Promoting your website is vital to its ongoing success and should be a constant process to ensure you get the best results possible. We have listed below 14 tips to help you on the way - many have been discussed before, but we think that they are important enough to revisit:
Links to your site from other sites bring additional traffic, but since Google and other major search engines consider the number of incoming links to your website ("link popularity") as an important factor in ranking, more links will help you rank higher in the search engines, too. As discussed in previous newsletters, Google has introduced a 10-point scale called PageRank (10 is the highest rank) to indicate the quantity and quality of incoming links. All links, however, are not created equal. Links from popular information hubs will help your site rank higher than those from low traffic sites.
1. Request Reciprocal Links. Find complimentary websites and request a reciprocal link to your site. Your best results will be from sites that get a similar amount of traffic to your site. High-traffic site webmasters are too busy to answer your requests for a link and don't have anything to gain. Look for smaller sites that may have linking pages. One warning: Be sure to only link to complimentary sites, no matter how often you are bombarded with requests to exchange links with a "widget" site that has nothing to do with yours. One way Google determines what your site is about is who you link to and who links to you. It's not just links, but quality links you seek.
2. Issue News Releases. Find newsworthy events and send news releases to print and web periodicals in your industry. The links to your site in online news databases may remain for years and have some clout with link popularity. However, opening or redesigning a website is seldom newsworthy these days. Issuing press releases is a traditional promotional strategy, but there are other traditional approaches that can help you as well.
Just because "old media" strategies aren't on the Internet doesn't mean they aren't effective. A mixed media approach can be very effective.
3. Include Your URL on Stationery, Business Cards, and Literature. This is a no-brainer that is sometimes overlooked. Make sure that all reprints of cards, stationery, brochures, and literature contain your company's URL (website address), leaving off the http:// part and including only the www.domain.co.nz part.
4. Promote using traditional media. Don't discontinue print advertising that you've found effective. But be sure to include your URL in any display or classified ads you purchase in trade journals, newspapers, yellow pages, etc. View your website as an information adjunct to the advertisement. Use a two-step approach: (1) capture readers' attention with the advertisement, (2) then refer them to a URL where they can obtain more information and then place an order, book accommodation, use your service etc. Look carefully at small display or classified ads in the back of narrowly-targeted magazines or trade periodicals - sometimes these ads are more targeted, more effective, and less expensive than online advertising. Consider other traditional media to drive people to your site, such as direct mail, classifieds, post cards, etc. TV can be used to promote websites, especially in a local market.
Don't neglect email as an important way to bring people to your website. Just don't spam - that is, don't send bulk unsolicited emails without permission to people with whom you have no relationship - apart from anything else, this is now illegal in New Zealand.
5. Install a "Signature" in your Email Programme to help potential customers get in touch with you. Most email programs allow you to designate a "signature" to appear at the end of each message you send. Limit it to a few lines: Company name, address, phone number, URL, email address (although this isn't necessary as clicking the reply button does this), and a one-phrase description of your unique business offering. Look for examples on email messages sent to you.
6. Publish an Email Newsletter. While it's a big commitment in time, publishing a monthly email newsletter ("ezine") is one of the very best ways to keep in touch with your existing clients, prospects, generate trust, develop brand awareness, and build future business. It also helps you collect email addresses from those who visit your site but aren't yet ready to make a purchase. Ask for an email address and contact name so you can build a database.
If you're just getting started you can use a free advertising-supported newsletter from Yahoo! Groups (www.yahoogroups.com).
7. Send Offers to Your Visitors and Customers. Your own list of customers and site visitors who have given you permission to contact them will be your most productive list. Send offers, coupon specials, product updates, etc. Personalizing the subject line and the message may increase the results. See last month’s newsletter for tips on creating effective newsletters.
8. Promote Your Site in Online Forums and Blogs. The Internet offers thousands of very targeted email based discussion lists, online forums, blogs, and Usenet news groups made up of people with very specialised interests. Use Google Groups or Yahoo! Groups to find appropriate sources to contribute to, or start a group of your own. Don't bother with news groups consisting of pure "spam." Instead, find groups where a serious dialog is taking place. Don't use aggressive marketing and overtly plug your product or service. Rather, add to the discussion in a helpful way and let the "signature" at the end of your email message do your marketing for you. People will gradually get to know and trust you, visit your site, and do business with you.
9. Announce a Contest. People like getting something free. If you publicise a contest, you'll generate more traffic than normal. If you are going to run a contest, check to see first that what you are intending to do is legal. Prizes should be designed to attract individuals who fit a demographic profile similar to your best customers. Make it compulsory for those entering your contest to “sign-up” on your mailing list – just another way to increase your client/potential client database.
10. Ask Visitors to Bookmark Your Site. It seems so simple, but make sure you ask visitors to bookmark your site or save it in their Favorites list. (We can add script to any pages of your website to make this easier for your visitors)
11. Exchange Ads with Complimentary Businesses. Banner exchange programs don't work well these days, but consider exchanging email newsletter ads with complimentary businesses to reach new audiences. Just be sure that your partners are careful where they get their mailing list or you could be in trouble with the new anti-spam laws.
12. Devise Viral Marketing Promotion Techniques. So-called viral marketing uses the communication networks (and preferably the resources) of your site visitors or customers to spread the word about your site exponentially - word-of-mouth, PR, creating "buzz," and network marketing are offline models. An example of this would be to write articles which others could use in their newsletters - this is a viral approach. The classic example is the free email service, hotmail.com, that includes a tagline about their service at the end of every message sent out, so friends tell friends, who tell friends.
Paid Advertising Strategies
None of the approaches described above is "free," since each takes time and energy. But if you want to grow your business more rapidly, there comes a point when you need to pay for increased traffic. Advertising is sold in one of three ways: (1) traditional CPM (cost per thousand views), (2) pay per click (PPC), and (3) pay per action, otherwise known as an affiliate program or lead generation program. Do some small tests first to determine response. Then calculate your return on investment (ROI) before spending large amounts. Here are some methods:
13. Buy a Text Ad in an Email Newsletter. Some of the best buys are small text ads in email newsletters targeted at audiences likely to be interested in your products or services. Many small publishers aren't sophisticated about advertising and offer attractive rates. Banner ads get such a low click-through rate (0.2%) these days so you shouldn’t pay too much for them.
14. Purchase Pay Per Click (PPC) ads with Yahoo Search Marketing and Google AdWords. The top ads appear as featured links to the right of "natural" search engine results for your keywords. Your ranking is determined by how much you've bid for a particular search word compared to other businesses. This can be a cost-effective way to get targeted traffic, since you only pay when someone actually clicks on the link. Pay Per Click advertising can be quite cost-effective when you learn how to use it.
We certainly haven't exhausted ways to promote your site, but these suggestions should help. To effectively market your site, you need to spend some time adapting these strategies to your own market and capacity.
Go through all of the suggestions above and try to apply as many of them as you can to your own website marketing strategy.