Monday, July 24, 2006

Passing The Internet Buck One Click At A Time


When the Internet first started it was an awesome new medium. An open invitation for the budding entrepreneur with a keen eye, looking to find his or her niche in undeveloped territory with virtually unlimited potential.

One of the first groups of newcomers to settle into cyberspace were the ones with nothing to lose, everything to gain and almost no government intervention. The porn industry found it's new home on the Internet.

An entirely new industry segment developed from this group. Their objective was to drive people to these sites by sending emails to get people to click. This group became quite proficient giving the brand name "spam" a whole new connotation. Quite a few people shyed away from the Internet because of this bad rap.

Perserverance won the race and the mainstream finally adopted the Internet as the new marketing media. The Internet boom came fast and furiously aided by the most popular marketing tactic ever created, the word FREE. No cost, no obligation, here you go try it for free...

Pardon the use of a cliched expression, but nothing in life is free. Somewhere down the road there is a price tag attached to the word free. You pay the price sooner or later. An advertiser may be reminding you to buy a product or service now or in the future, or a website owner is making a few cents every time you click. Never the less, the buck is being passed from one IP address to the next. The Internet has become one big giant cash register every time someone clicks.

The pay-per-click technology when first introduced took a while to be adopted, especially with the "free" mindset. Free is a great attraction, but you still have to pay the programmer.

Diminishing click through rates on banner ads and the dot com bust forced the major search engines to look for new sources of generating revenue. They started taking a closer look at the concept of this new idea to get advertisers to pay when someone clicks. was one of the originators of the pay-per-click technology. They started doing well, making money and getting lots of attention. There was some branding controversy with Disney's "" and the name changed shortly afterwards to May be the owner was a musician or something, but I still don't get the connection.

Anyhoo, Yahoo swallowed Overture up a few years ago. By that time Google caught on to the the pay-per-click revenue model and built it's own version known as Adwords. MSN was incorporating sponsored listings into their search results, and recently introduced their own sponsored search program based on the pay-for-click bidding system.

Ok, so the cash register "cha-chings" a few million more times as I write this article. The good news is lots of money is flowing back and forth on the Internet creating some plush greenery. The bad news is the quality of content and the future of search engine relevancy is at stake.

Now that the value of a click is worth something there is a new breed of sites developing that are not worthy of the click. Basically these are sites with little to no value. Smaller search engines and directories that display sponsored search results disguised as real links. The objective is to get you to click. This costs the advertisers money everytime you do so. They also make sure their sites come up high in the search engine rankings, so you think you are actually getting useful results. Three or four clicks later you might land on a website that provides useful information for the subject of your query.

I don't think they have coined an exact phrase for this new crop of budding entrepreneurs, but for arguments sake I will refer to them as the "crabgrass." The crabgrass seems to be growing as fast as the greenery. The search engines may eventually figure out a way to get rid of the weeds, or the end user will have to learn to live with the crabgrass and pay for it too.

Thank you for reading my rantings.

1 comment:

Aaron J. Stein, CPCU, CFP said...

In all fairness to 'pay-per-click' ad companies, there is ALWAYS 'crabgrass' in any kind of advertising, and always bad guys, but proper use of pay-per-click as well as search engine optimization is allowing small businesses to compete with big ones on the same playing field, and giving consumers lots more choices and competition.