11 ways to market your site – Internet/Web/Online Service Information
Victoria Hall Smith
Our Web Experts Show How Prospects Can Find You Online
With thousands of new Web sites popping up each month, you’re probably wondering how to effectively market your business’s Web presence. How do you ensure that potential customers find your site as they surf along? We tapped the wisdom of three Internet experts for ideas that will help you stand out in the crowd. Our Web gurus include Richard Seltzer, a Boston-based Internet marketing consultant and coauthor of The AltaVista Search Revolution (Osborne/McGraw-Hill). Our second authority, Vince
Emery, is the best-selling author of How to Grow Your Business on the Internet (Coriolis Group Books) and runs his own Web site at www.emery.com. Finally, we queried Gautam Godhwani who helped found Register It!; one of a growing number of online registration services. Together, these three came up with the following 11 suggestions to get the word out on your Web site.
Register with search engines. Most Internet marketing experts offer the same advice: Start marketing your site to potential customers by registering–or seeding–your site with as many search engines, directories, newsgroups, and mailing lists as possible. “The first thing to remember about Web page marketing,” says Seltzer, “is that people usually find you through a search engine.” Some of the most popular search engines include AltaVista (www.altavista. dec.com), Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com), Excite (www.excite.com), and Lycos (www.lycos.com).
Some sites, like Yahoo!, make it easy with an Add URL button right in their banner. (URL stands for universal resource locator, or your Web address.) You can expect a two-to three-week delay from time of registration to time of inclusion in most search engines.
Automate registration. Rather than devoting hours to finding all of the available search engines .and directories, use Internet resources. FreeLinks (www.freelinks.com) is one such site that lists the location of registration forms for hundreds of search sites.
Sites such as Submit It! (www.submit-it.com) offer free one-stop registration services. At these locations, you fill out one form, push .the Submit button, and off goes your registration to numerous search engines. Since each search engine has its own unique form, however, many will reject your application. Postmaster (www.netcreations.com/post master) and Godhwani’s Register It! (www.register-it.com) offer do-it-yourself registration via customized forms for individual search and directory sites.
Although his advice is self-serving, Godhwani makes an important recommendation. Look for a registration service that offers selective registration, since not all directories or lists will fit your needs. “Also,” he advises, “make sure they offer reregistration and continuous register services.” You’ll want to reregister your site each time you add a new focus. At the same time, a continuous register service will register your site with new search engines, directories, and list services as they come along.
Classify your company. The first question on all search-engine registration forms is the same: In which category do you want your resource listed? Some allow you to be listed in only two or three categories, so carefully consider how you should best identify your business. To guarantee that others would classify your business the same way, ask an associate or consultant to describe your business’s product or service. When filling out the form, list as many categories as the form will allow, being careful to prioritize the list with the most obvious ones first.
Name and describe your site. Most search tools ask for the title of your site and a brief description (which often goes into a comments box). Since this is the information most engines will search in response to a potential customer’s query, these are the most important boxes on any form. Type up the material in a text document from which you can cut and paste the information into the forms. Tap your existing marketing materials for descriptions of your business.
Develop keywords. Emery stresses that you also need to compile a list of keywords and phrases that prospective visitors would use most often to find you. “Use those keywords and phrases in the titles of your pages and the brief two-sentence descriptions,” advises Emery.
Again, ask colleagues and friends what words they would use to search for your business online. Some engines, such as InfoSeek (www.infoseek.com), warn that using keywords more than seven times on one Web page will cause the description to be ignored, so use them carefully or if you want to repeat a word continuously for graphic effect–turn the text into a graphic file. “You’ll also need to keep in mind how each search engine handles capitalization of letters, plurals, and singulars” Emery advises, “because some engines would not show listings for CHICAGO if you entered Chicago.”
Anticipate robots. Many search engines send out electronic robots to gather the latest information about Web sites. Our experts suggest revising your home page to make sure those robots retrieve the correct information about your site. AltaVista, for instance, only searches for text, ignoring colorful graphics and animation. It also ignores pages with little or no text.
“Never start your page with a registration form or questionnaire,” warns Seltzer, “because the search robots will pass right over you.” Also, search engines may direct visitors to a page deep in your site. So make sure every page on your site has a link to your home page and clearly identifies your firm with contact information.
Add your URL to your company materials. Wherever possible, add “visit our Web site at www.mycompany.com” to any documents on your firm. Make sure that your Web address is on all of your stationery, business cards, ads, newsletters, or anywhere else your phone number appears.
Create a sig file. Include your Web address in every e-mail message you send out. Many e-mail programs allow you to create a signature (or sig) file that provides your contacts with your e-mail address and phone number in one handy location. Add your Web address and you’ll promote your site with every e-mail you send.
Announce your site. Send out a press release announcing your Web site to your mail and e-mail lists. Also send it to such traditional outlets as local newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, as well as to newsletters and associations that service your target customers. If your site has broad appeal, send the release to sites such as CNET (www.cnet.com) and NetGuide (www.netguide.com) that review Web sites.
Cross-link to other sites. Cross-promotion with noncompetitive sites that have similar appeal helps increase traffic to your site. Search for compatible services or products and contact the site’s manager about swapping links. The Internet Link Exchange (www.linkexchange.com) is a service that helps you exchange links and banners for free with fellow members.
Buy software. As you would expect, software can help with the tedious task of marketing your site. PowerSolutions’s www. SitePromoter (800-955-3337, www. sitepromoter.com; $129) and WebPost (617-275-0930, www.webpost96.com; $59.95) list your Web address with top search engines and directories. These products prompt you for specific information needed to register with search engines and directories and follow up later to verify that you’re showing up properly. PowerSolutions’s www.SitePromoter covers 150 listing services while WebPost sends your information to more than 50 services.
The former producer of PCTV VICTORIA HALL SMITH finds small companies via the Web from Grantham, New Hampshire.
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