Friday, June 04, 2010

Strategic Shifting and What I Learned from WalMart

I've had a web page up in one form or another since late 1995. Back then, it ushered my return to tech by dipping my toe into web design and soon thereafter, web development (Perl, ASP, then I settled into lots of PHP).
I'm a dabbler-- I sculpt, I cook, I take photos, I have lots of opinions, I write and sometimes I like to be a jack-ass. My website had to reflect that. Even my early incarnations showed off this segmentation. It started to seemed to confusing to me and I thought it was confusing to my "audience" (all three readers must be very confused). So, I segmented stuff-- dieting got a blog; tech got a blog; movie reviews got a blog-- you can see where this is going. Then, no one would trip over my weight loss tips when looking for how I built my Borg masks. That's where things went: from a bazaar of dabblings to a set of little shops.
As a kid, I loved the department stores like Woodwards. Get your macaroni salad, then walk to the other part of the store and buy camping gear or a suit or some Micronauts. Canadian retailers, like Eatons, shot themselves in the foot by taking product lines out of the mix. People liked these places for their shoes or shirts, but they were considered big specialty shops. WalMart arrived on the scene with almost everything you'd need. Mega WalMarts, like the one due to open in Victoria in a few weeks, have everything you need. Just walk in the door and you'll find what you need. This approach is devastating to the little shop mentality hence why WalMart is being blamed for killing the Main Streets across America. The most noteworthy thing: it works.
When I went into the little shop approach, my traffic started to drop. Where I used to make a happy pittance with AdSense, now I see a cheque less than once a year. It's almost laughably sad. While the WalMarts of the Internet have something for everyone under one domain, I have all of these fringe sites that are left on their own.
The reason for this is simple: page rank. Page rank talks about your site and its traffic, thereby its relevance on the Internet. I (me, myself and I) generate so many web pages a day. They get so many hits. I think that is a small and predictable number of hits. Google doesn't purport to see the me behind the web pages, it just sees these separated sites. While I am 500 hits a day, Google sees that 10 sites are getting 2-100 hits a day-- all of which is even more miserable than 500 hits/day. Why drive traffic to me? My sites appear to be bumpy cul-de-sacs given how little traffic they warrant. Google, traffic and page rank are parts of a vicious cycle. If you don't have traffic, Google does not bestow page ranks. If you don't have page rank, you don't get traffic. Google doesn't look at design or navigation. It looks at domains. The more I pile into http://mike.dewolfe.bc.ca/
I have begun a process of steering my traffic to accrete on a short list of selected sites. My diet blog was about my fatness and my work to remedy it. So, there's no reason to have it split out and apart from my main site, so I moved it in, while leaving the old blog to linger and wither as new content goes into my main site. The same is true with my Viridian blog. It's moving into my main site as well. I will look at my other ventures and work to roll stuff together and collect traffic and build page rank.

What any of you converted from the Main Street concept to the WalMart concept? How did it all go?