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What does it cost you to bring people to your site?

on August 30, 2010

For years, the primary measure of success was the number of “hits” one got to their website. That definition was often incorrectly used to describe pageviews, or so people thought. In actuality, a site “hit” refers to a server call and every element called up on a web page denotes a “hit.” So if you had ten images on a page and a user called up that page, it would register as eleven “hits” (ten server calls for the ten photos and one server call for the HTML page). As you might expect, “hits” became grossly inflated numbers to describe pageviews.

Today, most users have smartened up about “hits” and they use far more accurate statistics such as users and actual pageviews. But we’re also concerned with social media statistics such as Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and YouTube subscribers.

But for most online businesses, revenue comes from drawing people to your site. Either you make money directly from your website, or people see your site and contact you to hire you.

If that’s the case with your business, the goal is to get your audience to your website. The question is how much is it costing you in time and money to bring people to your website?

The costs to bring people to your site

Here are some different ways companies spend money and time to bring people to their site.

Search engine marketing – This has been the de facto solution for driving traffic to your site. Google’s AdWords has been a very measurable, trackable, and tweakable means to get people to your site. Problem is its costly and the money you spend is not cumulative. The money spent in August doesn’t transfer to September. August’s content (ads) are gone. You have to continually keep spending money to bring people to your site.

Podcast – This is a great means to build an audience, and to have your brand consistently on a person’s iPhone or iPod. Podcasts though only speak to a limited audience and it can often take two years of hard work to build an audience. Minimal financial cost to set up, but ongoing production is costly on your time.

Blog – Timely content on blogs are often more visible in search that static content on your business site. If updated regularly, a blog will consistently get more traffic than your business site, yet will extend the visibility of your brand and drive traffic to your business site. Blogs have a similar cost structure as podcasts. There’s a minimal financial cost to set up, but ongoing production is costly on your time. Both blogs and podcasts are cumulative in nature. Money and time spent in one month transfers to the next month, because the content doesn’t vanish. This is unlike advertising which is not cumulative.

Advertising – Purchase offline media and online media (e.g., banner ads) to drag people to your site. Spend as little or as much as you want. Again, the money you spend is not cumulative. You have to keep spending to maintain traffic to your site.

Social media – Using audience gathering social tools such as Twitter and Facebook, maintain an ongoing relationship with your audience. Time, effort, and money spent is also cumulative. To ultimately bring traffic to your business site you need to generate offers and interesting content to entice visits.

Resident desktop application – Another option is an application that stays resident on the individual’s desktop and drives traffic to the business site. The benefit is after you extend the energy and cost to get the individual to download and install the application, the cost to get that person to your site requires no advertising, blog, podcast, social media, or search engine marketing dollars.

The downloadable content-based application concept was abandoned a while ago because there was a sentiment in the industry that you simply can’t get people to download and install an application. This is far from true as there are many successful downloadable applications (read “Can downloadable applications survive?”). Another reason businesses have shied away from this solution is the history of TSR (terminate and stay resident) applications has a very checkered past. But today, what were once called TSRs, are now just referred to as apps that can be found on your mobile phone or iPad. This app concept can now make a return to the desktop, but it’s important to deliver a desktop experience that people want to have consistently on their computer.

One possible solution is from a client of Spark Media Solutions, itiBiti, which is a white-labeled desktop content and communications application. Companies such as NBC and McDonald’s Canada distribute their own branded versions of the product. What the consumer gets is a first look at content and offers before they hit the web (see “How to increase the value of your content without changing the content”) plus a communications application that lets them make free phone calls. The advantage to NBC and McDonald’s is once they get someone to download and install the application, they’ve got a portion of the consumer’s personal real estate, the desktop. Plus, and more importantly, they reach their audience before they go to the web.

I know I’ve left a few items out, so I’d like to hear from you as to how you spend your money and time to drive traffic to your site.

cc photo credit to Daniel Borman.

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