most fertile conditions for entrepreneurs.
Back then, larger companies didn’t understand the online world and it was easy for Internet-savvy smaller businesses to reach audiences and niches that traditional industries couldn’t.
Fast forward to 2020, and all the big brands now understand the Internet. They all have huge social media departments, online policies, and they’ve now got years of experience in researching and accessing their audiences online.
Whereas before, an entrepreneur could enter a market purely with good marketing. However, now, in 2020, the solo entrepreneur needs to compete with the big brands on all fronts. We need:
- Content marketing strategy: regular and consistent high quality textual and video content
- A social strategy that churns out that high quality content regularly and consistently throughout all the relevant social media channels
- Great customer relationship management: audience on-boarding, funnels, and sequences
- And if all that wasn’t enough, don’t forget we also need a great product!
In the past you could get away with not doing all of the above, as long as you did some of the above really well. Now you have to do everything really well: great marketing, great audience retention, great product, (and, hopefully, low competition!)
But all is not lost!
I’m the last person to be negative, particularly about entrepreneurship.
If you are an entrepreneur, you are positive. It’s impossible otherwise.
Everything changes. There will always be new industries, new media channels, new trends, new products, and new markets to provide opportunities for entrepreneurs.
However, it may be that at the moment, too many online entrepreneurs are looking at the same areas: print on demand, Amazon businesses, selling digital products online, drop shipping, SaaS, etc. All these businesses are being squeezed by the tech giants, leaving a smaller slice of the pie for a growing entrepreneurial class to fight over.
There will be new opportunities. They will be in emerging industries – just as Internet Marketing was in its infancy 15-20 years ago, other industries are in their infancy now: machine learning / AI, blockchain, big data, 5G, clean energy, etc. Unfortunately, I can’t see an “in” to these particular industries at the moment, they are too capital intensive and I don’t have any skills to help me.
So, what do you think?
Do you agree with me that Internet Marketing gives us less opportunities than before? Or do you think I’m being needlessly negative?
I don’t want to sound negative. There will always be amazing opportunities for people with either luck, time, or intelligence to find them.
So I’ll keep looking.