Continued from Part 1 – http://lichtman.ca/uncategorized/whole-life-approach-to-website-development-part-1
In Part 1, we discussed that websites need to be viewed from the perspective of the business cycle, rather than as a simple project.
4. Design / Implementation
There isn’t all that much I can add regarding the design and implementation phases of a web project. This is the technical portion of the project, and the business-owner is somewhat at the mercy of the skills of the people that have been hired to build the site.
Web developers can use this phase as an opportunity to obtain feedback from customers early and often, which may reduce the amount of time involved in the testing and “Beta” shakedown period after launch.
I know of few web development companies that have a formal testing process in place.
Part of the problem is that testing is labour intensive, and requires a particular nitpicky mindset that developers seldom choose to acquire.
If web projects properly budget for the testing phase (including adequately estimating the amount of time involved), then more options become available, including hiring staff specifically for this purpose, or utilizing a third-party testing company.
This avoids the prevalent (I’m guilty of this too sometimes) practice of pushing a large chunk of the testing process onto the customer.
Typically the launch of a website tends to be greeted with a lot of fanfare.
If the owner has engaged a PR company, there can be a significant buzz attached to the initial launch.
The critical things to bear in mind are that a) the buzz may not correspond to a significant number of sales, and b) there needs to be a committment to work at building the business after the initial buzz wears off (which it usually will).
I’ve seen a lot of sites launch well, only to founder later on.
Its critical not to confuse the big launch with the lengthy hard work of building an online clientelle, which may take years (just like with a regular “real world” business).
Tenacity pays off! Do not be discouraged if things don’t immediately work on launch!
7. Building Traffic – PR, SEO, Organic Growth and Networking
There are quite a few factors involved in building traffic to a website over time.
A quick point before discussing this important issue: the “conversion” or “closing” ratio of your website – it isn’t any good to obtain a large amount of traffic on your website if you aren’t turning that traffic into sales (or some kind of revenue anyhow).
Keep a close eye on the closing ratio (i.e. percentage of visitors that result in revenue) over time, and don’t be afraid to change aspects of your website if things aren’t working.
I find that tools like the “Funnels” system built into Google Analytics do a great job of showing where a website is losing people.
I’ve seen a decidedly mixed bag of results in the past from both PR companies and SEO (search engine optimization) people. I’ve written a bit in the past on both topics, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here.
Generally the process of building a significant amount of traffic on a website boils down to continually promoting the site over a long period of time; this is particularly the case where a business is looking for so-called “organic growth”, which basically means people just finding the website randomly, due to it being frequently referenced elsewhere.
The process of building organic growth often is a result of “networking” with the owners of other websites. This takes both hard work and a willingness to give and take. Note: I’m not talking about lame “link exchanges”, but rather the more “blog oriented” approach where people discuss each other on their sites. An example would be somebody discussing how much a like a particular site, or how an interaction with somebody at a web-based company went. You can’t beat that kind of press.
As mentioned above, I’ve worked on a number of projects over the years where various PR companies were engaged in order to promote projects.
My experience has been that PR companies tend to have specific areas where they shine, and promoting websites isn’t something that all of them do well. Partially this is because PR is oriented towards short term promotion of products, or finding ways to plug something newsworthy (and hence time-limited).
If you can find a PR person who has staying power, and can keep doggedly plugging away at something long after it becomes boring – stick with them, as they are rare.
Its also been somewhat evident that there are many PR people out there who are primarily good at promoting themselves. I don’t have much ability personally to see through “BS” of this nature; my recommendation would be to get some references for previous jobs that are similar to yours, and take the time to call them.
SEO is also something of a mixed basket.
Search engine optimizers and marketers tend to specialize in particular areas, for instance Pay Per Click, On Page SEO, Organic SEO, Link Building, Social Media Marketing etc. I don’t want to go into detail on the topic of SEO, despite its importance to newly launched websites, since I’ve written frequently on this topic before.
The key with hiring an SEO/SEM company is a) check refences, and b) start with a small, limited scale project first, and don’t be afraid to drop them quickly if they don’t deliver.
As somebody who has worked in this field, I’m also aware that there’s a similar effect at play to PR people – over time the effectiveness of a specific technique may wane, resulting in a loss of interest on the part of the SEO people involved. When this happens, it may be time to move on.
To Be Continued…