Net Neutrality

The basic concept of net neutrality is that everyone gets to access the Internet in the same way. The regulations that govern net neutrality prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from restricting access to certain sites or types of content or giving preferential treatment to other websites. But now the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to roll back these protections. So, what will it mean for marketers and consumers?

Giving ISPs More Freedom … to Restrict Access

There probably won’t be any immediate effect in the sense that as soon as net neutrality ends everything will suddenly change online. But there would likely to gradual changes in things like the speed of traffic to certain sites, even ones that are well-designed for both desktop and mobile visitors. ISPs like Comcast and AT&T would be considered information services under the new guidelines. As such, they would be permitted to do things like:

• Charge additional fees for access to certain content
• Limit or restrict access to certain websites
• Set up “fast lines” for preferred customers

‘Unevening’ the Playing Field

For smaller businesses that rely on online marketing to compete with the big guys, the end of net neutrality could make it difficult to direct traffic to their websites. This is especially true if those sites are suddenly slower and more difficult to access. Plus, if ISPs opt to charge more for access to less popular sites, it could be even more difficult for smaller businesses with limited budgets to compete.

Shaking Up the Content Marketing World

The purpose of inbound marketing and related content strategies is to use channels like social media platforms, blogs, paid ads, and email campaigns to drive traffic back to websites. Deregulation could force businesses to completely rethink existing strategies to keep the flow of traffic going. Also, businesses that have to suddenly change directions with their approach to online marketing may experience:

• Fewer website visits and conversions
• A dip in physical traffic that’s normally generated from online engagement
• A drop in online visibility if traffic changes affect SEO results

Creating Obstacles for Online Advertisers

Even with adjustments to traffic patterns, there will still be opportunities for advertisers to tap into the power of Google’s Display Network to get their ads seen by the right searchers. However, advertisers may suddenly find themselves having to pay more to display their ads, especially ones with video content. Results with ad campaigns could also be affected if searchers suddenly have to pay more to click to a site.

Taking Away Competition

It may seem like a good thing to have less competition online. But if you happen to be one of the smaller competitors being edged out, it’s definitely not all that wonderful. With net neutrality, smaller brands can use clever content and effective SEO tactics to keep their products front and center online. Without net neutrality, ISPs may decide to give preference to more popular sites, so smaller brands would have to fight harder to get noticed — or they might disappear altogether.

Sure, online marketing worked well for many businesses before net neutrality went into effect. Even so, there’s no doubt that taking away this protection will have an impact. Some insiders predict that ISPs will be on their best behavior at first due to close scrutiny from consumer watchdog groups. The question for marketers and consumers, however, is what will happen when the spotlight fades?

While net neutrality rules could present some challenges for businesses, the best way to be prepared for possible changes to Internet and website access is to have a solid marketing strategy in place that includes careful tracking of results and traffic patterns. At Create Web Studios, we provide assistance with everything from Web design and paid ad management to SEO and reputation management. Contact us today to learn more about how we may be able to boost your visibility and ROI.