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Are Your Profits Flat Or Even Dropping?

By Bob McElwain
Posted Thursday, May 29, 2003

You may suddenly discover your business no longer seems to be growing. It's just sort of sitting there. What have you done?

There are lots of possibilities. And it's wise to consider each and every one that applies to your business. But the truth is, the slowing observed may not be related to anything you did or did not do.

The Web Is Changing At Warp Speed

Email was to be the revolutionary tool of the future only a short time back. It may still prove to be, but spam has made it so difficult to use, it has lost much of its appeal.

Just a few years ago, one could, with a bit of practice, easily write web pages that ranked well on InfoSeek. (And other search engines.) But InfoSeek is gone, along with whatever you learned about writing pages for it.

Until recently, an effective site could pull most all the targeted traffic needed from site pages submitted to search engines. Few come close to doing so today.

Web rings and simple link swaps were effective in their day. Even free classified ads used to deliver good traffic. These tools are ineffective now. (Link swaps still work, but a page of links won't cut it.)

Changes And The Slowdown

The above is only a partial list. More recently you find blocking software preventing delivery of your newsletter. Add to the above other changes you are aware of that have a dampening effect on your business. Then add in a factor to account for things you do not yet know about.

Such changes impact every business. The slowdown you have observed may be completely accounted for by the above. But here's another trend that may be the major culprit.

Competition Is Increasing At An Astonishing Rate

Each day brings the launch of hundreds of new businesses. And many startups these days have years of offline experience to draw upon. Further, they have bucks in their pockets.

So even while newcomers continue to flock to the Web in ever increasing numbers, you may be seeing a drop in traffic to your site. Given a rapidly increasing number of options, fewer newcomers will find your site.

So What's The Answer?

A common view is all that's needed is more targeted hits. Given this view, the answer is to be found in generating more search engine traffic. And in more advertising.

While the above need doing, fundamental solutions will not emerge from such efforts. The best approach has little to do with generating more hits. What is needed is to rethink our commonly held views about them.

Is Lack Of Hits The Problem?

I claim it's not. We've been getting so many hits, we're spoiled. Up until recently, we could easily generate all we wanted. Or at least a sufficient number.

This lead us astray. We lost track of the need to convert every single hit into a customer. Instead we chatted about conversion ratios. Which obscures the number of those who did not purchase.

In a way, many webmasters are behaving like mega-giant corporations. They are totally unconcerned about any visitor who does not want to play the game their way. While this may have been a workable approach given an easy-to-draw abundance of hits, it's a business killer today.

Many persist in tossing lots of hits with simple things such as color and font choices. Navigation systems that are not instantly clear drive visitors away in droves. And those determined to present extensive flash visuals kill off modem users, who are still the majority.

The Solution

Small shopkeepers value every person who enters. They are willing to do most anything to make the sale. They are happy to demonstrate or explain a product in detail. Show it in action. Order a different model, or in a different color. Arrange for delivery. And to shake your hand.

We'll all do better with our web-based businesses if we emulate the hypothetical shopkeeper above. Do all possible to make every visitor a happy and contented customer. One who will return to buy repeatedly. When a website is viewed is this way, the hit count matters very little.


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