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Up North
11-24-2004, 11:58 AM
I have some questions concerning websites:
What's the general concensus on having a website?

Is it worth the investment?

How many actual customers have you gained via your website?

Do people in your area just stumble upon your website or are most of them directed there via advertising of some form?

What kinds of costs are involved...set up, updates, on-going costs?

Information on the website...what your company does, testimonials, pics of your work, tips, methods your company uses, what else?

I'm sure there are other questions I should be asking but that's what's on my mind for now. I'm having a difficult time convincing myself that a website is a good idea, especially in my area. Seems most customers are aquired via word of mouth or advertising and not sure a website would make much of a difference. Convince me otherwise if you have a good arguement. Thanks!

Buck

tiedeman
11-24-2004, 06:11 PM
I personally don't feel it is worth it, but that is my experience. I had a website for 6+ years and only my current customers would browse it now and then. Maybe if I was lucky about 2 to 3% would look at it. I never got customers from it, and I feel that it was just a waste.

Up North
11-24-2004, 10:37 PM
Tiedeman, that's kind of what I was thinking. Anyone else with any input on this?

Buck

GreenMonster
11-24-2004, 10:43 PM
After I look at a potential customer's job, I tell them to check out my web site while I work on the quote. Maybe stimulate some ideas, or find something they like.

Mine is geared more toward my hardscape stuff though.

turf9
11-24-2004, 10:45 PM
When I was in the yellow pages last year i got a few call's cause of the on-line directory they put me in for free (promo). But it was by no means a web site.Come to think of it I got more calls from that than the actual pages.

mdvaden
11-24-2004, 11:41 PM
It's more than worth it for certain reasons. And my reasons make it worth it.

One of the first things I wanted, was a place to place advice for my customers. Like suppose I planted for them; instead of explaining over and over ideas about watering - I just write it once on the website and tell them where on the site it is so they can read it.

I have one page on safe woods for birds, that it's the best on the whole darn internet. There is no bird society or avian vet that has a better list for safe and toxic woods for pet birds. The result is that that page self-propagates itself. When I look at the STATS pages for my website, I find that people are posting my URL on parrot forums, cockatiel forums, bird forums, bird breeder websites and even chinchilla sites. All those URL back-links are votes for my site in Google's eyes.

Oddly enough - being an arborist and designer - that woods for birds page generates more links independently than any other part of my website. Most other back-links I had to ask for.

Now, last spring and summer, I was getting about 4 contacts from the site per week, of which I would get or take 2 customers.

But I must add that I succeeded in getting my site ranked fairly high. But I will say that I'd be glad to have the website even if minimal work came in. It's a great place to list a phto archive of work. Suppose I show my photo album to a husband. If his wife is not home, he can take her to my website to point out photos - photos I would not want to leave laying around their house.

If you click the caption under the deer on my home page, it will take you to my page that shows several off-site albums.

That's one other way someone can have their site link to an album if they want to keep their webmaster costs down. That album - the separate one - can also be displayed to appear as if it's on my site. That album is very easy to load pictures on and only costs $25 per year for up to about 1500 images. I prefer to pay for an album space to avoid unsightly ads. The bandwidth is basically unlimited at that ImageEvent.

Also - here's an option. Suppose that ALL a landscape wants a site for is to display work, and they plan for people to get there by direct word of mouth or business card. In that case, they could skip a website and simply put up a photo album like I use along with my site - only they could use it alone.

For $25 on that Image Event, I can have many, many albums. The several you see, all fall within the $25. Easy to upload, easy to caption. And they can be open to all within the gallery, or accessed more limited, even to the point of needing a password.

Image Event offers a free trial for about 10 days for about a dozen images.

kootoomootoo
11-25-2004, 01:01 AM
I just checked yearly stats 5 mins ago. I have 25786 hits this year.

mdvaden
11-25-2004, 01:32 AM
Just for fun, I checked my stats too, for November from the 1st to today (24th).

It's:

51,813 hits

2913 visitors to the website

5435 page views

2448 unique visitors - meaning over 400 were repeats.

226 page views per day

:blob3:

Randy J
11-25-2004, 09:03 AM
Seems to me a lot would depend on your target market. If you're doing $35 mow & go, then I don't think a website would be as beneficial. However, if you're doing large yards and estates, those people tend to be better educated and access the www more. Or, if as greenmonster you're doing more landscaping/hardscaping work, I think it would be greatly beneficial.

JustMowIt
11-25-2004, 10:10 AM
I have some questions concerning websites:
What's the general concensus on having a website?

Is it worth the investment? Yes

How many actual customers have you gained via your website? 176 this season

Do people in your area just stumble upon your website or are most of them directed there via advertising of some form? Many people now go the the web instead of the phone book. We have spent the effort to be sure that if they search for "Lawn Service" with the city name, we are on the top of the results. The people that stumble into it, are usually competitors. And yes, many go to the phone book & then go to the website, but that is just an extra advantage.

What kinds of costs are involved...set up, updates, on-going costs? If you hire a website created & managed, it is expensive & it gets as stale as an old magazine in a doctors office. I spent a winter learning how to create, promote, & manage myself. You can spend about $300 for the software, $60 per yr. for hosting, $9.00 for domain plus your labor is the cost! You can update as easy as posting on Lawnsite!

Information on the website...what your company does, testimonials, pics of your work, tips, methods your company uses, what else? Personally, I think a very simple site that sez who you are, what you do, & about what you charge is all you need, & an easy way for them to tell you at any hour they wish to talk with you. The main item is to be on the list when they search for a provider in their town, & not be the needle in the haystack where you can not be found.

I'm sure there are other questions I should be asking but that's what's on my mind for now. I'm having a difficult time convincing myself that a website is a good idea, especially in my area. Seems most customers are acquired via word of mouth or advertising and not sure a website would make much of a difference. Convince me otherwise if you have a good arguement. Thanks!

Buck
MJ JustMowIt.com

tonygreek
11-25-2004, 10:24 AM
i'll start off with the "save your money advice" in case you get bored of reading the rest: don't waste your money on "WE'LL GET YOU LISTED ON OVER 5,000 SEARCH ENGINES FOR XXX DOLLARS!!!!". all are scams. ALL OF THEM. they'll actually do your site more harm than good actually, as the engines will effectively black-ball you.

now, my 2 cents on having a site...

like any other marketing vehicle, it's worth it if it's done right. cutting corners can be extremely counter-productive. i've seen enough people on here post a "critique my site" that really should be just told to unplug their computer and throw it out the window. i can't recall a single site that i've critiqued that actually was designed for search engines. no TITLE tags that are useful, and no meta tags, which now are not very useful, but at least the majority of people should know of their existence.

and just like any other marketing idea, you need to follow-up the money spent so far with more money. maintenance money, if you will. google and yahoo both offer keyword sponsorship programs. check those out, because that's the best way to be found.

the key to websites driving business towards you is proper search engine management. if you put up a site that is not designed from step 1 to be search engine friendly, you're just throwing your money and time away.

as for site visit stats, keep in mind that the bulk are from robots, most just trying to gather your email address for spam messages. take a look at the root country of origin for your visitors to get a better gauge.

as for who's going to be looking for you, keep in mind that the majority of household decisions are made by women. look at your customer base and see if that holds true. if so, make the site a little more female friendly. if your customer base includes many white-collar people that are still actively working, guess what? they are not looking in the yellow pages. the majority of people looking for home services do it from their desk, on their employer's dime, and do it on the web. web savvy people now span several generations, so the paradigm shift has been going on for years. for mowing, i'll take a shot and say that if someone wants to find you on the web, they'll use their favorite engine and type "dayton AND mowing". if you have a site, you need to be focused around that sort of content. many of the sites i see are so graphic intensive, even to the point of having their text as a graphic image, that they will never, ever draw a search engine sniff. gotta have some meaningful, textual content or you can forget it.

i'll let you know how it goes after year one in the lco business. my other businesses have always been greatly benefitted by having a site, so i'm curious to view the logs as i go and see what the true, relevant traffic is.

tony,
.com strategist refugee

mdvaden
11-25-2004, 03:13 PM
I think gearing a site toward professionalism and presenting who you are is the primary goal.

In about 4 to 8 years, I'm expecting to see the website numbers for my arborist and landscaper industry here jump from the 100 or so web sites that exist to probably upwards of 1000 websites once the designers, arborists, landscapers and lawn companies jump on board.

At least 1/2 of them will be designing their websites reasonably well if the trend continues according to what is going on here now.

What that means - in 6 years - is that 600 sites can be designed optimally for search engines, but not all 600 can reach the top.

What that means is that the web sites which rank high now, probably can stay at the top with minor routine tweaking.

But the hundreds of other sites - whether they reach the top - is about as reliable as a gamble, even with good web site design.

That's why I believe in designing a site #1 to present who I am. Then #2 is search engine search ranking and display.

In a way, iit's as if the web site is like a credential. It's like if someone says "what is your business phone number?" or "what's your license number". Now, so often, I hear "what's your web site address?"


As TonyGreek said...the robots account for quite a few visits.

On my site, 662 visits are recorded by robots.

Now, for my site, the robots are a big group of visitors, but don't account for most of the visits. Today's counter shows 3014 visitors, but the other stat is 2522 UNIQUE VISITORS.

mdvaden
11-25-2004, 03:26 PM
Got cut off on the edit time limit...
Here's the rest of the last post:

Now, for my site, the robots are a big group of visitors, but don't account for most of the visits. Today's counter shows 3014 visitors, but the other stat is 2522 UNIQUE VISITORS.

There were 17 different robots that came to my site - each unique. So I subtract 17 from 2522 and that means my site still had 2507 UNIQUE VISITORS that were not robots.

The final tally needs to get carved down a bit for who is a real shopper from my area. Because some visits are from out of state or country. Then every web site gets visited by other professionals that want to see their competition.

So from the 100 or so real people visitors I get to my site this time of year, I'd speculate that about 10 to 20 are real shoppers looking for a designer or arborist. And they finally contact owners of one of the various web sites they visited.

frakilk
11-26-2004, 03:58 PM
I think a website is worth the investment but only if it is maintained in the correct manner.

Just because you build a web site does not mean that overnight it will become very popular. The site needs to be optimized to be found by search engines amongst other types of marketing. I developed a portfolio, information site for my brother two months ago and have actively optimized for the search engines ever since. Ever day that goes by it is slowly climbing the rankings and I am confident that by this time next year it will have cornered our targeted market, giving my brother's business a real advantage over others in the same area.

Also it sounds great when you mention to a potential client 'you can find all the details on our website'. Sounds professional right off the bat. If your site looks professional as well that is powerful.

Carolina Cutter
11-27-2004, 09:09 PM
[QUOTE=Up North]I have some questions concerning websites:
What's the general concensus on having a website?

Is it worth the investment?

It is when it is free. It isn't really anything fancy but I figured I might use it as a marketing tool. I got mine from www.zoomshare.com and like I said...nothing fancy but I like it. You can see mine here www.prevatteslawnservice.zoomshare.com

tonygreek
11-28-2004, 12:55 AM
merlin, the term "subjective" comes to mind when you say it's worth it when it's free.

olderthandirt
11-28-2004, 01:22 AM
merlin, the term "subjective" comes to mind when you say it's worth it when it's free.
No, well worth it come to mind when you say free! Can it be better yes but it's free, put that on a flyer or a mailer and it won't hurt. Having a free web page that is.

Mac

frakilk
11-28-2004, 09:02 AM
Before I moved my brother's site to www.gardenplansireland.com (http://www.gardenplansireland.com) it used to be hosted at www.gardendesign.8m.com (http://www.gardendesign.8m.com), a free hosting service. It was hosted there for about 2.5 years and I must admit it did get him some business but not a lot.

Most people complained about the pop-ups. I guess pop-ups do not affect some people's judgement if the site looks professional.

Up North
11-28-2004, 12:54 PM
No, well worth it come to mind when you say free! Can it be better yes but it's free, put that on a flyer or a mailer and it won't hurt. Having a free web page that is.

Mac

I have to agree with Mac. If I do this I can't put a ton of cash into it, but a free site if done decently could be okay...if done nicely. I don't want a site to just say "I have one". But nobody else (LCO"S) in the area has one and that may help bump me up a notch in some customers eyes. A free site may help me gauge how much use I'd get out of having a website. Will people in this area go to it and check out who we are, what we do, how we do, etc.

I don't know, guess I better make up my mind soon as I have an offer from someone to set one up for me at no charge, just have to pay for domain and hosting, $3-5 a month.

Merlin, I like your site but I do have to say if I was a customer I'd kind of wonder about the service I'd get. There are a couple pics with debris all over the driveway and sidewalk. And some of the lawns I don't think does your work justice. But you do have some pics that show excellant work which I assume is your normal procedure. I'd try to replace a few of those pics to better reflect the service you normally provide. And please don't take this the wrong way, I'm just trying to look at it from a customer prospective and help you enhance your site. It's simple which I like, seems like some get too complicated and have too much stuff all over.

Buck

Carolina Cutter
11-28-2004, 03:36 PM
I have to agree with Mac. If I do this I can't put a ton of cash into it, but a free site if done decently could be okay...if done nicely. I don't want a site to just say "I have one". But nobody else (LCO"S) in the area has one and that may help bump me up a notch in some customers eyes. A free site may help me gauge how much use I'd get out of having a website. Will people in this area go to it and check out who we are, what we do, how we do, etc.

I don't know, guess I better make up my mind soon as I have an offer from someone to set one up for me at no charge, just have to pay for domain and hosting, $3-5 a month.

Merlin, I like your site but I do have to say if I was a customer I'd kind of wonder about the service I'd get. There are a couple pics with debris all over the driveway and sidewalk. And some of the lawns I don't think does your work justice. But you do have some pics that show excellant work which I assume is your normal procedure. I'd try to replace a few of those pics to better reflect the service you normally provide. And please don't take this the wrong way, I'm just trying to look at it from a customer prospective and help you enhance your site. It's simple which I like, seems like some get too complicated and have too much stuff all over.

Buck


Well actually those are pics that I have taken recently. About half way through the job I thought "oh crap I forgot to take some before pics" so that is why some are messy. BUT....also, I am just setting up the site and had those pics to get it started. Trust me......they will be replaced next spring with the "good stuff".

tonygreek
11-28-2004, 09:14 PM
i think you guys seem to have missed my use of the term "subjective". anything, if done well, is better than nothing. if it's a stereo-typical freebee, and done poorly, it's counter-productive.

if someone says they'll give you free flyers to hand out for your business, and they are bright red paper with illegible flourescent orange text, would you give them out since they were free or do you think it might be counter-productive and turn off potential customers? that's my point. free websites are often times done by the business owner, who probably knows jack about putting together a decent site. case in point is one person asked for a critique of their site on here. half-a-dozen or more people chimed in with "great site!". odds are, each was on a broadband connection because every single image, including the menu graphics, and lco logo were over 500k. 1.6+ meg worth of that stuff on the intro page alone. took me more than 10 minutes to open page 1 on my test dial-up. it's been well over a month since that critique, and it's still the same. is that productive, or counter-productive? yes, he does have a site, however...

tony

Up North
11-28-2004, 10:42 PM
i think you guys seem to have missed my use of the term "subjective". anything, if done well, is better than nothing. if it's a stereo-typical freebee, and done poorly, it's counter-productive.

if someone says they'll give you free flyers to hand out for your business, and they are bright red paper with illegible flourescent orange text, would you give them out since they were free or do you think it might be counter-productive and turn off potential customers? that's my point. free websites are often times done by the business owner, who probably knows jack about putting together a decent site. case in point is one person asked for a critique of their site on here. half-a-dozen or more people chimed in with "great site!". odds are, each was on a broadband connection because every single image, including the menu graphics, and lco logo were over 500k. 1.6+ meg worth of that stuff on the intro page alone. took me more than 10 minutes to open page 1 on my test dial-up. it's been well over a month since that critique, and it's still the same. is that productive, or counter-productive? yes, he does have a site, however...

tony

I understand what you're saying Tony. I wouldn't be doing my own website, don't know jack about it and don't have the time to deal with it. A website, an employee, a flyer, etc. all are an extension of your company. It has to represent you in a positive manner. That's why I asked some of these questions...is it worth it? I don't want some crappy site because customers will think that is the kind of work you'll do for them. A crappy site can be cheap or from what I've seen in the past pretty expensive as well. So it really boils down to the people putting it together and their knowlege.

Bottom line, I don't know that I've been convinced enough that having a website is going to be a huge asset to me yet. Still need to think this over a bit.

Buck

mdvaden
11-29-2004, 01:49 AM
Here is another way to look at it - I don't know if I can convince you that it is worth it.

But most of us with decent websites realize that lacking a website is more of a detriment than a gain.

In other words, if you don't have a website; that's a fact. You don't have a website.

Even if it only got you one job per year, that would pay for the domain and hosting of about $100 per year give or take.

tiedeman
11-29-2004, 03:00 AM
I had a great website for years, paid to have it in searches, updated it daily with loads and loads of information, yet I found it not to be a great marketing tool at all. Maybe it was my experience.

Carolina Cutter
11-29-2004, 11:43 AM
i think you guys seem to have missed my use of the term "subjective". anything, if done well, is better than nothing. if it's a stereo-typical freebee, and done poorly, it's counter-productive.

if someone says they'll give you free flyers to hand out for your business, and they are bright red paper with illegible flourescent orange text, would you give them out since they were free or do you think it might be counter-productive and turn off potential customers? that's my point. free websites are often times done by the business owner, who probably knows jack about putting together a decent site. case in point is one person asked for a critique of their site on here. half-a-dozen or more people chimed in with "great site!". odds are, each was on a broadband connection because every single image, including the menu graphics, and lco logo were over 500k. 1.6+ meg worth of that stuff on the intro page alone. took me more than 10 minutes to open page 1 on my test dial-up. it's been well over a month since that critique, and it's still the same. is that productive, or counter-productive? yes, he does have a site, however...

tony


Are you talking about me? I don't have any problems opening any of the pics or viewing any of the site from any dialup connection. My site has been productive....I have already gained a customer from it. So...my "subjective" thinking is that it does work no matter your opinion.

tonygreek
11-29-2004, 01:53 PM
nothing in that post indicated that was regarding your site, merlin, nor did i critique your site. you didn't ask for one.

Carolina Cutter
11-29-2004, 04:09 PM
nothing in that post indicated that was regarding your site, merlin, nor did i critique your site. you didn't ask for one.

Ok....no harm no foul.....LOL. Just yanking your chain......LOL

tonygreek
11-29-2004, 09:28 PM
no problem, merlin. the reason i take interest in the web site forum here is because i have 10 years of experience in web strategy, ranging in site scale from the thousands to the millions of dollars, and i like to help others when i can. credit a healthy dose of attention deficit disorder and a vein of entrepreneurship and you come up with me spending time on this site. :)

tony

olderthandirt
11-29-2004, 09:33 PM
no problem, merlin. the reason i take interest in the web site forum here is because i have 10 years of experience in web strategy, ranging in site scale from the thousands to the millions of dollars, and i like to help others when i can. credit a healthy dose of attention deficit disorder and a vein of entrepreneurship and you come up with me spending time on this site. :)

tony

Well Tony how much you charge to make one up for me???????
Mac

mdvaden
11-30-2004, 02:29 AM
That might be a handy idea.

One thing about web sites - in about 5 years - if we have 10 good web site strategists each helping 10 landscape type companies develop good sites; we know that 90 of the 100 will not be on the first page let alone the top 3 slots.

That's why these days it makes sense to develop a site that fits the character of the company as goal numero uno.

In 10 years or 15, having a website will be almost like having a number in the phone book. Thousands of them in there, but very few that stand out.

But either way, it's nice to have someone with a bit of skill lay the site out so it functions right.

coastallandscapesolutions
12-04-2004, 09:20 AM
FYI... our website costs us $99 per year, unlimited email and bandwidth. We get it through www.readyhosting.com. I have been using this company for 8 years now and have never had a problem. In fact we have several other sites with them for my wife. We use MS FrontPage and if you can type a letter in MS Word then you can use FrontPage.

Our customers and prospective customers do go to the site. They do research on our research page. They pay their bills online which we really like. We can send people there to check out our licensing, etc. In the next few weeks we are going to put some samples of landscape beds out there that can be sold as a package that "Olderthandirt" talked about. That was a AWESOME idea Mac. Thank you. (I have 12 beds being built next week for the examples).

Once we put the Palm Trees online our sales doubled. We install 20 to 30 trees a week now and it is still growing.

Websites work for some and not for others. It is all in how you present the site and market it. Ours will be going into two phases. Knowledge and training for customers/potential customers and services offered. My goal is to spend 30 minutes a night over the next few weeks to update it. $99 bucks a year, it's a heck of a marketing tool that is cheap to have.

ArizPestWeed
12-07-2004, 02:09 AM
Do a google search for your type of business in your area and yor'll see Magicyellow.com at the top.

You must hook up with a one of those that will carry you

tonygreek
12-07-2004, 10:50 AM
weed, do you use magicyellow? even when searching for listings i've directly pulled up at their site, and then searching for them through google, i've not pulled up a single one, other than the respective businesses' own website.

on the magicyellow site, they say they list on search engines, just not which ones, which would make me hesitant.

tony