Is having your own website an investment or an expense? The following article will help you gain clarity on this issue.
First of all, let us consider the costs of having a website. A domain name with sufficient amount of space (that also includes a database support for interactive websites) costs under $30 per annum. This is roughly $2.5 / month.
Then comes the designing and maintenance costs. Depending on your requirement, web design can cost as little as $50-$100. There is no upper limit; it can go into several thousands depending on what exactly you want and who is doing it. Ideally, you should ask your friends and associates to refer web designers who have done a good job for them and also charged reasonably. Prepare your requirements in advance before taking quotes. Be very clear on what exactly you want for your website. This will save you a lot of pain. Be sure to cross check the quotes with sites like Elance. Discuss the maintenance charges also, if you need to update your site often.
There is another option where you can save on web design costs if you don’t need a very fancy / customized design. Most hosting providers will offer you site builder options at a nominal cost. In fact, you can even use a blog platform like WordPress or a CMS platform like Joomla and Drupal. Most hosting providers will offer fantastic support, which enables you to install these open source softwares with a few mouse clicks. I would advice you to first go with one of these options, preferably the WordPress / CMS option before you spend on web design.
Once you’ve worked out these costs, you now need to consider the returns. Business is all about ROI (Return On Investment) and you should seriously track all leads and / or orders you receive through your website. First of all, you need to accept the fact that you won’t start getting orders the moment your website is live. “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t work here. You need to work towards promoting your website.
There are several online and offline ways to do this. For offline promotion, you should include your website URL in every piece of communication as you can, like visiting cards, yellow page ads, invoices, quotations, etc.
For online promotion, you should first make it a point to include your URL in email signatures and forum post signatures. Next, you should consider spending a little on PPC (Pay Per Click) ads. The most important online promotion is free traffic from search engines. If you want to win the SEO game, there are only three things that you really need to concentrate on:
1. Unique content: Don’t ever copy content from other websites, create your own. If required, hire a decent copywriter, but first start on your own.
2. Updated content: Search engines love websites which have new content added regularly, so make it a point to add something new to your website at least once a week. If there are no new products or services that you add, consider adding some latest news in your industry. Or you can simply add useful tips that cater to your industry.
3. Backlinks: The more websites that link to yours, the more weight search engines give to your ranking. So try to get more websites linking to you, preferably from related content sites. You can also write articles that are beneficial to your targeted audience and submit them at article directories. Remember to add your website link in the author’s bio (you are seeing this in action right now; check out the bio following this article).
These are the three pillars that SEO stands on. If you do nothing else except follow these, you will get much more targeted traffic than your competitors. You don’t even need an SEO consultant.
If you can generate enough business from your website, it makes sense in continuing it. It then becomes an investment with good returns. You should give it a try for at least 2 years, to track proper ROI. Once you’re fairly successful, you can think of other ways to improve your website. If you’re making more than you’re spending, its time to take your website to the next level. Start by hiring / outsourcing people to write content for you. Use lead generation tactics by giving away free reports in exchange for people to sign up to your mailing list.
While your website is certainly an investment worth making, you can also claim the costs as business expenses! Consult your accountant for details.