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Should I renew that website advertising?

Around this time of year, many clients ask me: “What do you think of the (such-and-such) website? I normally pay to be featured there, but I’m wondering if I should renew or not”.

It’s a good question, or at least it’s a question which must be asked every time a renewal comes up. Unlike say, magazines (which you might well choose to support based on various unquantifiable factors), websites should be evaluated on their performance. Unless a website is specifically getting people to telephone you (unlikely), or is running its own lead-fulfilment system, its main purpose will be to send visitors to your own website. And therefore the answer to whether it’s worth any investment is sitting there in your website visitor statistics.

Before you delve into the numbers however, it is worth considering whether there’s a ‘corporate branding’ element to being on the website concerned. In other words, if there was no click-through to your website, how much would you be prepared to pay just to have your name or logo there? If there’s a value to that, you should start by subtracting that from what it’s costing you to be on the site. Whether or not you consider that to be worth something, take what’s left over to your website visitor statistics.

Now take a look at your “traffic sources” report. At the simplest level, just look at the number of visits you received from that website, and work out how much it’s cost you for each visitor. Could that money have got you more visitors from an advertising medium where you can just ‘buy visitors’? Google AdWords, for example, can get you as many visitors as you want at a known rate (£1.50 is always a good estimate).

So, from this you might have discovered that you’ve paid the website £400 to be featured for a year, and it’s sent you 160 visitors, so that’s £2.50 a time. Can you just call off more visitors than that from a ‘pay-per-click’ source for £400? Your call.

It’s worth getting a little more sophisticated than that, however. Firstly, look at the ‘pages per visit’. This is a good indicator (although it’s no more than that) of the interest which the visitors have in your site, and therefore their relevance. Does the traffic compare well with other sources? Secondly, if you only deal in certain areas – and this is crucial if you’re a UK-only operation – you’ll need to look at where the traffic is coming from. If you’re using Google Analytics, just click the secondary value (see illustration) and select ‘Country/Territory’. Now you’ll be able to see the number of visitors from your chosen website who are also in the countries you care about. This may well be a much lower figure than the 160 in our example above. But don’t forget, your comparison ‘pay-per-click’ source, like Google AdWords, may be able to get you 100% of its visitors from the desired geographical territory.

With some websites now charging thousands of pounds for an annual subscription, it’s crucial to ensure you’re getting good value from them. As long as they think you’re going to renew your subscription without much analysis, they won’t bother to go to the effort of justifying the return on investment they can offer.

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