Enhancing Web Site Performance

There are many things web marketers can do that are likely to improve web site performance. Ideas for improvement range from running targeted banner ads to adding web and email personalization. Such improvements all cost money, so it’s important that these enhancements produce a ROI through higher revenues and profits. Although it’s difficult to choose which enhancement to invest in, many times research studies can provide some insights to aid in the decision.

There are several ways marketers can improve the process of generating web site traffic and the process of leading visitors to make an inquiry or purchase. Some of these techniques include the use of targeted banner ads, the creation of an email newsletter, or the incorporation of web personalization technology into the site. Since no one has enough time or money to implement all possible ideas, we need to find a way to prioritize the opportunities.

The first step is to make sure your objectives and time frame are clear. Companies with long-term goals might want to maximize the number of customers, while a competitor in catch-up mode may have the short-term goal of maximizing current revenue.

It’s frequently possible to create a spreadsheet using actual response rates such as click-through rates and sales conversion rates to model how the market responds to different marketing techniques. Each aspect of marketing has a cost associated with its response rate, and some techniques are more effective than others. By including costs in the model, it’s easy to do a sensitivity analysis to get an idea of which techniques deliver the biggest bang for the buck.

However, for many companies that are looking at using opt-in email promotions, or revamping their site to add personalization, the actual costs and improvements are unknown. This is one of the challenges of creating an accurate business model where to obtain projections of the benefits.

A number of research reports have become available recently and shed light on some of the metrics that go into a good model.

For instance, Engage Media has released a study on the value of optimizing ad buys which indicates it is possible to improve click-through rates and conversion rates. The study measured results of over 2,800 campaigns by comparing the click-through rate before and after optimization. Results indicated that click-through rates for optimized campaigns were almost double those of the pre-optimized campaigns.

When it comes to adding personalization to a web site, the stakes are higher because there are so many techniques and technologies available. Some personalization products can be implemented inexpensively in just a few weeks, while others take months and consume a tremendous amount of resources. Jupiter Communications recently reported that conversion rates can be increased by approximately 50 percent through the use of personalization. If a site’s traffic is high, the benefits of using a large, expensive solution may be justified – other sites need to consider less complex solutions that deliver a rapid payback.

Another technique for increasing web site traffic is email. Like web site personalization, there are a number of email techniques that can be used to generate traffic each with it’s own response rate and costs.

Forrester Research recently published a report that estimates email marketing costs as high as $200 per thousand for rented lists and as low as $5 per thousand for in-house lists. In addition, they found the click-through rate for rented lists to be around 3.5 percent, while in-house lists deliver 10 percent.

This doesn’t mean that every company should use only in-house lists because each company has its own mix of objectives.

Companies needing to generate traffic from new visitors are renting opt-in lists to send high-impact promotional messages. Email advertisers looking for a quality editorial environment are buying ads in email newsletters. And, companies looking to maintain contact with prospects and customers are publishing their own newsletters and promotional messages.

One reason Internet marketing is so challenging is that there are so many opportunities to spend resources on techniques and technologies that look promising. A few years ago, it was hard for marketers to decide between push and personalization. And, who would have guessed that email would become a key marketing tool.

However, there is sufficient experience with the current technologies. Now it’s easier to learn which techniques are likely to deliver a return on the investment before deciding on web site improvements.

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