The old adage “if you build it, they will come” at one time applied to web sites right up until the internet bubble shattered into a million soapy shards. Now-a-days if the web site is used as a marketing tool (electronic brochure) and the objective of your web site is to produce sales, the site has to be different and stand out from other web sites – something that no one else has thought of and has brought to the web. That’s a very tough thing to do and will usually take a lot of hard work and maybe a venture capitalist or two to help with development costs of your latest and greatest widget. In today’s economy, the homeless are richer than most banks so to find a venture capitalist that will sink money into the web you better have more than just a what-if, if you build it, they will come (IYBI-TWC) rhetoric.
A service is tougher to sell to a customer because it isn’t a thing. A customer can’t touch it or control it. A service is not objective but subjective. A customer can’t have a free trial download of a service to test it out. So how should the executive protection/security industry sell a service on the web and do it at a reasonable cost?
As an example let’s take a look at two industry web sites. The first company, Company A, has a web site that contains high end graphics; fancy action shots, and in there is a list of services that they provide and contact information. Company A web site cost to build was $10,000. The second company, Company B, has low end graphics – simple design, no fancy action shots, list of services with prices, and contact information. Company B web site cost to build was $2,000. Now which industry web site is getting more out of their web site? One would naturally think the fancy, high end brochure on the web, right? But that is not necessarily the case.
The Company A web site is three years old and has the exact same content as day one. Same services, same content information, same old, same old. The company has applied the IYBI-TWC principle. Yes, it does get potential clients to use their services; but most of their clients have always used this industry service company for x amount of years so why change. Don’t get me wrong, this company is making money, but the same money, from the same clients. Same eyes looking at the site, same eyes buying the services. I call this approach the even keel – just hums along thinking everything is going great – but watch out for those icebergs.
Company B’s web site is also three years old, however, the company is always updating the site with new services, new schedules maybe a couple of articles related to client feedback or the services they provide. In other words the company is being proactive by managing their web site – keeping it fresh with new content. This does bring to the web site fresh eyes, and maybe new clients. But there is something else this company is doing – looking over the web site statistics. Web statistics sounds like a college math course, but in reality, most Web Hosting Companies make it real easy for you. Company B is getting the following information from visitors to their web site:
• What pages visitors look at and how often
• How often visitors stay on a page
• What time a day most visitors come to the site
• What web site referred their web site
• What search keywords led visitors to their site
• What country or state visitors are from
• Visitor ISP’s – military, government, education, commercial
Most of the information is standard and the hosting provider puts the data into nice bar and circle graphs. So how does Company B make stats work for them? Let me give you a few practical examples.
Search keywords are key words that visitors have typed into Google, MSN, Yahoo, etc. and clicked a search result that led to the Company B web site. For example, Joe the Plumber is looking for a defensive driving course for his teenage son so he typed in Defensive Driving; Company B comes up in the search results. Joe the Plumber clicks the Company B link and visits the site. The upside for using this data is that Company B uses these keyword results to introduce new services and new content so that these visitors will purchase these services rather than continuing their search elsewhere. Now you wouldn’t want to do too many new services as that wouldn’t be financially prudent, but even posting new information such as links to articles or writing your own is doing two things – keeping visitors on your site and potentially getting new clients.
This bit of data tells the company what ISP’s people are using while visiting the site. Some are the usual suspects – Cox, Time Warner, Verizon, but a few might stand out like an ISP that ends with ‘.mil.’ or ‘.gov.’ Let’s put this to work for Company B. In checking the web statistics for December, Company B notices several visits from an ISP named bragg.army.mil. At the weekly Company B meeting the web statistics are reviewed with staff. A staff member knows someone over in Fort Bragg who does some training. She places the call, and gets Company B and Fort Bragg talking about some of their services. Fort Bragg says they have gone with Company A for several years and are satisfied with their services, but are interested in what Company B can do for them. Now in this hypothetical situation Company A’s even keel approach could be steering right into an iceberg and Company B could be starting a long term partnership with Fort Bragg.
Some visitor ISP could be commercial like Raytheon, Fidelity or Starbucks. Large companies like these run their own ISP’s and could also provide potential leads for clients. One word on Starbucks though, they rent out their ISP at local coffee shops, so if you see Starbucks in your Visitor ISP data, it most likely means someone logged into the Starbucks ISP and visited your site.
Web referrals work like this: Company B posted an article related to their services but also gave good practical advice; another company, abc.com, put a link to Company B’s article on their web site. The web statistics will show a referral from abc.com. These statistics are also a good aide in garnering new eyes and potential new clients. It also does something else – networking and potentially supplemental income. Now that Company B knows that abc.com posts articles a dialogue has begun. Company B and abc.com now post articles and shared services on each other’s web sites. Things are going well between them they are talking about putting referral finder’s fees for the referral traffic.
A Thing about Hits
All Company B activities are going on while Company A sits and waits for the phone to ring or the email to ping. Company A has web statistics available but they don’t think the data is important – except for hits. They have a counter on their home page for all to see. 129,582 hits – looks and sounds quite impressive. But hits can be deceiving.
Technically speaking, a hit is a call to the server where the file is hosted and presents that file on the browser. So what does that mean? Let’s say there are 15 images on Company A’s web site home page. If one visitor clicks on the home page, that produces 16 hits – 15 for the image files, and 1 for the page itself. Now the counter will go up only one notch, but the web stats hit data for Company A will add sixteen. Let’s say that one visitor clicked on the home page ten times, the counter goes up ten – the hit data goes up to 160. Company A is thinking several different visitors went to their site, when it actually was only one person. So when you look at hits as a gauge on how your web site is doing – bigger isn’t always better.