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10 Ways to Keep Website Costs Low

Posted on 10.18.2006

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Is Your Website A Virtual Money Pit?

Today, a website is a “must have” for almost every business. For many, a website means saving on the high costs of mailings, transaction processing, and communications. But are maintenance and marketing costs turning your site into a virtual money pit? Block the financial drain with these helpful tips to lower costs, monetize your traffic and not only save money but make your site earn its keep.

1) Shop for the right provider. All providers are not created equal and some may cater to your needs better than others. An e-commerce site has different requirements than a content-only site or a blog, and your provider should understand the demands of your business. Find a provider
that also offers added value features such as free statistics reports, email, and domain and DNS management.

2) Choose a shared Web host. A shared Web host is typically much less expensive than a dedicated host, where your site has its own server. There can be issues concerning security and space, so know your neighbors before moving in. Some vendors offer both shared and dedicated servers, so if you decide to change environments the transition is easier and less expensive.

3) Plan ahead. When projecting future expenses, plan for growth. Your site may be informational now, but you may want to add ecommerce functionality or an interactive account management section for clients. Remain flexible by avoiding long-term contracts with hosts. For software, when comparing Open Source and Closed Source, check maintenance costs. Often there are differences in availability and fees for qualified developers.

4) Use royalty-free images. Save thousands by exploring royalty-free stock photos and illustrations. Sites such as Jupiter Images, Shutterstock and iStockPhoto offer millions of images in different genres and styles. Most require subscription fees, but some allow you to pay per download. Either way, it’s a fraction of the cost of hiring a photographer or licensing protected images. If you must have original artwork, find part-time  freelancers or students who charge considerably less and are more flexible.

5) Learn a little HTML. Do you run to an outsourced developer every time your site needs an update? Website management is a marathon, not a sprint, and keeping content fresh is an absolute must. Save on support charges by using a simple content management system with a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editor to update pages on your own, or learn basic code. It’s easy — search “HTML Tutorial” or visit Webmonkey.com for a comprehensive cheat sheet.

6) Take advantage of free stuff! Everybody loves a freebie, and website owners are no exception. If you are involved in search marketing, utilize the free reporting and analytics tools available through providers such as Google Analytics, Stat Counter or ClickTracks. This information will help with strategic planning, improve ROI on your marketing dollars, and save money by preventing you from bidding on extraneous keywords.

7) Become an Affiliate. Affiliate programs present a low-risk opportunity to create a revenue stream for your site. As an affiliate, you host merchant banners or links and receive a portion of the sales proceeds or a commission on leads that originate from your site. However, be discriminatory. Choose programs that are geared toward your user base to provide added value to your readership. If you are a merchant or service provider, establishing your own affiliate program may jumpstart sales.

8) Develop strategic partnerships. If hosting banners is not appropriate for you, there are alternative ways to monetize traffic. Identify partners that compliment your business and develop programs that benefit both parties. For example, a downtown restaurant owner may partner with a local parking garage to offer downloadable discount coupons. Or, a tourism site  may work with local hotels to build a reservations booking function.

9) Explore alternative contractors. If you outsource your development or marketing, chances are you work with an agency that bills hourly or works on retainer. Explore your options. Some smaller agencies will engage in a revenue share where they are compensated by splitting the site’s net  revenue or by commission on leads. This structure also keeps accountability high — the agency’s compensation is directly tied to the site’s success as a selling tool.

10) Use low-cost affinity marketing. Every website owner wants repeat traffic. Give your visitors the opportunity to enter their email address to receive updates from your company, special offers or product announcements, depending on what makes sense for your business. It’s an affordable way to keep in touch with your target audience and keep your business at the top of mind.

About the Author: Adam Weil is the CMO of DMi Partners, a full-service interactive marketing and e-business firm with offices in Philadelphia, PA and Boca Raton, FL.
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