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Internet Trends to Watch in 2003
By Robert Imbriale, Internet Marketing Specialist

When I first got involved with the online world back in 1984, paying for services was what you did. You had to pay for the phone call (usually a long distance call) to dial up to a bulletin board service, and once you got there, you typically had to pay for a membership to be able to access the information on their system.

Then the World Wide Web was born and so was the era of getting almost all information for free. There were companies everywhere jumping onto the give-it-all-away-free bandwagon. Money was being generated in huge sums from advertisers looking to cash- in on the massive traffic free information generated.

Yahoo.com lead the ad game by selling billions of dollars in banner advertisements. They gave away their search engine content to millions of eager web surfers and they made money on each and every ad impression.

Most every other web portal followed right along, opting to sell advertising and offer their content for free. It was a great concept. People came in huge and ever-growing numbers, advertisers paid even more for the additional exposure and the model continued to grow like wildfire until somebody stopped and thought about that all-important factor, bottom-line profits. Was all that exposure producing more sales?

The hype was almost instantly dispelled and that gave way to an abrupt halt in the massive influx of cash into dot-com stocks. The stocks of even the strongest companies plummeted. And many dot-com companies went offline forever. The time for accountability had returned.

This past year, we’ve begun to get a hint at what’s in store for us. You guessed it; we’re going back to where we started. You’ll be paying for the information you want on the Internet.

In 2001, Yahoo.com began charging to list web sites in their directory. At first, there was the usual uproar and belly aching from those people that think everything on the Internet should be free, forever.

Today legitimate companies pay the price to have their web site listed on Yahoo’s directory and everybody wins. Searches now turn up higher quality results and surfers find what they want faster without having to wade through pages and pages of “junk” web listings.

Take the popular search engine, Google for example. You can still list your web site for free, but forget about being a top listing in any category. Those top listings are now all paid-for listings, primarily provided by pay-per-click search engine, Overture, which is the largest of the pay-per-click search engines.

Google also has paid listings that appear to the right of your search results in little boxes. These listings are increasingly popular for advertisers, and many claim that they do bring in a lot of new traffic to their web sites. As these paid services grow in popularity, the price per-click also rises, effectively allowing only the strongest companies to rise to the top.

The logic used by the search engine companies is easy to see. If advertisers are paying for their web site listings, the quality of the information returned from every search increases dramatically. And this trend is now spilling over into other categories as well.

Many web site owners have found their efforts in publishing free weekly newsletters and building web sites full of free information simply end up as little more than a huge ongoing expense that rarely results in any profit.

The immense cost involved in building and maintaining a large web site increases steadily each year and today many millions of web site owners have web sites that are nothing more than financial liabilities to their company. Yet they can’t simply close them down because they’ve invested so much in building the sites in the first place. In order for those sites to stay online, they have to find new ways of generating revenue from the Internet.

One way this is happening is seen in web sites such as Rushlimbaugh.com, the site of the popular talk radio host by the same name. Arguably, this site is a leader in the subscription-based arena and more and more web site owners are taking notice.

The site offers an annual membership that tens of thousands of people happily pay each year for access to reams of political commentary, audio archives, video clips, and a live feed of the daily radio program.

The success of this web site is the sign of things to come and already there are thousands of web sites turning to paid subscriptions and memberships. This revenue model is one of the most promising yet for web site owners.

Paying for services is not all bad news. If web site owners are able to generate income from their efforts, the quality of the offerings will improve, and there will be less and less reliance on advertising dollars. Simply put, once you log on to a paid web site, you’ll get solid content, minus the banner ads and pop-up windows.

Robert Imbriale is an internationally known veteran Internet Marketer who is responsible for more than $100 million in Internet sales. Since 1989, Robert has been a leading expert in the area of marketing on the Internet and has written several books and consulted with thousands of companies. Robert may be reached at 760-294-1354 or in the Internet at www.ultimatewealth.com

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