In any niche area, you will notice that the vast minority of websites account for the vast majority of web traffic. For example, Amazon is the king of retailing on the Internet. Google and Bing together account for the vast majority of Internet searches. Facebook and Twitter overshadows all the other social media websites. This is called the winner-take-all phenomenon and it is very pervasive on the Internet. In other words, the big boys will scoop the vast majority of the attention, leaving the smaller ones languishing in relative obscurity. So, what can you do as a small online business owner?
This question cannot be answered in one short glib article—the full treatment can only be given through a series of articles over a period of days. You will have to follow me over this period of time. Before you can implement any strategies to solve this problem, you have to understand the dynamics of what gives rise to the winner-take-all phenomenon. Once you understand this well, you will then be able to see a whole range of big-picture strategic options that you can take that is appropriate for your business. But first, let’s look at the dynamics of how the big-boys become big-boys in the first place.
Let’s say you’ve started a really cool website matched with a very cool product/service. And let’s say your product/service is superior to any of those offered by the big boys. But unfortunately, no one knows about your business. Because no one knows, no one can talk and link to your website, which means it will not be listed anywhere near the first page of search results. That means, no one will know about your business. You see the vicious cycle here?
But for the big boys, the situation is different. Because their websites are already on the top listings of search engines, people can find them. If they are found, they will be mentioned on social media, linked to and talked about. This will further reinforce their authority, which in turn will strengthen their position on search engines rankings (which implies some websites will have to be demoted). As a result, they will be found more easily (or perceived to have greater authority because they’re listed higher on the search results), which in turn increases the likelihood of attracting the attention of yet more people. You see the positive feedback loop here?
What does this mean for your online business?
If you’re just starting out, do not be too quickly discouraged that you’re not making any headway in terms of authority (see Can you be an authority without titles and formal qualifications?) and search rankings despite significant investment in time and money. Due to the nature of positive feedback loop, there’s a tipping somewhere along the line. Before you reach the tipping point, you will be like pushing a rock up a hill. Progress will be slow and work is hard. This is where most people give up. Once you reach the tipping point, it will be like reaching the top of the hill. From then on, it will be quite easy to push the rock down the hill because gravity is doing most of the work for you. In the same way, once you reach the tipping point, the positive feedback will do a lot of heavy lifting for you.
That’s how the big boys suppress the underdogs—they have the help of the positive feedback loop. In the coming articles, I will talk more about strategies to help you reach the tipping point faster.