|Web News & Tips - Issue #240
Web News & Tips
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Do You Really Need a Website?
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Do You Really Need a Website?
By Mike Burstein
Many entrepreneurs question the necessity of creating a website as part of their overall marketing and promotional plans. They even question the value of spending their time and money on this "luxury".
Today's connected world demands that your business have an online presence to be a credible player in your market. Most customers want to browse the website of a business as part of their selection process.
The ability to provide coupons, information, hours of operation and even email communication 24 hours a day is prevalent in most markets. A quick Internet search will immediately tell you whether your competition is already online.
Building a website may seem like a huge project since there is both expense and time required to assemble the necessary text, data and pictures that a successful site displays. But there are a number of ways to approach building your site that will make the project easier than anticipated.
Creating a simple outline on paper of the various pages you would like to have on your site is an easy beginning. From this outline, add a description of the subject matter that should appear on each page along with placeholders for any pictures, charts or diagrams that belong on each page.
Once this outline is completed, it then becomes a simple chore of gathering up the information to fill in the outline. No matter whether you build the site yourself or hire a professional, the data you have gathered up will serve as an excellent map of the project.
Numerous do it yourself options exist, from Microsoft's Front Page to free software provided by web page hosting services to entice you to use them as your Internet host. Most of these programs are easy to use, especially if you have a bit of creativity.
If building your own site seems too daunting of a task, there are an enormous number of firms available to create a website for your business. The choices run the gamut from simple, one or two page sites to very sophisticated Flash animated portals for large sites. The prices range accordingly but are surprisingly reasonable. Look for package deals that include developing your site and hosting it once it is built. Most of these packages include submitting your URL to the major search engines.
The local community college can usually provide the names of students interested in making some money on the side while developing your site for a reasonable rate.
Even a simple two or three-page site is better than none at all. The development cost associated with a website is usually recovered with just a couple of jobs referred from your site. Another plus of a website is the ability to grow at your chosen pace, adding features, information, shopping carts, interactive features and a myriad of other options.
Be sure to register your own unique URL for your site. This will also serve as your email address and needs to be included on all of your business cards, brochures, signs and anything the public sees that promotes your business.
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Online retailers should have plenty of reason to feel cheery this holiday season. Retail Forward is projecting online retail sales in the U.S. will reach $17.5 billion in Q4 2003, the holiday season. eMarketer figures online retail sales in the U.S. will hit $55 billion by the end of this year, and Jupiter Research (a unit of this site's corporate parent) anticipates online retail sales will grow to over $94 billion this year.
Women Internet users hold the slight edge over men in the U.S., but not so in Europe. As of May 2003, 42 percent of European Internet users — or 35 million people — were women, compared to nearly 5 2 percent in the U.S. Nielsen//NetRatings doesn't expect European parity to occur until 2010.
Both Nielsen//NetRatings and Jupiter Research (a unit of this site's corporate parent) found the UK and Sweden to be at the forefront of European women's Internet usage, at roughly 41 and 44 percent, respectively.
Lead generation is edging out e-commerce as the raison d'etre of corporate Web sites, according to a survey by analytics provider WebTrends. Marketers, meanwhile, are taking over control of that Web site from the IT department. But as the mantle of power shifts from IT to Marketing, it's up to marketers to optimize the site and to turn visitors into customers.
In WebTrends' survey of over 1,000 marketers, 30 percent said lead generation is their primary site objective, while 28 percent said e-commerce is the main goal of their site. (Another 20 percent were content publishers; 9 percent focused on customer service.) The company is a division of NetIQ.
The untethered life holds great appeal for Internet users worldwide as the number of subscribers to wireless applications continues to grow. The Yankee Group predicts that global wireless users will grow nearly 9 percent from 2002 to exceed 1.75 billion in 2007, and In-Stat/MDR expects the number of worldwide wireless Internet subscribers will have risen from 74 million at the end of 2001 to more than 320 million by the end of 2006.
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