I read something the other day that reminded me of something pretty basic but essential to bear in mind for us marketeers so I thought I should share it with you again today. It is the basic key to solopreneur marketing on the internet, which is finding an appropriate niche.
In its broadest sense, this web site is all about internet marketing but use that phrase as a keyword search on Google and you’ll see over a hundred and seventy five million results! So the Spare Time Billionaire has quite a few competitors all vying for your attention, and that makes me chuffed as heck that you’ve reached this page at all!
I’ll come back to the rod I made for my own back later but first let’s think about the 2006 survey conducted by iProspect and Jupiter Research (source file PDF) and some of its key findings. Although, in internet terms, a few years is a very long time indeed, this research paper is still generally considered to be the most reputable and comprehensive in its methodology and the results also reflect anecdotal experience.
- 62% of search engine users click on a result on the first page shown
- 90% click on a result within the first three pages
- 41% of search engine users change their search terms if they do not get a good result on the first page
- 36% of users believe that a top listing reflects a brand leader in the field
The findings can be summarised in a single sentence from the report: “Search engine results continue to impart brand equity on those companies that appear on top of search results“.
So that all being said, what can we do to make our site appear on that precious first page? With, as I said, 175 million rivals, this site does get first page presence sometimes through careful investigation into what Google believes important when it’s doing its calculations.
In December 2001 Google patented its now famous page rank algorithm which has become an infamous challenge to SEO specialists over the following decade. In a nutshell, it’s Google asking how popular your site already is, who’s linking to it. Although still important, Google no longer treat this as the ultimate test of quality, because so many marketeers were using link engines, link exchanges and other similar tools to boost their sites value.
The patent expires soon, allowing other search engines to adopt it exactly. They will not because it is already well out of date.
It turns out that Panda is the name of a programmer, Navneet Panda in fact, from Google – so that’s your first question answered. This is the latest release of algorithm that is used to assess the “quality” of sites for ranking based on more than just the actual content of the pages.
Panda is about the automatically assessing “user experience”. In an interview at TED in early 2011, Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts explained how it works. The background was sending out a batch of web pages to a panel of interested people and asking them whether they judged the pages as good quality or not. Then they got a set of bad and good pages and started throwing code at them to analyse them. Eventually, they managed to get a set of criteria that achieved the same results as the human experience.
So what makes for a good quality site in Panda’s eyes? Put simplistically it can be summarized in two short sentences:
- The site must be “trustworthy” meaning that the information it conveys is credible and customers will feel confident in relating to the company behind it
- The user experience must be “enjoyable” and I think we can all agree that pop-ups, content locking and aggressive graphics are not enjoyable
Recency and Authority
Some articles and web pages become standard reference sources and are consistently placed high in search engine listings. Google are understandably reticent about exactly how they judge how “authoritative” a site is but I’d guess that a site looked by a disparate audience over an extended period might get a few points in that direction particularly if the number of readers is large in comparison with its competitors.
Where there are thousands of articles about a subject, those that are more recent also tend to filter to the top of the pile. So keeping site content fresh and relevant to your subject is always important. And this, rather neatly leads us full circle back to the importance of your niche.
The Increasing Value of Niche Specialisation
If you are fortunate to have found a subject upon which you only have a limited number of competitors, your life is automatically easier as search becomes more sophisticated and the old tricks are addressed by the major search engines.
Competing against hundred of thousands of similar businesses is always going to be hard, so narrow your focus. Specialise.
Alex Hope, still competing with 175,000,000 internet marketing rivals
Illustration: An art draw drawn by Felipe Micaroni Lalli (email@example.com).