The Gold Rush is Over

In 1848, gold was discovered in California and a new industry was born. By 1849, word had spread around the world that easy money could be made if you could only get yourself to California. About 300,000 people took that chance and made their way west. The reality of what they faced was way different then the mythology that sent them to California. The average miner made enough to cover their expenses of getting to California, most lost money or lost all they had before arriving.

Every week we have website owners contact us through our website wondering why their online store isn’t working. Asking for help is not the problem, we are here to help, but it is hard to help people that are not listening. At some point a belief was established that just posting a website equated to instant riches. Just as the 49er’s thought all they had to do was get themselves to California and they would be rich. Posting a website is not a guarantee that anyone will ever see it, let alone ever buy anything from your site.

During the California gold rush the early adopters were some of the few that made the most money. They were natives to the land and understood the terrain of the rivers they were working on. It was the stories of their successes that drove people to pick up and move to California. The later arrivals had never seen California before, let alone ever panned in a river, were the miners who lost the most money. By this time there were already thousands of people in California and the large deposits of gold were already pulled out of the river.

I believe a similar phenomena must have happened with online businesses. Media glorifies the success stories of a few and you are led to believe that is the norm. If you have not worked in the industry before you start your online business, you have no prior experience to help set your expectations. But the truth is, 100,000 websites are added to the Internet everyday. Five years ago a few tweaks could change your search rankings and explode your site traffic within a few weeks. The average is now one year to optimize for a key search phrase. If you are just thinking about an online business now, you are in the group of late arrivals and you need to set your expectations accordingly.

I love the commercials I see on TV where business owners are told they can build their own website and watch their businesses explode. I see those ads and I think someone is creating a new batch of customers for us. Interestingly, recent scholarship on the Gold Rush has uncovered that the group of people that profited most were the merchants that sold supplies to the miners.

The dream of instant wealth was too big to keep thousands from uprooting their lives and heading to California. I hope you have a similar dedication to your dream of online success. On behalf of our web consulting company, keep prospecting online.