When putting together your marketing plan, you will want to focus on the most effective techniques for promoting your web site and to sieve through all the hype to discover what really works. This article provides brief information on the most successful methods, and links you to the articles where you can obtain more in-depth information. Links to recommended resources are also provided.
BEFORE YOU START PROMOTING
Before you start following any of our advice on promoting, without wanting to sound too obvious, you must ensure your web site meets some quality criteria. You may wish to read our article on Principles of Good Web Design.
THE MOST HIGHLY RATED TECHNIQUES TO PROMOTE YOUR SITE
Technique : Search Engine Positioning
Indexing your web pages well with the search engines is the most effective way of increasing your traffic. Did you know that :
85% of all new web traffic comes from Search Engines?
90% of all of that traffic comes from the first two pages of results?
Our article called "Why Submitting To Loads of Search Engines Is Not Enough" will tell you all you need to know on using this technique.
The article does not go into extensive detail about the intricacies of the search engines, because there is a great product on the market called WebPosition Gold. The product enables website owners and managers to systematically improve their web site's relevance for keyword and phrase queries in the major search engines. Rather than pour over long articles and learn about all the search engines and how they work, this product offers all the elements needed to generate, improve and maintain search engine rankings. Here are some more statistics proving that getting a high ranking with the search engines is the best thing you can do to increase your traffic. According to a GVU Users Survey, 84.8% of Internet users look for websites by using Search Engines. And in ActivMedia Research's study (issued in September 1999), Search Engine Positioning was ranked as the No.1 Website promotional method used by eCommerce sites. Furthermore, a CommerceNet/Nielsen Media Research survey revealed that search engines are overwhelmingly the No. 1 Web-navigation tool, with 71% of regular users saying they find out about sites through search engines.
Technique : Opt-In email
A highly effective way of promoting your site is to e-mail people selectively i.e. people who have opted to receive particular categories of e-mail. Hence such e-mails will not be considered to be unsolicited (spam), and you can target an audience who has a very high chance of being interested in your subject matter. The direct marketing industry has developed targeted e-mail lists you can rent consisting of people who have agreed to receive commercial e-mail messages. Opt-in e-mail is an effective paid advertising strategy, though you would need to be selective in choosing your list. Once you have chosen your list, target this audience with your Newsletter or e-zine.
Technique : Viral Marketing
Any scheme whereby news about your web site is passed on from person to person (an on-line form of word of mouth) is labelled Viral Marketing. Not all the techniques are recommended e.g. chain-letters are rather dubious (they have a reputation of spreading misinformation). There is also quite a craze on with Browser Start-Up schemes (which fall into the Viral Marketing category). Popular examples are TrafficSwarm, HitHarvester and MoMoreHits. Other examples of viral marketing include e-cards and tell-a-friend services.
Technique : Offline Advertising
Just because of the existance of the Internet and the emphasis that seems to be being placed on all the technology that surrounds it, offline advertising should still be seriously considered. Here are some suggestions a) Include your URL, email address, slogan on your stationary, business cards and all other promotional material. b) Include your URL wherever you are publicized such as in the phone book, on all print advertising and in any articles you publish. c) Publicize your Web site at conferences and meetings (and include your URL on all handouts). d) Be alert and take note of all forms of advertising that catch your eye, and think of ways you could use such techniques for promoting your own business.
Technique : Press Releases
This is a traditional and well known method of promoting products and services. A press release that includes a media message that is newsworthy, factual and interesting is bound to get attention. A good resource for tips on writing effective press releases is : Internet News Bureau
Technique : Banner Advertising
Ad banners have become the most common unit of advertising on the Web. Advertising is an inevitable driving force, even on the Net. Banner ads are everywhere. Some thought needs to go into banner ad campaigns because how to use them (and whether to use them at all) all depends on the goal of your site. You may want to simply direct more traffic to your site, but on the other hand you may only be interested in encouraging people to buy your product. There are numerous pricing models out there for banner ads. This ranges from free to very expensive. One of those free methods is to exchange banners with webmasters who run sites which compliment your own. Or you can consider joining a link exchange program where you agree to place banners on your site knowing that other members have agreed to place your banners on their web sites. You may also choose to join a paid advertising network (e.g. Value Click) whereby you are guaranteed to reach a large pool of potential customers from a broad range of sites very quickly. Types of payment for the latter vary e.g. pay per period, methods based on number of impressions or numbers of click throughs. There are also hybrid systems.
Technique : Discussion Forums
Including a discussion forum on your site is an ideal way of building up a community. It encourages visitors to interact with your site, takes some of the pressure off the web master in the sense that the visitors are contributing content to the site. However, the forum will need maintenance and the posts / discussions will need to be monitored. Posts including blatant advertising and bad language will need to be deleted especially as it may turn away some of your most active forum members. Forums act as good lead generators i.e. you can build trust with your visitors who are then more likely to buy from your site. Webmasters will also be able to see what kind of audience is being attracted to the site, find out about their needs and guide them to relevant parts of the site.
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