Whether you've created your site to promote your business or share your passion for Filipino duck balut, you need to be assertive if you want people to find out about it. You also need to beware of making missteps that can both waste your money and incur the wrath of the very people you're trying to court.
The first thing most people think of when promoting a Web site is getting listed by the major Web search engines and directories. This is, in fact, a crucial step. But don't think it's a good deal to pay $19.95 to somebody who promises in an e-mail advertisement to get you listed in 500 search sites, warns Charlie Morris, managing editor of Web Developer's Journal and a freelance Internet consultant(webdevelopersjournal.com/bios/cmorris.html).
First off, you should focus on the top half-dozen search sites-they get 95 percent of all hits-plus any specialty Web directories or hub sites such as DWCdesigNet.com (www.dwcdesignet.com) that deal with the subject matter of your site. Don't expect a cheapo site-promotion service to take the time to find these specialty directories or sites for you. Most of the other so-called search sites are just link mills that hardly anybody visits.
The topmost search sites, in order of popularity, are Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, Infoseek, AltaVista and HotBot, according to Media Matrix (www.mediametrix.com).
Secondly, if you receive an unsolicited e-mail ad, chances are pretty good it's from a huckster. Unsolicited, untargeted bulk e-mail, or spam, has long been a violation of Internet etiquette-legitimate businesses don't do it. For similar reasons, don't give in to the temptation of sending out spam about your Web site. You'll only sully your reputation and risk having your Internet account canceled.
Submitting your site to the major search engines so that it's listed prominently takes skill and for this reason it can make sense to hire someone to do this for you, assuming that the outfit is reputable (and can provide references). Check out Web Marketing Today (www.wilson web.com/wmt) and Web Promote Weekly (www.webpromote.com/wpweekly) for more information.
If you do it yourself, keep up with the changing policies of the major search sites through Search Engine Watch (searchenginewatch.com), and manually craft each submission. Use keywords in your site's meta tags, page titles, headings and body text, but don't overdo them. Some search sites will penalize you for repeating keywords more than seven or eight times, a practice that's also become known as spamming.
Before you even begin to think about getting yourself listed on a top search site, however, make sure your site is up to snuff. The worst mistake you can make here is to think of your site as an on-line ad or brochure. It's far better to treat it as a newsletter or arcade that provides useful information or compelling entertainment-content, to use the vernacular.
"You've got to give them substance unique to the Web," said Web wunderkind Chris Worth, a content consultant with Ogilvy Interactive (www.ogilvy.com) in Paris, France, in an e-mail interview. Take a look at the Absolut Vodka site (www.absolutvodka.com) for a good example.
Placing an ad for your site at another Web site is another common strategy for attracting eyeballs. The hottest trend today is "affiliate marketing," says Mike Carter, vice president of marketing for US Interactive (www.usinteractive.com), an Internet professional services company with offices in Los Angeles, CA, and elsewhere.
You find Web sites with similar demographics and psychographics as your own and trade contextural links-links that includes text and are related to the content on the page. Affiliate sites receive a percentage of whatever revenue they generate for one another. LinkShare (www.linkshare.com) and Be Free (www.befree.com) are two providers of Web affiliate programs.
It's often not worth the bother to trade banner ads with sites that include your ad at the bottom of a page that is unrelated to your site or business or on a separate links page that nobody visits.
Finally, don't forget about traditional marketing vehicles. Frank Ricciardi, senior vice president of the DEM Group (www.demgroup.com), a King of Prussia, PA, advertising agency specializing in high-tech companies, recommends you include your Web address on all of your newspaper, magazine, radio and television advertising materials.
Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://members.home.net/reidgold.