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Tag Archives: seo
By: Chris Foss, Published August 31, 2014
Over the past 18 years, I have written thousands of website proposals – for design, development, hosting, and/or marketing (SEO) – for companies and organizations of every size and (just about) every industry. Some people want a basic brochure website, others might want full online marketing strategies, while others ask for things that are, literally, impossible to develop. Everyone, however, always wants to know:
“How much will this website cost?”
And after 18 years, my answer is still the same. Websites can cost anywhere from free to more than $100 million, it all depends on what you want to actually achieve online.
Let’s discuss the design and build first
To start, ask yourself a few questions.
1. Are you looking to sell products online or include any ecommerce?
2. Do you require backend integration with any internal databases or systems (CRM, AMS, Inventory/warehouse system, accounting)?
3. Is your website primarily a marketing and informational site?
4. How tech savvy is your staff?
5. How established is your brand (i.e. will your web design be creating everything from scratch or do you have established brand guidelines)?
Finally, one of the toughest questions of all: how valuable is this website to your business or organization? If your business is a local Burger King franchise, then a website, while important, is not overly valuable compared to the rest of your marketing and operational needs. However, if your business is an online dating service, where the website IS the business, then obviously the design and build of the website will require much more attention and ongoing development.
Ok, so how much should I budget for my website?
Now that you’ve asked yourself some important questions, let’s get down to at least some budget ranges.
Cost of Basic Websites
For many small businesses, a basic website is a great place to start. These types of websites can range from FREE (but be careful what you sign up for!) to around $5,000. A basic website is typically 3-10 pages and really just focuses on providing basic information about the business – who you are, what you offer, and how to contact you. A website company will typically stylize an existing theme or template and work with clients to build out these sites for $4,000-$5,000.
Cost of Custom Websites
I truly believe that all businesses should eventually have a custom or advanced website. Basic, template websites are fantastic for businesses starting out with a limited budget, but for a website to truly work for you and generate an ROI, you should consider a Web firm to build you a custom design website. After all, look at any successful website that you visit on a regular basis. Are any of them templates? No. And there is a good reason for that.
A firm will work with you to build a custom design website, and the process should start with in-depth discussions about your target audiences, corporate culture, online business goals, and behavior/conversion goals. A custom site should be developed to successfully address all of these points in order to establish a strong, effective website for your business or organization. Custom website designs typically fall anywhere from $9,000 – $20,000; however, depending on the size and requirements of your website, the cost can certainly fall above this range.
Cost of Advanced Websites
Advanced websites are really any project that goes beyond a marketing/informational website. These are websites that include ecommerce, highly interactive features, backend integration, and custom programming. Projects like these are spec’d out on a case-by-case basis and can cost anywhere from $20,000 to several million dollars.
As you can imagine, marketing costs can also vary greatly simply because there are a wide range of marketing services that we can apply to any website. Typical engagements with a firm include SEO services, social media campaigns, email marketing efforts, and consulting with online advertising. Marketing costs are usually centered around ongoing efforts and measurable marketing goals that we establish directly with you. Based on these efforts and deliverables, marketing costs typically range from $500/mo to $5,000/mo, again, depending on how involved, and how aggressive, you want your web firm to be.
As you finalize your budget, keep in mind some of these additional costs as well.
1. Purchasing a domain name ($10-$20/year)
2. Hosting (usually $20-$100/mo depending on hosting needs)
3. Ongoing Maintenance – Don’t forget about this one. Despite how perfect the website might be at launch, within a few months, you can already start making upgrades. Platforms and plugins need upgraded and new functionality/new designs can always improve your site. You should plan to evolve your website on a regular basis, and this is usually provided on either an “as needed” basis or through a maintenance retainer.
4. Security Certificate for forms with private information or ecommerce ($200/yr)
5. Stock Photography ($20-$100 per image) or Professional Photography if needed
6. Video production if needed
Last fall, Google rolled out one of its largest changes of the past decade – an entirely new search algorithm, nicknamed “Hummingbird.” In contrast to the past updates, Panda and Penguin, which modified existing search algorithms and affected roughly 2 to 5 percent of search queries, Hummingbird is believed to have affected nearly 90 percent of all queries and dramatically changed the way the engine processes user requests.
The impetus behind Hummingbird comes down to context. In the past, Google’s algorithms processed user queries according to each individual word in the query string. As an example, a past search for the keyword phrase “hotels in Chicago” would require Google to parse through its index and find the best matches containing the words “hotels,” “in” and “Chicago.”
But now that users are more likely to enter complete questions — for example, “what is the best hotel in Chicago?” — into the engine, Google wants to understand the context behind the query in order to serve up the best possible results. Did you mean the best hotel in terms of price point or luxury level? Are you on the move in Chicago and looking for the best hotel nearest to your location? Hummingbird attempts to determine the context for your question, although it isn’t immediately clear whether it does so successfully in all cases.
What is clear, though, is that there are some tweaks you’ll want to make to your SEO strategy in response to this update — especially if you’re still using “old school” techniques. Here are a few of the strategies you’ll want to incorporate into your day-to-day SEO routine:
Don’t do keyword research — do market research. As Google continues to evolve, it’s clear that traditional keyword research — as in, the measurement of volume and competition metrics for individual, granular search queries — is on its way out. Google now cares less about whether you’ve optimized each individual page on your site to a particular keyword and more about whether your page’s content answers the question presented by the search user.
So instead of spending a ton of time trying to find the magical combination of keyword metrics that’ll guarantee you natural search traffic, brainstorm the questions your users are asking about your industry and brand. Then, make sure your website’s content clearly answers these questions in a way that’s easily understood by the search engines and provides extra value to your visitors.
Incorporate questions into your content. As you begin to incorporate the questions you’ve come up with into your site’s content, there are a few new guidelines you’ll want to keep in mind:
• Unless your content is poorly written (and at risk of suffering from a future Panda penalty), there’s no need to go back and rewrite every page you’ve ever created to target user questions instead of keywords. Add on extra content if you need to, but don’t risk messing with content that’s already performing successfully.
• There’s no need to follow a “one page, one question” rule, as many page managers used to do with traditional keywords. Pages can answer multiple questions, as long as the search engines can make sense of your content and each question is answered fully for your visitors.
• Try to provide your readers with as much information as possible. Plenty of SEO managers are concerned about the potential of Google’s new information card feature — which displays answers to questions posed directly in the sidebar of the results page — to steal away traffic that would otherwise arrive from search clickthroughs. While this feature is currently only available in Chrome browsers, there’s no reason to think it won’t be rolled out more widely in the future. To prevent possible traffic poaching, give your pages so much substance that it’s worth your readers’ time to take the extra step of visiting your site.
The more content, the better. Posting new content to your site on a regular schedule has been an SEO recommendation for some time, but with Google Hummingbird in place, this tweak becomes even more important. The more content you have, the more questions your site answers — and the more likely it is to appear in the contextual search results. For maximum impact, focus on adding new content that explicitly answers user questions — including “how to” posts, FAQs, process tutorials and other similar pieces.
Beyond these few tweaks, keep following the SEO best practices that have been put in place for this post-Panda, post-Penguin era. Build great content that accumulates high quality, relevant backlinks naturally on its own. Use a responsive design that makes it easy for readers to find information from you wherever they are. And above all, stop trying to outright manipulate the search rankings. Think long term about the direction Google appears to be going and make your site as attractive as possible by playing by the rules and being a good webmaster.
Creating a well organized, well written website is a great accomplishment and it can lead to a lucrative business, but that isn’t where the work ends. Whether a website was created last month or last year, it is absolutely essential to keep the content fresh, accurate, and up-to-date. Updating the content on a website so that it remains on topic and relevant can help push any business to center stage.
The Internet plays a vital role in many people’s lives today. Through the decades, the Internet has evolved from a novelty to a tool that is used in almost every aspect of one’s life, from paying bills and ordering groceries to communicating with friends and family to earning an income. Because the Internet is so dynamic, webmasters must constantly deal with the challenge of simply keeping up with regular changes and the latest innovations and trends. That means that regular website maintenance is essential to ensure that visitors are getting the very best information possible.
Update frequently – it’s essential
Consistently updating a website’s content is the only way to maintain a competitive edge. Here is a look at the importance of updating certain aspects of a website to ensure that users are getting the best experience possible which will, in turn. result in improved sales and a better online presence.
Types of website content
There are two types of content on a website: that which is static and that which is dynamic. Static content would include the likes of the “About Us,” “FAQ,” and “Contact” pages, whereas dynamic pages might include the news section or blog. The dynamic content should be frequently updated and should be relevant at all times. Static content should also be updated, however, it does not need to be done as frequently.
When updating the content of a website, it is not only important to ensure the content is relevant and fresh, but also well crafted. New search engine algorithms require that content be well written for the human eye rather than for the search engine spiders. The focus should be on original, quality content that is not just limited to the written word but should also include infographics and videos.
If a webmaster fails to update a website for a significant period of time, that website will fail to keep up with the constantly changing market. This can mean certain doom for any online business because the website will almost certainly lose its ranking in the search engines, and every webmaster knows the lower the rank, the fewer the customers.
Hiring a competent copywriter to maintain a blog is not the only way to keep the content of a website updated and fresh, though it is an excellent way to attract regular visitors and engage the customer. Today, social media plays a vital role in the success of a content marketing strategy. Therefore, any business should have a presence on the leading social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, where customers may obtain the latest information and engage with the business.
In order to successfully grow your business, you’ll need to attract and then work to retain a large base of satisfied customers. Marketing emphasizes the value of the customer to the business, and has two guiding principles:
1. All company policies and activities should be directed toward satisfying customer needs.
2. Profitable sales volume is more important than maximum sales volume.
To best use these principles, a small business should:
• Determine the needs of their customers through market research • Analyze their competitive advantages to develop a market strategy • Select specific markets to serve by target marketing
• Determine how to satisfy customer needs by identifying a market mix
Marketing programs, though widely varied, are all aimed at convincing people to try out or keep using particular products or services. Business owners should carefully plan their marketing strategies and performance to keep their market presence strong.
Conducting Market Research
Successful marketing requires timely and relevant market information. An inexpensive research program, based on questionnaires given to current or prospective customers, can often uncover dissatisfaction or possible new products or services.
Market research will also identify trends that affect sales and profitability. Population shifts, legal developments, and the local economic situation should be monitored to quickly identify problems and opportunities. It is also important to keep up with competitors’ market strategies.
Creating a Marketing Strategy
A marketing strategy identifies customer groups which a particular business can better serve than its target competitors, and tailors product offerings, prices, distribution, promotional efforts and services toward those segments. Ideally, the strategy should address unmet customer needs that offer adequate potential profitability. A good strategy helps a business focus on the target markets it can serve best.
Most small businesses don’t have unlimited resources to devote to marketing; however, the SBA wants you to know that you can still see excellent returns while sticking to your budget if you focus on target marketing. By concentrating your efforts on one or a few key market segments, you’ll reap the most from small investments. There are two methods used to segment a market:
1. Geographical segmentation: Specializing in serving the needs of customers in a particular geographical area.
2. Customer segmentation: Identifying those people most likely to buy the product or service and targeting those groups.
Managing the Market Mix
Every marketing program contains four key components:
1. Products and Services: Product strategies include concentrating on a narrow product line, developing a highly specialized product or service or providing a product-service package containing unusually high-quality service.
2. Promotion: Promotion strategies focus on advertising and direct customer interaction. Good salesmanship is essential for small businesses because of their limited advertising budgets. Online marketing is a cheap, quick, and easy way to ensure that your business and product receive high visibility.
3. Price: When it comes to maximizing total revenue, the right price is crucial. Generally, higher prices mean lower volume and vice-versa; however, small businesses can often command higher prices because of their personalized service.
4. Distribution: The manufacturer and wholesaler must decide how to distribute their products. Working through established distributors or manufacturers’ agents is generally easiest for small manufacturers. Small retailers should consider cost and traffic flow in site selection, especially since advertising and rent can be reciprocal: a low-cost, low-traffic location means spending more on advertising to build traffic.
The aforementioned steps combine to form a holistic marketing program.
The nature of the product or service is also important in citing decisions. If purchases are based largely on impulse, then high-traffic and visibility are critical. On the other hand, location is less of a concern for products or services that customers are willing to go out of their way to find. The Internet makes it easy for people to obtain goods from anywhere in the world, so if you’re worried about reaching a certain market, selling your product online may do wonders for your business.
Since Google Analytics was made available for free in 2005, marketers, media experts and everyone in between has struggled to make sense of the various metrics it records–page views, visitors, uniques. Meanwhile, many business owners have ignored this data entirely, focusing only on the number of sales or leads a site generates. After all, if a website doesn’t generate revenue or collect prospects’ contact information, then something must be wrong.
According to Jakob Nielsen, co-founder and principal of Nielsen Norman Group, a Fremont, Calif., firm that conducts evidence-based online user research, neither the marketers nor the business owners are entirely right. The one data point that matters most is conversion rate. This counts what percentage of visitors responded to calls to action on your site, such as clicking on an article, scheduling an appointment or buying a product. The rate provides an accurate measure of your website’s effectiveness at engaging visitors, no matter whether you see 1,000 or 1 million visitors each month.
To figure out your conversion rate, divide the number of people who undertake a specific action on your site by the total number of visitors. It’s that simple.
The tricky part is figuring out how to boost that percentage. Nielsen points to three classic website metrics that, taken together, play a critical role in your website’s conversion rate. Improve these numbers, and you should end up with a more successful website–and business.
Search engine ranking. Unless your site appears on the first results page of a search related to your industry, you may as well not exist online at all. That’s because only 2 percent of online customers bother to look at the second page of results. Months of SEO work, near-daily content updates and a streamlined back-end design will help you reach page one.
User loyalty. This is a measure of your site’s repeat visitors (defined by Google Analytics as visitors, as opposed to uniques). The fewer uniques you see as a percentage of your total visitation, the more loyal your audience. Why should you care? Because it’s always easier to sell to a loyal customer again than it is to sell to someone who doesn’t know you for the first time.
Bounce rates and visit duration. These are actually two metrics, but they’re related. Bounce rate is the percentage of users who leave immediately after seeing one page. (Presumably, they think your site is terrible.) Visit duration is the number of pages scanned per visit, or the amount of time spent on the site. A low bounce rate and high visit duration tells you that people find your website useful and valuable.
Nielsen cautions that even by addressing all these metrics, the decisive factor in your conversion rate is ultimately the product or service your business offers. Put simply, if you have something everybody wants, your conversion rate will be sky-high, even if your website sucks.
By: Kristin Piombino | From: PR Daily
Your reputation is just as important today as it was in high school.
Except a hit to your brand’s reputation today will do more than hurt your social standing–it will hurt your bottom line.
During the next five years, 83 percent of companies will face a crisis that will negatively affect their share price, an infographic from Digital Firefly says.
You don’t want to be part of the 83 percent.
But a crisis isn’t the only time you should monitor your brand’s online reputation. Potential customers may sidestep your products based on other things they see online, like product reviews or ads.
Take a look:
•Almost 100 percent (97 percent) of consumers who bought a product based on an online review found the review to be accurate.
•Seventy percent of consumers look to online reviews before they buy.
•Seventy-five percent of people don’t believe companies tell the truth in advertisements.
•Nearly 90 percent (87 percent) of people believe the CEO’s reputation is an important part of the company’s reputation.