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     An Action Plan For Marketing Your Website

Build it and they will come. That might have worked in 1995 when the web was new, but today that's a fallacy. With more than 3.2 billion web pages competing against yours, if you don't PROMOTE it, no one will come.

Outlined below are some tasks to add to your marketing CHECKLIST. I will begin with the most obvious -- you wouldn't believe how many people don't think of these things -- and will finish with some more advanced techniques that really work.

Although there are automated services that promise to get you listed on thousands of web directories and free-for-all links pages, it is recommended that you MANUALLY submit your site to the top search engines. Be forewarned that it takes weeks (sometimes even months!) to get listed. In addition to the search engines, you should get your site listed in SPECIALTY directories -- this also helps in link popularity. For a directory of thousands of specialty search engines, visit www.searchengineguide.com.

A couple of months ago, I met with a client who launched their web site in 1999. They were discouraged because their site was generating poor traffic. When I asked them if they had added their web address to their stationery and marketing materials, the answer was no. To me, this should be a no-brainer! Include your web ADDRESS on your:
  • answering machine greeting
  • STATIONERY, invoices, and all paper communications
  • fax sheets
  • PRINTED marketing materials (brochures, flyers, cards)
  • phone book listings
  • sales letters
  • UNIFORMS and hats
  • Christmas cards
  • e-mail SIGNATURE file
  • storefront
  • PROMOTIONAL items (mouse pads, mugs, T-shirts, pens)

In my experience, the second most important online marketing strategy (after search engine submissions) is establishing link EXCHANGES. A number of key search engines -- Google being one of them -- rank sites according to the number of high-quality links pointing to them. Establishing reciprocal link partnerships with other web site owners is time-consuming but worth it. There are tools to automate the process of finding and requesting links, but I strongly advise against using them -- some search engines IGNORE automatically-generated links pages. Be picky with whom you choose to link, though. Remember-one high quality link WEIGHS more heavily than dozens of poor quality ones.

In my opinion, a good links page will add VALUE to your web site. It also provides content. There are some people who will argue that providing links to other sites is directing your hard-earned traffic elsewhere. If a visitor leaves your site to visit another site that you recommend, that is certain to leave a positive impression on them. I truly believe a good links page will bring traffic back to your site. If your goal is to rank well in the search engines, I recommend that you put establishing linking partnerships high on your marketing to do list.

Although you might not sell a lot on classified sites, it doesn't hurt to use them -- especially if they're FREE. I've used classified ads in the past and was impressed with the results. For more information, visit Classifieds For Free at www.classifiedsforfree.com.

E-zines are another excellent media for advertising your products and/or services. Advertising in E-zines is relatively inexpensive. The hard part is LOCATING publications to advertise in. Some E-zines have huge, targeted readerships, and obviously, those are the ones you want to be in. For more information, visit The Ezine Ad Auction at www.ezineadauction.com.

The click-through rate on banner ads is low, so you will need to weigh the pros and cons before going this route. On the plus side, web sites that rely on advertisers to stay alive are begging for people to buy ad space. You can probably get it for a BARGAIN -- as compared to a couple of year's ago. If, on the other hand, you're more interested in branding your site versus attracting qualified prospects, you may want to consider a banner EXCHANGE. The plus side is it's free. The negative is that you have no control over the types of banners displayed on your site. In addition, you will probably notice added download time to your web page. For more information, visit the bCentral Banner Network at www.bcentral.com/services/bn/default.asp.

If you haven't already done so, you need to start an OPT-IN e-mail campaign. This is an excellent way to get the names and e-mail addresses of highly qualified prospects and leads. Furthermore, these people are giving you permission to contact them, so they want to hear from you. E-mail is a highly effective way to communicate -- it's fast and it's cheap. Use e-mail to send your clients and prospects your newsletter; friendly reminder notices; information about upcoming sales and promotions, etc.

Managing a mail list is easy with automated LISTSERV software. Once I started using Majordomo to manage my e-mail lists, I noticed an increase in subscriptions. Majordomo makes it easy for people to subscribe and unsubscribe and makes my job easy, because it automates the management of my e-mail lists. There are FREE services that do the same thing as Majordomo, but one word of caution: I used to use Listbot until they went from free to fee-based. I think it's only a matter of time before the other free services follow Listbot's lead, so be careful, because it can be a pain to transfer your list once it's been established.

News groups are great because you learn from the expertise of others. They also provide an opportunity for you to SHARE your knowledge and expertise. I have noticed an increase in traffic when I participate in online forums. For a huge directory of Usenet groups, visit Google Groups (formerly Deja.com) at groups.google.com.

Similar to news groups, mail list messages are delivered DIRECTLY to your in-box. Since some groups are pretty active, I highly recommend subscribing to the digest version (if possible).

As you can see, promoting a web site is hard work. The myth "build it and they will come" is not true anymore. If you build it and then promote it, you will see your TRAFFIC steadily increase and that's good for business.


Joanne is an accomplished Web designer with 20+ years of computing experience. Her diverse business background includes international, marketing, sales and distribution, legal, training and development, accounting, financial services, desktop publishing and Web publishing. Joanne provides Web-based consulting services for the small business sector and the nonprofit community. Joanne may be contacted at www.glasspoole.com or .

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