Nothing surprises me anymore. Well, almost nothing. Here’s a list of marketing headlines that would surprise me. These might be the articles least likely to be seen in your inbox or Twitter stream.
1. Visitors demand paywall
It’s a trend that industry insiders have predicted for years, and it’s finally reached a tipping point: Website visitors are fed up with free content. As the publicly available Internet declines, websites that require visitors to create accounts are seeing a spike in traffic.
Many free websites are rushing to catch up, adding “paywalls” and “fangates,” finally giving visitors a chance to register, subscribe, or pay with a credit card before viewing content.
But Registration Now! spokesman John Barlow says sites should be doing more. “If a website can’t add a popup window with a signup box, they should at least require more fields on contact forms,” he said.
2. BingBook+ reaches 50 million users
Microsoft’s new social network has seen a steady climb in new members since it launched on Monday. “Clearly, there was an unmet need for a new social network,” CEO Steve Ballmer said in an interview this morning. “We’re simply filling that void.”
Other social networks are responding with new features. Facebook 3D is scheduled to launch this month, and Twitter has announced that its recent acquisition of BlackBerry will enable it to start selling pagers.
3. Facebook ‘likes’ now affect Google rankings
In a rare disclosure about changes to its search algorithm, Google announced that social activity on Facebook, particularly “likes,” will now be the most important factor in search engine rankings. It’s yet more evidence that social media and search marketing are interrelated.
Although Facebook stock jumped minutes after the announcement this morning, the stock is expected to eventually fall. Early reports indicate that 96 percent of Facebook activity is now spam.
4. New startup makes subscribers more credible
From its loft space in Chicago, tech startup Relevant Labs has built a tool for creating instant online authority. The company’s proprietary system automatically grows social media followings, improves search rankings, and produces a steady stream of original, expert content.
Online fame can be purchased in several packages. The “Thought Leader” costs $89 per month and includes automated book publishing and a pre-scheduled international keynote addresses. The TED presentation is optional. Patents are pending.
5. Click-through rates for banner ads up 12 percent
The percentage of visitors who click on display ads has increased for the second consecutive quarter, according to reports by ConScore. Reversing a trend that began since display ads first appeared on websites, visitors are speaking with mouse clicks, and the message is loud and clear: Give us more ads.
Some websites are already removing content to make room for bigger banner ads. “We’re finding that large, flashing ads with semi-relevant messaging perform best,” says Wikipedia Chairperson Arianna Huffington.
6. More domains drive more traffic, research shows
A recent study by Web traffic research firm SEOmoz shows that websites with many domain names get more visitors. Dr. Pete Meyers explained the correlation: “We found a correlation between the number of domains and traffic. The evidence is conclusive: The more domain names you register for your website, the better.”
Revenue at GoDaddy.com jumped at the news, as marketers around the world rushed to register .biz and .co addresses. Domains of 20 characters or more are especially popular. Global website traffic is projected to rise.
7. Google Analytics now shows ‘who’ visited
After years of research, Google has announced that Analytics will show the name, phone number, and mailing address of each visitor. Internet marketers around the world are adapting with new marketing techniques, such as calling each visitor as soon as they arrive at the home page.
To make sure the personal information of visitors is not misused, Google requires that businesses check the “Not Evil” box in Analytics Settings.
Got a fake headline of your own? If you think there’s something unlikely to happen, leave it as a comment below.
Andy Crestodina is the strategic director of Orbit Media, a Web design company in Chicago. He’s also the author of “Content Chemistry, An Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing.” You can find Andy on Google+ and Twitter.