Aug 20, 2009

The Web Marketing - Ways to Promote Your Website

Social Media

The best type of website promotion comes from the mushrooming field of social media, in which people are encouraged to interact with each other, and respond to each other's blog postings and comments. You should be aware of four types of social media: (1) blogs, (2) social networking sites, (3) social bookmarking sites, and (4) forums. Don't be upset if the distinctions between types of social media tend to blur. Social media help promote your site by sending direct traffic, producing links to your site, and generating awareness.

Begin a Business Blog. Want links to your site? Begin a business blog on your website, hosted on your own domain. If you offer excellent content and regular industry comment, people are likely to link to it, increasing your site's PageRank. Consistency and having something to say are key. If you have a blog on a third-party blog site, occasionally find reasons to talk about and link to your own domain.

Become Part of a Social Media Community. Some of the best online communities for business include Facebook (, LinkedIn (, and Twitter ( In addition, you may want to participate in a social bookmarking community in which members share with each other information about websites, articles, or news items that they like (or don't like). These include Digg (, Delicious (, StumbleUpon (, and Google Bookmarks ( Search engine spiders troll these sites looking for links to something new and relevant. You can usually place a link to your website in your profile, but the biggest gain comes when other people mention you (which generates traffic to your site), link to you (which increases your PageRank and brings traffic), or bookmark you (which increases your PageRank and brings traffic).

One important reminder, don't join a community to spam them or talk incessantly about your business. Like any community you must listen, comment, and make a genuine contribution for the good of others. Don't hog the conversation. Otherwise, your self-serving links and comments will hurt your reputation. By the way, to get started, why don't you visit my social media pages and become a Facebook fan ( or a Twitter follower ( -- please! Thank you!

Promote Your Site in Online Forums and Discussion Lists -- "old school" social media. The Internet offers thousands of very targeted e-mail based discussion lists, online forums, and groups made up of people with very specialized interests. Use Google Groups ( to find appropriate groups. Search online for blogs or other forums.

Don't bother with groups consisting of pure spam. Instead, find groups where a serious dialog is taking place. Don't use aggressive marketing and overtly plug your product or service. Rather, add to the discussion in a helpful way and let the "signature" at the end of your e-mail message do your marketing for you. People will gradually get to know and trust you, visit your site, and do business with you.

Ask Visitors to Bookmark Your Site. It seems simple, but ask visitors to bookmark your site or save it in their Favorites list. I use a widget called AddThis ( When you put the AddThis JavaScript on your webpage, it automatically determines the title and URL of that page. When visitors click the button on your page, they are automatically taken to a page that allows them to choose which bookmarking service they prefer, and then pre-populates the appropriate form with the title and URL of your webpage. I use AddThis throughout my website, as well as in my newsletters. If you have good content that people want to bookmark, this can generate hundreds of links to your site and significantly raise your rankings.

Traditional Strategies

Just because "old media" strategies aren't on the Internet doesn't mean they aren't effective. A mixed media approach can be very effective.

Include Your URL on Stationery, Cards, and Literature. Make sure that all business cards, stationery, brochures, and literature contain your company's URL. And see that your printer gets the URL syntax correct. In print, I recommend leaving off the http:// part and including only the portion.

Promote using traditional media. Don't discontinue print advertising that you've found effective. But be sure to include your URL in any display or classified ads you purchase in trade journals, newspapers, yellow pages, etc. View your website as an information adjunct to the ad. Use a two-step approach: (1) capture readers' attention with the ad, (2) then refer them to a URL where they can obtain more information and perhaps place an order. Look carefully at small display or classified ads in the back of narrowly-targeted magazines or trade periodicals. Sometimes these ads are more targeted, more effective, and less expensive than online advertising. Consider other traditional media to drive people to your site, such as direct mail, classifieds, post cards, etc. TV can be used to promote websites, especially in a local market.

Develop a Free Service. It's boring to invite people, "Come to our site and learn about our business." It's quite another to say "Use the free kitchen remodeling calculator available exclusively on our site." Make no mistake, it's expensive in time and energy to develop free resources, such as our Research Room , but it is very rewarding in increased traffic to your site -- and a motivation to link to the site! Make sure that your free service is closely related to what you are selling so the visitors you attract will be good prospects for your business. Give visitors multiple opportunities and links to cross over to the sales portion of your site.

E-Mail Strategies

Don't neglect e-mail as an important way to bring people to your website. Just don't spam, that is, don't send bulk unsolicited e-mails without permission to people with whom you have no relationship. Many countries have anti-spam laws.

Install a "Signature" in your E-Mail Program to help potential customers get in touch with you. Most e-mail programs allow you to designate a "signature" to appear at the end of each message you send. Limit it to 6 to 8 lines: Company name, address, phone number, URL, e-mail address, and a one-phrase description of your unique business offering. Look for examples on e-mail messages sent to you.

Publish an E-Mail Newsletter. While it requires a commitment of time, creating a monthly e-mail publication is one of the most important promotion techniques. It could be a newsletter ("ezine"), list of tips, industry updates, or new product information -- whatever you believe your customers will appreciate. This is a great way to keep in touch with your prospects, generate trust, develop brand awareness, and build future business. It also helps you collect e-mail addresses from those who visit your site, but aren't yet ready to make a purchase. You distribute your newsletter inexpensively using e-mail marketing services such as: iContact , Constant Contact, and AWeber . If you have a very small list, some of these services let you use their services free until you grow larger. Blogs are very popular, but don't really replace e-mail newsletters. You have to go to a blog to read it, while an e-mail newsletter appears in your inbox asking to be read.

Aggressively Ask for E-Mail Sign-ups. If you want to get subscribers to your e-mail newsletter, you'll need to work hard at it. Include a subscription form on every page of your website. Promote sign-ups through free whitepapers, e-books, or other products. If you have a local business, ask customers to sign up for your e-mail list to get "special Internet only offers." Also ask other businesspeople when they give you a business card if you can send them your e-mail newsletter. While only the e-mail address itself is necessary, I always ask for a first name also, so I can personalize the newsletter and the e-mail subject line with the recipient's name.

Send Transactional and Reminder E-Mails. A transactional e-mail is sent to an existing customer to initiate, remind, confirm, or thank the person. Be creative. If you keep careful records, you can send e-mails to customers on their birthday to remind them to return to your site. Subscription confirmation e-mails can also mention several popular products. You might remind customers that it has been three months since their last order and ask if it's time for a refill. Thank you for your purchase e-mails can offer a coupon to bring your customer back for a future sale. Use your imagination, but don't pester your customers. You're there to serve them, not the other way around.

Send Offers to Your Visitors and Customers. Your own list of customers and site visitors who have given you permission to contact them will be your most productive list. Send special offers, coupon specials, product updates, etc. They often initiate another visit to your site. If you have a regular newsletter, you can include many of these in your regular e-mailing.

Exchange E-Mail Mentions with Complementary Businesses. You might consider exchanging e-mail newsletter mentions with complementary businesses to reach new audiences. Just be sure that your partners are careful where they get their mailing list so you don't get in trouble with the anti-spam laws in your country.

Miscellaneous Strategies

Here are a couple of strategies that don't fit elsewhere.

Announce a Contest. People like getting something free. If you publicize a contest or drawing available on your site, you'll generate more traffic than normal. Make sure your sweepstakes rules are legal in all states and countries you are targeting. Prizes should be designed to attract individuals who fit a demographic profile describing your best customers.

Devise Viral Marketing Promotion Techniques. So-called viral marketing uses existing communication networks to spread the word exponentially. Word-of-mouth, PR, creating "buzz," and network marketing are offline models. Promotion strategy #16 above, "Write Articles for Others to Use for Website and Newsletter Content," is a kind of viral approach.

The key to the best viral marketing, however, is create something that generates buzz and is so cute / fascinating / fun / bizarre that it gets passed by viewers to their friends via e-mail and social networks -- thousands of times -- so that it propels more and more people to your website, and, hopefully, helps enhance your brand, produce sales, and ultimately boost profits. Internet marketers often seek to launch viral campaigns on Digg ( or YouTube ( Digg is a social bookmarking site with such power, that if enough people "Digg" you, you appear on the Digg front page and receive a huge number of visitors in a few hours. If your video goes viral on YouTube, you could get tens of thousands of visits to the site you promote in the video. However, viral marketing is difficult to do well.

Paid Advertising Strategies

None of the approaches described above is "free," since each takes time and energy. But if you want to grow your business more rapidly, there comes a point when you need to pay for increased traffic. Advertising is sold in one of three ways: (1) traditional CPM (cost per thousand views), (2) pay per click (PPC), and (3) pay per action (PPA) or cost per action (CPA) approaches. Examples of the latter are affiliate program and lead generation programs. Banner ads get such a low click-through rate (0.2%) that I don't recommend paying much for them. Banner ads typically cost about 50¢ to $1 per thousand page views, except on targeted sites. Do some small tests first to determine response. Then calculate your return on investment (ROI) before spending large amounts. Here are some methods to explore:

Advertise in an E-Mail Newsletter. Some of the best buys are small text ads in e-mail newsletters targeted at audiences likely to be interested in your products or services. Many small publishers aren't sophisticated about advertising and offer very attractive rates.

More effective (and more expensive) is to send out an appropriate solo e-mail to the targeted list's subscribers. These often get a good response.

Begin an Affiliate Program. Essentially, a retailer's affiliate program is a CPA program that pays a commission to other site owners whose links to the retailer's products result in an actual sale. The goal is to build a network of affiliates who have a financial stake in promoting your site. If you're a merchant, you need to (1) determine the commission you are willing to pay (consider it your advertising cost), (2) select a company to set up the technical details of your program, and (3) promote your program to get the right kind of affiliates who will link to your site. Software and service companies are available to facilitate the process. The problem is getting enough affiliates who will actually work hard to promote your products or services. These "super affiliates" will probably consist of only 1% to 3% of your total number of affiliates.

Purchase Pay Per Click (PPC) ads with Google AdWords (, Yahoo! Search Marketing (, or Microsoft AdCenter ( This strategy is way down the list, but it is vitally important. Most Internet businesses will want to explore using Google AdWords to drive targeted traffic to their websites.

These PPC ads appear on the search engine results page, typically both above and to the right of the organic or natural search engine results. Since they are keyword-driven, they can be quite relevant to what a searcher is trying to find. Your ranking in this list of paid text ads is determined by (1) how much you have bid for a particular search word compared to other businesses, (2) the click-through rate on your ad, and (3) your Quality Score, which reflects the relevancy and quality of your ad and the landing page it points to.

PPC ads can be a cost-effective way to get targeted traffic, since you only pay when someone actually clicks on the link. But I strongly recommend that you study this carefully and expect a learning curve before you invest large sums of money in PPC advertising. Read Andrew Goodman's book Winning Results with Google AdWords (Second Edition, McGraw-Hill, Dec 2008, ISBN 0071496564).

List Your Products with Shopping Comparison Bots and Auction Sites. If you're an online merchant, you'll want to consider this. Shopping bots compare your products and prices to others. Some work on a PPC (Pay Per Click) basis, others on a CPA (Cost Per Action) basis, perhaps with a listing fee. Bots to consider include mySimon (, BizRate (, PriceGrabber (, and ( Shopping sites that include comparison features include: eBay (, Yahoo! Shopping (, and Amazon Marketplace ( You pay to acquire first-time customers, but hopefully you can sell to them a second, third, and fourth time, later on.

Rent targeted, commercial e-mail lists. The last website promotion technique I'll mention is renting targeted e-mail lists. We abhor "spam," bulk untargeted, unsolicited e-mail, and you'll pay a very stiff price in a ruined reputation and cancelled services if you yield to temptation here. But the direct marketing industry has developed targeted e-mail lists you can rent -- lists consisting of people who have agreed to receive commercial e-mail messages. These lists cost $40 to $400 per thousand or 4¢ to 40¢ per name. Do a smaller test first to determine the quality of the list. Your best bet is to find an e-mail list broker ( to help you with this project. You'll save money and get experienced help for no additional cost. Realize, however, that due to the high cost of renting lists, many businesses won't generate enough businesses to justify the cost. Run the numbers before you invest.

Whew! That's it. We certainly haven't exhausted ways to promote your site, but these will get you started. To effectively market your site, you need to spend time adapting these strategies to your own market and capacity. Right now, why don't you make an appointment to go over this checklist with someone in your organization? Make this Checklist jump-start for your new Internet marketing strategy.

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