Now that you've taken the time to create a Web site, you've got to get people to visit it. Many businesses invest in a great Web site, then neglect to market it! To be effective, a Web site must be integrated into a full-scale marketing program. Remember, the Internet may be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of marketing, but it is not marketing itself.
There are 2 general methods for marketing your Web site: offline techniques and online tactics.
Offline Marketing Techniques
Print and Other Advertising. Include your Web site address on all your other advertising. This seems obvious, but many people forget. Catch readers' attention with traditional marketing tactics, and then refer them to a Web page where they can obtain more information, or perhaps place an order. Tell the reader or listener why they should check out your on-line presence; give them a benefit for finding your page (i.e. helpful information or a discount that they can't find out about any other way). Make it easy for them to check you out-display your address on everything including all business stationery, specialty items, and advertising.
- For example:
business cards, newspapers, newsletters
letterhead ,fax cover sheets, bumper stickers
flyers, brochures, envelope stuffers
mouse pads, note pads, professional journals
coffee cups, disk holders, disk labels
note holders, school programs, sports programs
keyboard covers, shopping bags, trade magazines
trade magazines, direct mail pieces, placemats
church bulletins, sports programs, voice mail message
News Releases and Direct Mail. Find newsworthy events (such as launching a contest or free service on your web page), and send news releases to print media. Also, send out post cards to your customer or prospect list that includes your Web address and discusses how visitors will benefit from your site.
Articles. Write articles for traditional print media or for one or more of the thousands of new online publications. Use what you know about your business to be the expert that many people are looking for. Include your Web site address in your by-line to direct readers where to go for further information or services.
Measuring Success. A key to creating a successful Web site is evaluating results and making changes accordingly. One way to measure success is to analyze usage statistics. You can install your own 'hit counter' software or purchase counter/tracking services from your Web hosting service provider. If you find out that your site is not receiving very many hits or not attracting your target market, try some of the following online marketing tactics.
Online Tactics for Marketing
There are a variety of methods to employ when marketing your site online-from tactics to help browsers find your site to strategies to keep them coming back:
Descriptions and Keywords. Often, search services, indexes and cyber malls require you to describe your business in about 20 words. Invest the time to create an attention-getting description. This is a one-sentence description of who you are, what you do, and why people should visit your page. You've got 15-20 words. Use them! Also, compile a list of 15-25 keywords to help people find you. These are words you think people are likely to enter in a search request. An accountant might have a string that started with: "Accounting, bookkeeping, records, taxes,..."
First Words on Page. The first few seconds a page downloads are critical, and a short statement of what you do will download faster that most images. First impressions count! And again, search engines can catalog a brief but exciting description of your business, but they won't catalog your pretty picture.
Search Engines. Literally hundreds of Internet search engines make it possible for surfers to enter keywords and find Web sites of interest. Make sure your information gets found by those you want to reach by submitting to search tools repeatedly. While many of the major search engines (e.g. Yahoo!, Lycos, Infoseek, and AltaVista) will eventually find and catalog your web page, you will get quicker results if you let them know of your existence rather than waiting for them to find you. Re-submit after every change to your site or any time you suspect fewer people are finding you. Search the Web for sites that offer to make the submission process easier and faster for you-some are do-it-yourself sites and some are pay-for-service sites. Your Web hosting service may also offer this as a service.
Links. One of the best ways to increase traffic, and to target specific audiences, is to trade links with other sites that attract a similar audience. Many sites have a page dedicated to 'Favorite Links' which lists links to other sites that visitors will find interesting, and that have agreed to also list a reciprocal link. Trade associations often feature member sites-ask for a link. Even if you have to pay for a link, it may bring you the kind of targeted traffic you need. Note: When listing links on your site, put them in an out-of-the-way place, so you don't send people out the back door as fast as you bring them in the front door!
Contests, Free Services, Daily Updates. Give visitors a reason to come back-have something of value that changes often. Give your visitors something they can learn, do, or enjoy each time they visit. Let them sign up for your newsletter, post a Joke of the Day, daily quote or tip of the week. Or offer a free service that is closely related to what you are selling (e.g. an online mortgage calculator). Publicizing a contest or drawing available on your site can also generate more traffic. Also, offer coupons to print off and bring in to your retail location.
E-mail Marketing. Collect visitor e-mail addresses and request permission to send updates or an e-mail newsletter. By asking permission, your e-mails are not 'spam'; you are simply responding to a request for more information. You can also allow visitors to subscribe on the Web site to your e-mail newsletter by using a listserv program, if this is offered by your Web hosting service. There are also many free or low-cost e-mail list services on the Web if your Web host does not offer this service.
Signature Files. Most e-mail programs allow you to designate a 'signature' to appear at the end of each e-mail message you send. Include your Web site address in this signature file. You may also include your company name and contact information, as well as a one-phrase description of your unique business offerings.
Mailing Lists and News Groups. The Internet offers thousands of very targeted mailing lists and news groups made up of people with specialized interests. Find a group where a dialogue is taking place about something related to your business. Most of these lists/groups have rules about 'spamming', so 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 file at the end of your e-mail message do your marketing for you.
Banner Ads. You may consider spending money to boost traffic by purchasing banner advertising on someone else's Web site. There are also banner exchange programs, where you agree to show a rotating banner on your site for another business and they do the same for you.
Portions excerpted from TopTenBusiness@lists.dailycast.com and Web Marketing Today, June 1999.