Ever wonder why the buyers in the yearly upfronts keep paying ever higher rates for steadily diminishing network audiences? Phenomenal reach. That’s local and network television’s most powerful weapon. If you want to get your message out fast to a whopping crowd of people, nothing can do it better than television. It has been our medium’s saving grace.
It’s this reach that made us the big dog on the media block. We’ve never really had to scrap hard to get noticed. We’ve become accustom to the panache that comes with this kind of attention. We can put a few spots in American Idol and bam!–everyone in the community knows about it in record time.
Unfortunately, the internet is a very different game. The web is a frequency medium. Few web sites attract a wide swath of fans. Instead, they attract smaller, but very loyal audiences that come back repeatedly. You’ll get smaller groups of people but you can develop relationships that are more interactive and personal.
The problem is that most TV web sites still treat their on-line content like it’s a TV rock star. They create pages and special sections on their site and just assume the world will find them on their own. Nothing could be further from the truth.
65% of web surfers do not come through the front door of your web site. They come through the side door, usually through search engines like Google. Google uses a super secret patented link analysis system called “PageRank” to find the best stuff. This is the engine behind Google’s uncanny ability to find exactly what you want on the first page of the search results. It is downright spooky how good they are at this.
In the PageRank world, popularity is not that important. Getting a lot of hits on your site will not do a lot to move you up the ranking list. In the search engine world, just like in junior high, it’s all about how many friends you have. You gain ground on Google if a lot of other web sites have a link to your site. If popular sites have links to your site, you gain even more search pre-eminence. In essence, the most successful sites don’t just have a lot of friends, they have a lot of popular friends.
An entire science has grown up around PageRank called SEO, or “search engine optimization.” Huge buildings full of math dudes make millions of dollars tweaking web sites to improve their findability on the search engines.
Most TV stations spend precious little time on SEO. We’re used to creating content, then sitting back and letting the world beat a path to our door. In the rarefied air of high reach television, this works just fine. On the web, it is a recipe for disaster. If you want to see this in action, pull up Google, then put in the word “weather” and the name of your town. See where you end up. Keep scrolling down–it may take you a while to find your station.
Graeme Newell is a broadcast and web marketing specialist who serves as the president and founder of 602 communications. You can reach Graeme at firstname.lastname@example.org.