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Tech Blogs, Societal Impact, and Politics

January 11th, 2011

tech blogsWhen I was a senior in high school — back in the old days of 1997, when the Internet was still new — my A.P. Political Science teacher was talking to the class about a new tool she had found online.

I do not remember if she had been referring to AOL’s home page or that of a major newspaper, but she had discovered a way to tailor the news that she would receive or read each day. If, for example, she had wanted to read only international and business news but not entertainment and sports, she could set the filter to ignore the latter subjects. I knew nothing about SEO at the time, but it was the beginning of the acceleration of the segmentation of the online marketplace in marketing theory and practice.

And then, like any good teacher, she included in important lesson in her story. Our teacher told how she was once flipping through a newspaper on her way to the national news when her eyes came across a story about a new planet (or something) discovered outside of the solar system. Intrigued, she read the article and learned something new that she would never have seen through a self-filtering media website. The lesson: By limiting one’s exposure in life, one eliminates the possibility of exploring new things.

I remembered the story as I read about the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona over the weekend and how some pundits believe that today’s overheated, partisan rhetoric may provoke disturbed people to violence. I understand the concern. From a journalistic and media standpoint, people increasingly tailor their news and opinion consumption in a way that reinforces, accentuates, and magnifies their existing views. Fewer people, it seems, bother to learn the multiple sides of any complex issue.

How Tech Blogs May Affect the Future

My point on this SEO blog, however, is not to discuss politics. In the context of the shooting, I did that elsewhere. It is to emphasize how the segmentation of the marketplace is relevant to business (for better or worse) in an online-marketing context.

I once wrote a PPC and organic keyword-analysis report for an SEO-consulting client that sold products relating to solar energy. At first, the client wanted to rank highly for the keyword “solar,” but it was important to explain to him that people searching for “solar” may be researching items including “solar flares,” “solar system,” and “solar PHP.” And it would be a waste of time and money for people see that a solar-energy website in search results for something unrelated.

It is important to do long-tail keyword research with SEO marketing-software to determine for exactly which terms a company’s target-audience is searching. Even a term like “solar energy” might still be too broad because it would face a lot of competitors. As a result, terms like “solar cell providers” and “solar energy suppliers” would be more relevant.

In economic terms, the Internet is not a single market — it is a medium through which people and businesses can reach millions of individual markets. Those who are successful are those who can research, determine, and reach their exact market. One thousand relevant people coming to a website each month is better than one million who visit, see that they are not interested, and then leave. As Jonathan Bailey has written:

When it’s all said in done, the key to building a successful site is to find a topic you’re passionate about, find a niche that you can serve well and then stick with it. It seems simple, but most sites are started without one or more of these variables.

Online dating is one of the business sectors that executes this principle well. (As I often joke with clients, the most successful websites always seem to involve sex, forex, and gambling.) There are now countless niches:

WHOM do you want to date? A bookworm? A beauty queen? A virgin? A vegan? Whatever you’re seeking, chances are there’s a niche dating site for you…

… now that broad-brush dating sites have saturated the market, niche players are growing ever more plentiful and popular, according to major market research firms that monitor the dating industry.

The business strategy is obvious, but I remembered my teacher’s comments while reading the New York Times article. Sure, segmenting the market makes perfect sense in business — especially with SEO marketing-software — but I still wonder about the effect on society when people increasingly live in bubbles, whether in social media or elsewhere, and stay in their comfort zones.

Dating, of course, is an important facet of life, but it seems that the dating world is becoming harder and harder today. (I have written about this topic extensively over at my Considerations blog — this essay on the “Battle of the Sexes” is the most comprehensive.) So I wonder whether people themselves may lose when they limit and segment themselves rather than only their websites, services, and products.

Samuel J. Scott, a former journalist in Boston turned Internet marketer in Israel, is the founder and publisher of My SEO Software and Director of Digital Marketing and Communications and SEO Team Leader at The Cline Group. You can follow him at Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. His views here and elsewhere do not necessarily reflect those of his company and clients.