So you built it. Did they come? Are you just waiting for the hoards of visitors that are sure to visit your site soon? It's time to stop waiting and start working on ways to attract an audience.
41. Publicize your web address. Once you build your site, you've got to tell the world about it. Put your website's URL on every printed marketing piece you produce--business cards, brochures, direct mail postcards, Yellow Pages ads, invoices, coupons and articles you write. In addition, put everything on your site--if you run an ad, put a copy on your site and say "As seen in..." Include your web address in your e-mail signature and your voicemail greeting: "For more information, visit our website at..." If you have a storefront, hang a banner that includes your web address. Think about it this way: Wherever you put your phone number, put your web address there, too.
42. Set up an affiliate program. An affiliate program (also referred to as a reseller or associate program) is a great way to get other people to promote your product or service for you. For every customer your affiliates send to your site, you pay them a commission. Your affiliates send visitors to your site using banner ads, text links, letters of referral, and other methods of promotion. Then you track these visitors using special software. Then, for every visitor who decides to buy, you pay your affiliate a commission. In order to run a successful affiliate program, you need to be able to: (1) Create a separate account for each new affiliate; (2) track each of their referred sales on each of your products they're promoting; and (3) calculate commissions based on referred sales.
43. Give away free content in exchange for publicity. A really easy, frequently undervalued strategy for getting traffic is giving away free content to other sites. Even just two or three well-written articles can generate truckloads of traffic, as long as they don't contain a sales pitch. You want to include rare, hard-to-get information that'll lend your articles automatic value--the kind of information that establishes you as an expert in your field. Once you've finished an article, write a short bio paragraph about you and your business and place it at the end of your article along with--and this is the most important part--a link to your site.
To locate sites that might be interested in your content, e-mail other website owners in your industry--be sure to choose sites that receive attention and visits from your target market--and invite them to use your article on their site or in their newsletter at absolutely no cost. Many site owners need fresh content, so they'll be more than happy to post your articles--and it won't be long before those articles start driving traffic back to your site.
44. Use viral marketing to spread the word. Simply defined, viral marketing is a way for you to spread your marketing message like a virus. You encourage people to pass on information about your site to others, and you use that word-of-mouth publicity to advertise your business. Once you start the "virus," it spreads without you lifting a finger. Here are a few simple ideas:
- Give away free demos of your product.
- Offer a free trial of your service with a "share this great resource" button on the page.
- Hold a contest on your site, and give participants an extra entry for every friend they refer.
45. Create a blog to boost business. Just what is a blog and why should you care? Basically, the word "blog" is short for web log, a frequently updated web-based journal that's intended for general public consumption. And while writing a personal blog can be fun, business blogging can be a powerful tool, allowing you to communicate with a significant number of consumers and achieve many of your business objectives. And best of all, these results can be delivered in a very cost-effective manner.
Your first step is to select a topic. Obviously, the topic you choose needs to tie back to your business objective and be developed to drive results against that objective. Next, begin blogging. Complete 20 posts (entries) or so before marketing your blog. This gives you time to work out the kinks, mess with the design a bit, and look like you've been around for more than two days when someone stops by. And if you need more tips on blogging, be sure to read Buzz Marketing for Dummies by Susannah Gardner, a complete "how to blog successfully" manual.
Improving Your Search Results
So now you're attracting visitors to your site. It's time to talk about improving your search results.
There are two complementary yet completely different types of methods when it comes to landing a top position in search engines: optimization and advertising. Search engine optimization refers to enhancing your website design to make it more appealing to crawler-based search engines. Search engine advertising, on the other hand, enables you to buy listings for your keywords. Positions achieved this way are referred to as paid or sponsored listings. Use these tips to help you improve both:
46. Get started by choosing the right keywords. If you have the wrong set of terms, your site won't rank well in algorithm-based search engines. Plus, you'll waste money on pay-per-placement programs by attracting browsers, not buyers. To create an effective list of keywords, start with these suggestions:
- Company names: Start with the name of your company, products and services. Include misspellings and plural forms of words, if appropriate.
- Themes: Consider related words your customers might use to describe your business. People looking for an automobile insurance company might type in "car insurance" or "auto insurance."
- Profile your competitors: Your competitors are excellent sources of ideas. Study the keywords in their websites and their metatags. From your browser toolbar, click on "View," and then select "Source." If they're using metatags, you'll see keywords listed at the top of the page.
- Think like your customers: Brainstorm ideas about how your customers are looking for your business. For example, if you run a gourmet bakery and you're customers love your "tastes like homemade" pies, keywords like "homemade pie" or "Mom's apple pie" might work better than "gourmet pastries."
47. Enter the web page war. To make your site relevant for your keywords, it's important to realize that sites don't compete against other sites for rankings. It's web page vs. web page. Therefore, each page of your site needs to be assigned a set of keywords. Focus on the pages that have valuable content for your visitors and are good for new visitors to land on first. A few places your keywords need to be included:
- Meta tags: This tactic alone has absolutely no impact on your rankings, but your keywords still need to be in the meta title, description and keyword tags of each site page you'd like ranked. The page title and description are often used as the website listing in the search results.
- Alternative text (ALT tag): Mouse over an image, and you may see a text box appear if the Web designer has used alternative text. Try to use a different, but related, phrase for each ALT tag on a page.
- Page copy: The keywords you want your site to rank well for must be in your page copy. The thought is, if your site visitors can see them, then your page is relevant for those terms.
- Hyperlinks within your site: Don't link "click here" copy to other pages within your site. Hyperlink keyword phrases instead, because search engines follow these links and the keywords in them.
48. Contact the search engines. Once your site's optimized, a majority of search engines need to be notified to crawl your site. Unfortunately, most search engines now require an inclusion fee. It may be a per-URL fee, a fixed per-click fee on any site rankings you achieve, or a combination of both. Inktomi, Overture and Teoma are examples. Google is still free and will index your site on its own; however, you can use the "Add URL" form if your site isn't in its database.
49. Use pay-per-click search engines to boost traffic. PPC search engines are great because once you've done your homework and chosen the keywords people will use to find you in the search engines, it's easy to attract visitors who are interested in what you have to offer, often for just a few pennies. For example, let's say you have a site that sells woolen mittens. And you want to rank No. 1 in the search engines for the term "woolen mittens." To get a top-ten position in the free search engines, you'd probably be looking at a few months (at least) of arduous effort. But in the pay-per-clicks, you can grab the No. 1 spot in just minutes! That's because all you have to do is see how much the person who has the No. 1 position is paying per click, and simply outbid them by paying one penny more. Then when your potential customer searches for the term "woolen mittens," your link will show up as the first listing on the search results page. And each time searchers click on your link, you'll pay however much you have bid for that No. 1 position.
50. Improve your site's reputation. Your site's reputation, or link popularity, directly affects how well you rank in the search engines when someone searches for your products or services. Link popularity is the number and quality of websites that link to your. And search engines view these incoming links as "votes" for the quality of your site by the websites that link to you. So obviously, it's critical to obtain a good number of inbound links to your site.
When you're searching for other sites to link to yours, keep these two things in mind:
1. Good links have a high "PageRank" standing. The page that links to your site should have a good Google PageRank. PageRank is Google's measure of your link popularity, on a scale of 0 to 10. Because your site inherits a piece of the PageRank of every page linking to you, links from pages with high link popularity count more for you.
2. The links to your site should be "relevant" links. A relevant link is one that's related to your target page's topic and keywords. So getting a few similar or related sites to link to yours is more important than having dozens of nonrelated links.
Once you've located some appropriate sites, simply e-mail them and ask them if they'd like to exchange links.