Is there any hope here?

“90% of the money created by users spending time online accrues to search engines.”
—Jakob Nielsen, website usability expert extraordinaire

You might want to read that sentence again. If you’re hoping to make money online, it contains a much-needed dose of reality. Making money online might not be the path to riches that you imagine it is, dear reader. But lets widen the view.

Using the… Web, a user can easily visit 100 sites in a week, viewing only 1–3 pages on most of them. (For example, for one task in which B2B users visited 15 sites, they spent an average of 29 seconds per pageview.) Most sites are visited once-only, because users dredge them up in a search or stumble upon links from other sites or social media postings. Without real customer relationships, content sites have no value and 90% of the money created by users spending time online accrues to search engines.

Now, the scene just got a bit more depressing for your online business, because it’s clear that it’s awfully hard to hold even an interested visitor on your site.

And content sites have no value? Ouch. What does this mean for all the gurus shouting that content is king?

(Heck, what does it mean for your intrepid Experience Designer, slaving away over this fresh MCE-content for your benefit right now?)

It means we missed the critical point of Mr. Nielsen’s valuable research.

The only point, in fact, that can have a measurable impact on your business—one that I have been learning over and over for the past twenty years in business:

Without real customer relationships.

That’s it. Online and off, I can tell you that 50 to 75% of my business is now and has always been (even pre-Web) derived from real customer relationships. I have a relationship with many of my readers today at MCE and I’ve been fortunate to work with many of you on improving your businesses. (Perhaps you’d like to work with me as well? I’d love that.) I have relationships with other authors online and I’m very grateful that they feel free to refer business to me. I have relationships with customers, vendors, and colleagues offline, and as we track the sources of our business that is always what it comes down to. In fact if I may include relationships that happy customers have with others, the number might be closer to 90% relationship-based these days.

This is the new reality for entrepreneurs and small business owners—the same as the old reality.

No matter how world-wide the web, we must create real relationships in order to grow our sales and thrive.

There are no new rules.

Be sure to check out Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox. The excerpt in this post is from his latest article, iPad Usability: First Findings From User Testing —which contains a wealth of information that is also not new, but is fascinating when applied to the gotta-have-it tech gadget of the year, Apple’s iPad.

Are you creating real customer relationships online? How has it helped your business to grow?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson