Part 3 - So .... what's the web traffic development roadblock?
In the first two posts of this four-part series I established the foundation for arguing the importance of a world-class website and the creation of content published and accessible from that website that effectively caters to the interests of potential buyers. It's very important the content provided on a website caters to potential buyers who may be at different stages of their particular buying "journey" and may be researching for different types of information. Business owners must remember web-traffic does not consist solely for the purposes of e-commerce! In fact, the vast majority of traffic at any particular point in time is not taking place for the purpose of making a buying decision.
I also explained in these first two posts that, even if a company develops a world-class website and creates and strategically publishes world-class content, then it's still not enough to develop significant web traffic. Traffic will not automatically develop from such passive strategies.
Finally, I touched on what some readers may believe to be an apparent flaw in my argument, by pointing out that the organizations who currently have large volumes of site traffic and conduct successful e-commerce, who don't appear to publish the type of informational and educational content I'm advocating.
Instead they rely on thousands of product reviews generated by their customers that have (and continue) to establish the means to build trust and confidence of site visitors for ongoing transactions. The scale and volume of product reviews is simply outside the scope of a small business.
So, to understand why a small group of large companies dominate web-traffic and e-commerce, and why simply copying their strategies will not work for small businesses, we have to understand how these large organizations continue to attract traffic in order to understand why similar tactics are not viable for small business.
We also have to understand what the "rules" are for determining whether or not a website appears prominently in results from popular search engines such as Google and Bing.
The table below shows some of the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) of the most prominent resellers in the office products vertical.
The seven companies listed in this table have annual global sales of $725 billion out of which 18% or $127 billion is conducted on-line. Between them they have 55 million unique daily visitors, 86 million social shares, an average domain authority of 87 and collectively almost 1.2 million backlinks.
However, within this group of seven look at how dominant Amazon is - although accounting for only 12% of the $725 billion in annual sales, they have 70% of the $127 billion in online sales, 87% of the daily traffic, 99% of the social shares and 92% of the backlinks. Now look at Wal-Mart who, despite accounting for over 65% of the total sales and despite being the second largest internet retailer with $12.2 billion in online sales, this only represents 2% of their total sales, 1.5% of the total daily traffic and 3% of the total backlinks. Wal-Mart has quite simply been left behind in the race to establish an online presence and is starting to face a significant risk of becoming the next Eastman Kodak or Sears Roebuck!
Finally, take a look at the last line in the table that's intended to represent a small office products reseller with $650,000 in annual sales, of which 10% or $65,000 may be conducted online, only 10 unique daily site visitors, a domain authority of 15, 10 social shares and four backlinks. Based on a study of nearly 200 office products websites these are the typical metrics of over 85% of small to medium size office products reseller sites!
I'll return to the plight of the office products dealer and the significance of these numbers later in this post.
First, I want to briefly explain the importance and relevance of each of these key performance indicators.
Domain authority (DA) is a website metric developed by Moz and the higher the DA the more likely it is that a website will have strong traffic. DA is established from a lot of factors, including the sites link profiles, the quality of the content and how frequently its updated, the internal page linking and the "age" of the domain itself.
The number of backlinks are treated as an indication of the popularity or importance of a website but more weighting is applied to high quality links. For a business investing time to establish links back to its website then those links must come from sites that are relevant - the higher the relevance the greater the quality and the higher the search engine "score". Search engines ignore irrelevant inbound links but all outbound links are calculated so, if outbound links are not high quality, they dilute the "relevancy" score and diminish search engine result standings.
Social shares, sometimes described as the "social currency" are easily facilitated through incorporating "social share" buttons on a websites blog. They quickly and easily allow readers to share articles or content they have enjoyed onto various social media platforms. The importance of this activity should be immediately obvious in terms of expanding the audience content can potentially be exposed to. By including links and other "calls-to-action" in content then traffic can be attracted back to the site it originated from so, the larger the audience the greater the potential volume of traffic is likely to be.
The typical Office Products reseller
Let's take a look at these requirements in the context of a smaller office products reseller that's been around for 15+ years and doesn't currently have significant site traffic and e-commerce. A 15-year-old domain has lots of potential value but, for the most part, this potential has not been realized because the reseller has failed to understand the importance of building relevant back-links.
However, an unavoidable prerequisite for building high-quality backlinks is a world-class website with world-class content. Unfortunately, very few office products sites meet this standard and very few office products resellers have understood the need for backlinks in terms of establishing higher standings in search results and for the purposes of establishing trust and authority in its field.
Ask yourself - why would a researching buyer do business with a company that fails to present itself in a manner that demonstrates authority and trust in its field?
If a business fails to build its DA then it fails to show up in search results. If a business fails to deploy a world-class website, then it fails to provide a platform for engaging potential site traffic. If it fails to create and publish high quality relevant content, then it fails to demonstrate its authority in its field and fails to build trust with its target audience. If it builds a world-class site and creates world-class content but fails to build social shares then it fails to expand its audience and fails to leverage the potential for building traffic from that content.
It's unfortunate the clock can't be turned back for the office products reseller - if only an effective link building strategy had started 15+ years ago and an average (for example) of five backlinks per week had been developed. Over 15 years that would now add up to nearly 4,000 backlinks - nearly two-thirds of the number OfficeDepot has established in its lifetime. Look at their DA at 85 and imagine where 10,000 office products resellers would be and what the aftermarket share and profitability of the channel may be if this level of DA had been established by the reseller community!
Well, it's no good lamenting what hasn't happened and it's easy to identify this massive failing with the benefit of hindsight but, the key now is to start to make up for lost time and to provide the support the industry requires for building its DA and starting to participate in the $20 billion growth opportunity.
It should be clear what's required:
- A world-class website
- World-class content with frequent updates
- A social strategy for shares and audience building
- Building and measuring domain authority
In the fourth and final blog in this series I'll present our solution for the office products industry. It's not a "silver-bullet" and it's not an overnight solution. It takes hard work and a partnership over a period of time to help increase the chances for success. Without such a program I fear our industry, the aftermarket and the reseller community are destined to continue to experience declining revenues and profitability.
To download a free PowerPoint on this subject, recently presented at the Recycling Times Media Summit, please click on the link below.