Surely 2011 will be the year of the website. Let’s face it, we more or less now all have some sort of web presence. Whether it is our Facebook page, blog or personal site selling anything from freelance writing skills and fine art, cushion covers to water filters? The number of web pages out there, whether selling, or some form of social networking, is bewildering. From what I can see, it seems that everyone is having a go.
Where once owning a website was the solely the domain of large corporate or big businesses, it has now become simple and cost effective enough for people to build a site almost speculatively and see what happens. As far as I understand it, you have build a good website, upload some juicy content, add great looking photographs and clever graphics, dream up some search engine friendly tag words to sum up the content on your site; sell some advertising space, maybe join Twitter too, then you can just sit back and wait for traffic to flood in. The resulting revenue will surely build from there? The assumption has been that no one can fail. But hang on a minute, is it really that simple? What exactly would you define as 'success'?
Surely as cyberspace gets increasingly clogged by websites dedicated to almost every topic under the sun, it will be harder to find what you are looking for. Perhaps users will get cynical, tire of endless online searching and falling for the flashiest looking sites? Advertisers might be unimpressed by low hit rates and wonder whether online marketing is all it’s cracked up to be. From what I understand, the ‘click through’ numbers of browsers who move from site to site this way, is very low (my rather pathetic Google Adsense income is testament to this). I’ve been running Google Ads on my blog for a year and a half now. My total income over that period is now pushing a heady 200 UK pounds – not exactly enough to live on and I am sure I’ve justified spending that blog money on the 'to die for' pair of jeans or cardigan at least a million times over! My post entitled 'Guinea Pig Adventures' has drawn a record number of hits compared to other posts I've written. I wondered why, until I discovered that 'Guinea Pig Adventures' is in fact a popular kids online game.
Or am I missing a trick? I often get asked to contribute written material to new 'content hungry' websites which, for the past year or so, I've been doing gladly and gratis in order to raise my blog readership numbers (my cunning master plan is to have SO many readers that a publisher in his right mind can't fail to be tempted to print my almost finished, rather self indulgent, AMAZING book...however, am not sure how that whole plan is going to pan out....). Having watched my statistics for some time (they've risen only slightly since I've been dotting around all over the place on the world wide web) I'm now wondering if putting in the extra effort is worth it? Has the flattery gone to my head, making me into the world's biggest mug? It may be time to change strategy.
And there's another thing; it’s easy to make a website to look good but are they all truly delivering all they promise? How is policing all this? Most scarily, I have seen sophisticated websites for children’s charities appealing for donations, where in reality they turn out to be a very far cry from how they appear online. We’ve all fallen for buying clothes and shoes via online shops that turn out to be disastrous mistakes and difficult to return and let’s be honest, Ebay can be pretty hit and miss. In an era where it’s even possible to buy a swimming pool online, are ‘virtual’ customers really getting enough service and value for money for their purchases? Is shopping online for the canny, life's risk takers, or simply for the gullible?
I guess you could say that the backlash has already started with UK discount sites such as www.quidco.com and www.myvouchercode.co.uk . I’ve haven’t used these yet (I’m always slow on the uptake - my sister told me about them) but I understand that by using these sites you pick up voucher codes or even cash back on online purchases, saving on not just products but holidays, car hire, eating-out and even home insurance.
As we push boldly forward in 2011, let’s see if the universal appeal to own your own website or online domain eventually palls. Or conversely, will it turn out that only the most foolish have not jumped on the bandwagon? There's a certain amount of vanity in having your own website that is certainly seductive (I should know!). However, my instinct tells me that making money via social networking, blogging or scooping up new customers by advertising online just can’t be as easy as it looks - but I’d love for somebody to prove me wrong!