Thursday, May 29, 2008

Virginia Internet Marketing Training - Ask Kelly & Ted - A Separate Franchise Website?

Here's a good question we've had from several clients -

"It seems like we're getting a fair amount of clicks to our Corporate-hosted website (we're a franchise owner) and then a subset of goal conversions. However, we're not seeing over 50% of those goal conversions actually come through. I'm concerned that our website content is not driving people to follow-through. A couple thoughts on why are 1) our website content isn't being kept updated by Corporate, and 2) our actual homepage template doesn't really allow for customization, is pretty mundane and the graphics aren't pretty.

The website is not a priority for the Franchise HQ, however, I believe that our local consumer has a high expectation for the "website experience" and so I'm contemplating creating our own website, so that we can really customize it to our needs. I would like to get your thoughts on whether this is a good idea?"

Here's our first message back:

Yes, a major part of search engine marketing success is the attention given to the "landing page", or basically where customers are funneled to convert. Many online advertising campaigns establish specific landing pages (i.e. not always the home page) for particular campaigns. As a franchise owner, the "corporate" website may be helpful because you don't have to maintain or design it, it has a bunch of built-in backlinks from other corporate pages, and it also may be the only way you can actually advertise your "corporate brand" (i.e. you can't use the "official" logo on non-corporate generated material, for example).

We have another client with a similar situation, whose "corporate" professional services site doesn't do much for him - so we set up a few other sites for his business, but without using the "Corporate" name (it's not allowed). We used other names, terms and phrases to spell out the product and association. It's been pretty successful from a page ranking and conversion perspective, and we obviously can do what we want to it for design. We also worked with some real estate agents, whose brokers established their initial web presence; but they wanted their own site, for custom control of current listings and messages. So the situation is fairly common.

For your own website, there's basically three routes to take (for a static, html/css-only site).

1) Free - set up a blog (blogger or wordpress), a myspace or facebook page, merchantcircle,, etc. - it's free, and fairly easy. There's drawbacks (like it's not your own domain), but it's quick and easy. (Though professional SEO services should still be obtained).

2) Inexpensive - a reasonable site can be created using a free template, and shared hosting services - this requires some web programming, but not a lot - $300 (to a web programmer), and $10-20 per month hosting will usually get you a decent 1-5 page site using a free template (or just copying someone else's design, being careful to avoid copyright infringement).

3) Custom site - the sky's the limit, especially if you want a unique, custom design - expect to pay at least $1500 and up (unless the "customization" is really limited).

We've dealt with all of the above - it really depends (1) on your budget, (2) the sophistication and uniqueness of the functions and design of your site, and (3) how "big" your site is. But go for it - the more presence you have on the Internet, that you're in control of, the better for your business - especially if "Corporate" just isn't coming through for you.


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