As the web propels forward to a more “social” environment, and the traffic becomes more referred through wall streams than search results, the question stands – what is the future of websites?
Can a traditional, static HTML website hold up and compete in a world where news feeds and Facebook sharing dominant the traffic landscape?
I’m very interested to hear what your view on this issue is.
Let me tell you that I believe websites can survive, but only if they evolve from their current static state.
Here’s what I mean…
Current state of traditional websites
If you own a traditional, static website that hasn’t been updated in quite some time (and these are the norm, not the exception), then you’ve probably asked yourself a time or two lately “how can I get more traffic to my website”?
And you’ve probably noticed that your website has been bleeding traffic the past couple of years, or if you haven’t, then you’ve never really been able to establish a solid stream of traffic to begin with.
I propose that one of the major causes for these events is the fact that web is evolving into a more social environment – an interactive, social web… if you will.
Simply by the nature of a static website, your limited, and almost completely shut off, from the flowing stream of social sharing.
Integrating your website into the social stream
The way I see it, if you own one of these static informational type websites (which most small businesses do), you have only a couple of options:
1) Rebuild your website and add a blog
One option that work really well at increasing traffic and integrating your site into the social stream of the web would be to rebuild your website and a blog.
If you used a CMS like WordPress, then you could really have the best of both worlds – a more traditional website with informational pages, along with a powerful, and highly optimized blog that you can update on a regular basis.
The point of having the blog is to produce some momentum, some energy, some fresh new content, some activity.
This “activity” produces momentum, and then Newton’s Law of motion takes hold and you’ll start to notice how traffic starts to follow.
But it’s a process, not something that happens overnight. You’ll have to first get your site redesigned and a blog integrated, and then you’ll have to do the upfront heavy lifting of getting your blog going.
This will eventually start increasing the frequency of Google crawlers visiting your site, which in turn will start to build your PageRank (Google authority), and start a process of groth.
Merging With Social Media
Equally, or perhaps even more important, is with a website that has a blog, you can more easily integrate your content into the social graph – i.e., integrate your content into Facebook and Twitter.
Along side your blog, you need to have a Facebook Fan Page at work helping to syndicate your content to an ever growing audience.
I just wrote earlier today about how The New York Times was going to charge readers to view their online news columns, with the exception of visitors who are hitting their articles from Facebook and Twitter.
Why would the Times do such a thing?
Because, in my opinion, they view traffic flying in from search engines like Google, or sources like Google News, as low quality, “fly by night” type of traffic.
But the traffic streaming from Facebook and Twitter, the Times sees that traffic as high quality, scalable, and generates a higher eCPM – which in ad revenue lingo means it’s simply more valuable.
In fact, BusinessInsider.com reports that a smaller newspaper reporter who was being interviewed about The New York Times strategy with Facebook stated, and I quote, “social networks are driving a ton of newspaper traffic.”
So the process is:
Content from your blog > post it on social networks > referral traffic comes back to your blog
And you can see this at work at this blog’s Facebook page.
This cycle picks up momentum, Newton’s Law takes hold once again, and soon you’ll be reaping the rewards of hard work and diligence at growing your site.
2) Bring Facebook to your website
Facebook has / is making it super easy to integrate Facebook into literally any HTML webpage.
You’ll notice an example of this here at SMSEO.
I’ve added the Facebook comments plugin to this site. So now, at the end of every single article throughout SMSEO, you’ll see the Facebook comments box.
This comment box is having a HUGE impact on the traffic, conversation, and interaction of SMSEO since I’ve added it.
Since people are usually always logged in to Facebook – in fact, most people don’t even remember their username and password because they are always logged in – it’s a seemless process for readers (visitors) to SMSEO to simply add a comment.
This comment doesn’t just die though here on SMSEO.
The comment syndicates out to all of the commenter’s friends on Facebook, and the comment appears in their Facebook wall stream.
This expands the conversation and spreads it even further, allowing more people to get involved in a conversation that resides on your website or blog. Because each comment, and each interaction that occurs on Facebook, has a link pointing directly back to your article.
This all equals increased referral traffic from Facebook.
Combine this affect with what I mentioned in point #1 above, adding each of your articles to your Facebook Fan Page where those updates instantly syndicate to all of your fans (The New York Times has 1.3 million fans, SMSEO has 4300’ish), this adds a whole new syndication stream of referral traffic that can end up back at your blog.
3) The Twitter play
Aside from Facebook, the only relevant platform I use as part of my overall social media strategy is Twitter.
And for the most part, Twitter is a one directional, info updating tool. Meaning, people will follow Twitter streams because they want to receive the updates that stream from that particular Twitter profile.
It’s not as fluid as Facebook to reply, comment, share, and interact with Twitter updates.
So one of the primary ways I use Twitter is simple syndication – which means, I use my Feedburner feed and associate Google URL shortener (goo.gl) to automatically broadcast each new article to my Twitter profile.
People will follow my Twitter profile because they chose to receive my updates. I consider it more of an real time RSS feed… but that’s my view and leverage of it.
There are a lot of people who spend all day on Twitter interacting; I’m just not one of them.
But don’t get me wrong either – Twitter is a powerful tool for sending referral traffic back to your site which helps build your sites brand and overall authority.
It works great for SMSEO!
So are websites dead?
I guess the simple summary of what I’m saying here is that in a state of old, static, traditional information type websites, yes… they are dead.
But by upgrading your website by adding something like a WordPress blog it, integrating your content into the social graph of Facebook and Twitter, and then integrating Facebook back into your blog, no… your website will live.
Not only will your website live, but I’d argue that it will thrive!