posted 15 May 2008 in Volume 11 Issue 8
Doing more with less
For many of us, the new financial year has begun and weíre facing a budget for online spending that is, as usual, not enough for the grand plans we have. Furthermore, with the state of the economy the way it is, itís probably unlikely there will be extra money or bigger budgets coming anytime soon. So whatís an online executive to do? How can you make the most out of the cash you do have?
As a consultant who works with clients and limited budgets all the time, things arenít usually as bad as they seem unless this was the year you were planning for an entirely new online platform with the Rolls Royce of content management systems (CMS) There are a few things you can do without breaking the bank.
1. Do an audit
Even if you do have a sizeable budget this year, itís always a good idea to do an audit of the current content you have on your website or intranet. Is it all up to date? What about the content formatting? Is it positioned in a way that your users think of finding it, with their vocabulary in mind? Is it optimised for search engines, both local and external? For a small cost, you can change the tone of voice, vocabulary and metadata or formatting for the web, and make the information easier to find Ė making a big difference to the userís experience.
Additionally, if youíre using a CMS have you done a good clear out of that recently? When content is replaced or updated, the old pages or photos are rarely deleted. This can cause you to host and store a lot of content thatís not used and really slow down the performance of your CMS environment. While it may be a real pain to do, you may find you can uncover some cost savings there.
2. Fight for your slice of the pie
We all know how hard it is to write that business case and get that money for your web project but now is the time to make the VOI [value on investment] argument. The website or intranet are now the usersí first ports of call to find you or information they are seeking from you. There is no point in having a million pound advertising campaign or buying Google keywords that drive traffic to your site only to watch users bounce right off the page when they arrive simply because the user journey isnít consistent or there wasnít enough money to redo the site, the content or support the offline activities.
The value on the investment in the website will generally be greater than any other media or means of finding information. You can begin measuring this by creating targets to measure downloads, user dwell time, reduced bounce time, click path analysis and conversions to signed-up users and sales.
3. Think outside the recession
Now may be a good time to re-analyse where Ďmaintenanceí money and time are being spent. Have you analysed your hosting agreement in a while? Do you know how much money youíre spending on storage space for your data? Have you thought about archiving that information elsewhere to free up space on your active server environments? I came across an interesting article about cloud computing recently that could help business out in terms of moving resources where users need them, when they need them.
Wikipedia defines it this way: ďCloud computing is a new (circa late 2007) label for the subset of grid computing that includes utility computing and other approaches to the use of shared computing resources. Cloud computing is an alternative to having local servers or personal devices handling usersí applications. Essentially, it is an idea that the technological capabilities should Ďhoverí over everything and available whenever a user wants.Ē
While hosting and media companies (mainly Google via a gmail account) have offered this at the consumer level for a while. Google is now offering a corporate cloud service. As an example, Dow Jones is using Googleís cloud services to host all their archives that employees need to access but donít need to have them reside on their internal servers. This apparently saved Dow Jones thousands of dollars a year on maintenance costs as well as saving in productivity costs, the article noted, quoting that programming and coding type folks spend approximately 20 percent of their time dealing with hardware and maintenance issues instead of doing their actual jobs.
4. If itís for free, itís for me
Look for free (or really cheap) solutions to augment your site. You would be amazed whatís out there for the taking. Freeware and shareware are still a huge market and many of the applications and software have become quite sophisticated. And there are literally thousands of widgets out there now, with many specialising in things like metrics that can help you track your siteís usage and, in turn, fine tune your content so you improve the userís experience throughout the site. If you havenít done a good old-fashioned search for free stuff in a while, take an hour or two to get lost in the wealth of the web.
5. Communities and networks
Make use of other online resources to help your own site and boost traffic. I do go on about this quite a bit but there are so many online community and social networking sites out there to join; surely there are some that cross-over with your target audiences. Or why not start your own? Using free or cheap wiki or blog software to augment your site may be just the thing to keep content up-to-date and attract users. For an intranet, it could be added cheaply to help facilitate project collaboration or to keep track of things across multiple locations.
And in addition to participating online, check out resources offline too. I know about many groups that meet and chat in bars around
So if times are looking tough this year, donít delay making improvements to your site or wait to get approval for one big project. There are lots of ways to make incremental improvements and keep that all-important user engaged and on your site for a longer period of time!
As always, Iíd love to hear from you on this or any other topic. I can be contacted on Lynda@foursquaremedia.net.