The internet is filled with ghost towns. Millions of websites sit alone, isolated from civilization for various reasons. Some of these failed experiments are the results of half-hearted efforts by authors and designers to present an idea or product to the world. Many don’t offer much reason to visit them and probably should be ignored. However, many of these internet ghost towns are carefully constructed, appealing, and helpful sources of knowledge that are simply left off the internet superhighway. A worthwhile website deserves at least as much effort to promote it as was put in to building the site. Regardless of your reason for wanting more people accessing your website, the following principles are fundamental for doing website promotion.
Building Roads to Your Website
It doesn’t take a demographics expert to understand that large, thriving municipalities are characterized by lots of interstate highways, state roads, and other paths for getting there. A small, rural town is usually accessible only through one obscure road that barely connects it to the rest of the world. You can think of your website using this perspective. If you want to make your website into a bustling metropolis, you need to build up a highway structure conducive to lots of traffic.
By design, the internet superhighway is comprised of a system of links. The bottom line for promoting a website can be summarized by one statement: Get quality links to your website! These links can come from various sources. Search engines, blogs, social networking hangouts, personal and commercial websites, and pertinent directories are the major candidates for building links.
There is a reason Google often dominates the news and its founders are filthy rich. Search engines have become the default medium for finding information worldwide. Marketing your website to Google and the other major search engines (Yahoo, MSN/Bling, AOL) is essential for driving traffic to your website. Although it’s obviously an advantage to have a large advertising budget to market your site, the great thing about search engines is that their organic or natural search results don’t necessarily favor sites who’ve spent the most money. I had a lot of success building search traffic for the first website I managed, and I did it on a budget of essentially $0. The significant cost was simply my time and use of creativity in securing links to my new website.
Getting traffic from Google should be one of your top priorities. Many of the optimization strategies that apply to Google (who owns a share of about 50% of searches) also apply to the other major search engines. The goal of these search engines is to match users with the items they are searching for. They use sophisticated algorithms to accomplish that goal. Your mission in doing search engine optimization (SEO) as part of your website promotion efforts is to convince the search engines that your website is what people are looking for when they perform a search using keyword terms that are related to the purpose of your site. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? It’s not exactly rocket science, but it does require careful planning and persistence.
The criteria used by the search engines in determining what sites show up at the top of their search results involves on-page factors: the stuff that exists on your web pages; and off-page factors: the perception search engines have of your website based on what the rest of the internet says about it.
Social Networking Hangouts
Most of the internet buzz over the past few years has centered around social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube. Although there are lots of aspects of social marketing that I personally find annoying (the virtual lifestyle seems a bit strange), there are lots of opportunities through online networks to promote your website, including placing a link to it in various high trafficked areas.
It seems like everyone who has a connection to the internet nowadays has a blog. Blogspot.com and WordPress have made blogging easy. The prevalence of blogs brings with it a lot of opportunity to get links from casual and professional bloggers. The search engines are on board with the blogging phenomenon, and they give respect to the endless commentaries that now exist on the internet. Besides, getting a link to your site on someone’s blogroll typically means your site is linked to from every page on the entire blog. That means the twenty or thirty minutes you spend finding a blogger who will link to you goes a long way towards increasing the number of links that point to your website.
With all this talk about cyber marketing, it may seem out of place to even discuss offline strategies. The topic deserves discussing nonetheless. Placing your website address on your business’s marquee or employee business cards can at least have a marginal impact on the traffic. It’s worth spending some time to evaluate how your print and other offline advertising efforts can coordinate with what you want to accomplish with your website. Years ago, my wife operated an online scrapbooking store. When she shipped her products to customers, she included with each package a small notecard with her logo and web site address.
Like any worthwhile endeavor promoting your website can be a challenge. In your pursuit of gaining online celebrity for your website, remember to be persistent. If your experience is like mine, most of your efforts will produce marginal gains that over time add up to ultimately produce a highly-trafficked destination. Use the resources so freely available on the internet to move your site forward a step at a time.