Balancing Website Investments

Short term you can do well with major holes in a website, but what do you need to have a successful long-term website? I think every site should have at least all of the following criteria:

  • credible sounding memorable domain name

  • credible trustworthy site design
  • credible content that people pay attention to
  • link equity & marketing strategy
  • profit strategy

Lets go through those one at a time:

Domain Name: Can you do well with a bad domain name? Of course you can short term, but long-term if your business name is hard to remember you are going to lose market share to people who have a more memorable domain name. I am not suggesting that everyone runs out and spends many thousands on their first domain name, but if your domain name is hard to remember, or people will not accept donations from your site because your domain name looks spammy, it is time for a change.

Credible Site Design: The logo on cost $100 and the design on cost $1,500. Both are probably worth at least 10 times that much. I started off with a default design and then bought the $100 logo, then eventually bought a nice site design. In many markets the market leader is determined by people outside the topical community. A beautiful site design makes it easy to vote for you and trust you.

Credible Content: If you are afraid of a manual review of your site content by a search engine then your site is not a sustainable site that will stay relevant. If nobody talks about your site you are losing marketshare.

Link Equity & Marketing Strategy: Editorial links come from conversation, which is often driven by marketing. What makes your site remarkable? If you are mainly ranking due to site age and old links, what can you do to keep your site relevant to the current market? Are the linkarati interested in your site?

Profit Strategy: Some sites are directly monetized through advertising, services, or product sales. Some sites are tools to build credibility and indirect revenue streams. Some sites have other nepotistic values such as a clean link source or a connection to the media.

Every Business Has Holes:
Many of the best sites start off as a hobby and move into biz model. Every market worth being in changes quickly, and every business person starts off with an imperfect business model, and then uses market feedback to move toward being more efficient. Google originally was designed as a project to measure the most authoritative links on the web and then they transitioned into being a search engine.

Filling in the Gaps:
Missing any of these pieces is just like monetizing via off topic pop ups, or other strategies that have moved into irrelevance. Google made the link an ad unit because people won't be able to ignore it.

A site can be successful with only one piece of the value chain done well, but if you fill in the gaps in the other parts of your site profile the profits will be much greater. If one is spread too thin working on too many projects it is easy to lose marketshare, but if you work hard on a few sites you are passionate about and listen to market feedback it is easy to quickly become a market leader.

What other things did I miss? What do you think is an important element in successful sustainable websites?

Published: April 2, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


April 4, 2007 - 12:59am

Great list Aaron. I agree with Derek that you really categorized the major themes. One thing I'd add is that it's important to make sure your profit strategy delivers.

Sure if you're running ads then in a sense the website itself is the product, but assuming your business model involves selling a product or service that product or service needs to be memorable, credible, marketable, and profitable

Everything you're saying here about a site should equally be applied to the the business behind the site.

April 3, 2007 - 4:07am

I think that this is a great post for a variety of reasons. I've been often asked from friends and colleagues what they should be thinking about when it relates to creating an "search-friendly" website experience. You try to group priorities into "buckets" of information and apply this, on-the-fly, to their own objectives. I think that this list categorizes all of the major themes I would envision in developing a quality website investment. The one thing I consider emphasizing more, especially recently, is user feedback - from customers/users and from respected individuals - online and offline. Asking for the opinions and views of your peers and of your customers will help your success in the long-run as well.

April 3, 2007 - 5:08am

You really hit it on the head when you said that your website isn't sustainable if you are afraid of a manual review by a search engine. Talk about a great gut check -- that really separates the wheat from the chaff.

April 3, 2007 - 9:58pm

I can only guess what you mean by "manual review by a search engine": a ranking penalty assigned to your domain by a human reviewer, based upon a spammy look/feel? Or is it something else?

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