With sites on the World Wide Web popping up faster than you can say "cyberspace," it's hard to stand out in the crowd. That's why setting up a Web site is only the first step to effective online marketing, says Jay Conrad Levinson, Entrepreneur columnist and co-author of Guerrilla Marketing Online and Guerrilla Marketing Online Weapons (both Houghton Mifflin). "You can have the best Web site in the world," he says, "but if people don't know about it, it's going to be a loser." His tips to help market your business online:
1. Choose a name for your Web site carefully. The name of your site is extremely important. Stick with names that are easy to remember and spell.
2. Chat it up. Enter online "chat rooms" frequently, and aim to get in on discussions where you can offer advice in your field of expertise. To build strong relationships that can pay off down the line, strive for one-on-one interactions with Web users.
3. Content is king. Keep in mind that better content makes for a better Web site. Never compromise on the quality of your content--that's what draws people in.
4. Take it easy. One of the most common mistakes people make when marketing online is to use techniques that come across as pushy. The Internet is "a pretty cool medium," Levinson says, where members appreciate a delicate touch.
5. Keep promising something new. Your Web site should constantly promote what's coming up in the near future so users will return again and again. Keep adding to and improving your site from the day you launch it.
6. Offer to provide content to others. Electronic newsletters and magazines are always in need of new information. One of the best ways to create an online presence is to e-mail sites and volunteer content on a regular basis.
7. Respond rapidly. If people visiting your site have questions, reply within a day or two, or you're liable to lose them as customers. Fast response is the single most important factor in retaining Web users.
8. Keep it simple. When interacting online, brevity is the rule. Learn to express yourself concisely so you don't waste people's time.
9. Be patient. It's unlikely you'll achieve the results you want online right away. Try not to be turned off when people don't respond immediately; follow up several times with potential prospects.
10. Link with like-minded sites. The more gateways to other sites you have, the better. Try to find free links, or "trade-outs," where you offer a link to someone's site and they provide one in return. It's possible to offer hundreds of links, but make sure they all appeal to your target audience.
11. Be consistent. Don't expect results if you market your business online only occasionally or haphazardly. Maintain a constant presence so you'll build a solid reputation in the online universe.
12. Market your Web site in other media. If you advertise in print media, write columns for industry publications or engage in public speaking events, be sure to always mention your Web site.
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