Good Internet Citizenship: The Key to Internet Marketing Success

What is the real key to marketing success on the Internet?

Floods of pay-per-click traffic?
Rock-bottom pricing?
Immediate response customer service?
The ultimate high-technology interactive features?

It’s none of these. The key to marketing success on the Internet is a simple, if difficult to achieve, concept: Good Internet Citizenship.

In the bricks-and-mortar world, corporations have recognized for nearly a century the importance of Good Corporate Citizenship, investing in and participating with the communities where they do business.

The Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College says:

“Every corporation is a citizen–an economic and social force touching many communities.

Increasingly, customers, employees, business partners, and government demand that corporations take an active role in social, environmental, and community concerns. That’s why strategic corporate citizenship is more than good business–it’s a business essential.”

On the Internet, Good Citizenship is far more important – and leads to measurable contributions to the bottom line of a business. Good citizenship leads to search engine success and increased website traffic. Good citizenship creates customer satisfaction and loyalty. Good citizenship leads to new customer acquisition and current customer retention.

Why draw a distinction between Good Corporate Citizenship and Good Internet Citizenship?

1) Good Corporate Citizenship translates into community investment, whereas Good Internet Citizenship translates into customer investment.

Traditionally corporations have taken a shotgun approach to community investment in order to become Good Corporate Citizens. They have built parks, libraries, and other projects. They have sponsored art programs for children, races for athletes, and free citywide concerts. All of these investments help to improve the corporation’s image in the community, and increase the liklihood that an individual in the community will become a customer.

On the Internet, Good Citizenship is awarded to those companies who provide the information and resources necessary to satisfy their product user’s questions and needs. A company selling cars, such as Corvette, would do well to post repair manuals on their website. They would do well to feature a bulletin board and a Q&A feature where Corvette owners can get fast answers to service-related questions. The ultimate Corvette website should include access to everything a Corvette owner is looking for. Taking the example a step farther, Corvette would do well to offer free web space to Corvette enthusiasts, so they can build pages showing others their pride and joy.

2) The corporate citizen exists in the world of “push” marketing.

On the Internet, people ignore push marketing. They search for resources and pull sites that interest, entertain, help, or inform them. When a visitor pulls your site from your server onto their computer, it is your responsibility to anticipate their needs. If you don’t, the “back” button is less than a second away, and they will never return. If you do, you are on the right track for turning that visitor into a customer.

Let’s take Olympus as an example. A quick trip to eBay will tell you that people are very interested in Olympus cameras as new purchases and as collectibles. Olympus has recently announced that they will discontinue the manufacturing of their SLR cameras, which will undoubtably increase the Internet buying, selling, and trading activity. Unfortunately, on eBay the cameras for sale rarely include the original manuals, so when a manual goes up for auction, it fetches a ridiculous price. We’ve seen Olympus OM-4 camera manuals sell for 20 dollars. Olympus would go far in building a community on their website by offering downloadable pdf files of their old manuals for free. In addition, they could build a community of collectors by adding a section to their site detailing their history, featuring the evolution of Olympus cameras over the years. Instead, the Olympus website is one big interactive brochure.

3) The individual has far more voice and power on the Internet.

They can ignore you.
They can easily tell hundreds of other individuals about you. (this can be good or bad)
They can link to you.

What is a Good Internet Citizen?

Becoming a good Internet citizen is pretty simple, but by no means easy. Provide a useful service, and do it in a way that makes it easy for your visitors, and you’ll thrive online.

“Please don’t add to my frustration!

Can you hear your customers begging?

“Please don’t make me wait for a movie to run before I can check my order.”
“Please don’t make me search for your contact information.”
“Please try to make this easier for me!”

Listen to your customers and you’ll hear them asking for simplicity when they interact with you through the Internet.

Keep your visitors in mind during the design and planning phase of your website, and you’ll build a better site.

The rewards for good citizenship are greater interest, participation, and loyalty from your visitors. That leads to brand recognition and ultimately business success.

Your website should be intuitive and easy-to-use.
Remember, a website is an extension of your computer. It must serve a logical purpose and perform its responsibility – not just look flashy or expensive.

Your website should perform a useful service.
One of the best reasons to build a website is to give your customers more customer service. Find out what they need and give them access to it on the Internet. You can save time and money.

Your website should be accessible and cross-platform compatible.
This part is simple but one of the most common errors on websites. Test your website on all versions of all browsers on Mac’s and PC’s. Test it with a 14.4 modem! Make sure visitors with physical impairments can access your information.

Your website must be secure.
If you are asking your customers to provide personal information or if you are processing credit card transactions online, your site must be secure.

Your website must be up-to-date.
Why should your visitors return? Because you’re constantly providing new information!

How does Good Internet Citizenship contribute to your bottom line?

1) Websites which are Good Internet Citizens get special treatment from directory editors at Yahoo!, LookSmart, and Open Directory, the three most important website directories on the Internet. The special treatment translates into more search wins for more keywords.

2) Websites which are Good Internet Citizens get lots of links back to them from other websites.

Believe it or not, Google’s search engine algorythm is built around the concept of Internet citizenship, though they don’t articulate it in the same way. Google’s term is “popularity”, which calculates the number and quality of websites linked back to yours. If your website is a useful resource, Google figures, than other websites will link to it.

Google is not alone in calculating the number of sites linked to yours and factoring that information into their search ranking algorythm. AskJeeves.com and Teoma also factor something akin to popularity into their search results.

And of course, all those links back to your website give web users more chances to find your website.

Internet Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, The Sandbox, Web Development,