From the December 2002 issue of Startups

You've put the finishing touches on your fancy new Web site. You've picked a snazzy domain name, you have a groovy page design, and you're ready to take on the world.

Not (quite) so fast. You stare at your hit counter, and it isn't moving! Looks like you need some promotion, e-style!

There are essentially two ways to drive traffic to your site: Surfers can get pulled in themselves, or you can try to push them through the virtual door. To run a successful site, it's a good idea to implement both strategies. In the end, though, the most successful sites build a strong, perpetual "pull" force, sometimes through initial "push" strategies. Here are some of their secrets:

1. Get listed. Being listed in search engines is a must for any Web site and is the basis of any good pull strategy. There are many pay services, such as Microsoft's Submit-It, that will get you listed for a fee. When it comes down to it, though, all you need to do is visit search engines and find the "Add Site" link to add your Web site free of charge.

Most search engines are increasingly making use of a technology known as "Web spiders," computer programs that follow links to find and index new Web sites. A web spider surfs the Web just like a person, using Web sites contained in the search engine database as a starting point. The spider then follows links contained on the sites and surfs from site to site, adding new Web sites it finds to the database.

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2. Get linked in high places. It's a good idea to plan your strategy around the current king of search engines, Google. Many other search engines spider Google to pick up sites. Also, Google is attractive to most surfers since it provides the most effective results by way of PageRank technology. Simply put, instead of solely operating on keywords, Google uses PageRank to return sites based on relevancy. The more a site is linked from other sites using certain keywords, the higher up the site appears on search results when those keywords are used in a search. Translated: The higher the rankings of the site linking to yours, the higher relevancy you'll receive.

3. Advertise, but not just on the Web. Flashy ads may catch attention, but that doesn't always translate into hits. Try incorporating your Web site address into everything: business cards, ads, fliers and letterhead. Spark an interest in your products and services, and direct people to your Web site to obtain more information on what you're selling. Make them want to visit the Web site. That's a good push strategy.

4. Run Web promotions. Drive traffic to your site by running promotions, such as "codes" found on ads that users can enter in your site to get access to special features and information. These codes are essentially promotional gimmicks to attract attention and drive traffic, and they often work well.

Keep in mind that the goal is to drive sales as well. Use these promotional tactics as a fun way to provide information about your products and services while keeping users engaged. Perhaps even an online game that informs surfers of your products and services would be appropriate.

5. Use mailing lists. As long as you're not spamming anyone, mailing lists are a great way to "re-advertise" to old users, providing them with Web site updates and current product information. Create and manage a friendly mailing list that allows users to subscribe and opt out on demand.

In the end, the key is to spread the word while also making the Web site easy for surfers to find. Combining a well-designed Web site with a variety of different promotional techniques will help keep the hit counter rolling.