Category: Internet Marketing

see-sawIn the early days of the World Wide Web, it provided a level playing field for anyone with something to say. If a website published good content, it could rise quickly through the ranks of search engine results, and get placement in major Internet directories. In short order, a small website could become a widely-recognized resource.

Now, in 2018. this is no longer the case.

I am currently experiencing this firsthand with a project I am working on.

I have a new website, EDtreatment.info, which provides information, resources, help and support for erectile dysfunction sufferers and their partners. There is already a great deal of information about ED on the web, but we are trying to do two things that other sites are not:

  1. We tailor our content specifically to the needs of the ED community. We participate in many online forums, where we see the questions that people are asking. We sponsor ongoing survey research to understand how ED affects men and their partners. We use this information to prioritize our content development.
  2. We provide links to clinical research to support and justify the information we provide.

Despite the fact that my site provides very useful, relevant, and accurate content, I am struggling to gain visibility and traffic.

The purpose of this article is to explain why.

The Rise of Megasites

Search engines give better placement to sites with a high Internet presence - that is, with many high-quality inbound links. (In the past, we could estimate this Internet presence with a measure called Google PageRank. Google has stopped making this metric public, so we now use metrics such as the Moz Domain Authority, or AHREFS Domain Rating.)

Large websites have lots of inbound links, and therefore a high rank.  The sites pass the power of their rank on to every page on the site... so as sites become larger, the number of inbound links increases, and each page on the site becomes harder to compete with.

In the case of my own site, EDtreatment.info, I have many inbound links... but I can't begin to compete with the number of links to megasites such as WebMD.com. And therefore, it is very difficult for pages on my site to compete with pages on the WebMD site.

Authoritative Links

Search engines give preference to websites with "authoritative" links pointing to them. These authoritative links typically come from news sites, government sites, and educational sites.

Large sites tend to accumulate these high authority links. If someone at a major publication is writing an article on erectile dysfunction, they are likely to include a link to information on WebMD... and much less likely to include a link to a small website such as mine.

Thus, sites that already have a strong web presence grow stronger and stronger, and it is virtually impossible for small sites to catch up.

The Consequences

If the web is no longer a level playing field, a small number of megasites will come to dominate broad categories of web searches... and it will become virtually impossible for new sites to establish themselves by providing better content or services.

telemarks-guide-to-dogsContent-based websites and products are rarely glamorous, and are often disparaged by investors and developers. But there is a huge, overlooked advantage of content-based products...  they retain their value for a long, long time.

I was a co-developer of Telemark's Guide to Dogs, which was released on CD-ROM in 1995. The disk contained all sorts of information about dog activities, profiles and photos of 168 AKC-recognized dog breeds, and a "dog breed selector" that helped users to find the ideal dog breeds for their lifestyles and preferences.

The product was originally self-published. It was later licensed to The Learning Company, where it sold over 45,000 copies and won a National Educational Media Network Silver Apple Award in 1997.

When the CD-ROM market began to die, the dog breed selector and profiles were licensed to the IAMs pet food company for use on their website, iams.com. In addition to paying license fees for the product, IAMs paid for regular updates, as the AKC added new breeds and modified breed standards. (In 2017, IAMs changed their branding strategy, and did not renew the license.)

The Dog Breed Selector, Dog Breed Comparer, and over 200 dog profiles and photos are now hosted on an ad-supported website, dogspotters.com. The extensive content has high SEO value.

The products and content are available for purchase or licensing.

In short, an information content product has generated revenue for 22 years, and still has value. There are very, very few technology products and businesses that can make the same claim.

 

Studies show that over 90% of consumers use online reviews before visiting local businesses, but the majority of small business owners don't even monitor their reviews. Your online reputation has a direct impact on your bottom line.

A quick online search for most businesses will turn up a great deal of information… and sometimes that information is very damaging!

Online “rating and review” sites have become common. In addition to general rating sites like Yelp, Google+, and Angie's List, there are sites devoted to rating many different types of businesses, including restaurants, hotels, auto mechanics, doctors, lawyers, and even funeral homes!

Here are several things you should be doing to protect your online reputation:

  1. Provide great service and a great customer experience.  When things go wrong, have a clear procedure for customers to talk to someone in charge and have the issue addressed, and be sure all your employees understand the procedure, and let customers know about it.  The best way to deal with bad online reviews is to solve problems  before a review is ever posted.
  2. Monitor your online reviews and mentions on social sites.  You can check the major review sites (at least once a week), or you can use a service like ReviewPush or Trackur.  You can also sign up for Google Alerts to find new mentions of your business on the web.
  3. Invest in SEO for your website, and create pages on Facebook, Google for Business (Google+), and online directory sites.  Your goal is to make sure that users who search for your business online will find lots of quality, positive mentions which you control.
  4. When you find a bad review, see if the rating site has a way to challenge the rating, or to ask that it be reviewed by the site moderators.  If not, see if there is a way to post a response to the review.  Be sure your reply is calm and professional. Apologize for any problems that may have occurred, and stress the positive aspects of your business.
  5. You may be tempted to threaten legal action, or to actual contact a lawyer.  In the United States, this is fruitless.  The law is clearly on the side of the review sites, which are not responsible for content posted by users.  The operators of the sites understand this, and ignore threats of legal action.

Learn more about the business of online reviews at the Rating and Review Professional Association.

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