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If You Build It, They Will Come - Or Will They?
by Joan Donogh


So you've just launched your great new website, and you are sitting back, waiting for the world to beat a path to your door. Well, you'd better sit up and take notice, because no one is going to find you, unless you promote.

People often come to me with the idea that a website will be the start and end of their promotional activity. It is definitely a great start, but it is only a start.

Building a website is like having glossy brochures produced. Those brochures will not help you attract any new customers if they are sitting in a box under your desk. In order to make those brochures work for you, you need a marketing plan to get them into the hands of your target customers.

Likewise, if your website strategy includes using your website to attract new potential customers, you need a marketing plan to get those potential customers to see your website. Some of the ways to promote in order to get people to visit your website include:

Search Engines and Directories

There are millions of websites on the internet, and thousands more are added every day. Search engines and on-line directories are the main methods used to locate websites - by entering search criteria in a search engine, or browsing the hierarchical category listings in a directory. The search engines and directories will not know of the existence of your site, unless you tell them.

In the past, sites could be submitted to most search engines for free. Their business model was to make money through advertising revenue. This did not occur, so the majority have developed a new business model in which they charge a fee to consider websites for listing. Some currently charge a one time fee for review, some charge an annual fee (similar to being listed in the Yellow Pages), and still others employ a "pay per click" model (you pay a pre-determined fee every time someone clicks on your site from a listing in the search engine.)

Your website developer should be able to help you to determine the budget required for search engine promotion, and in executing the submission of your site to the selected services.

If your business is highly dependent upon receiving visitors to your website, you may also want to employ the services of a search engine optimization firm. These people are experts in the way each search engine operates (every one uses a different method to determine the order that search results are displayed, and they also change their method frequently). They will work with your website to "optimize" it so that it will place higher in the rankings of the various search engines - thereby generating more traffic to your site.

Local or Specialty Directories

Most localities have one or more on-line directories specifically for businesses in the area. If your business is local in nature, listing in local directories can be valuable.

There may also be specialty directories geared towards your target market. e.g. if your product or service is targeted to small business owners, you can submit it to specialty directories that provide listings of small business resources.

If you do a search for your community or target market, these directory sites should come up near the top of the search results, so if you are listed in them people will be able to find you more easily. Many may offer free listing with optional paid advertising available.

Your community or target market might also have printed directories that you can list your website in.

Off-Line Advertising

Traditional advertising, e.g. TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, can also be effective in promoting your website, and your business. If you are running a small business that does not have a budget for national TV ads, you can probably still find cost effective ways of advertising. You need to place your ads where they will be seen by your target customers. For example, if you are selling woodworking tools, you can place a small ad in a woodworking magazine.

If you are already advertising in any traditional media, make sure that your website address is included in all of your ads. This will allow people to go to your website for more information.

Other Promotional Materials

Don't neglect to include your website address on your business cards, letterhead, brochures, Yellow Pages ad, etc. Also include your website address as part of the signature that you use on the bottom of all e-mails you send out.

Having a great website built is only the beginning. In order for your website to bring you new business, people must be able to find it. This requires development and implementation of a promotional strategy that will bring qualified traffic to your site. Only then does the website become an effective promotional tool.


The Author


Joan Donogh is the President of In-Formation Design and has extensive experience in marketing communications, web site development and the design and development of customer relationship management and loyalty programs. She is also the creator of Now .... You're Cooking!. Visit In-Formation Design for additional information.

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Copyright 2002 by Joan Donogh. All rights reserved.

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