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The Web is Dead (…and what your business can do about it)

Posted by Devin Cole  June 12, 2012 12:00 PM

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A silent revolution has been in the making over the past decade, with its pace accelerating particularly in the past few years. In 2001 the top 10 websites accounted for 31% of total web traffic. In 2006 that figure grew to 40%. But by 2010 the top 10 websites commanded an astounding 75% of all traffic on the web. What does that mean for businesses, small and large, as they try to drive traffic to their sites? And how can businesses build an effective web presence in this changing landscape?

First of all, what happened? Much of the ascent of these web titans can be attributed to the rise of social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In fact, Comscore reports that Americans are spending over eight hours per month on social media networks (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.). Twitter has grown steadily, particularly with mobile users; today over 8% of users check their Twitter feeds daily. But it is Facebook that is the mammoth that commands the lion share of social media use. Of those eight hours we spend on social networks, close to 90% of that time is spent on Facebook.

This “flight to quality” is also reflected in the rapid increase in the price online advertising of leading networks. Banner ads you might say? Not at all; their prices have fallen over 30% in the past year and will likely continue to fall. Google and Facebook are where the action is.

Remember the days of 8-cent clicks on Google? Cherish that memory- those days are long gone. Google's keyword prices have seen an increase of 11% year on year. Yet it's Facebook that stands out. Despite the recent questions about the effectiveness of its ads, average prices continue to soar, increasing over 40% year on year. Why? In part because businesses are realizing that is where people are spending time and can talk about brands.

As the cost of driving traffic to your site will continue to increase, businesses need to act quickly and strategically. Here are a few basic rules of thumb:

Go where your customers are:

Yes, Marketing 101 applies on the web too. With customers spending such a significant time on social networks, you need to be there too. Gain marketing gravity and build community now while paid online advertising still relatively nascent-- and inexpensive. Irrespective of whether your business advertises on social networks, it should utilize them to build a fan base, attract influencers and create discussions that can engage others.

Enable those platforms:

Tablet sales surpassed sales of PCs in 2011 and mobile use has rocketed. Mobile and tablet searches now account for up to 30% of all searches (restaurants and local searches ranking highest) and social media site use on those platforms is. Americans are using their PCs ever less, yet a significant number of businesses still don't offer an optimised cross-platform experience: ever look up a restaurant or hotel to find a blank page with an error message because it's in Flash? Far too many sites are still not designed with the newly dominant platforms in mind. That’s a sure way of driving users to the competition.

Revisit your marketing budget:

Only 8% of our time is spent reading print publications. Yet old habits die hard- businesses still allocate a disproportionate average of 28% of their marketing dollars on print. Don't listen to the naysayers- regardless of your industry, your customers are not living in 1980; they use the Internet and social media. You should too. Work with a professional to allot a portion of your dollars for online advertising on the major platforms. Over time, you will find what is most successful for your brand at a fraction of the cost of traditional media.

Go social: Enable your customers to be brand ambassadors

Even if your product wasn’t just featured on Good Morning America and endorsed by Michelle Obama last week your brand still has a story to tell. But you must create fresh, compelling content that your customers and followers will want to share with others. Video is a powerful tool; studies show customers are many times more likely to watch video than read text. Yet few businesses utilize it to its potential.

Yet content alone isn't enough. You must make it easy to share your news, updates and articles with others on social media platforms. Even a small website can now incorporate easy plug-ins that allow sharing across social platforms. Not only will Google’s new algorithm reward you in search rankings, your customers will as well as they will be more engaged. You will build a community of followers that creates a virtuous cycle of reinforcement.

The web of the past is dead. It has radically and rapidly evolved from a relatively static tool to a dynamic and interactive medium. For those businesses seeking to succeed, the gauntlet has been cast…

Philip Guarino is a Boston World Partnerships Connector and the founder of Elementi Consulting, a Boston-based consulting firm specialized in business strategy and market development. Elementi helps companies succeed in international business development, digital strategy and multi-channel marketing.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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