Bits and Pieces

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Investing in Web Design

The last year or so have been lean times in the Taylor household.  Lean, lean, lean.  In May of 2011 I moved out to Asia to be with my Mongolian girlfriend, and since then we've been travelling around China, Thailand and Laos, awaiting the day I'm taken off the Mongolian blacklist (I had some visa problems in 2010, and ended up being deported).

Well, in early November we finally returned to Mongolia, and within two months we were ready to leave again - Mongolia sits around -40 degree Celsius right now, which is daaaaaamned cold.  So, we arrived in Beijing yesterday, tomorrow we get the train to visit a friend of ours in Hong Kong, and by the middle of next week we'll be in our apartment in Bangkok.  

Anyway... as you can guess, none of this comes cheap.  Ogi and I haven't been able to work since May and the reserves are just about to run dry.  I'm spending my days frantically trying to turn my random collection of websites into something resembling a small online empire, and pretty soon we may be self sufficient, living on Adsense and Amazon affiliate earnings.  

To achieve this goal, though, I need the help of a web design company.  My stable of sites all look pretty rough right now, and if there's one thing that drives Amazon sales and Adsense clicks it's attractive design.  Readers faced with a shoddy looking site click the back button as quick as a flash, but a good looking layout = instant trust (or at least the benefit of the doubt long enough to wow the reader with your rich content). 

Before spending money I didn't have on web design for all my sites I decided to do a test run on one of them.  I hired a web design company to play around with my Wordpress theme, delving into the coding and modifying the theme to fit my site better.  They rearranged Adsense blocks, added some shiny buttons and inserted a few well-chosen product images.  Three weeks later I've seen my Adsense CTR jump from a pathetic 0.3% to a much more impressive 5.2%.  My Amazon conversion rate has jumped from 3% to 8%. 

In real terms this means that the site is generating about $5 more each day (the traffic wasn't great to begin with).  It doesn't sound like much, but over a year that adds up to an extra $1,825 - 18 times more than the web design fee.  

So, I'm investing much of our remaining cash into my other sites.  If the same performance boost holds true for my stable, an investment today in a web design company should add up to an extra $50 each day - over $18,000 a year.  Worth it?  Definitely.
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