Case Study – Community Portal Boosts Web Design Sales

Matt Mickiewicz

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Doug Isom lives in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a small tourist town with a permanent population of just two thousand residents.

Even though Doug’s Web design firm, DigitalCreative, had established a good client list since the company’s launch in 1995, Doug decided to ramp up the business by building a local community portal — an idea that was sparked by an article in the SitePoint Tribune.

"I knew I wanted to do something different from the typical site you’d expect to find promoting tourism. After becoming an avid SitePoint fan I had the inspiration and ideas I was looking for: interviews, dining reviews, articles about the town, and events listings," says Doug.

Planning and Building the Portal

The site took about 3 weeks to build. "Had it been a work-for-hire job, it would have cost between $3500 and $4000 US", Doug estimates.

From the beginning, Doug realized that there would be periods during the portal’s lifecycle in which DigitalCreative might not be able to dedicate much time to the site. So the company used several methods to expedite both the development and longer-term maintenance of the portal, including SSI for repeated site elements (navigation, page headers, etc.), extensive use of CSS for layout and design, and database-driven directory listings to make site updates as quick and non-labor-intensive as possible.

Right now, DigitalCreative spends about 10-20 hours a month updating the site, though they expect that to increase to 40 hours per month when their workload slows down in the off-season.

Launch and Promotion

Once the site was built, the promotion began. "We did some heavy research on search engine promotion, reading as many articles on the subject as we could find at SitePoint.com. Then we fine tuned our copy based on what we learned. We’ve also run an ad in our local newspaper, purchased banner advertising on other sites, and set up reciprocal linking agreements around the Web."

The site launched in January, and by July it was almost receiving 10,000 unique visitors per month — as many as the local Chamber site, which DigitalCreative also maintains. The tourism portal now generates "some amazing amounts of page views and sticky time," according to Doug.

The portal also serves as a great marketing vehicle for other local business Websites that DigitalCreative has built. All clients are given a text and graphic listing at the top of the appropriate directory category, at no-cost. "We have jumped into the top 5 referrers for our clients’ sites. This has not only made for happier customers, but many new ones as well."

The Bottom Line

In the eight months since the portal’s launch, it has been at least partially responsible for eight new customers. "We are definitely using this site as part of our sales strategy for acquiring new clients," states Doug. "We use it as part of our portfolio, to show prospective clients our capabilities and the quality of our work."

"So thanks! SitePoint made a major difference in us adding a new aspect to our business, and increased income for our pockets."

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