The largest websites in the United States all have completely different purposes and target different demographics, but they all still share some common core internet marketing principles that make them successful. These are the types of things that every small website can learn from.
The marketing principles you can learn from the best of the best are powerful because they helped launch and sustain billion-dollar companies. These aren’t necessarily difficult strategies and tactics, and they won’t cost as much as you might think, so any small company can follow these examples to grow and see an increase in traffic and possibly even conversions. Let’s get started.
For the purposes of this article, I looked at the top 100 websites in the United States according to Alexa. Just to keep things simple, I’ll just include each website’s ranking on this list whenever it is mentioned.
1. Massive Daily Content Creation – The biggest news channels like ESPN (24), or the biggest social platforms like Facebook (2), Instagram (16), Pinterest (12), and ecommerce sites like Amazon (5), are constantly adding pages to their website. This isn't just a blog article a day, either. Some of these websites are adding over a hundred thousand pages to their website every day.
Even though it's nearly impossible to keep up with the oceans of content sweeping onto the world’s largest platforms, small websites should push for more and more content every single day.
It can be articles, it can be new or updated product pages, it can be user-generated profiles and questions. Adding more valuable content will keep increasing the overall usefulness and value of the site.
2. User-Generated Content – Nearly all of the top ten most-visited websites in the United States allow the public to add content onto a section of their website. Google built Google+, which is connected to the Google.com domain. Although you just can’t necessarily add content to their search engine, you can to your Google+ profile. Google+ is on a sub-domain, but it’s still branding Google’s website and it will increase engagement with users. Building content platforms for users to generate content is an ideal way to constantly add more content to a website.
Obviously, most companies don’t have the money to build an entire social platform onto a sub-domain, but some other large companies have forums built into the ‘help’ section of their website to answer frequently asked questions by website visitors. Guest columns will work if you want your traffic to write for you. It doesn’t cost much to build in a guest column, and the article approval process can be quick and simple.
Historically, user-generated sections of websites would get spammed out. Even blog commenting is technically a form of user generated content, but it takes time to monitor spam (which is discussed next). Be sure to be aggressive with spam monitoring when you have a user generated content section.
3. Spam Control – One area most of the major websites invest in is spam control. Managing the negative, low quality, or abusive content is not cheap and usually requires more than just money and employees. It requires a good plan of action. Companies like eBay (7) and even Wikipedia (6) have had to adjust strategies and hire experts to come in and develop strategies to protect their website.
Google (1) is constantly updating its algorithm, so not only do you get the most relevant results, but they are always trying to catch spammy websites or lower their ranking positions. Spam is poison, you don't want to feed search engines poison or they will just de-index your website.
4. Older Websites – Six years ago, Groupon (93) was launched and is currently one of the youngest websites of the top 100 largest websites in the USA. Craigslist (10) and eBay (7) both launched in 1995 and will turn 20 years old soon. Facebook (2) made its debut in 2004 and is just over ten years old while Google (1) was launched towards the end of 1998.
Most of the top 100 websites launched before or after the year 2000. Although some of the companies were the quickest ever in our nation’s history to make a billion dollars, the truth is to be a successful website online it really does take some time and maturity.
The internet is more competitive than ever before and Google’s new search engine algorithm is making internet marketing harder to do, and it takes a little more time, strategy, money, branding, viral word-of-mouth, and patience.
When Microsoft launched Bing in 2009 they thought their money could beat a search engine that was an 11 years old at that time, but it didn't come close. Money helps with internet marketing but it won’t automatically win the game if your competitor arrived first and has established itself as popular and relevant. It's easy to want things now, but patience is a virtue for a reason, and websites aren't excused from this rule. New websites need to stick at it and prove they're trustworthy over time.
5. Industry Leader – LinkedIn (8) is the industry leader for employment job social networking websites. Reddit (21) is the leader with social bookmarking online. ESPN (24) is the world-wide leader in sports. Being a leader in the industry brings on great brand recognition. Websites should not only be striving to rank first on Google but they should be striving to be the leader in their industry.
If it's unrealistic to catch up to the current leader in the industry, establish something unique about your brand and be the leader for that niche. Being an industry leader has many SEO benefits as well. Search engines pay attention to brand signals now, and will often rank the brand with the most authority and relevance over anyone else for a lot of related searches.
6. Large Audiences – Google’s (1) Facebook page has 16 million followers (likes). YouTube (3) has 80 million likes on Facebook. Even websites further down the list like Bank of America (35) have 1.9 million Facebook likes. The New York Times has 7.3 million likes on the social platform. These brands have the money and the popularity to build large audiences on multiple social websites. They also have access to the experts and teams to help increase their social presence.
Social signals impact search rankings depending on the search engine. Google pays attention to Google + while Bing gives more weight to Facebook and Twitter. Social signals create launch pads for link building. If a website has over a million likes, the viral traction of one post can build natural links and social shares to a sites page. Building the social audience is key to a brand’s success and smaller websites should take note of that.
7. High-Quality, Simple Websites – Apple.com (30) offers a platform that doesn't have a crazy design, or annoying Flash animations, or even pop ups, it's just simple, plain and very easy to navigate around. All ten of the top performing websites in the United States have a white background on their homepage. The color white is simple, and clear, and is a great canvas on which you can highlight your other brand colors.
Small businesses fall into these traps of wanting fancy websites with all the gimmicks. The truth is simple, clean and professional is the ideal direction to go when designing a website. It establishes an easy user experience and is quite affordable. Small businesses should start with something simple and, even as they grow, try to keep everything nice and orderly.
8. The Focus on a Broader Target Audience – Smaller businesses with lower budgets tend to focus heavily on the person who is most likely going to buy their product. There's nothing wrong with this at all, and with a smaller budget it's wise. It's wasteful to focus your ads on people that won’t convert. However, if you want to start building your overall traffic, so you can increase the pool of potential buyers, you’re going to need to target a bigger audience.
All of the five biggest traffic websites online target the general public. Facebook (2) started out by focusing on the college population but now reaches your grandparents. Although 80% of Pinterest users are women, more and more men are finding their way onto the world’s largest image bookmarking website. Amazon and eBay all target the everyday consumer. Google averages 2 trillion plus searches a year on their platform.
These websites focus on marketing that builds their brand. If your business model is focused on larger transactions it should focus on an audience. If it's focused on branding and being a huge website, you'll have to go after a wider audience. These brands figured out how to offer value where all ages and people will be attracted to their product.
9. An Online Focus, No Brick and Mortar Stores – Apple.com (29) is the first of the top 50 websites online that also has offline locations spread out in local communities. Chase (34) and Bank of America (35) offer bank locations all around the nation, Wal-Mart (40) has stores everywhere as well. Only five of the top fifty websites have stores for the public to visit. The other forty-five only focus on online services.
What we can learn from this is the big websites are dedicated to dominating the online world. From day one they've been building their brand online. When businesses focus all of their efforts online, websites naturally create better websites with great user experiences, and they offer higher quality content. Focusing too much offline can hurt your online presence if it's neglected.
In every sport, the best thing the young athletes can do is learn from the best. This concept applies to internet marketing. Although your industry might be different, your product might be different, or the mission of your website might be different than these large online web beasts, you can learn principles that can take your website to new levels. Be sure to express your thoughts below.
Questions Answered in the Article
- What do the largest websites online have in common?
- What are key internet marketing principles?
- What does it take to get high amounts of internet traffic to a website?