Website Design: Comparing Apples to Apples

With 2009 right around the corner, the website design projects are pilling up on our project board.  I’ve come across a number of people over the past few weeks who are confused by the two different types of website designs available:  template and custom built.  There are pros and cons to both, which is what I will be going over here.  Education is key to all this “online stuff” and I want to make sure, no matter who you use for a website provider, that you know what you are getting.  Unfortunately, there are some providers out there selling a “custom” solution when it’s really a template.

With a template website the design, navigation, layout and color scheme is pre-defined.  You simply choose the design and color you want and we, as website providers, plug your content into their respective pages or sections. 

Template Pros:

  1. They are less expensive because it takes a lot less time to set them up.
  2. They can be set up very quickly, we’ve done them in as little as 2 weeks.

Template Cons:

  1. They are not as flexible to optimize for the search engines.
  2. You are usually limited on the number of pages you can have in your website as the designs are only built with a certain amount in mind.
  3. If you decide you don’t like the provider and want to switch, you can not take the website design with you, as templates are typically the property of the provider.
  4. You run into the high likelyhood of having other companies in your industry with the same exact design as yours, which could cause visitor confusion.

With a true custom website the designer starts with a blank screen.  They build your website based on the color scheme you use in other marketing and/or your logo, the other websites you’ve shown them that you like the look and feel of, and your specific needs / desires / functionality you want for your new website.  If you have no idea what you want that’s ok with us.  We’ve done many, many custom website projects with clients who really didn’t know what they wanted or needed in their website, which is our area of expertise as 1/2 of our design team are graphic artists as well.

Custom Pros:

  1. The sky is the limit with the design, features, programming, functionality, etc. 
  2. You dream it and we can do it – Flash animated header, movies, fly-out menus, 360 tours, custom graphics, custom logos and more.
  3. Your website will be unique, no other company will have a website that looks like yours.
  4. The design is yours to take with you no matter what hosting provider you have.
  5. Flexibility to use all the different search engine techniques that will help your website get the highest “organic” or free listings as possible.

Custom Cons:

  1. Because the designer has to build it from scratch, it will be more expensive to set up.

You can either go out and buy an already built house that may not be what you want but you can fix it up or you can build it from the ground up.  Sometimes the “fixing up” of the already built house will end up costing you just as much, if not more, than the home you could have had built to your specs.  You also run the risk of the already built house never being what you want, no matter how much fixing up you do.

It’s been my experience that if you are a new company, or new to the internet, or have a tight budget, then the template design is the way to go.  It’s just enough to get your feet wet, get your name online, start building your “virtual” web presence and so on.  But, if your company has been around a long time, especially online, a custom built website is the best decision usually. 

If you are not sure what you need, just give me a call (1-866-643-4625) or send me an email (cindy@rvusa.com).  I’ll review what you have currently, check out your current positionings in the search engines and a few other places and make a recommendation for you. 

Like I said in the beginning, I don’t care which provider you end up using for your website.  I want to make sure you know what your getting into, you understand the process of setting up a web presence and give you a heads up on things to be on the look out for.  One of those “heads up” items is your domain name.  It should be registered to your company, not the person or company providing your website or hosting.  I’ve seen this time and again where a dealer didn’t know any better and either lost their domain name or had to pay the provider for it and they can charge whatever they want.  I’ve seen some hosting providers register the domain name to them so that if your unhappy with them or their service and want to move you can’t.  It’s just not good business.  We always register the domain name to our client.

RVUSA.com templates: www.rvusa.com/designs

RVUSA.com custom examples:  http://www.netsourceinc.com/portfolio_rv-dealer.asp

Cindy Spencer 🙂

Online Advertisting vs. Print Advertising

As the RV Industry feels the crunch of the slowing economy, everyone with a company related to this industry feels the pinch as well and are looking for other less expensive, cost effective ways to get advertising for their company and products or services.  Even though sales are slow, you still have to keep your company name out there where RVers will see it and remember to contact you when they are ready to buy.

When I started working for RVUSA.com almost 10 years ago I had no idea how much it cost to advertise in a magazine, paper, radio or TV.  Well I had an idea that TV ads had to cost an arm and a leg.  I started contacting RV magazines to see about advertising RVUSA.com in them.  The first advertising kit I received my jaw dropped to the floor – $3,000+ for a 1-page color ad in one issue of a magazine???  Are you kidding me?  I thought maybe it was just that particular magazine so I contacted a few others and asked them to send me their pricing.  What a learning experience.  Then I found out that our local paper charges us $600+ to run a Help Wanted ad for a weekend, nothing fancy, just a few lines of text.  I was floored.

Think about it.  Most individuals who buy a magazine will read the articles that attracted them to buy it in the first place, which won’t be about you, look at the pictures and that’s it.  It eventually ends up filed, in the trash.

Newspapers are not any better.  According to the Newspaper Association of America, in 1964, over 80% of adults read their local newspaper at least once a week.  By 2007, that number had dropped to about 48% of adults.

As the internet grows, so does the amount of online shoppers.  I found an article that indicated as much as 86% of consumers in 2007 enjoyed shopping online daily with 70% of those consumers going to a familiar website to shop or by going to a search engine and typing in keywords.  There are several reasons why consumers like to shop / buy online:

  1. To comparison shop – finding the right RV with the features and options they want and then they can email to negotiate the price in their PJ’s if they want… that’s priceless.
  2. It costs less – they don’t have to drive around wasting gas stopping at dealership after dealership, dealing with pushy salespeople, out in the elements… gives them more money to spend on their RV.
  3. It saves time – most people have 2-4 RV dealers close to their house, that if they hurried through each lot, they may be able to see some of what each of them have in a day, but not really.  Just imagine how many dealers they can visit from home on their PC… now that’s powerful!!

On RVUSA.com, the entire year of advertising costs about the same as a 1-page color ad in a magazine for 1-month.  Plus, you can list your entire inventory with unlimited pictures, even video clips on RVUSA.com.  You can’t do that in a magazine.

There are a few things you should look for when you’re ready to advertise online:

  1. Advertise on websites that specialize in your industry.
  2. Look for websites that don’t lock you into a contract.
  3. Do a search on Google and/or Yahoo and see how the website listings come up.  Are they in there frequently?  Are the companies that already advertise on them come up in searches?
  4. Contact some of the companies listed on their website and get their feedback on the customer service provided, how quick they are to respond to their needs and the results they get.
  5. Ask for traffic stats.  You want to see the number of visitors they’ve had each month for the past 12 months (not hits), how long the website has been online, average stats for some of the other advertisers on their site and average user session time per month.
  6. When you call them are you greeted by a “live” person or do you have to deal with a computerized phone tree?  I don’t know about you but when I need to speak to someone about my account I don’t want to be forced to figure out how to get to past the computer to do so.  If it’s during business hours there’s no excuse or reason for a computer to answer the phone.

More to come.

Cindy 🙂

Inventory Feed to Vast.com and Oodle.com

RVUSA.com is now sending inventory to Vast.com and Oodle.com as part of our Dealer Partner plan.  So together with the 1.5 million visitors per month on RVUSA.com, plus the 60 mfg / model specific websites we host and now these two new feeds you just can’t find another company that will get your RVs for sale in front of more people.

Explanations of each website in their own words:

VAST.com:  Vast.com is the leading vertical search platform for autos, travel, and real estate, with millions of users a month making purchasing decisions through Vast.com’s network of partner websites. Vast.com improves the online shopping experience with the largest selection, sub-second search times, and intuitive auto, real estate, and vacation rental search that helps users find the best match on the Internet for their needs.

OODLE.com:  Oodle is the fastest growing classifieds service. Pulling together and organizing millions of listings from all over the Web, Oodle is simply the best way to buy and sell through online classifieds.

Call me toll-free if you’d like to get signed up:  866-643-4625.

Cindy 🙂

Are you a Jayco Dealer with a Microsite?

Stop the presses!!

RVUSA.com is the first and only online source that can send your inventory to your Jayco Microsite.  Jayco is accepting all new and used Jayco models as well as any other used models that you have for sale.  I know how time consuming it is to enter your inventory on 2, 3 or more different websites.  That’s valuable time you could be out selling and making more money.  RVUSA.com was the first company to set up an inventory feed to RVTraderOnline.com many years ago.  Since then we’ve added about 12 other RV Classified websites.  Take advantage of this time-saving opportunity to get your inventory on the Jayco.com website.  Give me a call at 1-866-643-4625. 

We are talking to other RV Manufacturers to set up similar feeds to their websites.  If you would like us to get in touch with one or all of the RV Manufacturers you represent, let me know.  Let me be your advocate!!

Cindy 🙂