We have focused on publishing material to build a strong foundation for our argument that the website plays a critical role as the platform for content designed to cater to the interests of researching buyers. In the context of the 70%+ of buyers' that now independently research for information before considering talking directly to a salesperson, the resellers website and its content strategy have become vital components in the fight for survival.
Previously, in this series where we've been focusing on an independent resellers digital business strategy, we've already explained the importance for the need to close the technology gap, the potential role aftermarket replacement cartridges can play in improving the value proposition, the barriers that have historically prevented them from doing so, the structure and strategy underlying a website that are necessary to help build trust with researching buyers, and the content strategy that must underlie efforts to develop relevant traffic to that website.
However, in another level of complexity, all content is not equal because it's important it's structured to cater to buyers who may be at different stages of their individual buying journey's, and who may therefore be researching for different types of information. Business owners must be aware that web-traffic doesn't only consist for the purposes of e-commerce. In fact, most traffic is for research or entertainment, and not for executing a transaction.
We've previously explained that, even if a company deploys a world-class website, creates and strategically publishes high-quality, useful content, then it still won't be enough to develop significant web traffic without a host of other, pro-active strategies necessary to do so.
We've also touched on a potential anomaly, that some may view as a flaw in our reasoning, by pointing out that many large enterprises with high traffic volumes don't always publish the type of informational and educational content we're advocating.
Instead, they rely on thousands of product reviews that serve to build the confidence and trust of site visitors planning new transactions. However, because the volume of reviews they are able to generate is far outside the scope of what smaller businesses can accomplish, attempts to replicate this approach don't work.
To understand why a small group of large companies dominate web-traffic, and why simply copying their strategies doesn't work for smaller businesses, we must understand how these organizations continue to attract traffic. In so doing, it will become clear why similar tactics are not viable for smaller businesses.
We must also understand what the "rules" are for determining the ranking a web page achieves in response to search queries on popular search engines such as Google and Bing.
The table below shows some of the most important key performance indicators for prominent online resellers of office products, equipment, and supplies.
The seven companies listed (as of December 2018) have annual global sales of over $900 billion, out of which 26% or $236 billion is conducted online. Between them, they have nearly 25 million unique daily site visitors, 8.6 million social shares, average domain authority of 86 and, collectively, over 650,000 backlinks.
However, within this group of seven, look at how dominant Amazon is. Although accounting for only 24% of the $908 billion in annual sales, they have 84% of the $236 billion in online sales, 88% of the daily traffic, 81% of the social shares and 92% of the backlinks.
Now, look at Walmart who, despite accounting for over 55% of the total sales, and despite being the second largest internet retailer with $15 billion in online sales, their online activity only represents 3% of sales, 7% of the combined daily traffic, and 4% of the total backlinks. Walmart has been investing tremendous resources into its e-commerce initiatives but, despite recent impressive percentage gains, are a long way behind in the race to establish themselves as an online destination.
Finally, look at the last three lines in the table that represent three different revenue examples of independent resellers.
- $1M annual sales
- $10M annual sales
- $100M annual sales
Between them, they have no web traffic to speak of, very low domain authority, and virtually no social shares or backlinks. The ratio of their online sales is less than 10%, as may be expected when there's virtually no web traffic.
Based on a 2016 study of nearly 200 office products and business equipment reseller websites, these are the typical metrics for over 85% of small to medium size resellers.
We'll return to the plight of the typical independent reseller, in the context of these numbers, after we've briefly explained the importance and relevance of each of the three following web metrics key performance indicators.
1. Domain Authority
Domain authority (DA) is a website metric developed by Moz and, the higher the traffic volume the higher the DA is likely to be. DA is calculated from many factors, including the sites' link profiles, the quality of the content, the frequency of updates, the internal page linking, as well as the "age" of the domain itself.
The number of backlinks is an indication of the popularity or importance of a website with more weighting being applied to high-quality links. A backlink (or inbound link) is established voluntarily by an independent third party. It can be earned organically (created without the knowledge of the site owner) or it can be specifically asked for. For a business investing time to earn links back to its website, then those links must come from sites that are relevant. The higher the relevance and the greater the quality, then the higher the search engine recognition will be. Search engines ignore irrelevant inbound links, but recognize all outbound links in their algorithms. If outbound links (that the owner can independently establish) are not high quality, they will dilute the "relevancy" score and diminish search engine result standings.
3. Social Shares
Social shares, sometimes described as the "social currency", are easily facilitated through incorporating "social share" buttons, for example on a website's 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 clear in terms of the potential to expand the audience content is delivered to. By including links and other "calls-to-action" in the content, then traffic can be attracted back to the site it originated from. In this fashion, the larger the audience the material is exposed to, the greater the potential volume of traffic back to the website is likely to be.
Typical Office Products & Equipment Resellers
Let's look at these requirements in the context of the smaller independent resellers that have been around for an average of 20+ years but don't have significant traffic volumes. Although a 20-year-old domain has value, for the most part, this value has not been realized because the reseller has failed to understand the importance associated with earning relevant back-links.
Unfortunately, a prerequisite for attracting high-quality backlinks is a world-class website with world-class content that's relevant for its target audience. As we know, few independent reseller sites meet this standard and few owners appear to understand the need for backlinks as a prerequisite for earning higher search result standings, or for the need to publish content designed to build trust and demonstrate authority in their field.
Why would a researching buyer do business with a company that fails to present itself in a manner that demonstrates knowledge and authority in its field?
- If a business fails to build its Domain Authority (DA), then it will fail to show up high enough in search results to generate significant traffic.
- If a business fails to deploy a world-class website, then it fails to provide a platform for engaging potential visitors.
- If it fails to create and publish high-quality, relevant content, then it fails to demonstrate authority in its field, and will fail to build trust with its target audience.
- If it builds a world-class website and creates world-class content but fails in its attempts to develop social shares, then it will fail to expand its audience and will fall short in terms of fully leveraging the potential to develop traffic from that content.
It's unfortunate the clock can't be turned back for the benefit of independent resellers. If only an effective link-building strategy had been put in place 15+ years ago and an average (for example) of one backlink per week had been developed. Over 15 years that would now add up to nearly 750 backlinks - nearly 20% of the number Office Depot has established in its lifetime. Look at Office Depot's DA at 80 and imagine where 5,000 independent resellers would be, and what their standing in the channel would have become, if they had developed an average domain authority of around 50, such as would probably result from 750+ high-quality backlinks.
Unfortunately, this is water under the bridge and it's an easy failing to identify with the benefit of hindsight. The key now is to make up for lost time and provide the support the industry requires for developing each resellers domain authority for the purposes of improving their online profile.
It should be clear what's necessary to accomplish this:
- A world-class website
- High-quality, relevant content with frequent updates
- A social strategy for shares and audience building
- Building backlinks and developing domain authority
In the next post, we'll start to explain our concepts for a solution to the office products and equipment independent reseller community. It's not a "silver bullet" and it won't result in overnight success. Instead, it will take hard work and a partnership running over many months, or even years, to be successful. However, without such a program, the industry, the aftermarket manufacturers, and the reseller community are destined to continue to experience declining revenues and profitability.
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