Hit List

Hitting The Links

Other ways to get your site noticed are through affiliate programs and partnerships with content sites. Affiliate programs allow a Web store to be linked with a larger Web site that contains products or contents similar to the products or services the store sells. The advantage to these programs is that when a Net surfer is checking out the bigger Web site, your smaller Web store can be spotlighted. When the visitor clicks on your URL, he or she is automatically sent to your site.

Affiliate programs also work well when forming partnerships with specific content sites that draw Web users in need of certain news, information or advice. The idea is to make sure your Web store is in a place where your biggest potential customers are.

There are many ways to form partnerships with these sites, but a common way to get listed is to offer a percentage of your Web sales to sites that link to you. The terms of these agreements vary from site to site.

Some sites offer added features. Yahoo! Store merchants, for example, are provided with Link Tracker software that allows them to assign a special code to each site that links to their own. This code helps track how many visitors and which sales came from a particular link.

Paul Graham, founder of Viaweb, says it's important to encourage related sites to approach you to make a deal. Put a link on your home page, for example, that says something like "Link to us and get a cut." With links to other sites, Graham says, "You'll create the image that your site is a major player."

Another way small companies can piggyback on the efforts of larger companies is by being listed in a Web directory of bigger businesses. These directories are typically owned or sponsored by publishing companies, which often allow smaller companies to be listed alongside larger, more well-known companies.

This phenomenon is especially popular in the manufacturing industry, where directories showcasing smaller industrial manufacturers or retailers are popping up all over the Web. One of the largest databases of industrial suppliers today, with a searchable database of more than 480,000 manufacturers, distributors and service companies, is the Thomas Regional Directory Co. (TRD) at http://www.thomasnet.com Here, a company can receive a free listing that includes its address, phone and fax information, and product/service description. Listings can also include contact names, year established, staff size, sales volume and an e-mail address. If a company is a paid advertiser of TRD, it can also offer prospective customers an online brochure or catalog, electronic line cards (comprehensive lists of a company's products) or fax forms that enable customers to contact a supplier directly.

Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at mcampanelli@earthlink.net.

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This article was originally published in the October 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hit List.

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