Question of the year: Is the website dead?

eNitiate | is the Website dead? | Google Search | www | 12 Aug 2021-banner

Here at eNitiate, we spend an inordinate amount of time on this Website.

We constantly publish eNsights about various digital industry trends in Africa; partly because we are committed to contributing to the growth of digital knowledge on and about the continent, and partly because we want to demonstrate our digital performance marketing expertise.

We then constantly analyse the following about you, our valued visitor:

  • where you discovered this site;
  • how you discovered it;
  • the page you used to enter the site, and thus the content you are interested in;
  • how you consume the content on the site;
  • how many pages you visit while you are on the site;
  • how long you spend on the site; 
  • whether you take any of the calls to action we would like you to, including clicking on recommended links,  downloading our eBooks and case studies, contacting us, etc;
  • the page you use to exit our site; and
  • whether you come back.

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So, the more we have been learning about your content consumption habits on this site, the more we have been making changes to enhance your user experience, while making every attempt to get you to take certain actions that will help us achieve our ultimate goal: GET MORE BUSINESS.

No doubt, it does take time.

As a result, we keep asking the question: is it worth it?

More specifically, is the Website dead, in this era of multiple online platform choices including apps, and social networks that are effectively becoming search engines and are manipulating search results, driven by their selfish profit motives?

The question above is the subject of this eNsight.

Table of Contents

Current performance of our Website

How do we measure the performance of our Website, you may ask?

We model our performance based on what we believe Google, which contributes over 60% of our site traffic,  looks for.

Here are the 3 things we have come to notice that this platform puts prime on, in no particular order:

  • Page load speed
    We have made great progress in this regard. See below.
  • Quality of content, as may be judged by referring links
    We are not where we want to be, but this is an ongoing process.
  • User experience, especially on mobile devices
    This requires financial resources, thus we are making only baby steps at the moment.

eNitiate's page load speed performance

Webpage load speed is a big deal for Google. 

Why? Because, netizens are said to have a short attention span. They don’t have the patience for Webpages with slow loading speeds!

Webpages that load on a device’s screen in less than 3 seconds are ranked highly by Google. 

We are happy that our site now performs consistently on this measure. 

The best way to demonstrate this, is to compare our site with 2 of the biggest communication agencies in South Africa – Ogilvy and VMLY&R, on page load speeds.

See the results:

eNitiate | Ogilvy | VMLY&R | is the Website dead? | GT Metrix | Page load Speed | 12 Aug 2021-
Source: GT Metrix

eNitiate’s and Ogilvy’s Homepages load within 2.5 seconds, while VMLY&R loads just above the 3 second benchmark. 

What is your Website’s page load speed? How does it compare to 2 other sites in your industry? Use GTMetrix – a free tool – to check.

Is the Website dead?

One of the most valuable resources of any business is time.

As we all know, this is also a finite resource.

As we pen this very eNsight, there is the opportunity cost of not doing something else, which may or may not bring us more business.

To get an idea of the extent to which the future of the Website is being debated, we typed the search phrase “the Website is dead” on Google.

Here are the results:

eNitiate | is the Website dead? | Google Search Results: website is dead | 12 Aug 2021-
Source: Google Search Results

Stunningly, there are over a billion search results for the search phrase, led by a 2010 article in The Wired – one of the leading tech online publishers.

Based on the content of this top ranking article alone, we almost stopped writing any further, tempted to abandon this crazy idea of wasting time on the dying horse called the www.

This graph below, used in the article in The Wired, put the nail on the Web coffin:

eNitiate | is the Website dead? | The Wired | Cisco Estimates | 12 Aug 2021-
Source: The Wired Online

As though the above was not enough, Rob LoCascio of LivePerson made the following bold prediction on Techcrunch in 2018:

In 2018, we will see the first major brand shut down its website. The brand will shift how it connects with consumers — to conversations, with a combination of bots and humans, through a messaging front end like SMS or Facebook... When the first website ends, the dominoes will fall fast.

Rob LoCascio | Techcurnch | 2018 Tweet

Poignantly, LoCascio mentioned that when major brands shift away from the Website, Google – the platform with over 70% of the world’s desktop search traffic – will suffer the most.

Let’s explore the Google topic further.

Assessing Google search traffic performance

According to Internet Live Stats, Google search traffic for the last 12 months to 11 August 2021 was over 1.8 trillion, a growth of 50% since 2012.

0
Billion Searches in 2012
0
Billion Searches in 2021
0
Percent Increase in The Last 9 Years

It is worth noting though, that the growth in Google search traffic for the previous 9 years to 2012 was far higher, at 1,884%.

Should we read too much into the slowing growth between the two 9-year periods?

Should we read too much into the fact that Google has itself been restructuring (think Alphabet Inc, which launched in October 2015), with a view to diversifying beyond being a mere search engine and into a true tech juggernaut that it is today?

Review of LoCasci'os prediction, 3 years on

It has been 3 years since LoCascio’s prediction, which he made in 2018, that at least one major brand will shut down its Website and start using alternative conversation platforms.

To check if this has indeed started happening, we went back to Google to search for “major brands that have shut down their websites in the world” on the 12th of August 2021. 

Here are the results:

eNitiate | is the Website dead? | Google Search Results: major brands that have shut down their websites | 12 Aug 2021-
Source: Google Search Results

As the results above show, we could not find the evidence we that the shift ha started yet, nor was ther a mention of LoCascio’s 2018 prediction.

We went further and searched for “Rob LoCascio’s 2018 prediction”, but there does not appear to have been followup since, save for a 2019 article by Leigh Garland, that expressed an opposing view.

By the way, you will notice that the traffic for the second search phrase above is lower than for the first search phrase.

Back to the question of the year: is the Website dead?

To answer the question directly: the jury is still out.

Remember, there have been many dooms day predictions, including for the likes of the email and Facebook, and we are still holding our breadth (or should we?). 

Suffice to say, every serious brand does need its own content platform, where it can develop and protect its own digital properties. 

Shared platforms, such as social networks, are best as a content distribution and community development channel, and thus have limited value for brands.  

At the moment, the Website is the best owned media default for many brands., and this is because it is cost-effective to build and maintain. 

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But in acknowledgement of the drastic changes brought about by digital technology trends of the last 20 years, one can never say never.

All you have to do, as an example, is ask a middle class South African with a banking app when last they visited their bank’s Website, or the bank’s brick and mortar outlet for that matter, and there lies your answer.

The message, therefore, is that brands must always explore opportunities for expanding their owned media footprint where possible.

Where to from here for us at eNitate

We will keep one eye on ensuring that we continue to optimise for the traffic that is still coming to our Website at the moment, thus making the most of the current situation.

We will keep another eye on trends and predictions, and ensure we are agile given the fluid future that has become the new normal.

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