What’s The Purpose and Cost of a Website?
The cost of a website varies according to the size of the site, the complexity of the graphical elements, and the business function or purpose of the website. Of these three variables, the most important for success is the purpose of the site yet not all web developers consider purpose when building a site. Many assume that the only reason to build a website is for search engines to direct traffic to the website.
While every site built by JKS Web Design includes all of the necessary features for good search engine ranking, not every business should make search engine rank the top priority for its website. Not every business has sufficient staff and/or budget to create and maintain such a site. More importantly, sites built to address the day-to-day operations of the business may be a better investment.
While website costs can vary from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, the reasons to have a business website are threefold (in order of cost – least expensive to most expensive are:
- Improve employee productivity or reduce costs
- Provide customer service
- Attract customers to the website
Websites that reduce costs and improve productivity, or that deliver customer service should not be disparaged because those sites are not generating a high volume of new prospects to the site. At JKS Web Deign, search engine ranking is built into every website we create, in addition to incorporating the primary goal of the site. A business website should perform one of the objectives exceptionally well and meet the other two objectives to a lesser degree. Let’s use some examples of websites that are primarily productivity, customer service or traffic-generating sites to illustrate how the cost is related to the goal.
Improve employee productivity or reduce costs
A site that does a really good job at improving productivity and/or reducing cost can be the least expensive to build. An example is a website that provides product use and care information instead of printing costly user manuals. Posting information to the company website that customers need in order to make a purchase or that customers need after making a purchase are the most basic, inexpensive type of webpage to create. Such sites are easy to justify financially because they deliver considerable benefit to the company and are inexpensive to build.
Provide Customer Service
A customer service websites generates customer loyalty which promotes repeat business. Similar to the “productivity/cost reduction” website, in its simplest form, customer service can mean putting information on the website that customers want. In fact, the example above, (posting product use and care information) also provides customer service. Customers appreciate the convenience of being able to find manufacturers “Care and Use” information online, rather than keep track of printed manuals. There are more complex (and costly) customer service functions that can be incorporated into a website, however, the site built primarily for search optimization will generally be more expensive.
Of course, there are more complex customer service functions that can be delivered via a website, (for example, booking an appointment at a salon, or paying an invoice). However, the cost to build a predominately customer service site is generally less than a site whose primary goal is to attract new customers to the website.
An example of a website that offers customer service but not cost reduction is a restaurant that posts its menu online. Prospective diners generally want to know what’s on the menu and the cost before selecting a restaurant. However, an online menu won’t replace the hard copy version of the menu when the diner visits the restaurant. (As more and more diners are engaged with mobile phones while dining out, this option may soon be a reality!)
However, an online menu with attractive photos of popular dishes is an effective tool for attracting business. So while the primary purpose is “customer service” the secondary goal is to generate business. Local businesses that draw customers from a limited geographical area should create business profiles in relevant local online directories. Creating these profiles and keeping the profile current will drive the cost up slightly but should still be less than a site built for search optimization.
Attract New Customers
Websites whose primary goal is attracting new customers are the most expensive because of the high cost of maintaining these sites and monitoring search engine analytics. Continuous maintenance is necessary to sustain high rankings for each product and service offered, and analytics monitoring is necessary to track results and use the results to improve each page rank.
While each of the search engines closely guard the algorithms used to determine page rank, (to thwart attempts to game the system) they provide information to web developers to motivate them to create quality pages. These guidelines identify the some of the characteristics that result in good page rank:
- Pages with a lot of quality content
- Content that is consistent with the keywords identified for the site
- Intuitive navigation structure, no broken links: use site maps
- Well-structured content that is easy for humans to scan
- Pages should be codes to comply with the World Wide Web Consortium standards
- Backlinks from trusted, quality web-sites
The search engines provide important analytical data to measure and adjust ranking and performance data as part of paid search campaigns. The data is not otherwise available. These campaigns need to be set up and funded, monitored and adjusted, to have access to the analytical data needed to optimize the page ranks of the website. All of this contributes to the cost of the site.
What kind of site does the business need?
The answer depends on the industry, the competition, the geographic reach, the size of the business and the marketing budget, and the what the business needs most to grow. There is no universal answer. Our experienced analysts can work with you to recommend a strategy.