Sometimes your head can be so abuzz with all these Internet marketing details that you feel overwhelmed. You don’t know where to start. You can’t see the forest for the trees. While there is a lot of depth to be understood, I think that Internet promotion can be distilled down to eight essential types. Wrap your mind around these basic concepts and you can grasp what Internet promotion is all about. Here are the eight:
But if it’s simplicity you crave, I’ve tried to pare it down to the eight essentials.
1. Search engines
Many people, perhaps even a majority of people, will use search engines and the Yahoo! directory to find what they’re looking for on the Web. So the place to start in promotion is to design webpages that will be indexed well by the search engines, using descriptive titles and accurate META tags. When you’re ready, submit your site so that search engines will index (“spider”) it, using a submission tool such as the All4One Submission Machine or JimTools. Getting a listing in the Yahoo! Directory is the most important task — and the most difficult. You may even have to pay them $199 to agree to consider within one week whether to add your site. Search engines are important. Be persistent. If your site doesn’t show up within a few weeks, submit again … and again … and again.
But with hundreds of millions of webpages, and only 15% to 20% of them indexed, it’s very easy for your site to get lost. The remedy (which adds to the clutter) is to create a set of doorway or gateway webpages, each tuned to score high on a specific search engine for a specific search word or phrase. While there is excellent software available for search engine positioning, Web Position Gold for $150, I recommend that small businesses outsource this task for $1000 or so, plus a $100 to $150 per month “maintenance” fee. The task is very time intensive; it isn’t really a spare-time project.
2. Linking strategies
Linking strategies are a second essential type of site promotion. The more links pointing to your site, the more traffic you’ll experience (and the greater perceived “popularity” will rank you higher in the search engines). To get someone to link to your site you need to ask. The simplest way is to find complementary sites, link to them on a linking page, and ask them to link to you. The key, of course, is for your site to have content that so good that it’s worth linking to. No one wants to link to a nothing website.
Ask for links on sites that cover your industry, as wells from associations your business belongs to. One twist on this is to join a Web Ring with each member site linking to the next member site along the chain. Other approaches are to offer the best (and most trafficked) websites an “award” that consists of an award logo with a link pointing back to your site. Another popular method is to join a banner exchange. For every two banners displayed on your site promoting other businesses, one of your banners will be shown an another member site. The biggest exchange is Microsoft bCentral LinkExchange. I’ve given up on the so-called Free For All (FFA) linking sites; don’t even waste your time there. Another important form of linking promotion involves paying affiliates for sales resulting from links to your site, but we’ll cover that under paid advertising.
3. Viral strategies
An increasingly important process is to design a strategy that encourages others to carry your marketing message via e-mail, using their own network of relationships — and preferably their own resources. This is called “viral marketing” after the way viruses multiply rapidly in a cell, commandeering the cell’s resources to do the virus’s bidding. The classic example is HotMail.com, a free e-mail system. Each e-mail message (sent by definition to a person’s own friends and associates) carries a message encouraging the recipient to sign up for a HotMail account, too. Another example is postcard or greeting cards, each of which carries a message encouraging the recipient to send a card to a friend — carrying the siteowner’s marketing message. If you can write quality articles, you can offer them to others to use on their websites or in their newsletters, each article carrying a link to your website. Public relations to get press coverage is a kind of viral strategy, if you think about it.
4. Public relations
Public relations, the task of getting press coverage, is still a vital type of site promotion. If you can get a news release picked up by several print and/or Internet publications you’ll get a tremendous boost in traffic, all for “free, ” letting the news periodical’s network carry your marketing message. Of course, nothing’s really free. You’ll need to have a truly newsworthy event, contest, free service, chat room — or something — or no decent publication will consider it news. Coming up with “free” services and events isn’t inexpensive, but the ensuing publicity can be excellent — you may get an unbiased editorial recommendations that you couldn’t purchase for any amount of money. While there are free news release services, expect to pay several hundred dollars to have your news release sent to hundreds of subscribing periodicals.
5. Traditional media
Don’t discount traditional media in promoting your website — news releases, of course, as well as paid advertising. A very effective way to promote your site is to place a small display ad in a targeted trade publication, offering some teaser copy and pointing readers to your URL or an autoresponder e-mail address for more information. This way your site serves as an online brochure, providing full information to interested shoppers day and night. A no-brainer is to make sure that all your company’s literature, cards, letterheads, and envelopes carry your website URL.
6. E-mail Publishing
If you’re smart you won’t even think of developing a business website without marrying it to an e-mail publication. The website is the shy partner who passively waits for people to come to him. But the e-mail publication is the bold, active partner who goes out to where people are and invites them to come meet her groom. Together they make a great couple.