Beyond Search Engines: Tips for Promoting Your Web Site

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A few short years ago, you could build your site, register it with the search engines, and without too much extra effort, you would be "found" by plenty of visitors. Those days are past; the Web has become so big that the search engines are having difficulty keeping up.If you're serious about getting hits, you'll need to put some serious effort into making yourself visible.

The following tips and links are included as a service to all those aspiring web-masters, web-mistresses (or webwitches, as I prefer to be called) who have the interest and desire to promote their sites on the web.

The major factors to consider are:

First, the Major Search Engines

Research is showing that well over 80% of hits to a Web site come from nine major search engines. Therefore, the first and most important step you can take is to register with the Big Ones. These are so important that it is advisable that you do these manually, rather than relying on one of the software or promotion services that promise to register your site in hundreds of directories.

Whether or not you proceed beyond simply registering in the major search engines depends on what you are hoping to accomplish. For example, if I want people to find my site simply by typing "Nightcats Multimedia Productions" into the search engines, then site registration will be sufficient. If, on the other hand, I want my site to come up when people type in keywords (i.e. writing, business writer, etc.), then that is a much different story and I will need to do some careful planning when I design my site.

Google Excite AltaVista HotBot
Fee for Express Submission
Lycos Open Source
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Design for Keyword Search

If you want people to find you through the use of keywords, then you will have to invest either time or money to make this happen. For every keyword, there are probably thousands or tens of thousands of sites using that keyword, so it takes tinkering and re-tinkering to come out in the top ten or twenty. If you are seriously interested in having your site appear in the top twenty listings, you will need to spend time on an ongoing basis researching the current search engine strategies. Belive me, this changes often.

To keep current, I recommend the following resources:
Am-Pro Help Files. You will find up to date news on latest search engine information.

Here are some things that help:
  1. Use the Title Tag wisely. The title tag appears inside the head tag on your HTML file, and it is the writing that appears at the very top of your browser when your site is loaded. Make sure your site tag contains your keywords. For example, if my title says Nightcats Multimedia Productions, it won't be useful for a keyword search of writing. Therefore, I use Writing Services by Nightcats Multimedia Productions instead.
  2. Use Meta Tags. Many people mistakenly believe that using Meta tags is a magical solution. Meta tags are not the whole picture, but using them is better than not using them. One point of caution: there are various tricks that webmasters have been using to fool the search engines and drive their sites to the top of the listing. In retaliation, the search engine designers frequently modify the way their engines work in an effort to avoid these practices. Use of " tricks" is likely to get you bounced out of the engines listing altogether.
  3. Use Text in your Page. Search engines read text. They do not read pictures, images, animations, javascript, or any of the other special effects that are so popular. If you start your page out with an image map, there will be no text for the engine to register. The first few sentences of text should contain the keywords used both in your meta tags and in your title. Use your headline tags and include keywords in your headings. Some search engines put more importance on words enclosed between heading tags. Lastly, use keywords in the Alt tags that accompany your graphics.
  4. Arrange to have other sites link to you. With some search engines, retrieval of pages is a popularity contest. The more sites that link to you, the better your chances of having your site appear high in the ratings.

    Caution! Software technologies such as "link farms" will do you more harm than good. Some search engines will view this as trickery and will penalize you.
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Other Search Engines and Directories

There hundreds, maybe thousands of smaller search engines and directories that will list your site, often for free. Likewise, you can find a number of products of services that will do this for you, sometimes for free, sometimes for a price.
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Banner Exchange Programs

Banner Exchange Programs allow you to " trade" banners with another web site. These programs are usually fully automated and often available free of cost. Banner advertising, however, is less effective than it once was. Surfers have become jaded and rarely click through a banner.

Running a search for "banner exchange"will turn up a huge selection.

If you are interested in spending some money, you can arrange banner advertising at any number of sites for prices that vary from very little to astronomical.
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Give Away A Freebie

Offer something free on your site. It might be a " how-to" article, like this one, a contest, a game or any other free product or service. You could offer free email on your site, allow your visitors to send electronic postcards or greeting cards, etc. Once you are offering a legitimate freebie (Buy One Get One Free doesn't count!) you can then register your sites with the many freebie sites.

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Classified Ads and FFAs

Run a search and locate dozens, hundreds maybe, of sites offering classified ads (for free or for a price.) Listing your site will not attract many hits to your site, but it will also attract you lots of spam. This is not recommended as a good way to generate traffic. It's mentioned here only to let you know this isn't the best way to go.
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Offline Promotion

Don't forget to include your URL and your email address on your business cards, letterheads, fax cover sheets, newspaper ads and any other type of marketing material that you might be using. If your site is of general public interest, submit the URL to newspapers, television and radio shows who make a habit of listing new sites. If you're selling a product, stamp the URL on the label. One creative marketer carries a rubber stamp containing the URL of her site. She's been known to stamp it on people's hands at parties!
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Reciprocal Linking

As the name suggests, you find appropriate Web sites, contact the Webmaster and suggest reciprocal linking. Be sure not to include your links on your sales page. No point in encouraging people to leave that area!

If you're really serious about traffic, consider creating a directory of themed, reciprocal links. But-- be very careful. Many search engines are penalzing sites that have "link farms". Be sure your links are tightly themed and have good content.
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Join a Web Ring

Webrings are " rings" of connected sites, all with a common theme. Run a search using Web ring and your main keywords to find how you might join up. Your site will need the approval of the Ring Master. If there's nothing available, consider starting one of your own.
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Email, Chat, Message Boards and Newsgroups

These four methods are commonly used for promoting your Web site and for building business or personal relationships. However, there is a right way and a wrong way. You are forbidden to actively promote your site or your business in most newsgroups, mailing lists, chat sessions, or other similar components. (Violating this rule will get you flamed or banned from the group.) There are right ways, however. Some of these include:
  1. Include your URL and a brief description of your Website in the signature of your email. The signature is the few lines (no more than 5, please) of text that most email programs allow you to add automatically. When you post to a mailing list, your signature containing your URL will displayed legitimately.
  2. When participating in chat sessions or posting to newsgroups or message boards, use your URL if permitted. Otherwise, in the course of your interactions, the opportunity may arise for you to mention your service or your Web site. This is appropriate if done in response to a request.
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Pay Per Click Search Engines

Pay Per Clicks are increasingly popular. You bid on key words, and pay the bidded amount for every visitor that clicks through your listing after running a search at the engine.

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Commercial Ventures

If you have dollars to spend, you will find no shortage of opportunities to promote your site commercially. You can consider banner advertising, paid advertisements on targeted email lists, mass emailings to opt-in email lists and more.

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