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  Article # 6
  Components That Affect Web Site Investment Size
  by: Rick Costello, The Web Site Profit Doctor.


Let's look at the different components that affect the investment size of a developed and hosted web site.

There are 4 basic cost types, all with many interdependencies.

Cost type 1: Strategic planning, web design and web development
Cost type 2: Monthly or yearly web site hosting
Cost type 3: Daily/Monthly/Periodic web site maintenance
Cost type 4: Web site traffic building

Let's take a look at each in more detail:

1. Strategic Planning, Design and Development

A web site should be designed to accomplish measurable business objectives. (The operative word is measurable.)

The time to compose a strategic plan depends on the number and complexity of each objective. For example, a company might want to use Web technology to help increase first time and repeat purchases, repeat web site visits, newsletter subscriptions, and overall lead capture. They might want to implement cross-sell and up-sell strategies, reduce call center volume or eliminate administrative support.

That's 9 total objectives, all of which vary in complexity and planning time.

On the other hand, a small business typically has one or two burning objectives. They all say, "give me qualified sales leads and ample Web site traffic." Planning time is, of course, much less.

Side note: When budgets are limited, be sure to perform a cost/benefit analysis for each objective and implement those that will yield the highest return in the shortest amount of time.

Once all business and marketing objectives are defined, more planning time is needed to set targets and benchmarks. For example, attract 2,500 unique visitors, receive 100 newsletter subscriptions, sell 50 widgets online and capture 50 widget-enhancement leads per month.

This way, you can track your site's performance at meeting each objective against targets every month and prove whether or not the investment is producing a return. ROI is the only justification for web initiatives.

Next, more planning time is needed to determine how web technology (coupled with sales, marketing and usability strategies) will accomplish those defined objectives. This ties into interface, database and functionality design, as well as content creation and copywriting.

Then, time is needed for design, development (scripting, writing HTML, database connectivity), testing the web site for performance errors and transferring it to its hosting environment.

So you see, the investment size is dependent on the design and development time, which is determined by the strategic plan, which in turn depends solely on the business and marketing objectives.

(Objectives) x [(Strategic Planning) + (Design & Development)] = Investment Size

2. Web site hosting

Hosting costs are, you guessed it, dependant on the technology used to develop the web site and the resources (bandwidth, hardware, software and uptime reliability) used by the web server. (A web server is where the web site resides in Cyberspace.)

Dedicated Web hosting (meaning only your web site resides on the server) may cost anywhere from $250 - $5,000 per month. Some dedicated hosting solutions include all of the hardware and software, Internet connectivity, a firewall for protecting data and managed services such as 24x7 support and daily data backups. Some solutions also include traffic analysis reports (to help track objectives), and the ability to authenticate and transfer credit card transactions.

Others require customers to buy or rent its software separately.

One would select a dedicated hosting solution if he or she wants to sell various products online, host with multiple web servers, capture and exchange massive amounts of data (through forms and other ordering systems), use SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption for commerce and integrate with off-line inventory and billing systems.

On the other hand, a static, non-interactive web site would not require a dedicated web server and could reside in a "shared environment" (meaning your web site resides on a server with several others). This could cost as little as $10 per month. Hosting charges are defined by the technology used to operate and maintain the web site.

(Objectives) x [(Strategic Planning) + (Design & Development) + (Hosting Resources)] = Investment Size

3. Web site maintenance

The cost to maintain a web site varies as well. Most non-technical Web site managers want the convenience and control for changes. Others would rather keep a partner on retainer and request changes periodically.

Here are a few maintenance options and their associated costs:

If your site is composed of static HTML pages, you can purchase MS Front Page for around $175 and make changes at will. All you need is FTP (File Transfer Protocol) clearance from your web host. If your site uses VB Script, JavaScript or other (non HTML) scripting languages, avoid publishing with Front Page.

If your web site is a little more advanced, you may want to consider Macromedia's Dream Weaver. It's a little more flexible, a little more technical, but much less likely to corrupt your pages when publishing. You can purchase a license for about $300 and transfer new and modified pages with your browser via FTP.

Another option is to investigate content management utilities. They can be purchased as a "one-size-fits-all" solution or developed to your specifications.

These can be expensive, but will make publishing web pages easier than using MS Word. Web site maintenance cost depends on your method of publishing. (Objectives) x [(Strategic Planning) + (Design & Development) + (Hosting Resources)] + (Publishing Methods) = Investment Size

4. Web site traffic building

There are many ways to drive traffic to a web site and all have different costs. Using search engines and directories are the only method that should be addressed before the site is actually developed.

Let me explain...

To rank well on the various search engines and directories (Yahoo, MSN, Netscape, Google, AltaVista, etc.), your web site must be optimized with specific, targeted and "not-so-competitive" keywords. This requires a little competitive intelligence, creative copy writing and technical know-how.

Once you have your key word list, strategically plant them like little seeds throughout your Web page in places such as links, title tags, alt tags, header copy, page names, etc.

To do this after a site has been developed could require a major overhaul.

For example, we invested many long-hour days to research the most commonly used "Web Design" related search terms. We then determined how competitive our geographic landscape was for each of those terms and optimized our site accordingly. We did this before the first page was designed.

As a result, we rank in the top 10 of almost every search engine for our search terms. The extra time for analysis and planning will pay dividends for years.

A specialty company may charge as much as $10,000 for the analysis, optimization and submission service. There are also fixed costs payable to the search engines. I think we paid a little under $600 to cover the "Non-Pay-Per-Click" playing field.

So there you have it. When it's all said and done...

(Objectives) x [(Strategic Planning) + (Design & Development) + (Hosting Resources)] + (Publishing Methods) + (Traffic Building) = Investment Size