Website Promotion Guide for 2006

by | Jul 6, 2006 | Marketing

It is estimated that there are around 85 million websites in existence at the time of this writing. By the time you launch your website, it will probably be closer to 100 million. The days of “If you build it, they will come” are long gone.

Don’t lose hope, though. Your website can receive the attention it deserves by following some established techniques, tricks, and principles.

Search Engine Optimization

“Search Engine Optimization,” or the craft of modifying a website to rank highly in search engines, has been around since the mid-90s, when the first index-based search engines were launched.

In the early days, it was a relatively simple process: You just added popular words to the header tags of each page, and then it showed up in the search engines whenever someone searched for those keywords.

As search engines have advanced, however, so has the search engine optimization (SEO) industry. In order to compete with Google’s army of Ph.D. researchers, search engine optimizers struggle to keep up to date on the latest theories and conjecture about how the carefully-guarded — and always changing — search engine algorithms work.

Some examples of factors that can affect your search engine ranking:

  • Number of links to your site from related sites
  • Number of years for which your site’s domain name is registered
  • Age of a specific page on your site
  • Quality of writing on the page
  • Use of headings within the text
  • Number and frequency of updates to a page
  • Use of keywords in the URL
  • Amount of text on a page
  • Rate of external linking to your site
  • Number of pages on the site
  • Domain extension (.com, .net, etc.)
  • Use of frames, Flash, or PDFs
  • Downtime of your web server
  • Geographic location of your web server

Search engine optimization is one of the most ethically charged branches of the web industry, because it’s so easy to cross the line from “optimization” to “exploitation.”

The terms white hat and black hat are often used to describe the ethical spectrum of search engine optimization. The terms are derived from old cowboy movies, where the hero and villain could often be identified by the colors of their hats.

Black Hat SEO

“Black hat” search engine optimization generally seeks to exploit the weaknesses of search engines in order to boost a site’s ranking on results pages.

These techniques often rely on deception, redirection, and other artificial means to generate results. For example, a black hat SEO specialist might create hundreds of pages filled with keyword-rich gibberish for search engines to find and parse, or they might post meanless comments on hundreds of blogs, all linking back to the main website.

It can be very tempting to employ black hat techniques to promote your site, especially when they can produce dramatic short-term results. However, you should keep in mind that search engines are always trying to out-think the black hat SEOs, and the results are therefore short term.

In fact, using deceptive techniques can even get you banned from search engines, or at least permanently damange your ranking.

White Hat SEO

“White hat” search engine optimization seeks to work with the search engines’ strengths, rather than their weaknesses. By creating valid HTML code, well-written and keyword-rich content, and a carefully organized website, white hat SEO specialists seek to create the kind of site that search engines are looking for.

The strongest benefits of white hat SEO is that it’s always in fashion. It won’t damage to your rankings in the ways that black hat SEO can, and it doesn’t require constant monitoring in order to perform well.

However, white hat SEO can be more difficult to pursue, because it relies on so many “soft” factors (high quality content, effective site organization, building strong link relationships, blogging, etc.), whereas black hat SEO can usually be easily commoditized (number of keywords added, number of artificial links built, number of false landing pages created, etc.)

In general, though, white hat search engine optimization can perform better with less maintenance and reduced risk. Despite it’s complexities, it usually makes more business sense.

Inbound Links

One of the most critical (and most difficult) factors in promoting your website is encouraging other websites to link to yours. The more sites that link to yours, especially if they have similar or related content, the more of an “authority” you become in the eyes of the search engines.

Because you have little control over other websites, however, it often takes a lot of person-to-person communication to make these links happen. It’s unlikely that strangers will link to you simply because you ask them, so you need to take the time to establish relationships with other site owners.

Tips for building inbound links:

  • Ensure that you have a high quality website to which site owners can feel comfortable sending their visitors
  • Create content worth linking to (articles, how-tos, games, lists, etc.)
  • Focus on acquiring links from sites with related content
  • Avoid artificial “link building” (a black hat SEO technique)
  • Try to get listed in industry directories, association websites, etc.
  • Create your own side project sites that can link to your main business website

Blogging for Business

A “blog” is a website (or part of a website) that is regularly updated with new articles, thoughts, opinions, etc.

In recent years, many businesses have found that blogs have provided a singificant boost to their website, often becoming a primary source of traffic for them.

There are a number of reasons that blogging can be a powerful marketing tool:

  • People love fresh, interesting, and useful content.
  • It’s unlikely that anyone will link to your “About Us” page, but if you write an insightful “top ten” list about your industry, hundreds or thousands of people may link to you within a matter of days.
  • Journalists increasingly look to blogs to get a sense of what’s hot, and regularly posting industry-related blog articles can help you generate free media coverage.
  • The constant infusion of fresh, keyword-rich content will give your site a boost in the search engines.
  • It keeps people coming back to your site.

Blogging is easy to do poorly, though. Before you start, spend some time reading existing blogs, particularly within your own industry. Think about what you like and dislike about them.

Some quick tips for great business blogging:

  • Post regularly, but not obsessively. Once or twice a week is a good pace.
  • Try to give each post the same attention you’d give to a magazine article submission.
  • Strive to provide useful, practical content that people will bookmark, send to their friends, or link to from their own website.
  • Don’t rant, babble, or preach.
  • Avoid getting overly personal. It’s okay to note that your baby was just born, but listing the items you ate for breakfast isn’t appropriate (unless you’re a food critic, of course).
  • Get involved with other business bloggers. Exchange ideas and tips.

A Word on Traffic

It’s easy to get dazzled by the notion of “traffic,” and to assume that the more hits you’re getting on the site, the better the site is performing.

However, it’s not uncommon for high-traffic business sites to perform poorly when it comes to sales conversions. What really matters to your business isn’t the total number of visitors your site receives, but the number of relevantqualified visitors.

A site that converts 25 out of 100 visitors into customers is significantly more effective than one that converts 10 out of 1,000 visitors. Higher traffic can provide a great ego boost, but it doesn’t necessarily improve your bottom line.

While promoting your site, stay focused on getting in front of the right people. Don’t worry about getting linked from the biggest website in your industry; sometimes small links from your immediate peers can do a better job of sending potential customers your way.

Be Useful

Above all, try to be useful. If your site isn’t helpful or relevant to your potential customers, there’s no reason for them to get excited about it, regardless of how well you might sell it. As long as you are genuine in your communications, and strive to provide a truly high-quality website to your target audience, it will be relatively easy to promote your site.

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