PROMOTE OR DIE
Thank heavens That's finally done", you contentedly think to yourself as
you sit back in your chair after checking the final link in the brand new
website you've been laboring over day and night for the past three months and
have just uploaded to your web host's server. "Now I can relax."
That's just so CUTE! Actually ... I have a confession to make. That's what I thought when I finished my first website too. I naively assumed that all the search engines indexed every single site on the web automatically and that all I had to do was upload my site and ... voila! Instant traffic. I wish!
It doesn't work like that, sorry. "Build it and they will come", you thought? Uh uh. No. They won't. You and your web host are the only ones who know your site exists and, let's face it, your web host doesn't really care so long as you pay your hosting fees
So, now that your website is officially "out there", the real work of making its presence known can start. And, as you will see, this is a never-ending process so you need a plan and a strategy.
To begin with, you need to do your initial submission work. Once that's done, you need to have a systematic, organized method of ensuring your site continues to draw traffic. Here's how to do it:
CREATE A PROMOTION TOOLKIT
Before you do anything else, create a text file and call it "Promotion Toolkit" or something like that. Enter into this file a list of all of your webpages and set up columns for: Engine/ Directory Submitted To, Date Last Submitted, Next Submission Date. In the same file, create descriptions of varying lengths for your site. I suggest word lengths of 10, 15, 25, 35, 50, 75 and 100. Do the same for the purpose of your site. Later, when you start publishing your own ezine, create descriptions for that too. Also write a website announcement and keep a record of keywords that you think site visitors will enter into the search engine when looking for sites similar to yours.
You will find your Promotion Toolkit to be invaluable when submitting your site to search engines, directories, announcement lists and all the various other places you will be listing your site. By taking the time to create powerful, effective descriptions and announcements, you will save an enormous amount of time when actually submitting your site because you can just copy and paste the information from your Promotion Toolkit.
INITIAL SUBMISSION WORK
There are two major things you need to do initially: submit your site to the major search engines and list it with all the online directories you can find.
=> Submitting to the Search Engines
Your very first task after creating your Promotion Toolkit is to submit your site to all the major search engines. Now, when creating your website you did, of course, first learn about principles of webdesign and the importance of meta tags and the like for search engine positioning, right? If not, I suggest you do this now BEFORE submitting your site. Perhaps the best resource currently available is Ken Evoy's "Make Your Site Sell". If you don't have it, get it.*
There are hundreds of so-called "search engines". In reality, only a handful are worth the effort of securing a decent ranking.
Alta Vista - http://www.altavista.com Excite - http://www.excite.com Hotbot - http://www.hotbot.com Lycos - http://www.lycos.com Web Crawler - http://www.webcrawler.com Yahoo - http://www.yahoo.com
There are a few other major players out there but these are the "big 8".
=> Submitting to the Directories
In addition to search engines, there are hundreds of directories where you should list your site. Space does not permit listing them here so I recommend you visit Virtual Promote, a brilliant site with links to virtually every promotion point on the web today. It will take you a long time to submit to all the directories listed there but just work at it and eventually you'll get there. It's at http://www.virtualpromote.com . It was this site that advised setting up a Promotional Toolkit. One of the best pieces of advice I ever took.
ONGOING PROMOTION AND MAINTENANCE
OK, so you've taken care of your initial submission work. Let's turn now to what you need to do on an ongoing basis to get and keep traffic flowing to your site. Again, space doesn't permit a detailed treatment of all of these strategies. They're intended just as thought starters.
The single most important thing you can do for the long-term viability of your website is create an ezine. This keeps your site uppermost in your readers' minds, reminds them it and you exist, who you are and why they should do business with you. You don't have to make your ezine the central plank of your business as I do. You can, instead, just use it as an adjunct to your website; a way of staying in touch with your site visitors. For a really great site to help you get started, visit Kate Schultz' EzineZ.com - http://www.e-zinez.com .
=> Write Articles
This is an amazingly effective way of generating traffic to your website and subscribers to your ezine. Every time you write an article for your ezine, submit it to the various article databases that exist for this purpose. Other ezine publishers are always on the lookout for good content and if they publish your article (complete with your byline and site details) you will enjoy traffic and subscribers as a result. Some good starting points for article submissions include:
Idea Marketers - http://www.ideamarketers.com Ezine Articles - http://www.ezinearticles.com (another gem from Kate Schultz)
Publish In Yours - mailto:email@example.com Free Content - mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
=> Doorway Pages
These are webpages you create with a specific search engine's algorithms in mind. Essentially, it's a webpage optimized for a particular search engine (configured to meet the search engine's criteria for keyword density, title, description etc.) and submitted to that search engine only. The webpage includes a link to your site.
What happens is that the doorway page, because it can be easily optimized to be attractive to specific search engines, ranks well and therefore the web surfer selects it from the search engine results. The doorway page is called up but immediately diverts the surfer to your main site.
Be aware, though, that the search engines are aware of this practice and some are penalizing for it.
I recommend you bookmark Search Engine Watch to stay abreast of this issue and also to stay current with various search engines' general preferences which seem to change on a daily basis: http://www.searchenginewatch.com .
=> Ezine Advertising/Ad Swaps
Your promotional strategy should also include paid advertising in ezines. If you also publish your own ezine, don't forget to do some ad swapping with other ezine publishers.
=> Free Classifieds and FFA Links
Opinion is divided on how effective placing ads at the free classified sites really is. Personally, I've found that it's not worth the effort, particularly when you consider that by submitting to these sites you become an immediate target for spam. But, others claim to have success with it, so by all means, give it a go.
Some of the most popular sites include:
Yahoo Classifieds - http://classifieds.yahoo.com Adland Pro - http://www.web-source.net/adlandpro.htm
=> Fresh Content
Update your website content frequently to give visitors something to come back for. Invite site visitors to leave you their email address so you can notify them when your site changes.
=> Keyword Bidding
=> Reciprocal Links
Contact webmasters of complementary but not competitive sites and ask if they will swap links with you.
=> Discussion Boards, Newsgroups and Mailing Lists
Constructively participate in discussion boards, newsgroups and mailing lists relevant to the subject matter of your site. Include a link to your site and/or ezine in your sig file.
=> Joint Ventures
Enter into joint ventures with other websites and/or ezines. This could be as simple as cross-promoting each others' ezines on your "Thank You For Subscribing" page or something grander such as getting together to promote a new product or service you have both developed for the purpose.
=> Press Releases
There are several good press release services available. Here's just two:
Canada One, a free interactive press release builder - http://www.canadaone.com/promote/pressrelease.html
Gebbie Press - links to print and electronic media on the Internet http://www.gebbieinc.com
See what I mean about your work just starting? Hopefully you can also see why everyone keeps telling you that you need to spend 80% of your time on marketing!
Running a business online is no different to running a business offline when it comes to marketing and promotion. Both require planning, diligence and application, day in, day out.
That's where the real work of running an online business comes in. It's not the website -- that's necessary but not sufficient. It's your website coupled with hours of work promoting it that makes your business a success.
One without the other will relegate you to the scrapheap of wannabes - all 95% of them. Don't let yourself be one of the 95% who never make it. By getting the foundation (your website) right and then constantly and effectively promoting it using all of the methods outlined in this article (as well as your own brilliant ideas, of course) you stand a very good chance of securing your place among the 5% of online businesses that actually do make it.
About the author:
Elena Fawkner is editor of the award-winning A Home-Based Business Online ... practical home business ideas, resources and strategies for the work-from-home entrepreneur. Subscribe at http://www.fawkner.com/
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