The "Sooners" of the Wild West are rushing for land faster than ever...

The “Sooners” of the Wild West are rushing for land faster than ever…

There is something incredibly profound happening right now in business, and few talk about its impact, but believe me, it will affect every business for decades to come, especially new ones yet to enter the fray.

But before I discuss my thoughts on this subject, a quick history lesson:

Land run (sometimes “land rush” ) usually refers to an historical event in which previously restricted land of the United States was opened to homestead on a first arrival basis. Lands were opened and sold first-come or by bid, or won by lottery, or by means other than a run. The settlers, no matter how they acquired occupancy, purchased the land from the United States Land Office…The Oklahoma Land Run of 1889 was the most prominent of the land runs while the Land Run of 1893 was the largest.


There was an amazing time in the history of the United States when settlers were in a literal mad rush to get to the west (i.e “Sooners”), and stake claim on the land—an act that to this day affects generations upon generations of families – where the live, their community influence, and their overall wealth.

And today, there is another land rush that’s happening, but this time it has to do with digits on a screen, but it’s every bit as impactful as its predecessor.

Timing is (Almost) Everything

Many of you have heard about the digital success of my swimming pool company, River Pools. When it comes to online consumer swimming pool education, the River Pools website dominates the industry with about 200,000 visitors a month. But what would happen if someone else started a swimming pool company in 5 years that was even more prolific with their content marketing efforts than River Pools? Would they experience as much if not more success than we did with River Pools?

The answer, as you likely already know, is NO.

River Pools Website

Even though hard work and strategy were incredibly important at River Pools, the most influential component to our success was the fact that we embraced content marketing before anyone else in our industry.

Or, to turn it around, where would River Pools be if we hadn’t started content marketing in 2009 and had instead waited until 2015, what would have been the difference in the end results?

Once again, the answer is that River Pools wouldn’t be a spec on the map—comparatively speaking—because it didn’t take advantage of the “land rush” that was available in 2009.

I hear many successful bloggers speak about “best practices” to building one’s brand and business online, but the truth is many very “famous” people (digitally speaking), if they started a blog today without anyone knowing who they were, would never reach the same level of success they’ve been able to attain, all because they were a “Digital Sooner”—grabbing real estate online and taking part in the conversation before (sooner) few others were able.

I’ve discussed this topic somewhat before, mainly with my thoughts on what I call “CSI”—or an industry’s Content Saturation Index, which essentially represents the saturation levels of content in every industry.

And truth be told, some industries today are down-right slammed with content.

Others are still the wide west, waiting for the first set of “Digital Sooners” to stake their claims on land they’ll own for years and years to come.

Hopefully you understand the analogy I’m making here. In many ways, it goes back to Malcolm Gladwell’s discussion on a similar principle in his book, Outliers, where he  discussed the incredible importance of being born at the right time in the right place—ie Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft.

River Pools was born at the right time in the right place. We embraced full-blown content marketing, through text and video, before anyone else in the swimming pool industry did. Despite the fact that we’re clearly not the smartest or most experienced “pool guys” in the world, we do have more influence than everyone else, and it’s all because we were “Digital Sooners.”

What It All Means

From what I’ve been able to surmise, the Digital Land Rush started around 2007. Sure, one could argue it started before, but the conversations around “Inbound Marketing,” “Content Marketing,” and “Social Media Marketing” truly started to speed up during that time—and have only continued to speed up until this day.

As you can see, the "rush" started around 2007...

As you can see, the “rush” started around 2007…

Now, because so many businesses are aware of the need to not just have a website but dominate from a content and platform perspective, the “rush” is fully on, with “land” in every industry becoming more scarce by the moment—something I feel will crest within the next few years, leaving many on the outside looking in.

I would predict this to mean 2 major things for all businesses:

1. The Digital Sooners—companies like River Pools—will dominate their industries for years and years to come, gobbling up all the digital real-estate they possibly can.

2. Future businesses—companies that have yet to form—are going to have an incredibly difficult time rising to the top of their niche due to the extreme disadvantages of being late to market.

Sure, as with anything else, the cream will generally find a way to rise to the top. But that path to the top will be monumentally more difficult due to the fact that they were late to the game, often times through no fault of their own.

Could I be wrong with my predictions? Yeah, sure I could, but time will tell. Frankly, I’d love for future businesses to have the same opportunities as today’s modern day ones, but I seriously doubt that will be the case, at least for years and years to come.

Your Turn:

This is a subject that I think just about anyone could have a great opinion on, which is why I’d really like to hear your thoughts. Do you agree with my assessment of  the Digital Land Rush? How important is “timing” to one’s online success? And do you think future businesses will suffer because the missed the Rush?

52 thoughts on “Why the Digital “Land Rush” of 2007-2017 Will Impact The Future of Business as We Know It

  1. Jennifer

    Couldn’t agree more. Building any sort of online presence — a blog, a Twitter account, a podcast following, etc — is harder now than it was five years ago. And it will be harder still five years from here. As the noise grows, the harder it is to break through.

    There are still opportunities to stake a strong claim in certain industries, but I’m not sure those industries see what’s in front of them. If they move now, they could dominate. If they don’t, someone else will.

    I do think as new technologies emerge, they open up small opportunities to move in and secure a spot. GooglePlus is an example — not too many companies are truly using it effectively yet so there’s still room to gain some “land” there. Whether a strong presence in any single channel or tool is enough to support a marketing effort is another matter.

    Thanks for this post. It’s great ammo for a discussion with the c-suite on why they need to pay attention to content marketing NOW.

    • Jennifer, glad to offer up the fodder, we all need it, because boy are some people going to miss this party entirely! 😉

      Appreciate you stopping by,


  2. Hmmm…sounds awfully discouraging for the late-comers

    Marcus. Are you suggesting that they not jump on the content marketing bandwagon? That it’s a lost cause?

    While I agree that in a saturated market, it’s that much more challenging to rise above the ‘noise’, I think that if you can position yourself differently, you stand a chance. What if that up ‘n coming pool company offers something entirely different than River Pools? What if they use a strategy (or implement a new piece of pool technology) that saves Pool owners hundreds of dollars every month? What if they can evangelize a small group of clients, to start, to create some ‘buzz’?

    Market leaders always have competitive advantage by virtue of their reputation and legacy. But if the challengers can differentiate in a meaningful way, and then crank out meaningful content that heralds these points of differentiation, I think they stand a chance. Doesn’t discount the notion of the land rush, but I think companies need to understand how they can cut through the noise – that it IS possible. I, for one, am betting that it is.

    • Mark

      Hey Ruth,

      Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that Marcus’ River Pools site ranked for both local and national rankings for content. Perhaps the up and coming pool company you’re referring to may be based elsewhere and they can do both location-based content (specific to the area) and as well as nation-wide content (hints and tips type content.)

    • Ruth:

      Differentiation is important, but there’s another arrow for your quiver – earned media. Another way to frame what Marcus is talking about is “established audiences vs. building audience” IMO.

      By using traditional PR and media relations tactics new companies can get their story, message and content featured on some of the most popular media websites in the world. This allows new companies to tap into already existing audiences. My marketing department actively engages with relevant media for this very reason. It works great and drives thousands of leads.


      • I was thinking along the same lines Chad…

        As more and more companies develop content in a market space, the rising “content saturation index” – love that!, I see two things that a content marketers should do to grab a piece of the pie.

        1. Make sure your content is QUALITY. Real thought leadership, real research, actually create better content. Without quality you have no chance of breaking through the noise.
        2. Identify and leverage the thought leaders. To your point Chad, companies are becoming more and more like traditional PR outlets, each having huge audiences. So the focus here needs to shift for content marketers, they can’t rely on breaking through the noise, they need to get involved in the conversations being sparked by the “sooners”.

        My take away, if your industry is filled with noise, spend less time blitzing your content, spend more time on quality and building relationships with the “popular kids”.

        Ride the wave.

        • Max, excellent additions and thoughts man. Like you, I firmly believe Quality will always find a way to be king. It may suffer at times, but ultimately, I think it will find a way to rise above the rest.

          At least, I hope that’s the case. 😉

          Thanks for dropping by bud,


      • Chad, I really liked how you framed the conversation to one of audiences, not just age and search variables—great stuff man, and really deserves an entire post in and of itself. :-)

        Hope you’re well brother.


    • Ruth, I think your comment is a great one, and I’d frankly like to see what you’re saying here unfold.

      But, if we look at the current landscape of things, I don’t think, in many ways, it’s unfolding.

      Currently, if two companies both produce GREAT content, and have all variables equal, the one that has been around longer wins. Every time.

      At least that’s the way I’m currently observing it.

      Of course, innovators will always do what they do. Creme will often rise to the top.

      But, truth be told, I think quite a bit of creme will never end up rising at all…which is unfortunate.

      Then again, I hope I’m wrong :-)


  3. I’ve thought some about this. What I think will happen is not a generation of sooners and “too-laters,” but a gradual settling towards quality. Currently, you can indeed succeed in a niche by being the best content marketer, but eventually, as you say, the niches “fill.”

    Except they don’t. What I think (hope, really) happens is that content marketing itself has to raise its game and become a quality process, and not a quantity process. When 80% of the players at a poker table are of equivalent quality it becomes extraordinarily difficult for *any* of the players to win systematically, sooners included. When that happens, I think we will see Content Marketing continue to be the provenance of the few, but those few will be set apart by their ability to challenge, entertain or lend actual expertise, and not merely by being firstest with the mostest. I say this with present company excluded, but I think this means a lot of the sooners will eventually struggle, if their early successes were predicated on “first!”

    In other words, the few will outspend the many on the very best content marketers, and the rest will struggle, sooners or not. And if I were going to start a business competing with you today, I wouldn’t try to out content market you. I’d a: dominate you in other channels, b: become the leading expert on my field (which is not the same thing as being the leading content marketer in my field) or I would identify whether or not the field had a leading content marketer who really had a +fastball and I’d hire him or her away.

    Could I beat River Pools online? Maybe–if I hired you away from it 😉

    • Have to agree with Tom here… the point you make re: sooners and land rush is valid. Digital has always and likely will always favor first mover advantage.

      But, for the analogy to be perfect Content Marketing would need to be the only game in town. Late comers won’t be able to count on Owning Google as the silver bullet to success.

      They’ll need to find new ways and new channels… new approaches to win the invisible customer who is using digital channels to self-educate.

      Good thought start Marcus…. a very important convo that more in this space should be paying closer attention to IMO.

      • Tom, great seeing you bud and thanks for the kind words. I think this is a conversation that I’d love to have w a guy like you on a panel at some point, as clearly it’s going to be affecting all of us (already does actually) more and more as time goes on.

        But yes, businesses will certainly need some serious silver bullet alternatives.

        Hope the book tour is going well my friend,


        • Ha, now if we were going to be on a panel together somewhere… say in February — we could make that happen.

          See ya soon buddy.

      • I don’t think there is any doubt that being first has an advantage Marcus. The two Tom’s are also spot on. Consistent quality over time should win. I think your blog in general and this post in particular is evidence of that Marcus. You were definitely an early mover in your industry but you weren’t the first one to talk about content marketing / inbound marketing / social media marketing etc.

        Despite your disadvantage of coming into this space later than others you have built a great reputation and positioned yourself as a thought leader. As John Housman would say “You earned it”.

        This is a really interesting post with some great conversation from some really smart people. Not a lot of people can do what you do. The way you engage your community might be the best I have ever seen. You make everyone feel welcome and their opinions valued. That keeps them coming back and builds on your brand.

        One last thought, I think we all agree being first is an advantage, quality content over time is an advantage, but what about understanding the technical aspects of the internet, search and social media.

        Google changes their algorithm all the time, that hurts some sites and helps others. New social platforms come along all the time. Three of the biggest social networks in the world G+ Instagram and Pinterest didn’t exist a couple of short years ago. Vine came out of nowhere.

        Don’t the people who stay tuned in to these changes and are able to adapt quickly also have an advantage?

        Can any of us see a time when these evolutions will stop?
        Or will marketers have to continue to evolve perpetually in order to even maintain their current position?

        I guess that was more than one final thought.

        • Rick, great seeing you bud, and thanks so very much for the extremely kind words, it’s much appreciated.

          No doubt, the opportunities are there. Newbies will enter the fray. And *hopefully* those late to market won’t be punished for being born late 😉

          Interesting times indeed my friend.

          Best to you and the upcoming NMX!


    • Tom Webster, dang I love the way your mind works man. And the great thing about reading your words versus hearing them, is that I can go back and read them more than once, which is usually what’s needed for my full intellect to digest 😉

      I honestly hope you’re right. I really do– because that’s the way it *should* be.

      But at the same time, I’m not totally sold on that’s the way it *will* be.

      Cheers brother,


  4. I think it’s hard to make a prediction about what will happen in the future based on what we see now.

    We’re already hearing about a Google bias towards fresh content, so maybe those companies can still climb up the ladder.

    If you’re talking about companies gaining an advantage by producing thousands of average articles that pick up tens of thousands of long-tail keywords then I’d agree with you.

    I just think there will always be some way for businesses to make their mark if they’re creative and they work hard enough. It might be jumping on future tools and platforms early.

    • You’ve brought up a great point Jamie, and that’s the concept that “search”—at least as we understand it today, will not exist in 10 years.

      Without question, I think there is quite a bit of validity to that thought, and you would think, somehow, the playingfield will have to even itself out.

      But time will tell :-)


  5. Two Thoughts:

    A: Being a Digital Sooner is only good if you know where and how to mine for gold. In this case, blogging is not the same as blogging well, strategically or effectively(I know the difference all too well, I am afraid)

    B. Being a Digital Sooner is only as good as your digital and social reputation. Right after, they download that fiberglass pool Ebook, your social reputation has to be 4 stars or higher

    In my opinion, the world belongs to those who generate desirable content, but also who execute better and deliver on their mission

    • I don’t disagree my friend, but what happens when both companies produce equally incredible content, with great social presence, but one occurs 5 years after the other?

      It’s a complete mismatch at that point, no?


  6. Marcus,

    I think you make a very good point. The information highway is pretty overcrowded in many areas already. A couple of thoughts occurred to me while reading this. First, just think what a challenge it is going to be for newcomers to get good website names. Having a relevant name can be a hindrance to high rankings on organic searches. Secondly, relevant content has a long shelf-life on the search engines. I read recently that solid content can remain entrenched on P. 1 Google searches for up to a year! At the rate with which people are currently taking advantage of publishing solid content, others entering the system in the coming years will have what appears to be what is already becoming a formidable task. Try entering a market today and supplanting the competition whose names are on P.1 on all your keywords. It’s darn-near impossible. Now imagine attempting this five years removed–GOOD LUCK!!

    Let’s put another spin on this–and this is where I presumed you were going with this–land becomes more valuable over time. Under this premise, there will always be a way others can enter the market: it’s called money! The ‘Sooners’ who laid their claims and built content-rich companies, such as River Pools, will have raised their book value to well-heeled investors who want to ‘Get-In.’ The price to play the game essentially goes from virtually nothing in 2009 to a very respectable sum in 2017. The ‘Sooners’ got in at the right time, built their value through sweat-equity and are able to sell later because everybody wants-in. The real company assets are the name and the content.

    The good news is there is still plenty of opportunity, particularly for local businesses; but as you say, Marcus, this won’t last much longer.

    • Rick, awesome, awesome comment. Dang, I loved this and you really added some serious thought and vision to what I was trying to get across with this post.

      And, for the record, I hope you’re spot-on!! :-)

      Thanks for the support bud,


  7. As a former history major and geek, I great connection between the land rushes of the 19th century and online space. Spot on, sir.

    • Guess I watched “Far and Away” too many times as a teenager 😉

  8. Hi Marcus,

    WOW- incredible topic and definitely point worth noting when working with inbound marketing clients (especially from an expectations management standpoint)!

    Great points on both sides of this perspective: Yes, there is a significant competitive advantage of being first to market, especially when it comes to building an online presence where your “digital footprint” can influence your rankings in search (e.g. age of the domain, being the first *quality* article on a topic thereby giving other’s a source to link to for referencing, etc.) and overall authority (i.e. being positioned as the “futuristic” thinker). I think businesses will suffer if they aren’t strategically creative in their use of aligning their marketing with shifts in consumer behavior, and learning how to rise above this channel-based disadvantage. Heck, you had to navigate into new territory through blogging, but consequently turned the tables of marketing forever!

    I’d say our expectations need to adjust as this saturation index rises. When you first started with River Pools and Spas, I’m sure the landscape looked ripe with opportunity. But when people heard about your journey to the top they may have underestimated the time, effort and resources involved *even at that time.*

    The good news is that inbound marketing enables the nimble firms (in a variety of industries) to use their knowledge, teaching, and quick-to-market capabilities as an advantage over the firms with multiple layers of management to obtain approval on a single blog article or toss sums of money at a problem. As the marketing playing fields level out, consumers get a more holistic view of the market’s products/services. From there, the firm with the best product/service should prevail. For better or worse, search engines see everything that consumers don’t (like the results on Page 4, 5, 6…), and search engines are often the leading source of traffic. It’s unlikely given our dependence on “search” (as consumers), but consumers may look to other platforms for information retrieval.

    This can get tricky, so bear with me: I think we’ll have multiple levels of the internet one day, where consumers pay for access to a “cleaner” web experience at every level. Perhaps each level will be differentiated by how much “advertising” is allowed on a given level (e.g. the public web is riddled with advertising such as Facebook Ads, Google Adwords, retargeting and adsense, etc.), leading to new digital “land” territories. (Yes, I’ve thought about this particular concept for quite some time).

    As always, thank you for the thought provoking topic, Marcus! I hope all is well.

    Keep Changing Lives,


    • Jeremy, this was really, really good. Seriously, one of the best comments ever on TSL, and I don’t say that lightly. Would love to chat w you about it more in depth the next time we cross paths. :-)

      Thanks for all you do,


  9. Hi Marcus,

    Smart points! Timing is huge but someone with outstanding, creative content can leap frog competitors to the top. Delivery is everything. This is why upstarts in industries over the old hats sometimes.

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Agreed Ryan, but the question on my mind is just how “outstanding” does a newby need to be in 10 years to take on a digital giant? I think that’s one that’s too early to answer yet…

      Appreciate you stopping by bud,


  10. jeff

    Agree – however there appears to be opportunity to dominate more niche versions of mainstream businesses –

  11. It paid off. It was one risk that if took in 2007 and but the effort in it and worked on it day in and day out it paid off. Better than it would for someone that would start today. Because for them it’s no longer a risk it’s an opportunity if done right. And if you read enough and listen to the right people you can do it so you have great winnings but the competition is higher now.

  12. Hey, Marcus – an interesting topic I feel compelled to join 😮

    Here it goes – – 2008 was a structural break in the global economy that used to provide stability for decades of building businesses. It will never be the same, ever again. We are seeing the effects of this break throughout the world.

    It’s deeper than just marketing and/or strategy.

    Business is a people to people play. Businesses that don’t recognize this will fail.

    Research has revealed that while people are more connected around the globe, they are feeling more alone.

    Research also reveals that while more people in the history of the world have more stuff, more opportunity, just more – they are less happy and unfulfilled then anytime in history.

    The way business has been done for 100+ years has not brought happiness and fulfillment to people; we are experiencing the full effects of that now, and it’s not pretty.

    We are moving into a global economy, a global community. Leaders that figure out how to enrich the lives of people through business will change the world. Globally. And at the end of the day, only light and love can do that.

    Greed and profits at the expense of people & families is coming to an end.

    Cheers, Marcus!

    P.S. I just did a Google Hangout with one of my business partners that sheds some light on this very topic:

    • Mark, these were some very, very keen observations. Love the analysis here man, it’s the stuff books are made of. :)

      Appreciate you bud,


      • Happy Sunday, Marcus! Do you know who Rory Sutherland is? Ogilvy Group? I figured you would be interested in this article, which in my opinion, is the future of marketing and business in the world:

        Some great insights here for marketers, and my team has been working on the tools that will actually drive this, globally… Exciting times – and so simple… At the core – Light and Love – and I know you can relate to that!

        Just need to turn on the light switch!

        Hope all is well with you and the Sheridan clan : )

  13. Marcus,

    Oh boy, I’m depressed now.
    I’m writing like crazy, learning how to add more quality into each new post, yet now it may be too late.

    I’m actually going on the premise that my voice is unique. What I, or you, bring to a discussion or topic is what can set us apart from the herd. There are lots of actors waiting tables yet new ones come on the scene all the time.

    The question is do you have stage presence? Can you motivate by what you say and how you say it?

    Perhaps now, more than ever, we need to develop a voice and a personality. I don’t know, maybe I’m grabbing at the grass as I fall over the cliff here.

    • Steve, I completely agree with the stage presence point. Without it, especially in a more saturated industry, you’ll never be heard over the noise.

      But the fact that you’re doing what you’re doing shows you’ve got grit, and don’t let the trends slow you down…just buck the trend. 😉


  14. Hi Marcus, great post – I remember we spoke a little on this after CMW, and actually I’ve been pondering the same thing since you planted the seed….

    There’s been some great comments here so I’ll try not to re-hash already stated ideas, but some thoughts –

    – As the content boom matures and everyone’s rushed out of old-school techniques, they’re actually sometimes becoming more effective. Niche and company-owned events are booming. Targeted company-owned print magazines, booming. The ‘land rush’ for search-engine visibility is a huge part of the mission; but content can achieve big things offline too.

    – The sheer volume of content pushes the dial towards quality, which many people have commented on. But it also keeps pressure on search engines to keep overhauling algorithms. What happens if recency plays an increasingly important part in determining results? It creates more opportunities for new entrants, as well as anyone who develops a commitment to real-time stories on trending topics.

    – What happens as the relative network association of shared content has a bigger role in personalised search results? Maybe the advantage will shift towards new entrants who instead of just focusing on content are passionate about leveraging the power of their employees’ and clients’ networks? Or utilising both for user-generated content?

    – Maybe curation will make the way we’re doing content today look increasingly obsolete. Look at how Upworthy became the hottest media company on the planet in a year, by repackaging other people’s existing content. By being spectacularly good at curating for audiences and writing great headlines, it’s the ‘clients’ themselves who go out and find new clients.

    – And finally, I think the real challengers are going to be the wave of new niche publishers – people like you Marcus, who’ve learned how to do it with one company and then apply it for an entire industry segment. That way they capture the eyeballs and sell access to companies who came in too late or never got their act together. If they don’t build it, they’re going to have to pay for it.

    One of the saving graces of capitalism is that someone’s always going to turn up with a model that helps the next-generation tear down what came before.

    • Todd, dude, that was some exceptional brainstorming there brother. In fact, I think I’ll blog each of them and then when they happen, I’ll claim them as my own. 😉

      Appreciate you stopping by mate, stay well.


      PS: I owe you breakfast :)

  15. I’m strangely reminded of when my Dad suggested I get on the internet.

    I was younger at that time and didn’t think it was a big deal. Looking back, I realise it was probably the digital land rush at that time.

    Had I know it was going to be of so much importance, I would have taken action.

    The things we learn.

    Great insight today Marcus.

    • Kind of like being able to invest in Google before they were worth a dime, right Iain? 😉

      Cheers bud,


      • Indeed sir.

        However there’s no time like the present so we must keep working towards our goals

        Have a great weekend man

  16. JA

    Marcus –

    Those like me who are looking for guidance, motivation and ideas are lucky to be able to hear your thoughts. Great insight and compelling reasons to create great consistent content.

    A topic like this gives adds gas to the tank of motivation!

    Thanks for what you do –

  17. JA

    Marcus –

    Those like me who are looking for guidance, motivation and ideas are lucky to be able to hear your thoughts. Great insight and compelling reasons to create great consistent content.

    A topic like this gives adds gas to the tank of motivation!

    Thanks for what you do –

  18. Marcus,
    I couldn’t agree with you more but above and beyond those like yourself who are now dominating age old industries with your techie edge there are new niche markets that are developing in your shadow. While you have dominated the pool installation business I have created a pool removal company that removes over 150 pools per year and growing. Like you, simply created an educational blog, polished up my inbound marketing and always make myself available as a resource. I get questions from not only nationwide but worldwide. This would have never been possible without the “Land Grab”. By the way, Steve Little referred me to your site as he though we might have quite a bit in common. Thanks for all of your great content on your site!

    • Ryan, so great to meet you! “Pool Removal” ehh? What a tremendous niche, and good for you for leading the way!!!

      Thrilled for what you’re doing,


  19. Interesting, …..I am sincerely hoping (and I also believe) that in our country, the “land” is still wide open, but will not stay that way for long.

Comments are closed.