Marketing Your Web Site

This document covers the various techniques of marketing your Web site. Another covers the specifics of successfully submitting your Web site to search engines, which the main document covers only briefly. Keep in mind that it can take time to get your Web site noticed. As with anything, name recognition will help these other efforts. These documents are for the use of InstaNet members only. InstaNet and the author of these documents reserve all rights and copyrights. These documents may not be duplicated, retransmitted or reproduced in any way without written permission from InstaNet and it's author.

There are a few guidelines in marketing you Web site. Hopefully, your site will take care of the rest.

The basic idea behind these marketing ideas is to accomplish three things:

A: Attract people to the site
B: Attract them back again
C: Steer them to your order form

Some generalized issues that apply to all of the topics below: Content is king. Make the information on your site valuable. Know your audience and target group and adapt your marketing plan to them. You donít want to try to sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Do not make false claims or promises. Do not overwhelm people with multiple e-mails, newsgroup messages, advertisements, etc.

Answer your e-mail promptly. Promote sub-pages of your site which cover specific topics in addition to your home page. Try to be to the point, keeping your text from rambling, but try to answer common questions since people will go to your site to have their questions answered. Last, this process is a time-consuming task. It will take you hours upon hours to do everything here, and days to research and enter the information into all of the available search engines. This will truly be a process where the more you put into it, the more you will get back. For purposes of examples, I will be using a site that sells computers throughout both documents.

1: Make your site interesting and other basics.

Make your home pagesí title a catchy one that contains the purpose of the page. Quite a few search engines use your title as the link line in the listing or as a description. To let people know what you have on that page, you want it clear, concise and up front. What you lose in flash, you gain in clarity. This will help your potential visitors trying to wade through screens and screens of listings.

Use graphics to illustrate your site, but not be the focus. Use the graphics to guide the eye to your important points. Try to keep the graphics under 20k so there is a minimal wait time for the pictures to appear. Keep the information on your home page clear and easy to understand. Keep it easy to access, simple to navigate and find information on your site.

Provide valuable information and plenty of it. Strive to create a valued presence on the Internet, be the resource for information in its field. In our computer store premise, you might choose to publish detailed instructions on how to streamline your computer, something only tangentially related to computer users and hopefully your customers, but is of great interest to Internet users.

Everything else aside, quality content will do more for your Web site than all the bells, whistles and flashy graphics.

2. Get listed on search engines

Youíve been there. You go to a search engine, enter your topic and get back a list of close to a million sites. The last thing you want when you are listed on that search engine is to be at the end of that list.

Last count, there were more than 400 different search engines and each one of them handles your submission differently. Many of them are specialized and only list Web sites on specific topics, like sports or travel.

First, get listed on the big 10 search engines: Yahoo, Excite!, AltaVista, Infoseek, Magellan, Lycos, HotBot, WebCrawler, OpenText and MetaCrawler. Make sure the path name you are entering is valid. You also want to make sure you have Meta Names listed in the code of your Web site. Then, search out which engines specifically cover the subject matter of your site and get listed there.

Make sure you use complete sentences in the copy on your Web page. Some search engines disregard sentence fragments. On the other hand, use incomplete sentences if you donít want the text indexed by the search engine.

Add keywords to the very top of your homepage. Bury META tags on each of your pages. Do not open your page with an image map, since some search engines only look at the top of your page. If you must open with an image map, use an ALT tag to hopefully provide some information.

Since most of the larger search engines will want to know a genre for your site, give some thought to the categories you want to be listed under. Also, consider the geographical nature of your site. Can you ship the computer anywhere or do hand deliver it only to Los Angeles area customers? Donít assume a category (i.e. Computers) means the same thing on every directory. Take time to look within the directory until you find the subcategory most appropriate for your site. If you find organizations similar to yours, you're most likely in the right place. Canít find an appropriate category, suggest a new one to the search engine.

If you donít see your listing appear within the time frame noted on the search engineís application page, re-list it. List it as many times as it takes. Write e-mail to the search engineís company asking why youíre not listed. Donít take no for an answer, be persistent. Try to get a personal contact with someone at each search engine. If you donít like where you end up being listed, send e-mail. HotBot, for instance, supplies you with the bug@hotbot.com address to write.

Re-list your site whenever you make changes to it. Add new keywords and descriptions. If one of your pages you previously listed no longer exists, find the Dead Link forms to remove it from the database.

It is our experience that placing your submissions individually by hand to each of the search engines works better and you will get better results. This is how we do it here (we charge $90 for 100 listings). There are companies that do it automatically, like http://www.submit-it.com, but we donít recommend them, although some experts believe doing both may be beneficial. Read the information on each individual search engine to determine if they have a policy about the same URL being listed multiple times Ė you donít want them to remove all your listings.

Do not make it your goal to appear in the top ten list of every search engine. This would not only be a very difficult task, but would most likely end in disappointment. You are guaranteed to have varying success with different search engines due to the variables that play a role in every search listing.

I have quite a bit more detailed and technical information on search engine techniques. Click here to view the second document..

3. Seek out reciprocal links

Reciprocal links can be the best, and cheapest, way to get your name out into the world. There is no specific set of instructions for this, but requires some work. Basically, talk to the people you do business with, your friends, anyone with a Web page. Send e-mail to related sites. Create an interesting "button" to provide to the other sites. In exchange for putting this button/link to your site on their site, you place a link to their site on your site. Believe it or not, this method often creates more traffic than the search engines, so don't ignore it. There are marketing companies which will oversee linking programs for you, but it can be more effective to do it yourself. Two companies that will orchestrate links for you are:
http://www.linkexchange.com
http:/www.bannerswap.com

4. Investigate bulk e-mailing lists

There are a number of companies that specialize in sending large quantities of e-mail. Hopefully, they maintain their lists so people who have requested removal from their list, have been. This can be a very inexpensive way of getting your site out there. Some people will react negatively to the junk mail, even to the point of flooding you mail, but reputable dealers should have removed the complainers already. Do not send e-mail indiscriminately to large numbers of people.

There are a number of things you want to remember when you create your e-mail letter. Keep in mind that the letter you send out through the USPS does not work well online. First, instead of long-winded appeals, keep your letter short and "catchy." Use clever pitches and fit them on one screen or less. Next, keep the message personal. Avoid using long cc: mailing lists. Be clear and concise so you donít try the readerís patience (which is generally quite short online). Send people to your Web site where you can woo them with sound and color.

5. Use your URL and e-mail address on everything - EVERYTHING

Business cards, advertising, letterhead, e-mail, product packaging, collateral, on T-shirts, on the wall, bumper stickers, billboards, your forehead.... anywhere and everywhere.

6. Change your page often

Give people a reason to come back to your site. Let them know you are constantly updating the site, adding new features, content, specials, links, pictures, cool JAVA or ActiveX stuff, whatever, just get them coming back.

7. Offer online specials or coupons, to help track the leads and create incentive to purchase

As with any marketing effort, it is essential to know where your advertising dollars are doing the most good. In turn, you also what to know where your customers are coming from. An easy way to do this is to offer Web specials or coupons the visitor can print out.

8. Offer a guest book for people to leave their e-mail address

If nothing else, you will build a mailing list. Offer some incentive to those that do sign your guest book, like a discount or freebie. Once you have an e-mail list, do not abuse it.

9. Banners, specific to target

Place advertising banners on other sites. A number of companies can help you with this.

You may want to consider the following guidelines when advertising on the Internet:
1: Target a specific audience. Why waste money trying to sell ice to Eskimos?
2: Make the information on your site valuable. Give people a reason to visit and return.
3: Always update the information. Another reason to return.

You need to know your audience. When you target that audience, your advertising will be more coast effective. You will also be able to speak to the needs and desires of that specific audience.

10. Post announcements about your web page in related newsgroups.

If your web page is related to computers, post an announcement in the computer newsgroups. Do not advertise indiscriminately to newsgroups. Be sure to read the group's FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and understand the nature and scope of the group or list before posting. Many readers of these groups can become quite irritated by people who don't normally read the group and post strictly for their own commercial benefit. Please, keep your announcements relevant to the newsgroup topic. There are also a number of newsgroups dedicated to more generalized topics like new business, interesting Web sites and the like which you also will want to post your announcement.

11: Send out press releases to general and subject-related media.

Include who, what, when and where in the first paragraph. Verify spelling and grammer. The last thing you want to do is force an editor to rewrite your copy.

12: Use free classified ad listings.

Every one of these Free Classifieds Sites is effectively operational and responsive as of 5-20-97. There are many more sites that have Free Classified Ads, but I have eliminated many that do not maintain their site well or generate significant traffic. Note: A couple of these sites charge after an initial free period. Although most of these sites have no strings attached, to prevent problems, please make sure you understand each offer.
http://www.gatewayads.com/index.html
http://www1.clearlight.com/~abotaleb/classifieds/index.html
http://www.netimages.com/classifieds.html
http://peoplesmarket.com/
http://www.americanet.com/Classified
http://www.inetexchange.com/submit.htm
http://www.icemall.com/allabout/links.html
http://www.1second.com//index.htm
http://ep.com/
http://www.jetcity.com/~perfect/welcome.html
http://www.freeclassifieds.com/
http://webcom.com/abc/abchome.html
http://www.dollarads.com
http://www.bargain-classifieds.com
http://www.comcorner.com/
http://www.icemall.com/allabout/links.html


I hope you have found these ideas useful. For more information on marketing your Web site, you can find dozens (if not hundreds) of documents using any of the large search engines. If you have specific questions, feel free to send me a note: richm@instanet.com.