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Recent years have marked a time of much renewed interest and consequently, conflicting opinions in terms of the online marketing industry’s growth and potential for long-term success. This is largely due to the publication of an article entitled “Troubled Times for SEO” in October of 2006. In the article, somewhat surprising statistics were outlined from a study conducted by Marketing Sherpa.

Considering my own personal involvement within the industry for several years, I feel confident in saying that there is fundamental fallibility in said “statistics.” According to the numbers noted therein, revenue growth among SEO companies essentially has been on the decline since 2006, which does not bode well for the future of such companies. In my experience, the complete opposite appears to be the case as I’ve seen first hand, companies that offer online marketing services seem to be growing exponentially.

Not only has Eastline Marketing been consistently acquiring new clients from both North American and European countries since its establishment in 2006, we have recently had much success in reaching clients in the Middle East. Lebanon, Qatar, Dubai and Saudi Arabia have been our main focal points. Granted, this has taken considerable time and effort, as many companies that we’ve approached in these regions possess very little awareness regarding the potential benefits of our services. They are therefore reluctant to spend money on that which they have little understanding. Of course, this makes perfect sense but regardless, we are definitely making headway.

The Middle East and North Africa; otherwise referred to as MENA; have shown consistent increases in Internet investments starting just a few years ago. These regions have actually shown the highest growth at a staggering 1176% and 1030%! When contrasted with the meager 290% world growth average, it’s easy to detect a heightened understanding and awareness that is rapidly taking place here insofar as the effectiveness and viability of online marketing. Hence, Eastline Marketing’s primary objective is to meet this growing demand with only the most effective services to maximize their sites’ traffic and overall user reach.

In 2006, which marked the inception of Eastline Marketing, Internet speed bundles from local ISP’s were a mere 256k download and 64k upload. This pales in comparison with the current 2008 Internet access offerings, which are now up to 2Mb download and 512k upload! Not only that, the cost of these bundles has decreased significantly – by more than half in most cases, making it now affordable for the average Lebanese family. Since most middle-eastern companies now have access to at least average speed Internet, these companies are becoming more and more willing to invest in online marketing opportunities. As charted below, there are more than 800 million monthly page views from the top 20 sites (in these 9 countries) and 93 million Internet users in the MENA region alone! This bodes incredibly well for companies like Eastline Marketing, don’t you think?

A Sign of the Times

Several contributing factors can be associated with this recent upswing in sobitech  online marketing in the MENA region. For one, Google recently initiated to open a regional office located in Egypt. Furthermore, specialists in online marketing are being commissioned to work with both local and international brands. In our own personal experience, we’ve noticed over the last few months that many media agencies have recently established online media divisions. Not only that, there has been a significant rise in the amount of workshops and conferences focusing on online marketing in the Middle East. One example of this was a conference entitled “Advertising using the Internet” given by Lebanon Opportunities in June of 2008. With this in mind, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that according to Madgar Research there has been a 50% annual increase in online media budgets.

Is an online corporate presence enough?

Years ago, the answer to that question would have been yes. Today, it is an entirely different story. Although many small to medium companies only budget between $500 and $1000 on average to establish an online presence, the websites are so inadequate that it pretty much renders them obsolete. With the exponential increase in the number of websites currently online, it’s so much easier these days to simply get lost in the shuffle. Just to give you a general idea of just how many sites are out there, a Netcraft report in June 2008 concluded that there are just about 172 million websites out there and that number is increasing by 4 million on average each month!

Now what?

How troubled is the SEO online marketing industry, really? From what I can gather, the answer is not in the slightest. With such a huge increase in competition on the web, simply creating a website to establish an online presence is simply not enough anymore. What is becoming more and more necessary for the success of these websites is planning a comprehensive online marketing strategy that incorporates online advertising, search engine optimization as well as paid search marketing.



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