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Bundles of Spam

Interesting entry today in Seth Godin's blog on how Google has had the effect of "unbundling" brands. He's 100% correct when he writes that "[t]he idea of a home page and a site map and a considered, well-lit entryway to your brand is quaint but unrealistic."

This was a concept that we considered when launching Topix in January of 2004. To Rich's credit he realized early on that most folks would find Topix through any one of the literally thousands of "side doors" (e.g. www.topix.com/sf) rather than through the home page. It's also precisely the reason why we successfully punted on the issue of what the home page should be for three and a half years after launch.

I've written in the past how it might just be that SEO is bad for your brand (ok, probably not bad, but likely having very little positive impact). On the other hand though, SEO is clearly very good for Google's brand. People become trained to use things in a certain way. Most people have a handful of sites they bookmark or visit directly and the rest they find through Google. For every user that has your site in the latter category, bad news: for that user, you're brand is likely not being perceived at all. Rather, in that user's eyes, your site is but one of many sites, the only commonality of which is that Google got them there. That's right, for that user, you're non-distinguishable. In fact, the only brand that comes through in this scenario is Google's.

Seth calls this a new world where "bundling" is harder than ever. He gives several examples of bundling that, as he says, became so common we forget their bundling at all:

Bundle donations and parcel them out to charities that deserve them. (That's the United Way).

Bundle TV shows and present them, with ads, on your TV network.

Bundle the items in your industrial supplies catalog and hand it to the business buyer.

Bundle thirty businesses and house them in one big office tower.

What Seth calls bundling, I call economies of scale. Economies of scale are, in a nut shell, costs savings that are achieved over a large scale operation. Basically the marginal cost of production (i.e. the cost of producing one more widget) decreases as the size of the operation increases.

On the web though, for most sites, there are no economies of scale to be had through increased page production. This is because there is essentially zero cost to every new page published. Note, I say for most sites. Obviously for extremely large sites, there are significant cost savings that can be achieved by scaling. However, for the rest of us, adding a new page to a site costs nothing. This is precisely why search engine spammers/ ad-sense farms are succeeding (and why no one has done a successful web-property roll up?). Web pages solely designed to catch search engine referrals are produced for next to nothing. The only limitation is the imagination of the spammer.

So in this uber-competitive, strictly egalitarian online world, how do you build a brand? Is Marksonland really advocating that you don't SEO? Of course not. SEO means free traffic and that's hard silly to turn down. My point is that once you do receive your rightful share of SEO traffic, don't stop there. You're brand is not being built on these visits. It's unbundled.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 10, 2007 11:51 AM.

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