Sunday, October 12, 2008

You built it, but will they come? Some tips on getting traffic to your website.

You built it, but will they come? Some tips on getting traffic to your website.
By Bob Hubbard

Your new website has gone live at last! After weeks--possibly months--of labor, it’s online and it looks great. Only one problem remains: How do you get people to visit it?

Well, you can wait the 1 to 6+ months for the backlogged search engines to catch up and list you. But you need traffic now. So what do you do? I’m often asked this very question by our clients. In this article I’ll give several suggestions to help you promote your website for maximum exposure. Some will fit better than others, depending on your target audience, but all of them are proven strategies for success.

1: Realize that the Search Engines are only part of the puzzle.
Getting listed takes time and tweaking. Most of them are backlogged by months, and it’s getting tougher to get listed in them. Of course you can spend a lot of cash to get yourself listed under ‘Automatic Self Cleaning Water Strainers’, but would you get the same results under just ‘Strainers’? A well thought-out plan for getting listed can take up to a year to fully realize results. You must do other things to get the word out in order to get both immediate and long-term results.

2: Don’t depend on your designer to advertise for you.
Too often companies and individuals have websites built, do nothing to promote the site themselves, and then wonder why it wasn’t as successful as they hoped. You don’t expect Kinkos to pass out your flyers; why expect your designer to know how to market your business to your customers? Their job is to develop a site that meets both your and your clients’ needs. You must spread the word to your prospects yourself, through all means--online and traditional.

3: Put your website’s address in front of everyone.
You wouldn’t leave your phone number off of your business cards--why leave off your website address? Make certain it is on all of your stationery, flyers, brochures, etc. Put it on the back bumper of your cars and vans. Put it on your signage and in your front window. Put it on your promo items and give them away like mad! People like freebies, and if they are useful, they will keep them around. The more visible you make it, the more times people will see it--and the more they see it, the more likely they will visit.

4: Yellow Pages ads.
Spend the extra money to get your web address added to your yellow pages listing. That little extra effort can lead to new leads. Many people will check out listings as follows: Biggest color ads, biggest black-and-white ads, smaller ads, text only box ads, and line ads. Adding a website to your ad can greatly increase your inquiry rate.

5: Issue a press release.
This step is often overlooked by start-ups. Taking the time to properly prepare a release can greatly benefit your business.

6: Reciprocal links.
Find websites that complement yours and propose a link exchange. This has a dual benefit: You gain traffic from their visitors, and the more companies that link to you, the higher your ranking in some search engines. You must do your research here, but if properly implemented you can see great rewards from this strategy.

7: Your regular advertising.
Make certain that any print or media advertising you do has your website mentioned somewhere in it. Too many times this simple step is overlooked. You cannot rely on Internet advertising alone to make your site a success. Even and E-Bay have to use traditional advertising. Have you seen the “Do You, uh, Yahoo!?” ads? There’s a reason!

8: Visit web forums and the Usenet newsgroups.
You can successfully advertise your company through these discussion groups (formerly known as “bulletin boards”), but be careful, especially when advertising on Usenet. Many people frown on advertising there, so be sure to carefully research any group you wish to advertise on before making your post. A few extra days patience can save you from a major public relations nightmare.

9: Publish an e-newsletter.
This has many benefits to you. It helps establish your credibility. It helps keep your clients and prospects up to date on your company and its offerings. It educates. It adds content to your website. The content helps you get better listings with the search engines and as it changes on a regular basis it helps bring return visitors. Return visitors will in many cases put your website address on their links pages which in turn helps drive traffic and boost search engine rankings. A well done, Opt-In (they subscribe) newsletter can also provide you with a detailed mailing list of people interested in what you have to offer. The costs of emailing are almost nil. Done properly, this can be a great boost.

10: Your business card.
Make it a mini-flyer, include your website, and pass them out whenever you can. When you go to trade shows or conventions, take 500-1000 and hand them out to everyone. Go to every booth and trade cards with them. “But I have plenty of my old ones”, you say. Well, unless your cards are works of art, throw them out and get new ones with your web address on it and send 2 to every customer and prospect you have.

11: Email. Let us not forget email. You and your employees probably send several emails each day, at the minimum. Make sure that your web address is featured in the ‘signature’ of each email. Too many times I receive email from clients and prospects that have missed this simple step. Many modern email programs allow for multiple signatures so you can have 1 for each occasion if you wish.

The message is: In order to see your site succeed, you need to promote it. There are millions and millions of websites online. While the numbers vary, it is estimated that only 40-60% of the web is listed on search engines. That means that the other 40-60% must be doing something else to get traffic. You wouldn’t open a store in your basement, tell no one, and then wonder why you went broke. Starting a website online is like that, except that you have the power to route a superhighway through your front door. You simply have to promote it using all of the means at your hands. Keep in mind that this is only an outline, and that many of these steps are more complicated than they may seem to be. Only by properly researching the correct approaches will you get the most success from them. Give these tips some thought. I’m sure you will find several that will work for you. Good luck! See you on the web.


Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial arts portal site and president of SilverStar WebDesigns inc., a web site design and hosting company specializing in affordable solutions for martial artists.

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