There is an old term that originated with the newspaper industry. It was being "above the fold" and it meant exactly what it sounds like. When you look at a typical newspaper, if a story was determined to be one of the most important stories for that day, the editor would place it somewhere beneath the banner and above the fold, so people walking up to a newsstand would see the headline. The more sensational the story - or at least the more creative the headline - the more likely a customer was to buy that newspaper instead of the competition.
That theory still applies today, but like everything else in the 21st century, its use has been modified by the ubiquity of computers and the internet. It is no longer news stories that people are looking for at the top of the page, it is search engine results. This is why one of the most important business partnerships a company can make today is to work with a search engine optimization company. The SEO company's primary focus is to make sure that when a person does an internet search for the type of business their client offers, that client's name shows up at or near the top.
Search engines operate on a strikingly similar algorithm to the one that determines what music you are going to listen to when you open up iTunes or turn on Spotify and select "random." The more you and other people listen to a particular song or artist, and acknowledge that you enjoy that song, the more likely that artist will show up again. Simply put, the popular choices rise to the top. Search engine results work in a similar fashion, except they focus on keyword analysis. People looking for a specific business in a specific area - "dry cleaners Los Angeles" - will enter that information and the search engine scours the web for all written material out there containing those keywords.
Explained that succinctly it sounds as if all a person has to do is flood the internet with the name of their company and they will be the first result every time, but it is far more nuanced than that. Search engine optimization combines website content, press release production and other articles that include the most popular keywords in a maximized way. Too often and it gets flagged as spam; too few and the search engine misses it all together.
Traditional advertising methods of mass advertising with a small return percentage are being replaced with targeted marketing designed to reach specific audiences. In the middle of all this new analytics and computing, however, the goal is still what it always was: to make sure you get at the top of the list, above the fold, so people can see you.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who focuses on small business marketing plans and the internet. http://www.teamwildflower.com