This article is written for those small business owners who want to find ways they can promote their web site cheaply. "Cheaply" here refers to using little cash. What the below methods will cost you is time.
The Internet has made it possible for small businesses to reach out to a huge market. Yet, with some 800 million pages on the web, getting traffic to your site is becoming difficult. There is no magic answer to Internet Marketing of your site. But, there are some things you can do.
- Register your site with the major search engines. You can do this yourself with a service like
http://www.selfpromotion.com or by directly visiting the main search engines and directories and seeking out their "add URL" page. For more information about search engines see http://www.searchenginewatch.com Depending upon who you believe, somewhere between 80% and 95% of the people who find something on the web do so via one of the top six to ten search engines, so be sure to get your site listed with them.
Yet, getting your site to be among one of the top 30 or so sites returned by a search engine under a general search of your subject area is exceptionally difficult for a small business. And most people will not look beyond the first 30 or so returned results from a search. So a search engine listing is no magic recipe to drive people to your site.
Before you submit your site to the search engines, be sure to check the validity of your meta tags. In particular, you don't want your pages rejected for spamming key words. http://www.northernwebs.com has a tool "Meta medic" that will allow you to check your tags. If you are not sure how to use meta tags, if you just do a search on "HTML meta tags" on any search engine, you will find a wealth of information. One good site for HTML information is http://www.builder.com
Be sure you provide very targeted key words, so someone looking specifically for your product can find your site. Also don't overlook common misspellings. Include common misspelled variations of your most important key words. Your title should also be chosen carefully as it is one of the first things examined by spidering search engines.
Finally, go and do a search on your key words on the popular sites and see if you can find yourself! If you want one stop shopping for your self-searching, you could try http://www.rankthis.com which will tell you if your site appears within the top 200 returned results on the popular search engines. However, I have found rankthis to be painfully slow.
- Pursue reciprocal links to sites like your own. If you have a site selling shoes, you might exchange reciprocal links with a site selling socks. Once you find a sock-selling site you can find out who else links to them via a service like http://www.linkpopularity.com This can provide you with a wealth of information about other sites you might want to pursue reciprocal links with. Seek sites content comparable with your site, and of about the same or higher popularity. Once you find one site you would like to have link to you, see who else links to that site. You will probably uncover many other places that might consider linking to you.
http://www.linkexchange.com, as you would guess, has a link exchange program. You get to place your advertising banner on other sites in exchange for showing other sites' banners on your site. However, it appears that the effectiveness of banners is dropping. Creating an animated gif banner significantly increases clickthrough. It also, unfortunately, makes your banner much more annoying.
Good understanding of design and effective copy writing increase the effectiveness of banners. You can create your own banners with tools like PaintShop Pro, Microsoft Gif Animator, and a tool like Gif Cruncher to minimize the file size of your gif.
There are many other banner exchange programs and the quality varies significantly. Before you join one, check out what http://www.adbility.com has to say about the exchange program.
Maybe more promising is creating your own affiliate program through one of the many emerging affiliate support services like http://www.clicktrade.com Such services allow you to pay for referrals and/or give commissions to sites if someone is referred to your site from one of your affiliate sites. It is precisely this kind of affiliate program that is giving amazon.com such a huge presence on the web.
Many other people are seeking to make money on the web with their sites, and by
offering an affiliate program of your own, you create a strong incentive
for other sites to create links to your site. This is one of the key
principles of marketing--make it easy and desirable for others to do what you want them to do. Giving people the chance to earn money just by linking to your site appeals to people.
Having many links pointing to your site is also an aid in getting your site to rank higher in some search engine results. Some search engines consider site popularity as a criterion for how high up in the listing you should be displayed. Because of this, services offering link spamming are available. I don't recommend link spamming.
- Put your URL on any non-web promotional pieces that you do. If you regularly use direct mail, be sure to include your web address. Many people hear about a site initially via non-internet channels. Do not neglect non-internet-marketing channels. Make your present customers aware of your web site.
Notice that the easier your web domain name is to remember, the more likely it will be remembered. Short catchy phrases are best.
- It is well known that to keep people coming back to your web site, you want good content and links to other great sites. One way to get this is to encourage others to contribute to your site. Have an e-mail link offering article submissions, and have an e-mail link for anyone who might want to pursue reciprocal links with you. This makes it easier for others to contribute to your site.
You will see many sites have "link to us" pages giving text (and/or a banner) so that all someone would have to do is copy link text and paste it into their web page to create the link. It saves those who want to link to your site time and makes linking to your site easier.