Without promotion, something terrible happens
Think about New Years Eve, midnight. Think about billions of bits of confetti falling from the sky. Now, write an ad on a few dozen or hundred or thousand pieces of paper and throw them into the air with the rest. That's what it's like to advertise on the internet.
Trying to make your product, service or web site known to the rest of the internet community can be very, very frustrating. Not only making it known, but getting visitors to actually visit the site can be downright annoying.
When advertising on the internet, I have several quick rules of thumb. These are not cast in concrete, but they seem to serve me very well.
Rule number one is "people use search engines, and to get them to your site you MUST show up in the top 50 or so listings for your keywords in all of the major search engines". Period. Nothing else will build traffic faster than getting listed in a search engine.
Rule number two is "concentrate a lot of steady effort on getting your links on other sites". This is an excellent, although very time consuming, way to build steady, permanent increases in traffic. Not only that, but Google (and other search engines) base much of their ranking system on the number and "quality" of links to a site.
My third rule of thumb is "start free and stay free unless you've got a very good reason to pay for advertising". There are many, many ways to get free advertising on the web. I've found very little reason to pay for submission services, email lists, banner exchanges or anything else to advertise my site.
There are many ways to get traffic to your site, and it's more-or-less worthwhile to pursue all of them. You can explore some of the following.
The domain name - Look for and find a great domain name, one that people actually type. I've got some of these, and they can generate far more traffic alone than any search engine. If you can get hold of something that is commonly used in the address bar, then you've got it made! And it's only $8.95 to try ...
Email campaigns - Targeted email campaigns are an awesome way to get traffic to a site. The traffic from a mailing does not last long (a few days at most), but the spike in hits can be huge. The advantage of this method is if the campaign is very well targeted then your visitors will be almost "pre-sold".
Newsletters - If your web site does not have a newsletter coming out at least monthly, then you are missing a huge promotional technique. You see, if someone likes your site they will sign up for a newsletter. Why? Because they want to know when you've added more material and they need to know what you have to say. The wise web-marketer will feed this need.
Free content - You want to build a steady flow of traffic that puts the search engines to shame? Give away content. Some webmasters create web graphics, which you can use at will for a return link. Others (like myself) write articles which anyone can put on their site as long as the four like signature is included. Some even have little java applets or other doodads which, again, can be included for a link. The massive advantage of this type of promotion is YOU DON'T HAVE TO LINK BACK. They have to link to you, but you don't have to link to them. Thus, there is no PR (Google) risk at all, and you don't have to mess with those awful links pages which no one ever looks at.
Ebooks - Another great way to promote a site is to create an electronic book. Make the book available to all for download or distribution. Include lots of links to your site. If the book is any good, you will have a massive number of visitors as a result in no time.
Exchanging links - Link exchanges are a good way to build traffic, although not as great as they once were. The problem is that most surfers have given up on checking out the links on "links pages", especially if it is obvious. Be EXTREMELY careful to avoid programs which look like a link farm, such as the very popular Zeus and Links To You programs. Google and other search engines will actually reduce the ranking and has been rumored to even ban sites which are members of link farms.
Banner programs - I've found these to be virtually worthless. Sometimes a very well designed or targeted banner can cause some traffic, but be careful spending any money here.
Rings - In years past, Rings were a good way to build steady, consistent traffic. In the modern era, ignore the temptation to have anything to do with these. They are worthless. See So you want to be a ringmaster? for more information.
Major Search Engines - An excellent way to build traffic fast but they tend to be fickle. I've had sites appear overnight only to disappear a week later. You must continually monitor your listings in these engines.
Directories - Get you site listed in as many as possible. At the very least, get a listing in Yahoo and DMOZ (Google uses both of these directories to seed it's own indexes.) DMOZ is free, and you can get listed in Yahoo without charge, although it is faster and easier sometimes just to pay the few hundred bucks to get reviewed within a couple of decades.
Minor search engines - Get listed in them all if you can. Use an automated submission technique but DO NOT submit multiple times to the major engines as this may get you removed for spamming. Traffic is minor but steady.
Email lists - very good for building traffic. You should always have a list for your site so visitors get a constant reminder to come back. Also if you can add articles to other email newsletters in exchange for your link appearing than do so as this can create traffic quickly.
Newsgroups - Don't explicitly advertise as this is spamming. There are newsgroups for advertising but the return tends to be low. What you can do is make a signature (4 lines or so) and post useful messages and replies. I've found this does create some traffic, although it's not huge and it's limited in duration.
Email - Careful here as spam is on everyone's mind. Can build some traffic. Your own newsle tter is a great way to go, as are email lists.
Awards - Apply for as many as you can for your site. You will win some. The bigger ones will generate lots of traffic. The smaller ones will cause an occasional hit but are a good ego boost at least. SeeSo you want to run an awards program? for a series of articles about this subject.
Press Releases - These can be costly but they can also be very effective. If you can get listed in a major newspaper or web site, you may very well see your traffic go through the roof.
Contests - Run a contest of some kind on your web site, promote the contest, and you will see your hits climb.
Viral Marketing - Check out some of these viral marketing techniques. This is defined as getting others to promote for you in a subtle but effective way.
Message boards, newsgroups and forums - A sure fire way to get traffic is to occasionally post relevant data to message boards, newsgroups and forums. If you include your URL in a signature line people will visit your site to find out more about you and what you have to offer.
Giveaways - - Give away a freebie on your web site. An ebook or some such thing makes a perfect thing to give to people. Generally, it's a good idea to exchange the free item for adding their email address to your mailing list.
Signing Guestbooks - Used properly, signing other peo ple's guestbook's can bring a number of visitors to your site. Always say something nice and comment positively on their site. No direct advertisement is needed, just leave your URL in the place provided or in the message as a signature. See Let the webmaster know what you think of his site and Netiquette - Guestbook Entries for more information.
Weblogs - Also known as blogs, these can be great ways to promote your site. They allow you to write editorials and articles which reference your site but in a way which you perhaps would not normally do.
Affiliate programs - Got a product to sell? Create an affiliate program and promote that. You will quickly find your links on other web sites promoting your program.
Conferences and the like - Be sure and visit as many conferences (locally is best) as you can, and bring some pens or coffee mugs with your URL engraved on it. Give these away liberally at the conferences.
FFAs - generally not very worthwhile as your links fall off the lists too quickly. Use an automated submission program or service - don't waste a second with manual submissions. It's also critical to remember to never, ever use your primary email account to submit to these. Your email box will be flooded with so many messages you will want to scream.
Creating FFA pages - This allows you to send confirmation emails to people who add links. A very poor way to build traffic as anyone with a brain sends these messages to an email account which is just ignored.
My basic operating procedure is (a) examine statistics, (b) try something and then (c) reexamine statistics. For example, let's say you want to add your site to a Ring. Record your statistics for a couple of days. Add the site. Then compare. In this case, you'll also want to look at the statistics for referring sites to see if the Ring shows up. If it worked, great. If not, that's okay also. You just want to get a feel for what's working and what's not so you know where to put your time, effort and possibly money.
Also remember that your site is more than just a homepage. In actuality, you have dozens, hundreds or even thousands of pages, each of which is a potential entry point. Make sure each one of them advertises your site, links back to the home page and is complete within themselves. You can also run multiple advertising experiments with your site by using the different pages.
One of the really great things about the internet is how automatic it all can be. Many of these advertising techniques are of the "set it up and forget it" variety. Add a site to a Ring, then forget about it. Visitors will be drawn to your site from now on. Maybe not many, but you do not need to put in any more effort to get those visitors after your site is added.
Some things, however, require constant vigilance. Search engines top this list. You can easily fall off a search engine, so you must constantly (weekly perhaps) check your ranking in each of the major engines.
In a nutshell, use statistics. Monitor your progress. Set up as much automated advertising as you can. Initially concentrate at least half of your efforts on search engines, then once you are listed concentrate on setting up link exchanges with other similar sites. Don't forget the other avenues for advertising, though, as all of them have some kind of payoff.
The secrets of how to advertise your web site You've worked hard and long to create a beautiful, hopefully profitable web site. Now, how to you get people to visit it? You must advertise it! You can enter it in search engines, FFA lists, award programs, Rings, email lists, and newsgroup signatures.
Autoresponders Be sure that an email is sent out whenever possible to acknowledge any submission by your visitors. An autoresponder is perfect for this.
Thank you or confirmation autoresponders When you visitors apply for something, submit a poll, sign up for anything or give you their email address for any reason, be sure to send a thank you confirmation email.
Autoresponder services Here is a list of autoresponder services which can help you generate return traffic. Autoresponder technology automatically follows up with your visitors, which reduces the amount of labor you need to perform to get them back to your site or to make a sale.
Include your URL on anything you print One very effective way to advertise your site is to be sure that your web site address is printed on everything you have including business cards, stationery and even pencils.
Send out an email newsletter Be sure to send out a monthly (or even weekly) newsletter to visitors to your site.
FFAs Add your links to an FFA for additional exposure of your web site
Link Exchange can improve your hit count Exchange links with a site of similar tastes or subject to gain additional exposure.
Link Exchange Services Should you simplify your life by using link exchange services? I would not recommend it.
Quality Link Exchanges If you are going to create a link exchange, be sure you have the correct motive and do a good job.
Is Zeus A Good Product For Building A Link Exchange? There is a product with a great idea. It's called Zeus and it's supposed to automatic link exchanges. Is it worth the money and time?
Why Do People Link To Sites? There are lots of reasons why people will link to sites. Here are some of the more common ones.
How to get links to your site A long article which ideas and information about getting links to your site.
Put a signature on your emails and increase traffic Be sure you have a signature file for email and newsgroups so that every person who receives a communication from you also gets an advertisement of your site.
Target your signatures to the appropriate audience Be sure your email signature targets the audience of your email message for maximum effect.
Using Signatures An accepted way to promote your website is with email signatures.
Send out some press releases to get even more exposure Put together qua lity press releases whenever you can and email them to every online publication and newsletter as you can.
Submit your site to awards sites to get more exposure Submit your site to award sites to get more exposure. While many webmasters have doubts about their value, winning awards can boost your ego, improve your traffic and impress your visitors.
The ins and outs of banner advertising Join a free or for pay banner exchange program to get people to visit your site.
Popup Advertisements - Good or Bad? Okay, so you are considering using popup advertising on your website. Is this wise?
Banner Creation You have many tools available to create banners
Banner Sizes Here are the standard sizes for the various banners. This is a general agreement among advertisers.
Banner Tips This page includes some tips to help you with your banner campaigns.
You Can Do Better Than Banner Exchanges Think you want to join a banner exchange to get people to visit your site? Think again.
Use bulk emails with caution You can send out bulk emails if you want. Usually this is for pay, often just a small fee.
Use site submission services wisely to improve your traffic You should use site submissions services wisely to generate more traffic to your sites
Watching and Posting to Newsgroups Create a list of newsgroups that you watch on a regula r basis and respond to postings to those groups.
Autoresponders You've received them, probably without even knowing it. Now you will learn what they are good for.
What Good is an Autoresponder? A term that confuses just about everyone is "autoresponder". When I mention that to friends or associates, they almost always reply with a blank stare, a "what the heck is that", or "I don't like those at all". Even though the concept is very simple, autoresponders are very, very powerful if properly used.
Attributes Of A Good Autoresponder This is a list of some of the things that you should demand from a good paid autoresponder.
The autoresponder course Do you want your visitors to come back to your site again and again? How about offering an autoresponder course?
Ezine Tips Want to get your visitors back to your site over and over? Create an ezine, publish it regularly and have fun.
Ezine Tips - Format and structure You want to create an ezine? Here is a list of some of the decisions that you need to make.
Ezine Tips - Titles One of the most important things about a ezine is the title. This determines whether or not it will be read at all.
Ezine Tips - Creating Your Own The most valuable people you can get are those that come back to your web site time after time. And one good way to get them back is with an email newsletter.
Ezine Tips - Hosting Your Ezine Where you host your ezine is important. You want to spend your time creating your ezine, not handling the mechanics of the list.
Message Boards A way to make a very sticky site is to have an active message board
Message Boards - Moderator The best message boards are wonderfully and expertly moderated. The worst are frequented by nothing but spam robots.
Message Boards - Contributor Message boards thrive on contributions. In fact, without contributors there is no board at all.
Message Boards - Ethics Nothing is more sad than a once proud message board being reduced to rubble by a malicious moderator.
Message Boards - Promotion Message boards are very useful in getting people to return to your site, but they must be promoted in order to be of maximum benefit.
Advertising on Message Boards Afraid to use a message board to promote your site? There are ways to do it, but there are some rules you need to follow.
Why Would You Add A Message Board To Your Site? You want people to come back to your site over and over? Give them lots of ways to communicate and they may return more often.
Message Board Spamming Some people consider message boards to be just another way to promote their products and sites. Moderators cal l it spamming.
Submit your site to search engines Be sure to submit your web site to as many search engines as you can.
Are The Search Engines Censoring The Internet? It seems everyone wants to be listed in the search engines. However, the are apparently some concessions to be made.
The Problem With Search Engines Search engines are the most used and least trusted way to find information on the web. Use them to promote your site, but be sure and build up other ways for people to get to you.
Use ROBOTS.TXT to control search engine indexing You can use ROBOTS.TXT to keep search engines from indexing parts of your site
Cloaking Want to get your site thrown out of the search engines for good. If so, then by all means use cloaking to manipulate yoru search engine rankings.
Search Engine Spamming Using somewhat questionable techniques, you can force your site to be higher in the rankings, and thus get more traffic. That is, until you get caught...
Domain Name Spamming You can artificially raise your site in the search listings by manipulating your site's domain name.
Guestbook spamming Some unethical companies and webmasters perform mass postings to thousands or even millions of guestbooks to gain pagerank.
Log File Spamming Some webmasters leave reports of their hits (including referrers) open to public viewing. This can be used to unethically raise a site in search engine rankings.
Unless otherwise noted, all photos and text is Copyright © Richard G Lowe, Jr.