literally hundreds of thousands of sites on the web, the challenge
of generating traffic has become a crucial concern. This goes beyond
the marketing common sense that I expressed in my first web column
and its debunking of the "If You Build It They Will Come" myth.
While that column offered a quick overview of some basics, this
month I've identified six key strategies and along with some supporting
As I've said in past columns, the first priority is to address the
issues of compelling and consistently updated content, virtual community
and real interactivity so that your site can build a base of regular
visitors. Otherwise, you can have the best marketing campaign in
the world, but without a solid reason to return, you won't get repeat
visits. And without that, it's tough to build any marketing momentum.
A complete website marketing plan can be as comprehensive as you
have the resources to make it; however, if yours is like many other
companies, there may be limits to your website promotional staffing
(if any). So, don't be overwhelmed, but rather feel free to use
these "steps" as a list of ideas, a starting point. Select the ideas
that you feel will generate the best results for you. Then, spend
some time each week (or at least each month) building your online
Of course, The Web Edge is a monthly column, not a book, so I don't
have space to elaborate on each of these strategies in consummate
detail; however, I have included references to some of the best
books on the subject that I've found. These books offer those of
you who are interested in developing a more complete knowledge of
online marketing an avenue for a rich and satisfying exploration.
Of course, that having been said, I must add that there's no better
teacher than experience.
THE BIG PICTURE
get started, you might want to check out the cyber-edition to the
Guerrilla Marketing series, Guerrilla Marketing: Online Weapons,
100 Low-Cost, High Impact Weapons for Online Profits and Prosperity
(Houghton Mifflin Co., $12.95). In their upbeat style, Jay Conrad
Levinson and Charles Rubin offer up a spirited overview of online
marketing. Although some of their specifics are sketchy, their descriptions
of how-to define and develop an effective web presence successfully
extends their popular go get em approach.
As usual, there are also a bevy of resources on the web itself,
especially for such web-centric subject as this. For example, Yahoo
(among its 22,000 categories) offers a section called Computers
and Internet/World Wide Web/Information and Documentation/Site Announcement
and Promotion. You'll find many relevant resources linked here
including lists of site listing services and discussions of how
to get better placement among the search engines.
By the way, the one way that many web developers use to build traffic
that is NOT included below is bulk e-mail (also known as spam).
This is becoming a serious problem and you can just as easily turn
people off as turn people on to your site. For this and other reasons,
I don't want to encourage this trend. Spam may not kill trees, but
it's definitely adding clutter to my in-box and becoming more and
more of a nuisance.
So what are the Six strategic Steps that I recommend?
DO DIRECTORY LISTINGS
The most fundamental component of website promotion is getting listings
in search directories. Given the vast scope of the web, directories
have become a very commonly used part of how browsers find sites.
The big ones like Yahoo!, AltaVista, Excite, InfoSeek and Lycos
are the most commonly used, but there are also many others worthy
of your listing.
Because it's a full time job just keeping track of the sites and
because each directory offers it's own version of an "Add Site"
page, I recommend the use of a listing service like Submit-It
among others. To do a complete listing, there's a fee, but most
of these sites will let you post listings to the biggest directories
for free or on a "try before you buy" basis.
Other directories (most notably AltaVista) use software programs
called "spiders" to search the web for content. This makes it especially
important to include META tags within your pages (HTML documents).
META tags are short pieces of simple HTML code that may include
descriptions and keywords. They are inbedded within the HTML page.
Although these tags do not appear on the page, some of the search
engines use them and if you don't have them then they will either
use the first text that appears on your page, or your site will
be left out of that search entirely. Just like submitting your listing
to the search engines, the META tags can include both a site (or
a page) description as well as keywords by which people can find
you. For more information on how to do META tags, you might want
to check out this
page within another useful site called The
Web Developer's Virtual Library.
GET LINKS... LOTS OF LINKS
This is another huge subject in and of itself. There are many approaches
to getting links for other sites. The standard deal is that the
other webmaster will ask you to give a return link in exchange.
I've named three different approaches to getting links below, but
first here's another great reference. I've just discovered (thanks
to my friend Felix Kramer who runs the Constructors website) a new
book called Getting Hits, The Definitive Guide to Promoting Your
Website by Don Sellers (Peachpit Press, $19.95). It's only about
150 pages, written in a very accessible style and packed with practical
information. This is my favorite new book on the whole subject of
Here's a few of the key ways to approach getting links to your site
from other sites:
* Seek out synergy by creating relationships with sites with a similar
audience. For example, a site for an electrical contractor should
try to get a link from the Association of Electrical Contractors
site and from electrical parts and hardware companies.
* If you think your site is outstanding or even above average, you
should apply to award sites for recognition. If you win, you not
only get a link, but you will get a prestigious icon to display.
The most famous of these sites is the original "Cool
Site of the Day." There are nine other good ones listed in the
Getting Hits book and a more
extensive list of award sites on Yahoo. Some of these are more
targeted like the "Best of WWWomen Sites" and the "Top 10% of Cooking
Sites." Of course, where appropriate, getting on one of these lists
can be particularly effective if their target audience matches yours.
* Develop online strategic relationships with sites that compliment
yours. For example, our electrical contractor example site might
exchange links with a neighborhood plumber. You get the idea. Whenever
possible, it really makes a difference if you can get your links
enhanced with some extra words of encouragement or a graphic. Anything
that will help your link stand out and give browsers more of a reason
to "click here" helps increase the number of people who will actually
follow your link.
WEBCAST TO YOUR REGULARS
Vibrant websites are designed for repeat visits and building relationships.
And, like all relationships, this process requires communication.
One of the easiest ways to establish this link is through an e-mail
newsletter. I call the one that I do for Media Mall, the E-Letter;
but these e-mail newsletters are technically known as Listserv's.
Subscriptions are generally free and because visitors to your site
subscribe voluntarily, mailing to them is not considered spam and
you will know that you are writing for an interested audience.
New technologies like the Push channels that are being popularized
by Pointcast and in the new version of Microsoft Explorer also provide
a more visual and technological more sophisticated means of making
your content available on a more consistent basis to more people.
However, their sophistication also creates a kind of barrier to
less sophisticated users.
Bottom line, I recommend that you start with e-mail. It's still
the easiest to implement and by far the most frequently used by
Well, you might think this is a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised
how often it's overlooked. First of all, do a press release (to
all media, especially your local newspapers) announcing your site.
Be sure to include your industry's trade publications, and then
also distribute the press release to news organizations online.
There are sites dedicated to announcing new sites. Many of these
are included on the Yahoo! Page linked near the beginning of this
article; and another solid reference that's especially focused on
press releases and announcements is Publicity on the Internet, Creating
Successful Publicity Campaigns on the Internet and the Commercial
Online Services by Steve O'Keefe (Wiley Computer Publishing, $24.95).
This book includes an especially well-done resource section.
In addition, some companies may want to seek professional assistance
in announcing their site. Some of the most prominent of these cyber-promotional
"guns for hire" include Eric
Ward and his NetPost site, Rosalind
Resnick's NetCreations site and the Multimedia
OK, now the promo people will accuse me of stating the obvious.
But there's little that has the drawing power of a promotional contest
or giveaway. People just like free stuff.
These types of incentives also have the additional benefit of providing
a motivation for visitors to register for your e-mail list. Like
any other kind of promotion, this is a creative undertaking that
must be customized for your site and for your customers. Thus, the
form and content of your promotional pizazz is totally up to you;
but this is the kind of extra effort that can really make a difference.
LEVERAGE YOUR OTHER MARKETING &; ADVERTISE
Sometimes we get so web-centric that we forget about other media.
This would be a monumental mistake. Other outreach channels such
as your own print and other advertising is a particularly important
way to generate web traffic for your site. After all, while there
are plenty of browsers out there who can find hyper-links to your
site, there are also more and more people who are using the web
almost exclusively for particular services such as stock quotes
or news (in addition to the all-pervasive use of e-mail). These
web users are less likely to happen upon your site through directory
listings or casual "linking around;" however, if you can get your
web address in their face in an attractive way that motivates action,
you can not only get them to check out your site, you may well be
able to make yourself one of their favorite sites (and thus worthy
of a repeat visit) because this type of user frequently only regularly
visits a few sites.
In addition, you may also want to consider targeted online advertising
by buying banners of popular sites that appeal to your target audience
or by buying keywords so that your banner ad is displayed whenever
an appropriate keyword is selected in a search engine. The big search
sites have made a business out of this targeted approach and their
ability to deliver a banner only to people who search for the words
"electrical contractor." (No this is not intended as a theme.)
Well, that should be enough for now. This column ought to contain
enough action items to keep you busy. And just think, this is only
the beginning of the Internet!
Until next month, stay tuned.
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