Big4.com faces the same challenges as most small businesses on the web. There is always more works than people to do it. Growth often takes a back seat to rote operation, and every small business is worried about cost. Most small businesses can succeed on the web if they are able to make big challenges manageable and tackle them one at a time. By taking a look at Big4.com's approach to writing more content for its web site, you can learn fro their pain – and apply their success to your own business.
Content, on the web, is king. If you do not give your visitors something to read, watch, or do, they will have no reason to return to your site. Give them a reason to stay! Big4.com explored this exact problem and found that focusing simply on creating more content – more material for visitors to enjoy – kept visitors on their site longer, attracted more new readers, and syndicated their content.
You can use this case study to understand how beefing up the amount of content on your web site can attract and retain visitors, yield viral marketing, and extremely help your business generate more revenue.
To understand the importance of content in growing your online business, let's take a look at Big4.com. Big4.com is an online publication – deriving most of its revenue through web advertisements and online fee-based services. Like any online business, Big4.com depends on visitors for revenue. Growth, therefore, would come from increasing traffic to its site, as well as getting visitors to view more pages.
Big4.com focuses on the current employees and alumni of the Big Four accounting firms and their related consulting firms. The Big Four are Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and KPMG. Consulting firms related to the Big Four – through mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, or group hires – include BearingPoint, Cap Gemini, and Accenture. The Big Four excel at alumni management; online and personal networks – both formal and informal – thrive amongst former Big Four employees.
Few companies leave such a pronounced impression on their employees, even years after they have moved to new firms. Having worked for one of the Big Four is like being directed into a business fraternity. Former employees keep in touch with each other – cultivating relationships that lead to new jobs and future business deals.
The market for current and former Big Four employees is fundamental. The Big Four have a total of approximately 100,000 current employees during any given year. With an annual turnover of about 30%, 30,000 new alumni are created every year in the United States – and 30,000 new Big Four employees replace them. "Big Four Alumni" is a demographic that grows rapidly, consistently, and predictably, making it a great venue for an online community. Big Four alumni and employees tend to have professional positions, almost universally some form of higher education, and starting salaries that exceed US $ 50,000.
Big4.com wants to become the focal point of the broad Big Four alumni community by offering content specific to Big Four alumni, as well as services and merchandise that would appeal to this demographic, Big4.com has focused on building a network that can be monetized effectively at a future date.
The most fundamental challenge faced by Big4.com comes from its own audience. The Big Four firms already do an effective job of managing their alumni networks. Further, these firms have access to information from themselves first – detailed and confirmed information about their former employees as well as internal news that has not reached the public. These factors provide for a much richer online community. While Big4.com has broad appeal across the Big Four, it does not have the nascent information advantages of the alumni web sites for Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
This problem is common among small businesses. Often, we struggle to differentiate ourselves from larger competitors. Their sheer size can overshadow our differences – and competitive advantages – despite the fact that what we offer is unique and more appropriate to our audiences. Big4.com's problems were not unusual. It needed a way to stand out, but the competition was overwhelming in its size and presence.
From a web marketing perspective, specific problems have been rejected from Big4.com's competitive environment: 1. A low number of monthly unique visitors 2. Few page views per month unique visitor 3. Infrequently updated content
Monthly unique visitors are the web equivalent of print circulation. Consequently, there is a direct correlation between monthly unique visitors and the ability to garner advertising revenue. With only 10,000 monthly unique visitors, Big4.com's share of the Big Four alumni market was quite small. Big4.com needed to find ways to attract new readers.
In addition to needing to find new readers, Big4.com had the derivative challenge of needing to keep visitors on the site. The average visitor did not spend much time on the site per month. Typically, readers left after only two page views. This tension resulted from a dearth of content, with new articles appearing only monthly.
The lack of content not only addressed in a lower level of reader engagement – it also had a search engine impact. Big4.com did not receive prominent search engine results placement, which limited the publication's ability to attract new readers.
New Content for Big4.com's Readers
Big4.com needed to act quickly to keep from being overlooked in a large, competitive marketplace. To rejuvenate itself, Big4.com executed a content-centered strategy. For most companies, this is an effective way to grow on the web. New content allows you to use your business expertise, putting your business knowledge to work. Also, it is less expensive than other approaches to web marketing.
Big4.com has doubled both its key metrics – monthly unique visitors and page views per unique visitor. While the publication's market share is still small, it is growing quite quickly. Big4.com facilitated this growth with ta web marketing strategy that focused on new content.
Big4.com started as a monthly publication. Generating approximately five articles per month, though, did not give readers a reason to return to the site through the month. To remedy this problem, Big4.com moved to a weekly publication model – publishing five articles every week. Further, Big4.com has continued to grow this number, reaching approximately ten articles per week with plans for more.
The increased volume of content has made Big4.com a premier destination on the web for Big Four alumni. The web site now visits 20,000 monthly unique visitors – double its previous number. Big4.com has also doubled its other key metric, page views per month unique visitor. Big4.com was able to affect this transition over six months.
Big4.com was able to leverage its readers for the increase of content volume. Many readers, committed to the Big Four alumni community, were eager to submit their own content. As a result, internal writers became editors, and Big4.com was able to increase its pace and volume of publication with little increase in cost.
The proliferation of content yielded an additional benefit – syndication. Other online publications around the world took an interest in Big4.com's content, and they carried the articles themselves – while preserving Big4.com's bylines. This implicitely increased Big4.com's readership while functioning as advertising for Big4.com on other sites. The consistent republishing of Big4.com's content with attribution resulted in the acquisition of many new readers as well as a long-term, no-cost strategy for web site promotion.
Think about your own business on the web. You may have many of the same problems that Big4.com did. Larger competitors get in your way without even noticing you. While you get a fairly steady flow of visitors to your web site, you would be happy with more – in fact, you need more traffic. But, your budget just can not handle expensive or sophisticated web marketing efforts.
Big4.com's experience demonstrates that strengthening your presence on the web does not have to be expensive. Simply putting more content on the web site yielded substantive results for Big4.com, and these results have gained momentum. With little expenditure, Big4.3com has earned a great return.
You can take advantage of Big4.com's experience. Online growth does not have to be expensive, time-consuming, or sophisticated. You can leverage your business expertise to grow. Increasing your content consistently and regularly helps you promote your business, educate your customers, and attract new business.
Copyright 2006 Daniel Scheff