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Is a website earned or paid media?

December 22, 2009

I write a lot about websites. Partly because, as this whole social media wave crests, the lowly website seems to have been left in the wake.

Indeed, a potential client came into our doors last week looking for help with their marketing. We talked for almost 2 hours, at which point, I wondered about their website.

“It sucks”, he responded without taking a breath. “It’s 12 years old and in need of an update“.

In need of an update. Indeed.

For the 12-year-old website is interesting on so many levels.

It dates the web 1.0 craze, where people like that potential client came into places like ours wondering how “The Website” can change their marketing initiatives.

“You can market to anyone at anytime!” That’s the thing website people promised. They promised an ability to get the message to people in a “we never close” way. And, this is where the title of this post comes in, there are no media costs.

It’s owned media, as Jen said on Twitter in response to my question, is a website earned or paid media?

But this is what I was getting at in the question. The first click on a website is paid for in other marketing. From print ads to banner ads, these paid media tell someone to come and check out the site. True, SEO can get people to a site, and one shouldn’t underestimate the power of focus on a site for getting SEO traffic. Case in point, the was majority of traffic to this blog derives from a search for “Importance of (the) Internet”. For a long time, this blog was the #1 result for that query, with or without the “the”.

But the website earns the second click. It always has. I’ve often fought to have people think of a website like a product. The experience on the site is the thing that gets them back, the same way the taste of a product gets people to eat it again.

So when one begins to think about earning the second click, one no longer thinks in terms of a website “sucking”. So if the website’s bounce rate is over 50%, then something is wrong. The website doesn’t suck, the results do, and that’s something that can be fixed. No longer would be language be “we have to update the website”, the language would be, “we have to find out what’s wrong and fix the website.”

That’s when things get fun. What do you think? Is a website earned, paid, or owned media? Does it matter?

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