Our friends at Xsolla just posted about Game Site Essentials. The article by Josh Bycer underscores the importance of having a web site – for informational purposes, to support direct sales, customer support, developing community interaction, and more. The goal is not just to have a web site, but a good one. Sounds expensive, and it can be if you go about it wrong. Otherwise, a web site can provide an awesome ROI.
We’ve been through this cycle numerous times since the 1990’s. The original problem with web sites not providing an ROI is that small business owners (and developers) thought if you build it, people will come. Building a web site is only the first part of the equation. The second part is making the web site an active part of your business. It’s an ongoing effort, but it need not be a major effort.
Let’s get into the details of cost, benefits and perhaps a few tips.
Domain Name – The number one reason to have a web site is that it gives you a simple address whereby anyone else in the whole world can find you! Easier that than trying to explain how they can find your app in a mobile app store. The aim is to keep it short, sweet, easily associated with who you are – your business or the name of your app, aiming for a .com. Domain name registration is renewed yearly. The first year often comes free as part of a hosting plan with many internet hosting services. Thereafter, it will run $10 – $25 a year depending upon hosting service.
Web Site Hosting – The most important thing is to research customer reviews of different hosting companies paying special attention to complaints about technical support, server speed and server downtime. Then you want to look at features and benefits, whether they allow you root directory access, storage limits, automated installs of web-based software like WordPress, etc. Most hosting services also offer discounted rates based upon your payment plan allowing you to save significantly on paying upfront for a full year of service vs. monthly or quarterly billing. Your mileage may vary, but most purposes can be served by accounts ranging in the $99 to $199 per year range.
Other hosting notes – Most hosting services will give you a basic amount of traffic per month. If you go over it, you will incur a small per Mb or Gb charge. When that begins to be a regular occurrence, you can usually upgrade your account to accommodate extra bandwidth. Storage is only likely to be a major factor if you use a lot of multimedia. If you are just starting out, aim for a streamlined approach being frugal with the number of videos, large downloads and graphics you employ. Storage, too, can be bought on a per Mb/Gb basis, and there are a variety of file sharing services that you can use to supplement your site – usually for free.
Web Site Design – Back in the 90’s, companies were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on custom web site design, millions on extra functionality. Today, there are several customizable web site packages and platforms for a “plug-n-play” experience. WordPress is a very popular free program with thousands of free and commercial templates available. Other options include content management systems like Joomla and Drupal. Cost is free unless you go for a commercial template. Commercial templates vary widely in price from $10 or less to well over $400.
Graphics – If you are looking to spice up your site graphically, there are an abundance of free clip art sites, a large amount of free stock photos, and sites like istockphoto.com that offer professional multimedia at very reasonable rates. If you are or have access to a graphics designer or make use of screenshots of your own software, you are in an even better position to make a great looking web site.
Content – The main cost of developing content is your time. It need not take a lot of time. The core essentials of a web site include an “About You” page, a “Contact” page (with your press kit), and then a page for each major component of your business (your team, partners, clients, projects, products, services, etc.). You have millions and millions of web sites as examples to draw from.
Statistics – The first thing to do once you have a web site is to set upa Google Analytics account so you can get deep statistics on your visitors – where they came from, what they look at most, how long they look at it, etc.). Most hosting services will also provide you with some basic statistics software like AWStats and WebStats. Note that different analytics systems measure some things differently so if you employ multiple tracking systems you won’t always get the same results. Variances will typically be in the 5-20% range.
E-Commerce Capability – This could just be a free Paypal account or you may take advantage of more comprehensive services like authorize.net, woocommerce, etc. These services tend to charge monthly and per transaction fees. For many small businesses, this will likely run $25 – $50, monthly. On this, it is best to scale to growth, implementing better ecommerce capability after the site is already more than paying for itself. It would be something to look at after your site is netting at least $500 monthly – if you are starting with a budget. If you have a higher profile, then you may need to include this right away.
SEO – Optimizing your site to generate a high volume of organic search traffic is good to aim for. It can also augment the effectiveness of any paid search advertising you may do. In many ways it is too often overstated and overrated. It is not something to be paying for right off the bat, it tends to develop over time and is amplified by the quality and effectiveness of your backlinks. SEO is really its own topic and could be the basis for several articles.
These are the main things that tend to come up with a web site. More bells and whistles can add to the cost, complexity and functionality of a site. If you are starting with a budget though, you scale to growth by keeping it basic and adding only after the site (or the products/services it is promoting) becomes profitable.
I would add that it is very important for your site to show signs of life – to leave no question that you are active and in-tune with your customers. This is best to show on the front “home” page of your site. Add a Twitter feed, include links to your social networking pages. Include short news updates – that include the dates. Try to change something on your home page once every two weeks.
So, a bit lengthy, but a basic web site should cost you less than $200 per year. That $200 can technically support several web sites. In return, your web site provides you a 24 hour – 7 day a week – 365 day a year advertisement, customer service and technical support representative, sales person, recruiter, and press agent – that will do exactly what you tell them to do.
A web site is more an investment in time, but it is also a “virtual piece of property” which appreciates in value as you build upon it just as a vacant plot of land does.
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If you are needing to bootstrap your mobile apps, the following articles can provide you additional tips and perspectives to help you maximize your efforts: