Catching Customers in the Sea of Web 2.0

Catching customers on the Internet

Businesses need to dig deeper to connect with customers in the expanding sea of Web 2.0 user-generated content.

The rapid rise of social networking and blogging is churning out information at record rates, creating a flood of independent ideas, views and expressions.

Web authority Technorati reports there are more than 100 million blogs sailing the Web, with 175,000 new blogs diving in each day. What’s more, bloggers are updating these sites with more than 1.6 million posts per day, which translates to more than 18 updates a second.

Numerous community sites, like Digg, Netscape, and, empower users to vote the good stuff to the surface and sink the rubbish. Yet, despite the popularity of such sites, they just can’t filter the vast bodies of information fast enough.

The end result is a bloated Web. It’s information overload. It’s information pollution. Call it what you will, one thing’s for sure: the Web’s a noisy place.

Meanwhile, many business owners and marketers try to rise above that noise with, well, more noise. They don’t “take their noses off the grindstone” to ponder the new information age. They don’t stop to ask the right questions, forget about answers. That’s probably why so many go with the classic knee-jerk reaction: scream louder.

It’s a line of attack habitually employed by everyone from amateurs to the brilliant but misguided to high-priced marketing dinosaurs. A marketing agency in the U.K. states on its website: “And those who shout loudest will be heard longest. The noisiest win!” Rah, rah…rah.

Enthusiasm is wonderful, but there has to be something behind it. Businesses need to acknowledge the Web has long been past the point of saturation, and respond accordingly. Cranking out more clatter only adds to the wall of noise. It doesn’t get you heard. It doesn’t differentiate you. And, especially if you’re in the consulting or service industries, chances are it won’t engage your audience and foster lasting relationships.

Thanks to years of extreme conditioning, consumers have become remarkably well-versed in tuning out distorted noise. In fact, a newly released eye-tracking study by usability expert Jakob Nielsen reveals most users simply don’t fixate on design elements that resemble ads. It’s become second nature.

Make a Mark With Relevance and Substance

To gain credibility and thrive in the information-laden Web 2.0 world, which according to Netcraft comprises more than 135 million websites, businesses need to say goodbye to empty marketing hype, and say hello to relevant, in-depth website content.

Would you want to do business with polyester-clad Fast Freddie with the big jewelry, big voice and big handshake, dishing out one-liners? Or would you prefer to conduct business with someone of substance, who takes the time to consider and acknowledge your needs, and explains in detail exactly how he or she can help you?

To get your message across and truly connect with your market, you need to clearly define, develop and convey your communications — and do so in an authoritative manner. That’s achieved by producing original, in-depth web content that reeks of expertise.

Don’t be labeled a commodity, which, by definition, is something supplied without differentiation across a given market. Almost anyone can spend 15 minutes and throw a couple of paragraphs together. So, whether you’re updating your website, planning your next newsletter, or writing your latest article, always strive for quality over quantity.

Here are some web writing suggestions to consider:

  • Craft one comprehensive page or article per month versus four short blurbs.
  • Dig deeper, allowing potential clients to tap into and appreciate your knowledge and experiences.
  • Be creative, and reflect on news and issues, deliver valuable case studies, or cite your business mishaps and wins.
  • Always explore new resources. For instance, interview and quote your business partners or other industry experts.

Insightful web content grabs the attention of paying customers who look for and are willing to pay for value. Shallow promotional hoopla gets skimmed by freeloaders. When it comes to web content, quality attracts quality. Engage people with your expertise to differentiate yourself from others, generate respect and build enduring customer relationships.

New Metrics Reflect New Reality

Determining a website’s success is no longer just about pages-views and number of visits. The Internet industry recently shifted how it determines a website’s quality and popularity, placing more weight on the time visitors spend on websites.

It makes perfect sense. Which pattern would you consider a success for your business: 1,000 visitors stopping by daily, 100 per cent of whom leave within a handful of seconds, likely never to return; or 100 visitors a day, 80 per cent of whom spend several minutes viewing multiple pages on your site?

Shallow content and hype may draw visitors, but quality content is much more likely to generate leads and sales, and keep customers coming back for more.

Internet Users Are Reading More Content

Supporting the notion “content is king,” a four-year study conducted by Online Publishers Association (OPA) recently concluded Internet users are spending 47 per cent of their time online reading and watching content, compared with 34 per cent in 2003. This represents a 37 per cent increase over four years.

The increase in the time spent on content has been steady; growing 10 per cent from 2003 to 2004, remaining even between 2004 and 2005, growing 13 per cent from 2005 to 2006, and increasing 13 per cent from 2006 to 2007.

The organization also found Internet users are spending 33 per cent of their time online communicating, compared with 46 per cent in 2003, marking a 28 per cent decline over four years.

The OPA attributes the major shift from communications to content as a result of several factors, including the online transition of traditional offline activities (i.e. retrieving news and weather forecasts), improved search tools to locate relevant content and the significant increase of content available on the Web.

Search Engines Like Information-Rich Content Too

Search engines are continuously getting smarter, and they too crave information-rich content.

In fact, in February, 2007, Google unleashed its push for personalized search engine results, which is a giant step forward from where search engines were less than a decade ago. The new age search engines will soon monitor patterns from past searches and adjust current and future results based on these learned preferences.

The most recent Google patents reveal this new wave of search is going to be increasingly sophisticated. For instance, Google will track users’ behaviors on sites. Let’s say your potential client finds your site via Google using the term ‘business growth consultant New York’, but he or she leaves after just a few seconds. Google will take the quick exit into account, and if other users reveal the same behavior, your site could be deemed less relevant for that search term. This could impact your site’s future rankings. Conversely, if visitors using a certain search term spend considerable time on your site, your rankings could improve.

As this new wave of search engine technology expands, information-rich content becomes increasingly important to get to the top pages of Google and friends.

Add Value to the Web

Take advantage of the Web by adding value to it. Relevant, insightful content can do just that.

3 responses to “Catching Customers in the Sea of Web 2.0”

  1. Trish C. says:

    The underlining message seems to be: don’t pile garbage on all the garbage that’s already floating around. Hopefully web owners listen!

  2. Fiona Miller says:

    Great article! Written months ago, but completely relevant today. The bottomline is people are getting sick of all the poor content on the web, so it’s good Google and other search engines are going to up the ante and promote material that’s well written and researched, and in demand.

  3. Carla says:

    I absolutely agree about currents trends that demand content quality online. There’s no point in marketing the heck out of something to draw visitors and your content doesn’t convert them into buyers. I hope more Internet Marketers realize this over the coming years!

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