I’m a big fan of change, but sometimes it really sucks.
Many years ago, I saved up for months to get this banging stereo system. It had everything – a five CD changer, big digital display, inputs for my computer – and I was certain it would be the last stereo I would ever need. Today, it sits in my basement storage room and I can’t remember the last time I turned the thing on. What seemed to be everything I’d ever need turned out to be only something for the time being.
Today, we’re seeing the same thing with websites and their role in marketing. There was a time when simply having a website – or a newer looking one – created a competitive advantage. But now, everyone seems to have one and many of them look pretty good already.
I understand that the title of this article is making a pretty bold statement, and here’s where I plan to back it up. The trends we’re seeing in digital marketing are relying less on traditional websites, and more on getting brands to where their customers already are. If your site is already easy to use, optimized for search and has a good amount of helpful content on it, you don’t need to do much more under your own domain. But you do need to stretch your marketing to other places. Here’s why:
Commoditization. With the rise of DIY website building tools lie Squarespace or Wix, creating a standard informational site is something that you can pay a high school student a hundred bucks to build. Many websites that are built on platforms like Drupal or WordPress have a community of literally thousands of out-of-the-box themes that make your site look “good enough”. With all of the technology we now have at our disposal, the mindset of “let’s just make a better looking site” is now cheaper, but highly competitive because so many websites already look great.
Little room for innovation. It almost seems that design alone is becoming obsolete. What’s the last major innovation you’ve noticed in web design? Responsive design has been around for a few years, a lifetime in digital years. Self-service troubleshooting tools, social media integration, background video, full-width layouts, parallax… they’ve all been around for a very long time. There’s not much left for even the most savvy designers to create on a flat screen that we haven’t seen before.
Review sites and social media. Do a Google search for pretty much anything nowadays, and the first results you see will be Yelp or Facebook reviews, with the traditional sites taking a backseat. The companies that have the highest presence, activity and reviews are the ones that win. After a visitor checks out those sites, they’re probably going to the site that has the highest reviews or better reputation online. This is apart from those that simply reach out to their personal or professional networks for references, which is a more common than ever.
IoT and mobile. Devices like wearable technology, Google Home, and Amazon Echo provide information and resources to people without them even looking at a web page. And mobile usage analytics show that people are spending less and less time on websites and more time on apps (mostly social media) to get what they want. With improved real-world AR/VR technology right around the corner, traffic to traditional websites is only going to drop as more favorable options increase.
So what is a company to do to get attention?
All is not lost, my friend. The game isn’t over, it’s simply changed and we all need to adapt. Instead of pulling people to your website, your approach should now be to have your content in the places they’re already looking. That means a more personal approach to social media, actively managing your reviews, developing content on sites that the search engines prefer (not just your own), and relying less on display ads (in favor of native advertising), you’ll rely less on building a better website – and more on building a better web presence.
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