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Budgeting for Website Promotion

In a difficult economic climate, an economic development organization must invest its money wisely and obtain a return on that investment. When it comes to building or improving a website, your budget should address two factors:

  1. The creation and continuous improvement of the website itself
  2. The promotion of the website, so you get the most out of it.

Sadly, many website owners fall short on point, never building the kind of traffic and the kind of results that lie just within their reach.

We explored the first factor in the article, “Your Economic Development Website Budget,” published December 8, 2009. Today we will look at considerations for what should be included in the budget to promote the website effectively.

Promotion via Traditional Marketing

By now, everyone has been trained to put their website address on everything that is printed, from business cards to brochures to advertisements. That is fundamental but still counts, so keep doing that!

Let’s take it one step further. Many economic development organizations are successfully transitioning communication of information to their website. More and more data, more and more information, more and more pictures, stats, charts, maps are all available online. In fact, the transition is occurring so quickly that many types of information are no longer available in hardcopy (until the user prints it, that is).

The result is that the website is becoming the main repository of information. Now a new challenge evolves: What do you hand out at tradeshows or conferences? What do you include in your investment attraction kit? What about direct mail?

Those of you that have a website chock-full of information can begin to think of your website as a valuable product and promote it as such. Develop a brochure, direct-mail, postcard or other give-away that specifically promotes your website and all of the information on it. Let people know what information they can find on your website and provide direct links to data deeper in the site or on related websites.

Search Engine Optimization

Most Web traffic is brokered by search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. To optimize your website investment it has to be easy to find you.

Your pages must be properly coded and friendly for search engines and directories. This will cost some money and will take effort and time, but more importantly, it can help to achieve better search results, which will mean more traffic.

Linking Strategy

Establishing links from many relevant websites to yours is a time-consuming and laborious process, but it is very effective for a variety of reasons.

First off, people will find your site by clicking on links from sites that they already frequent, this will increase your traffic. Secondly, search engines track how well connected you are and will rank well-connected sites higher than those who are stand-alone entities.

One of the best promotional investments you can make is in an effective linking strategy.

Social Media Optimization

Social media platforms have become so mainstream that if there isn’t a budget line for social media activity, there should be.

By investing resources to take advantage of channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg and others, you can draw interest to your website in keeping with the information consumption habits of web-savvy people, including site selectors.

Many tools are available on the web to make it easy for readers to save a blog post or a web page for reading later or to aggregate resources using a social bookmark service. In your website content, include calls to action for users to tag, bookmark and distribute your content. Remember, each bookmark by users is a link to your site and will be seen by search engines as a vote that will help your rankings. The more such votes you receive, the more your department can use the site to develop a community of interest and strengthen your place-making strategy.

Email Marketing

Tried and true, email marketing continuous to be one of the best ways to increase awareness of your website and to increase traffic. There are many ways to use email and campaigns should be carefully planned so as to provide the right kind of information, in the right quantity to the appropriate recipients.

Many studies have been done on subject lines and email content to determine how to structure email for the highest possible conversion. While the findings should be taken into consideration, at the end of the day what matters most is if your readers find your content to be compelling. So… make it compelling and watch your website traffic increase!

Measuring and Evaluating Traffic

It is unfortunate but true that many economic development officers simply don’t have time to check or evaluate their stats very often.

They’ve often spent money to make their websites amazing, but forgot to include in their budgets or staffing assignments the responsibility to track visitor behavior on the website. This negates the chance to report a return on the website investment.

Conduct regular reviews of online visitors and their behavior patterns. Track them, document them and analyze them. Results can be worked into your online website and/or marketing plan and can form the basis for continuous improvement.

Online Advertising

Many options exist for the promotion of your website both online and offline through advertising. When determining where and how to advertise, give consideration to online ads including Google Advertising, banner ads, sponsorship ads and paid links in directories. Well placed online ads can have a direct and large impact on your website traffic and website return on investment.

Summary

A website budget is not complete unless it includes the allocation of resources for promotion!

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