Do your rivals have a superior website or rank better on Google? Contributor John Lincoln takes a look at 5 indicators that you may be falling behind your competitors online.
Competition is the essence of capitalism.
That’s great news for consumers. It means that companies will bend over backward to win their business. It’s not such great news for entrepreneurs, though. They have to stay vigilant to make sure they aren’t losing market share to peers in their industry.
You might be at a point where your competitors are doing a better job at reaching people in the digital world than you are. Fortunately, you can determine if that’s the case by looking for a few telltale signs.
Here are five indications that your competition is beating you online.
1. They have a better website
If you’re disappointed with lackluster sales, take a moment to have a look at your website. Does it look professional? Is it marketing your products or services effectively? Would you want to buy from that website?
But take the analysis a step further. Visit the websites of your competitors.
What are your competitors offering that you aren’t? Are their websites more user-friendly? Are they easier to navigate? Do they have a better color scheme?
Take a look at the product or service descriptions as well. It might be the case that your competitors are much better at marketing than you are.
Also, don’t forget to visit the websites of your competitors on a smartphone and tablet. You might find that their sites are far more responsive than yours. That is, they look much better on a mobile platform.
For example, does your site have clear tap targets like this so users can easily convert on mobile?
These things make all the difference and result in much higher conversion rates.
Finally, visit Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool and Mobile-Friendly test tool. Plug in the URL of your own website, as well as the URLs of your competitors’ websites. If you find that your competitors score better on either speed or mobile-friendliness, then follow the advice the tools offer about how you can improve your site.
In the Information Age, your website is your digital storefront. Make sure that it’s doing your brand a service.
2. Their pages are AMP-ready
Have you heard of accelerated mobile pages (AMP)? If not, then you could already be at a competitive disadvantage.
Why? Because Google absolutely, positively loves AMP. Our own site, Ignite Visibility, increased traffic by over 30 percent after implementing AMP.
Effective digital marketing means not just appealing to users, but working with software and algorithms as well. Columnist Justin Dunham explains how you can use this new reality to your advantage.
I have bad news for anyone trying to market to me.
There’s a high probability I don’t see your emails. You might have the perfect solution for a problem I didn’t even know I had. But you’re probably ending up in the Promotions tab in my inbox, which I never check.
All the money you spend on search ads for your small business accounting software? It’s targeted at keywords I don’t actually search on. Your organic content doesn’t show up, either.
When I ask Siri to recommend a great pizza place nearby, her database only has your address way out in Beaverton, not the one next to my office. So I will never taste your delicious Neapolitan slice.
And I didn’t install your email app because the App Store listed it below 10 other apps that do the same thing.
Digital marketing is difficult! That’s because robots — algorithms, mostly — are now the gatekeepers to your customers.
Is there any good news? Yes. Marketers who can work with our new robot overlords will be far more effective than they’ve ever been.
Robots are the gatekeepers to your customers
Depending on the estimate, organic search drives somewhere between 50 to 65 percent of all website traffic. When your customer has a problem, their first step in solving it, in many cases, is to Google it.
For example, if I’m interested in buying a paisley pocket square:
- I open google.com.
- I type in “paisley pocket square.”
- Google ranks the trillions of pages in its index according to relevance and displays the result.
As a purveyor of paisley pocket squares, I care the most about step 3. That’s where Google’s algorithms make a decision about whether anyone will see my site, which will have a direct effect on my revenue.
As a result, content marketers and SEO specialists spend a lot of time trying to understand Google’s algorithms. Hundreds of articles have been written about them for Search Engine Land and other publications, not to mention formal studies done by Moz and others. Moz will even show you a history of algorithm updates, together with its historical view of your search visibility.
By Jillian Richardson
Your eyes are glued to the screen as you watch your favorite TV show. The writers are about to reveal a huge secret about your favorite character. Then, just as you’re about to find out the details, commercials come on. You immediately mute the screen and start scrolling through Instagram. Even photos of your friend’s latte are more interesting than a 30-second spot for wrinkle cream.
Anyone who watches television knows how frustrating that process can be. For networks and advertisers, the frustration is starting to impact them as well. That’s why Comedy Central has decided enough is enough—it wants to keep viewers hooked, even during its commercial breaks. Now, instead of a series of short spots, the network has started airing a custom two-and-half minute “linear commercial pod” once per month.
In other words, Comedy Central is experimenting with the televised version of branded content.
While these spots still interrupt the flow of a program, Comedy Central is hoping they’re more entertaining to watch than an ad for eczema cream. According to a 2014 study by the Harvard Business Review, “the percentage of ads considered fully viewed and getting high attention has decreased dramatically, from 97 percent in the early 1990s to less than 20 percent today.” These longform ads, which conform to Comedy Central’s idiosyncratic style and tell a contained story, are an attempt to turn those numbers around.
If viewers respond to the new approach, the change could be beneficial for Comedy Central’s business. Since brands go directly through the network instead of an agency, Comedy Central cuts out the middleman, which gives the network more control over its advertising, as well as a new revenue stream.
“If Comedy Central can produce ads that are genuinely funny and shareable, they’ll be able to get reach and engagement—the two primary KPIs of any ad campaign,” said Kevin Delie, the director of publisher development at TripleLift, a software platform for native programmatic ads. “For brands, this means the campaign gets attention, which is everything. For the network, they may be able to save TV revenue that is at risk.”
For the first few months of this experiment, Comedy Central is running a short branded series called Handy. No, this isn’t branded content for a new brand of lube (unfortunately). The series is actually about the trials and tribulations of a hand model, sponsored by a different company each episode. As you can imagine, this setup provides the perfect opportunity for humor.
For example, the first brand involved in Handy is Joe’s Crab Shack. Being Comedy Central, the network naturally makes fun of the company’s name. That’s why the spot is called… drum roll, please: “Erik Gets Crabs.”
To say that the Internet has changed the media business is so obvious it barely bears writing; the media business, though, is massive in scope, ranging from this site to The Walt Disney Company, with a multitude of formats, categories, and business models in between. And, it turns out that the impact of the Internet — and the outlook for the future — differs considerably depending on what part of the media industry you look at.
THE OLD MEDIA MODEL
Nearly all media in the pre-Internet era functioned under the same general model:
Note that there are two parts in this model when it comes to making money — distribution and then integration — and the order matters. Distribution required massive up-front investment, whether that be printing presses, radio airplay and physical media, or broadcast licenses and cable wires; the payoff was that those that owned distribution could create money-making integrations:
Print: Newspapers and magazines primarily made money by integrating editorial and advertisements into a single publication:
Music: Record labels primarily made money by integrating back catalogs with new acts (which over time became part of the back catalog in their own right):
TV: Broadcast TV functioned similarly to print; control of distribution (via broadcast licenses) made it possible to integrate programming and advertising:
Cable TV combined the broadcast TV model with bundling, a particular form of integration:
THE ECONOMICS OF BUNDLING
It is important to understand the economics of bundling; Chris Dixon has written the definitive piece on the topic:
Under assumptions that apply to most information-based businesses, bundling benefits buyers and sellers. Consider the following simple model for the willingness-to-pay of two cable buyers, the “sports lover” and the “history lover”:
What price should the cable companies charge to maximize revenues? Note that optimal prices are always somewhere below the buyers’ willingness-to-pay. Otherwise the buyer wouldn’t benefit from the purchase. For simplicity, assume prices are set 10% lower than willingness-to-pay. If ESPN and the History Channel were sold individually, the revenue maximizing price would be $9 ($10 with a 10% discount). Sports lovers would buy ESPN and history lovers would buy the History Channel. The cable company would get $18 in revenue.
By bundling channels, the cable company can charge each customer $11.70 ($13 discounted 10%) for the bundle, yielding combined revenue of $23.40. The consumer surplus would be $2 in the non-bundle and $2.60 in the bundle. Thus both buyers and sellers benefit from bundling.
Dixon’s article is worth reading in full; what is critical to understand, though, is that while control of distribution created the conditions for the creation of the cable bundle, there is an underlying economic logic that is independent of distribution: if customers like more than one thing, then both distributors and customers gain from a bundle.
WHEN DISTRIBUTION GOES TO ZERO
A consistent theme on Stratechery is that perhaps the most important consequence of the Internet, at least from a business perspective, was the reduction of the cost of distribution to effectively zero.
The most obvious casualty has been text-based publications, and the reason should be clear: once newspapers and magazines lost their distribution-based monopoly on customer attention the integration of editorial and advertising fell apart. Advertisers could go directly to end users, first via ad networks and increasingly via Google and Facebook exclusively, while end users could avail themselves of any publication on the planet.
For Google and Facebook, the new integration is users and advertisers, and the new lock-in is attention; it is editorial that has nowhere else to go.
The music industry, meanwhile, has, at least relative to newspapers, come out of the shift to the Internet in relatively good shape; while piracy drove the music labels into the arms of Apple, which unbundled the album into the song, streaming has rewarded the integration of back catalogs and new music with bundle economics: more and more users are willing to pay $10/month for access to everything, significantly increasing the average revenue per customer. The result is an industry that looks remarkably similar to the pre-Internet era:
Notice how little power Spotify and Apple Music have; neither has a sufficient user base to attract suppliers (artists) based on pure economics, in part because they don’t have access to back catalogs. Unlike newspapers, music labels built an integration that transcends distribution.
That leaves the ever-fascinating TV industry, which has resisted the effects of the Internet for a few different reasons:
- First, and most obviously, until the past few years the Internet did not mean zero cost distribution: streaming video takes considerable bandwidth that most people lacked. And, on the flipside, producing compelling content is difficult and expensive, in stark contrast to text in particular but also music. This meant less competition.
- Second, advertisers — and brand advertisers, in particular — choose TV not because it is the only option (like newspapers were), but because it delivers a superior return-on-investment. A television commercial is not only more compelling than a print advertisement, but it can reach a massive number of potential customers for a relatively low price and relatively low investment of resources (more on this in a moment).
- Third, as noted above, the cable bundle, like streaming, has its own economic rationale for not just programmers and cable providers but also customers.
This first factor, particularly the lack of sufficient bandwidth, has certainly decreased in importance the last few years; what is interesting about TV, though, is that it is no more a unitary industry than is media: figuring out what will happen next requires unpacking TV into its different components.