There's no such thing as a free lunch
By Honeypot Marketing, Oct 9 2014 05:00AM
This cynical view is often stated, but how true it is, especially when it comes to website advertising.
These days there are so many options on where to market your business it can seem overwhelming, particularly in today’s digital world. There’s a plethora of websites all wanting you to be part of their latest marketing initiative, and no more so than in the tourism world. From big brand-named websites and sophisticated destination websites to small community websites. And then there’s the wide variety of general websites offering businesses a free listing. Tempting isn’t it - a free listing on that website and they “do all the rest”. It’s these I want to talk about.
Before taking the plunge and filling in that form for that “too good to miss web entry”, ask yourself a few questions.
Who are your customers? Sounds obvious but it can be easily forgotten. Are they really likely to be attracted to the website in question in the first place?
Have a look at who else is advertising on that website. Having said that, there isn’t always safety in numbers - others may have been drawn in by a clever pitch too, but generally if you can see some of the big players in your market also advertising, they may know something you don’t yet. And if they’re not there, there’s probably a good reason why not.
Why is it free? Is the website overloaded with advertising from businesses which have nothing to do with tourism? Then they’re probably selling on the space based on who they have listed. A good tourism website is about providing interesting, inspiring information in an attractive and easy to use way, not about lists and lists of adverts. Think about whether you have already paid in another way – is the website run by your local Council, a government department or another public body? Then you’ve already paid via your Council tax and/or business rates – and therefore you have the right to demand something that supports your business and has quality.
How easily can you find things on the website? If the site is difficult to navigate, chances are people won’t find your business either. And how easy is the website to find in the first place?
Can the organisation running the website reliably tell you how many views or click-thru’s you’ve had at the end of the year? If it can’t, or the figures have no reporting mechanism to back up the figures (particularly fantastic ones!), then why waste your precious time if you have no way of knowing if your advert has worked?
“Simples” as they say, and yet you might still be asking yourself, yes but if it’s free what can harm can there be?
Well, does the look of the website fit in with the image you’d like to project of your own business? Have a really good look at the site. Are there gaudy, flashing images, spelling mistakes, poor, pixellated photographs? Is that garden down the road that closed to the public in 2002 still being listed on site? How good is the information included – is the site updated regularly or left to run itself? A careless and, dare I say it, “cheap” impression will not reflect well on any business included on the website, and that free ad may end up doing more harm than good to the reputation of your business.
The old adage “you get what you pay for” is very true. If you pay nothing, generally you get nothing or very little in return. If a website has a charge for advertising, it charges for a very good reason – it costs money to operate and properly market a website.
Our advice is to choose to advertise on a few key websites which offer quality for your money, which can show you clearly how well your advertising has worked, which are regularly updated and actively promoted on the web, via social media and other marketing channels and which work hard for and with you the customer. Choose websites which other like-minded businesses have already joined and with which you would like to be associated – in fact why not ask some of these businesses how well it’s worked for them? If you’re in Kent or Sussex, we’d of course recommend our own website – www.DiscovertheGardenofEngland.com – where we do all these things. Choose wisely and you won’t regret it – and remember there really is no such thing as a free lunch!