By David Strom
While many of us marvel at those Web sites and “viral videos” that take the Internets by storm and quickly gain viewership, I think the sign of truly successful sites are those that more slowly and incrementally gain their fans. The motto for today’s essay is that slow and steady will win the online video race. And those sites that are quick to gain attention are also quick to lose it: the longer it takes you to build your followers, the better a chance you’ve have at keeping them.
Too often we get consumed by playing the numbers game: is traffic for our Web site up from last month? What were the big ticket articles or pages that brought in the most visitors? Did we get anything posted on Slashdot (which has a huge following, and can often spike traffic if articles get the right position)? These aren’t the right questions to be asking.
Instead, lengthen your time horizon to the next quarter, and look for efforts that will build interest for more than just the quick hit. Is your site truly useful as a resource and will bring back returning visitors several times over the course of the year? Do you regularly post new content? Are your most popular pages easily accessible from your home page or clearly labeled at the top menu bar? Do you tie in your Web site with social network group postings and with regular (weekly or twice monthly) email blasts that have something of value in them? Do you look at your site logs and understand what they are telling you?
I realize that there are a lot of questions here, more than answers. Too often, Web site operators are easily swayed by the latest trend-let or Search Engine Optimization seminar come-on. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a couple of examples from my own efforts that you can use to guide your own strategies.
People talk about the power of LinkedIn and other social networks. I have built my own into several hundred people gradually, by adding a few people at a time. Now the whole thing is self-sustaining. And while it seems impressive now when you look at the total members that I can reach, I think it is a much better list because I built them up gradually. I use LinkedIn to find sources for stories that I am working on, or to try to discover new clients from my installed base. After all, these are the people that are most familiar with my work. I also use it as an online resume/reference source, so potential clients can check out what my previous clients have said about me.
The same goes for you, the Web Informant reader. These weekly emails are a great way for me to continue to engage you, because I hopefully send something out of value rather than a marketing blast that is content-free. I hear from many of you that save these missives, or that reply to ones that I wrote months ago, and that is a very potent connection and a great motivation for me to continue to write them.
As many of you know, I began creating my own series of sponsored video screencast product reviews over on WebInformant.tv. So far I have posted 15 videos, and they are slowly gaining viewership on more than a dozen different video sharing and how-to Web sites. While none of them are at the level of the Coke-and-Mentos guys, I am glad to see that day after day and week after week they are getting watched and more importantly, serve as a great resource for enterprise IT managers that are trying to figure out whether they can buy these products.
Another thought: always freely offer something of value on your Web site, even if you are tempted to charge for it. The more people can stop and smell and taste what you have, the more they are going to want to stick around and eventually dive in deeper. Some people suggest that you offer almost everything for free, and then charge them to customize your content. I can’t tell you how many Web sites that I visit that still don’t do this, and insist on registering you or tracking you or verifying you before you can get inside the front door. You can make money by giving things away for free.
And if you feel like sharing your own thoughts with my audience, please post your comments on my Strominator.com blog.