8 ESSENTIAL THINGS YOU SHOULD ALREADY BE DOING TO PROMOTE YOUR WEB SITE
1. Publish an E-Mail Newsletter
But why distribute an e-mailed publication instead of (or alongside) putting up a website? Think about your own web surfing habits. Do you visit new sites everyday? Do you visit sites frequently? Which sites do you frequent most often? Which sites are most interesting to you? What do those sites provide to you that is of value? These are the things to keep in mind when you go to design your own page, and/or your own e-mail publication. When individuals visit any given web page, they might stay there for 10-20 seconds before their attention span fades away. Either their attention is drawn to something else, they click on another link which leads them away from your site, or they simply get bored. So, your first (main) page needs to have enough information to entice that user. Unless you have something worth returning for, they’re probably never going to return. Sure, they might bookmark it, they may even put a link to your site on their own web page, but the chances are slim that they’re going to keep coming back to you regularly.
However, if you can show visitors what you have to offer up front and get them to subscribe to your e-mailed publication, then you’re going to have them as captive audience members until they decide to unsubscribe. You don’t have to count on them to revisit your website at all; they’re going to receive your e-zine whether or not they’re online when it arrives in their e-mailbox. Get them to join, and then send them on their merry way.
2. Offer Free E-Mail Courses
Once you write and set up an email course, it becomes an incredibly easy and effective way to promote your site and your products. An e-mail course is a short series of lessons delivered, of course, by e-mail. Interested students sign up by sending an e-mail to an autoresponder address of your choice. To set one up, you’ll need to use an autoresponder service that has follow-up message capabilities. Many autoresponders that come with basic Web-hosting packages are often of the oneshot
variety. That means the autoresponder will send only one return message and that’s it. You can either ask your Web host if it offers a multiple-message option, or you can use a free online autoresponder service, such as
What type of material should you offer in an e-mail course? The best source of ideas is the list of articles you have written or are thinking about writing on your area of expertise. Let’s say you’re a wedding planner and you just wrote an excellent article called Five Steps to Planning a Memorable Wedding Reception. Each step consists of at least three or four paragraphs. Instead of offering this wonderful advice as another free article, split the steps into five lessons to be delivered via an e-mail course. To go the e-mail course route, simply insert the wedding reception planning steps into your autoresponder files and instruct the system how to deliver them. Lesson one will always be delivered instantly whenever someone sends an e-mail to ReceptionPlans@autoresponder.com (or whatever your
autoresponder e-mail address is). You determine when follow-up lessons are sent. You could send one lesson every day for five days or send them every other day to spread the course out over 10 days. If your course requires recipients to do a week of activities between lessons, you’d have the autoresponder send out messages seven days apart. The beauty of autoresponder e-mail courses is that, once they’re set up, all these messages are sent to interested people without any effort on your part.
3. Submit Articles to other E-Mail Newsletters and Sites
It should be easy for you to position yourself as an expert that other Webmasters and e-zine editors will want to expose to their audiences. You should already be creating content for your own site and newsletter. While you may decide to make select portions of your content exclusively available through your own vehicles, most of your content should be freely shared with the world. I’m not talking about material you write that’s sold in books and other formats; material from those projects should be reserved for paying customers. What we’re addressing now are the many articles, columns, and tips you publish with the sole intent of spreading them far and wide. Why will Webmasters and e-zine editors be interested in the free content you have to offer? Here are some of the reasons:
· E-zines need quality content that inspires subscribers to open their e-mail and read it.
· Web sites need useful content to draw first-time visitors.
· Webmasters need to update their sites constantly to get return visitors.
· Good content is hard to find.
· Experts on specialized topics are even harder to find.
· Most marketers offering free content are turned down because they fill their articles with self-serving hype.
Starting today, begin viewing your written expertise as a valuable, in-demand commodity you can use to help others while meeting your own needs. In return for the use of your material, Webmasters and e-zine editors give you access to their audiences—the type of exposure that plants mental seeds that will soon sprout into full-blown recognition of you and your brand identity. When your articles, columns, and tips carry the right type of author attribution, this exposure will also motivate
thousands of people to subscribe to your e-zine and visit your Web site.
Here are a few places to announce that you have free articles available:
Ezine Articles, http://www.ezinearticles.com/
Idea Marketers, http://www.ideamarketers.com/
4. Set up an Affiliate Program
There are two sides to the affiliate game. Most people are playing the game by signing up with affiliate programs, then linking from their Web sites to the site running the affiliate program … hoping to make money in the form of commissions. It’s very easy to get started, and hundreds of thousands of people have already done so. Amazon.com claims to have 400,000 affiliates (or “associates,” as they call them), for instance. Of course there’s another way to play the affiliate game … you can set up an affiliate program yourself, linked to a shopping-cart system, then recruit other Web sites to send business to you. One of the largest directories of affiliate programs on the Web, AssociatePrograms.com, lists just 2694 different programs. Of the millions of businesses operating on the Internet, just a few thousand have managed to not only set up a shopping-cart system of some kind, but to also integrate an affiliate program into it. Why? Because it’s difficult to do so. There are a number of programs available to help you do it (a few are listed in the Links page mentioned above), but in general they are either expensive, or complicated to install … or both. Some e-commerce systems have very crude affiliate systems, systems that require, for instance, that you add each affiliate by hand. You really need a system by which affiliates can sign up for themselves—everything should be automated. If you’re looking for a good affiliate program, you might check out AffiliateTracking.net, http://affiliatetracking.net/. It’s a great little program, with features such as these:
· Automatic affiliate signup and assignment of affiliate links
· Affiliate statistics page, so affiliates can see the number of click throughs, sales, and commissions
· The ability to pay commissions based on click throughs, sales, or “sub affiliates” (when an affiliate signs up another affiliate)
· A series of reports and tools to help you track who you owe and how much you owe
· You can specify how many days an affiliate “owns” a visitor that the affiliate site has directed to your site (if the visitor buys from you after the expiration period, you don’t owe the affiliate a commission)
· Each time an affiliate order is logged the system can, if you wish, send a notification to the affiliate and to you
· A payment tracking module, to help you pay the correct commissions
· A mail system for sending an e-mail to all the affiliates at once (great for announcing special promotions!)
5. Giveaway E-Books
Free e-books are growing in popularity on the Internet for good reason. Here are just a few things you can do with a free e-book:
· Give it away from your site.
· Convince other Web sites and e-zines to give it away.
· Offer it as a freebie for new e-zine subscribers.
· Give it away to your current subscribers as a token of your appreciation.
Give your e-book an attention-getting title and fill it with lively information that focuses on your specialized area. By encouraging your fans to share your free e-book with others, your brand identity may spread faster than a chain latter. The following sites are e-book directories, e-book search engines, or sites that in some way compile lists of available free e-books. Visit them and get your title listed.
eBook Directory, http://www.ebookdirectory.com/
Ebook Giveaways, http://www.ebookgiveaways.com/
EBooks Portal, http://ebooks.searchking.com/
Ebook Shop, http://ebookshop.bizland.com/
6. Participate in Mailing Lists and Discussion Groups
Mailing lists allow a group of people to exchange messages with each other in such a way that everyone participates. Messages are delivered by e-mail. Discussion groups are more like static online bulletin boards. Both present an opportunity for you to promote your product or services. However, it is very important that you post properly; you will not benefit by posting blatant advertisements. Here are a few rules to follow:
Before you start posting messages you should “visit.” Unless you take a look, you don’t know for sure the slant of the group.
Create a good signature. The signature is the block of text at the end of a message that says something about the person who sent the message. Signatures are often used to carry little promotional ads, and this seems to be more or less accepted, as long as the signature isn’t too large.
Be sure to include your URL, email address of an autoresponder (many people still have slow Internet connections and prefer to receive information via email), the email address of a real person to which questions can be directed, and a reason for people to visit your site.
Do not post messages that directly sell something. Pure ads (Buy! Buy!) irritate people. “Ads” in which you give people something are usually acceptable.
Do not post the same message over and over again. If you do so, your chatty announcement turns into a blatant ad. That doesn’t mean you can’t remind people about your Web site. You can announce new services now and again.
7. Enter your Site to Win Online Awards
Awards started off slowly. There was a Cool Site of the Day, The Top 5% of All the Sites on the Web, and so forth; but Web site awards have exploded. There’s a Cool Site of the Second, for crying out loud, a site devoted to cataloguing the best “page not found” errors online, awards for Best Dog Sites—there are all kinds of awards available. As you might guess from the fact that there are so many awards, they’re not quite as meaningful as they used to be. Reams of meaningless awards can be bought for the price of a few e-mails. Some sites will give you awards simply if you link to them. You probably want to avoid these; they don’t do you or your site a lot of good. On the other hand, there are some great awards that can have a big effect on traffic. We’ll point you to some good ones, and, if you really want to learn about every available award, we’ll give you some links to those too.
Submitting Your Site
The most popular awards get lots of nominations. You want your nomination to stand out even before an editor looks at your site. Keep these rules in mind when nominating your site for an award:
· Abide by the guidelines for submitting your nomination. If they want a 50-word essay in purple text, give them a 50-word essay in purple text. And don’t nominate your site for an inappropriate award—your consumer-protection cat-litter site will not be served by winning a “Cool Dog Site” award, and you’ll waste everyone’s time by nominating it.
· Create a precise description of the site that you can send with your nomination. Make sure it’s free of spelling and grammar errors.
· Double-check, triple-check, quadruple-check the URL you submit! You don’t want it to be incorrect.
· If your site requires anything for optimum usage (like RealPlayer, Shockwave, and so on.)make sure the editors know about it. (You don’t want them to visit and then leave because they don’t have the right software to make the most of it.)
Really Good Awards
Might as well start at the beginning. Let’s look at some particularly useful awards.
Project Cool, http://www.projectcool.com/sightings/ is a great award, but it’s not for sissies. Make sure you’re good, and darn good, before you submit here (and if you have a pornographic site, a site glorifying crime, or a site that’s just a link list—don’t bother). Project Cool judges sites on the basis of content, use of the Web as a medium, and well-thought-out navigation. Once you’ve submitted
your Web site, explore the rest of the Project Cool site. You’ll find some great resources for site developers and a community for people who build Web sites.
USA Today Hot Sites, http://www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/ch.htm are won by a wide variety of sites—new search engines, educational resources, media, or whatever; but they all have a lot of great content, and more than occasionally a good sense of humor. The USA Today technology editor chooses the sites on the basis of content and appearance, sites that “push the envelope,” and etc. If you do win a USA Today Hot Site award, your site has a chance to be listed in the offline, print
version of USA Today—another great perk, probably more valuable than the Hot Site award itself. Regularly reading the USA Today Hot Site Awards gives you a good feel for what’s out there and can point you to some sites that are making great use of online technologies. Yahoo Picks of the Week, http://www.yahoo.com/picks/. When Yahoo really likes a site, it puts a
pair of sunglasses next to it in the directory. It also lists its favorite sites in the “Pick of the Day.”
There is an e-mail address at the bottom of that page, so you can suggest your site as a Yahoo pick.
Get mentioned in Yahoo! What’s New, and the number of visitors to your site could skyrocket.
Netguide’s Internet Sites of the Day, http://www.netguide.com/. Each of NetGuide’s various subject guides has a Site of the Day. Go into each guide and look for an e-mail link to submit your site. These are the guide subjects: Computing, Entertainment, Health, Internet, Living, Money,News, Shopping, Sports, Travel, Women, and so on. If you’re really lucky, eventually you may end up in the overall Net Guide.
Lesser-Known Awards There are literally hundreds of Web-site awards, and it would take another couple of books to list them all. Unfortunately, a lot of them aren’t worth the electrons on which they’re printed. Anybody can make a little banner for an award, but that doesn’t make it useful! Furthermore, an award that’s impressive to your target audience—that Yak Stalking Site of the Day award, perhaps—is meaningless to a different group of users.
You’re going to have to judge a lot of awards for yourself. Some are not going to do you any good, yet some specialized awards may turn out to be well worth having. There are a couple of enormous directories you can use to check out what’s available:
Awards Emporium, http://www.momsnetwork.com/aemporium.shtml
Awards Sites!, http://www.awardsites.com/
Website Awards, http://websiteawards.xe.net/
8. Advertise in E-Mail Newsletters
We’re not talking about spam. We’re talking about advertising to people who have signed up to receive e-mail for some reason. There are essentially two types of e-mail advertising: opt-in lists and e-mail newsletters.
Opt-in lists are lists of people who have signed up to receive advertising. Some people sign up for “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” plans. In other words, they agree to receive e-mail in return for something else. For instance, a company may hold regular drawings, giving away computers to the winners. To be included in the drawing, participants must be on the company’s mailing list. Of course, the problem with this sort of list is that the people who sign up may have no interest at all in receiving the e-mail, and may delete it without reading it. All they want is the chance to win a prize.
The other reason people sign up for opt-in e-mail is because they have a genuine interest in getting information. For instance, hundreds of thousands of people who are trying to learn how to do business on the Internet have signed up to receive e-mail about doing business on the Internet, in the hope that some of the mail will lead them to information and services that will help them. The other form of advertising is in e-mail newsletters. In this case people subscribe to a newsletter and, if it’s a good one, continue to receive it because they find it useful or entertaining. The newsletter has ads embedded into it. If it’s a plain-text newsletter, the ads are plain-text ads— generally six or seven lines, about 65 characters wide. If the newsletter is an HTML-mail newsletter, the ads may be banner ads or some other kind of graphic.
To find newsletters to advertise in, see these directories:
Direct E-mail List Source, http://www.copywriter.com/lists/
E-Zine Ad Source Directory, http://www.ezineadsource.com/
Places to Register Your Email Newsletter special report