You can’t open a newspaper, turn on the TV, log in to LinkedIn or have a conversation in the pub without being introduced to a new brand, app or product. I won’t go into the why and how: The fact is that the modern marketplace is flooded with freelancers, startups, angel investors, entrepreneurs, inventors and visionaries trying to pinch your market share in evermore innovative ways.
Whenever competition increases, so does innovation. Whenever innovation increases, consumers become more critical and prone to comparison shopping. This means retailers and vendors tend to become more specialised in order to ‘become the experts’. As a result, with so many new websites competing for ever-narrower market segments, value propositions and brands can start to fall short of the desired differentiation. It can start to seem as though there simply aren’t enough ways to skin that proverbial cat.
So how can you stand out in 2013? Here are three things to think about if you want to appease those picky online customers and cement a place in your customers’ minds:
1. Diversity for Search
Where better to start than getting found in the first place. What should we expect from Google this year?
In truth, nobody outside of Google HQ can say precisely what Google will do next. Most people inside Google HQ can’t even say for sure. However, considering the fact that Google is ultimately looking for indications of true value in websites, it seems a fair assumption that there will be one common element for future improvements: Natural diversity. Let me explain using examples…
Every piece of text on a website which is made into a clickable link is called ‘anchor text’. When Google assesses your website for topical value, they analyse the patterns of phrases used in all of the anchor texts that point to your website. After all, if another website will happily send their traffic your way, it must be because you offer topical value; and logically the anchor text will be relevant to those topics. However, Google know that back-links can be bought with the intention of manipulating their algorithm. They can only combat this by building in more stringent tests for how ‘natural’ anchor texts appear.
How can a machine decide what is natural? Well if nature is anything, it is diverse. A website with more diverse anchor text across its 2,000 ‘high quality’ back-links will therefore seem more ‘natural’ than a site with 2,000 virtually identical anchor texts from ‘high quality’ back-links. The former would therefore be picked up by Google as being more valuable than the latter, even with all other factors being equal.
Another place to diversify in 2013 might be the sources you get back-links from: Get a good mix of social media mentions, blogs, article submissions, supplier sites, directories, guest posts etc. Be ubiquitous.
Finally look at diversifying your non-Google traffic sources. Believe it or not, Google don’t want to deliver every single visitor to your site: If you only ever get found in Google, they will start to ask questions. A truly valuable website that deserves to be at the top of Google’s results should logically also be visited from manual bookmarks, from banner adverts, from links in emails, even from people typing the URL directly.
2. Load Times & Customer Patience
Thanks to the internet, we all expect a certain level of instant gratification when we look for information. Page load times are therefore an incredibly important factor in keeping your customer from leaving your site once they find you.
Think about clicking on a website and then spending what seems like an eternal 15 seconds waiting for the page to load. Chances are you’ll move on before you even reach the 10 second mark, having seen only a fraction of the content on offer.
Google want your site to load fast as well. So if you want to get found and you want those people who find you to browse, make sure your pages load as quickly as possible. Make sure your hosting server is up to scratch, don’t use unnecessary or over-complicated scripts and think hard about the relative benefits of using excessively large images and media versus the compromise on page load speed.
3. Advances in Analytics
Analytics is evolving, thanks to the floods of ‘big data’ that are now being utilised and also thanks to innovators like CANDDi who have developed incredibly insightful data analysis tools.
No matter what your market or industry, no matter who your demographics are, data can be collected and turned into customer profiling information. That information, in turn, can be used to target specific market segments, split test different designs or messages, even target individual customers; and ultimately provide ways of making your marketing and communications more effective and efficient.