Unnoticed evidence

Or: How to waste money on the Internet?
(whilst damaging brand image)

At the end of a class at university, I always repeat the following piece of advice to my students: “What is the best way to get an Internet user to visit your site? Make them come back to it.” This piece of advice, repeated tirelessly, has more than likely bored several of my students, but I hope that all of them have listened to it at least once. Why is it important to emphasise such an obvious fact? Simply because my experience, on a daily basis, has shown me that this simple, and what would seem obvious fact often goes unnoticed; and is often overlooked because people tend to focus on other aspects, including:

1)     Client acquisition: web managers frequently focus on creating web traffic. SEO, advertising, and affiliation offer clear gains which can be measured and analysed immediately. Customer loyalty and the general quality of a website, on the other hand, are the result of substantial ground work which is carried out beforehand, and whose results appear much later. There are increased demands for service providers in acquisition strategies and in the purchase of online space. How can I be sure that my site will be seen? This is an important question which needs to be asked and which is essential for launching a site or a new offer, but is not the main issue that needs to be dealt with first.

2)     Forgetting about quality: A website’s availability and the ease of access to a site experienced by Internet users are two factors which are not always at the top of the priority list: whenever a user visits a site of a well-known brand, or a site which has just had a large online or offline promotion campaign, in theory users expect to visit a site which is quick to load, easy to access and which has no bugs. In practice, however, this is often not the case. Very frequently Internet users are faced with sites which are slow, which contain bugs and which are not very user-friendly. This may not be a very encouraging remark and is not the result of dazzling marketing analysis, but the fact that it exists and that we are aware of it does not make it less problematic. Of the thousands of sites that we track, we always see web traffic figures increase and decrease dramatically for these reasons, and the largest companies with the best sites are far from being safe. A good acquisition operation rarely has any distinct, clear, long lasting effects. Providing a correct quality of service should be an obvious pre-condition to any issue associated with web traffic acquisition which would make such problems more serious. We are currently far from this stage.

3)     Content quality remains key: Without considering the problems stated above, do you often see websites which contain relevant and original content, or which contain an original and competitive offer? Probably not, and yet this is the type of site that Internet users add to their bookmarks. Whenever an Internet user adds a site to their bookmarks this is the exact moment when the site has acquired a visitor who, in the future, will come back to it. Is this another obvious fact? Yes it is, but it is often neglected: the quality of your offer and of the content on your site will make your site a success in the long term. This should be the main focus of a site manager, since each Internet user is a prospective visitor to your site, and will only become a returning visitor whenever they find information that is relevant to them. Today “direct access” [1] » represents, on average, more than 60% of visits to a site. When we add visitors who use google as a simple browser bar[2] to this figure, the figure increases to almost 70%. These visits from returning Internet users always make up the most qualitative visits (conversion rate, and user behaviour criteria tend to be better than those coming from campaigns). This fact may not provide any immediate solution, but it does avoid web managers from making mistakes such as using random acquisition strategies in the short term. Experience also shows that this obvious fact also tends to be overlooked.

Sites with good quality content never go unnoticed for a long period of time. Sites with poor quality content still attract web traffic, referred to as “artificial”. Poor quality content has 4 negative consequences for such sites:

They are too expensive in terms of web traffic acquisition, since Internet users do not come back to them

  • Internet users become annoyed with such sites as they are put off browsing on them whenever they do not meet their expectations
  • they damage the image of a brand
  • they compromise the future of a brand on the Internet, because it will be even more difficult (and expensive) to get an Internet user to come back to the same site

Before squandering substantial amounts of money on acquisition, you need to ask yourself if the Internet user that you are trying to entice to your site will actually find a site that they are interested in. If you are not able to answer yes to this question right away then you need to ask yourself how such substantial amounts of money could be used to improve the online experience of your visitors. Acquisition will then take a back seat, and will become much quicker, less expensive and less intrusive.

And one more time, please remember that: the best way to get Internet users to visit your site, is to make them come back to it.

[1] Web address entered directly into a browser, added as bookmark, accessed by email (if the emails are not tagged). A certain number of technical problems, associated with tagging can increase this percentage. even at 45% or 50% the point remains valid.

[2] See “brand awareness” analysis in Analyzer.

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One Comment

  1. Taylor
    April 12, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Thats great comments simple, no fluff, and easy to understand.

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