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The Basics of Website Promotion

Website promotion is, quite simply, the process of getting the word out about your site. Like any kind of marketing or promotional effort, website promotion requires planning and strategy.

Where to Start

Before jumping headfirst into site promotion (and, perhaps, even before building your site), you’ll want to think carefully about your target market and your site’s purpose. Who do you want to visit your site? What do you want those visitors to do when they get there? With so much information out there, and so many means available for website promotion, it’s tempting to dive in without testing the waters. Just as with more traditional forms of spreading the word, though, you want to figure out what you have to offer, and who will be most interested. Promotion should focus on bringing those visitors to your site who want or need whatever it is you have to offer.

The Tried and True

Once you have determined your target market and the how your site will serve that market, you’ll want to start looking into various methods of website promotion. Given that you’re working with an internet-based medium, you’ll likely think first of internet-based forms of promotion. Don’t overlook more traditional methods of announcing your site, though. Do you have a business card? Have your site’s URL printed on it. Do the same with other paper promotional items you produce routinely. Do you send press releases to the media with news about your business? Certainly include the URL in these. Do you advertise in the newspaper, or on the radio or TV? Your URL should now be a part of the contact information included in those ads.

The "New Media"

Of course, the Web opens up new possibilities for promoting your site, and you certainly want to take advantage of them. Here are seven possible ways to promote your site through the Internet:

1. Get listed
Where do you go on the Net when you want to find information? Probably Yahoo!, Google, AltaVista, or one of the many other search engines, directories or portals available on the Web. So it’s likely that your target market does the same. Check into the processes for submitting your site’s URL to search engines and directories – many of these services will list your site for free. The grand-daddy of directories, Yahoo!, does charge just to look at a business site (currently for $299, with no guarantee of a listing), but keep in mind that about half of all web traffic comes from Yahoo! -- you may decide that it’s a smart investment in your website promotion efforts. Also keep in mind that there are smaller engines and directories tailored to specific topics and interests, and you may find that getting listed with one of these will give you a more prominent position in the engine/directory, and provide you with more targeted traffic. Also, don’t overlook local and regional engines/directories. For more information, see my article on Search Engine Optimization (S.E.O.).

2. Get Linked
While most webmasters will first think of search engines and directories for their website promotion, more traffic (six to seven times as much) comes from links on other pages than from search engines. How do you get these links? Generally, you need to propose a


link swap with another site. That is, you contact the webmaster of another site to which you’d like to be linked, and offer to link to his/her site if s/he will do the same. Short-cuts, such as FFA pages, are generally not the most effective kinds of links – because so many people submit to these sites, individual links may appear for only minutes or even seconds. Also keep in mind that people visit these sites to submit their own links, not to find information.

3. Create an email signature file
Most email programs allow you to create a “signature file,” or text that is automatically attached to each email you send. Including a signature file with your site’s URL makes each email you send a promotional tool.

4. Participate in forums and listservs
There are literally thousands of web-based forums and email listservs out there that allow people with similar interests to communicate. Think of these as electronic mixers where you can network with others in your line of business or your target market. Keep in mind, though, that participants are expected to keep their discussion to the topic of the forum/listserv, and that naked promotion and advertising may be grounds for your expulsion from the group. Most, however, do allow signature files, so use these to promote while you enjoy the conversation and debate with others.

5. Start an ezine
An ezine is simply a web or email-based magazine or newsletter. Ezines can help you stay in touch with existing customers and attract new ones. Many ezines are nothing more than promotional tools, though, so make sure yours actually provides information that your customers want and need. If you don’t have the time or skills to create and manage your own ezine, hire someone to do it for you.

6. Write for other ezines
Even if you don’t want to tackle the challenge of producing your own ezine, many other web and email-based publications accept article submissions. An article in a well-regarded ezine can quickly position you as a name in your field or business. Keep in mind that most ezines don’t pay – rather, they publish a signature file with your article. Of course, your signature file in a widely-circulated ‘zine can do wonders for your website promotion. If you don’t think you have the necessary writing skills, hire a writer who will ghostwrite an article for you.

7. Send press releases to news sites
Just as with more traditional forms of media, web-based news sites rely on press releases for much of their content. A well-written press release can bring you tons of free promotion. If you chose this tactic, make sure that you create a newsworthy release, as thinly-disguised advertising is likely to end up in the recipient’s recycle bin. Also make sure you use standard format and writing style, and send your release only to sites that would be interested in the kind of news you’re submitting.

These tactics are only the tip of the iceberg, of course. With a little creativity, and a knowledge of web etiquette, website promotion can become a challenge rather than a chore.

About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg, Ph.D., is an English professor and freelance business writer. You may contact Jeff at mcintirj@lincolnu.edu

 

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