It wasn't all that long ago that people in my industry had to convince business owners of the value of going online. For the most part those days are past. I think the value of the web has proven itself more than we can possible realize. Today I can pay bills, stream movies, schedule and even watch my DVR from anywhere in the world, so long as I have internet access. Getting your business online isn't just about making money--it's about accessibility.
Even if your business as little commercial viability online, having an accessible website allows people to learn more about you, your products or services, what types of things you do, what you believe in and care about, and how to contact you if needed. It's about allowing people to come to you instead of pushing yourself on to them that is typical of most forms of advertising.
If you run a business of any size and you still have not made the jump to the Web, why not? If you know your business can make money online, (i.e. you sell an in-demand product or service) then investing money to build your web presence is almost a no-brainer. The question then becomes, how to do it right so you can be profitable.
If you run one of those niche businesses where online success isn't a certainty, there is still value in being online. There is also value in investing in a bit of marketing in order to make sure your site can be found by those looking to find you, even if they just seek information.
Regardless if your business that can make a profit online or if the site's just another way to provide information to the public, there are a few things that you'll want to consider when budgeting for your website's success.
Web hosting can be considered a utility expense as it's just another bill you pay each month to keep things moving forward. Just as lights are essential to a brick and mortar store, without good web hosting your site goes dark.
However, investing in web hosting services isn't as easy as paying an electric bill and plugging the light in. As long as the electric bill get's paid the lights stay on. With web hosting you have many levels of quality, starting with server space, speed, bandwidth, and any extras you might need to ensure you provide your visitors with a good experience. Web hosting can cost as little as $5/month, but those don't have the reliability that most businesses need.
Before you select your web host company or package, you need to get a good idea on what your needs will be. Will the server be able to handle the regular every day traffic? What about sudden spurts of traffic from popular articles or advertising campaigns? Will bandwidth restrictions slow down your site's performance or ensure that every visitor can access all of your content without download delays?
There are dozens of factors involved in site hosting and you're better off comparing on quality than on price. To keep your site live and accessible, quality trumps price every time.
Building a pretty website is relatively easy to do for any artistic person. But pretty doesn't necessarily translate into web success. Many designs that look pretty are also poor performers in terms of visitor usability and search engine friendliness. These are important things to consider when in the design and development stage of your site.
Things such as color integration, navigation layout, site architecture are all just as important--if not more important--than the actual design of the site. Hiring a web designer that only makes pretty sites but ignores some of the other important aspects of web usability is like hiring a painter to build a good car. Sure they can paint one, but there is nothing under the canvas.
Like a pretty car needs a good engine under the hood, a pretty website needs good code, usability and architecture in order for it to be able to perform for you online. Before you hire any designer make sure they have the skills to do more than make your site look good. Make sure they know how to make it perform good as well.
Each business has different needs. And what the business owner needs her website to do will vary greatly. More often than not you'll have to go beyond the basic design and usability elements to build a site that has the functionality that you want.
What do people want to do once they get to your site? Are they looking to place an order? Read content? Ask a question? Research and compare products or services? Each of these actions require that a system be built in order to accommodate it. Those systems cost money, and depending on how detailed that system needs to be, the more money it might cost you.
Proper web budgeting needs to consider all of the additional "whistles and bells" that you want to add to your site. Figure out what you need versus what you want but isn't absolutely necessary. Once you know how much things cost then you can focus your budget on what is most essential first.
Search Engine Optimization and Marketing
I'm often concerned at how many people seemed surprised that SEO and web marketing costs more than building the site itself. The site, aside from needed functionality improvements, is generally a one-time expense. Marketing is an ongoing expense.
Making a website perform in the search engines is just one aspect of marketing, but an important one for online success. Most business can't get buy just by renting space and opening the doors. They have to do some form of advertising and marketing. The same is true online. And if the marketing is what's creating sales, its a much needed investment, so long as the ROI is there.
Any marketing you do online needs to provide you with a positive return on investment. This is can be quickly accomplished with PPC. SEO can often take months for the ROI to be realized. But that's just the nature of this type of work. Once the SEO campaign begins to take root the ROI is generally greater than what you'll see for PPC campaigns.
When budgeting for online marketing it's not always a choice between SEO or PPC. It's often just a matter of strategy. It often makes sense to get the PPC campaigns going while the SEO is being implemented and still building into a positive return. Both campaigns can compliment each other satisfactorily.
Building a successful site online doesn't have to be expensive, but it will cost money if you want to do it right. But it's not about how much money you spend but how well you plan and how wisely you spend.
There is no way to provide estimates on how much all this should cost because it's different for every business, depending on the specific needs. But a little bit of research will help you find the best value for your dollar (again, cheapest isn't always the best value) that will provide you the results you need without breaking your budget.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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