In 10 or 20 years, the future of the internet will look vastly different then it does right now. As blockchain begins to receive wider adoption among both consumers and companies, Richard Hendricks’ dream of a truly decentralized internet may someday become reality.
When I first got into the field of e-commerce nearly 20 years ago, there was a lot of uncertainty about how viable online shopping would really become. Does this not remind you of the state of blockchain today?
Since that time, I have facilitated the growth of an affiliate marketing company, as well as my current digital marketing company, to large-scale success. From my experience as the advisor to blockchain-based startups, I’ve realized the potential of this technology to disrupt the marketplace and offer innovative solutions.
Even in its current iteration, blockchain has created new opportunities for digital marketing firms, such as marketing the launch of new initial coin offerings (ICOs) and implementing blockchain technology into existing website architectures. Even the schema community has created markup for blockchain certificates.
In this article, I’d like to focus more on the impact that blockchain will have on the industry as a whole — from content creators all the way to advertisers. Despite the confusion surrounding its technology, I believe that new blockchain applications will improve the most glaring problems that exist in digital marketing today. But reaching that point may take years.
Eliminating The Middleman
As much as digital marketing has increased competition in the e-commerce space, it has also concentrated traffic to a few select sites and advertising networks.
Under a blockchain-powered network, arbitrage would shift from an established middleman to users themselves. Users would engage in smart contracts directly with advertisers to receive targeted ads. In contrast, traditional search engines decide what ads are most relevant for users and bombard them with pop-up and display ads against their permission.
To set up a smart contract, users would need to agree on how much personal information they are willing to share. The more they engage with a decentralized search engine, the stronger their buyer persona would grow, if given permission to share by the user.
Under this model, the need to advertise over Google’s Display Network would become frivolous. Instead, advertisers could bypass the incessant fees and arbitrage agreements of networks like Facebook and Google.
Theoretically, this would allow advertisers to pay users directly for access to their personal info and approval to serve them ads. Some blockchain-based startups are even experimenting with the idea of rewarding users who use the network with tokens that could be accepted at select retailers.
Contrary to what you might think, blockchain ledgers are actually much more transparent than traditional ad and search engine networks. All transactions that occur over the ledger (whether it’s clicks or e-commerce purchases) are available for the public to view in the ledger and nearly impossible to erase.
Think about how little data digital marketers actually have access to when it comes to clicks and engagement with an advertisement. I believe data attribution models are faulty, and Google’s esoteric algorithms make tracking links and PageRank on third-party tools more or less just guesses. With greater transparency using the digital ledger, marketers could receive more relevant user information that would assist them in campaign management.
Of course, this comes down to user consent throwing a huge wrench at advertisers that can’t always reach the customers they need.
Providing Better Data
Consider how dynamic organic SERPs have become. Between accounting for different devices, local vs. national search and frequent algorithm changes, it’s hard to track the trajectory of keyword changes, as well as what types of searches your web pages are ranking for.
A blockchain-based tracker could be employed to track keyword positions across all devices that agree to use the service. This technology could be leveraged by everyone from advertisers to content creators and result in more accurate campaign data that would assist in testing.
With this said, cybersecurity will still be a major problem for every industry, big or small. One advantage that the blockchain network provides is the idea of storing your own personal information off the network. Aside from this, hackers would literally have to hack all user devices on the network to make changes to the ledger or steal information.
As stated before, blockchain actually helps to alleviate many of the privacy concerns that are currently being thrown at Facebook and other advertising platforms.
You may have heard people refer to blockchain as a “network of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Well, by eliminating big media companies from acting as middlemen, users would now have greater control over what personal data they want to release to advertisers and publishers.
Even as the ledger verifies the identity of users and hosts transactions, all personal data that users don’t consent to share remains hidden on the network. Being nearly impossible to hack, blockchain can protect user privacy.
Finally, this all amounts to significantly improving trust between users and brands. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, brands witnessed a significant decline in consumer trust over the past year, and improving that relationship is difficult when the industry is fraught with fraud and privacy concerns.
By increasing transparency, improving cybersecurity and eliminating the role of companies like Google and Facebook, there are many reasons to believe that blockchain technology could improve the relationship between brands and consumers.
Will blockchain eliminate the gatekeepers of online media and advertising? Its potential is infinite and in tandem with other technologies, and I believe it will revolutionize everything from currency exchanges to governance itself. But don’t call it a silver bullet as of yet.