This time of year is often hectic in the Internet marketing world as budgets are formed, approved, and allocated toward strategies for 2012. It’s also a time to enjoy the spirit of the holidays in the form of gridlocked parking lots, ugly sweater parties, and evenings with friends and family. In my family, numerous viewings of Bill Murray’s Scrooged are had on the couch and each year we go to see a theater production of Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. A post-viewing discussion around the kitchen table this year led to the sharing of our favorite characters’ parts and, of course, quotes. As I reflected on some of the more famous quips penned by Dickens, I started to see how the lessons learned by Ebenezer Scrooge could apply to those who would “bah-humbug” their online presence.

 

“Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”

Many business owners neglect their online presence for a variety of reasons but the most common one I see is an unwillingness to change. Aside from the dark offering no hindrance to his work and a discouragement to visitors, Scrooge is most delighted in it as it keeps his short list of expenses down. In the same vein, business owners have not seen their profits hurt or leads diminish as a direct effect of being “dark” or “non-existent” online; not having a presence comes with no cost, at least not in the form of an itemized expense. In most cases my clients see the “light” before it’s too late and get to work on their websites!

 

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than grave about you, whatever you are!”

Denial on Scrooge’s part leads to the accusatory statement above when greeted by the first of his spectral visitors, his former business partner Jacob Marley. Rather than admit what is staring him in the face, Scrooge quickly blames a bad meal on his “hallucination” before his journey into the past begins.  Many times, I meet with webmasters and business owners who ignore what is staring them in the face and blame their problems on unlikely sources. Often the investment in an outdated or hard-to-use website platform causes problems online. Whether it’s the inability to update important SEO elements or add fresh content, the usability issues typically manifest in the form of poor rankings/traffic.

 

"Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!"

When analyzing past successes (and more often failures) with clients, a new direction will often be the best solution to getting back on track with their online marketing. As with Scrooge, when an owner is determined to stay the course and reject change, they are destined to an end they may regret. However with careful planning and the guidance of a professional, a new course may lead them to success.

 

“Ghost of the Future," he exclaimed, "I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?"

Looking to the future can be a scary thing when the answers are unknown. After visiting his past and encountering the present of his peers, Scrooge sees the writing on the wall that his course may end in sorrow. As the Ghost of Christmas Future is without reply, so too is my ability to provide a map to what exactly lies ahead in the search marketing landscape. However, as we see with visiting the past (what you have or have not done to date online) and surveying the present (what we and those we compete with are doing now), we may better plan for a bright future. By accepting that we cannot predict what lies ahead and using our time now to understand where we have been, my clients and I are able to face an uncertain future with confidence.

 

"Lead on!" said Scrooge. "Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!"

As the story comes to an end, Scrooge’s cathartic moments drive him to action. A well-deserved promotion for Bob Cratchit, a holiday spent with his nephew Fred, and a generous donation to a charitable group are all carried out with hope that his future end will be a brighter one. When discussing matters of online marketing, there is no time like the present. The longer you wait to get started on your online presence, the harder (and typically more expensive!) it will be in the end.

As we come into 2012 remember to enjoy what you have achieved in 2011, to think on what lead you to today, and how you will prepare for tomorrow. Happy Holidays!

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