Sometimes, a website can explode from nowhere with absolutely no publicity, but it will catch a mood and suddenly be pulling millions of visitors. The story of Mahir and the I Kiss You phenomenon is possibly the best-known example of this. However, there are billions of pages out there, millions of websites, and only a small percentage ever get a significant number of hits at all. Many web pages hover with less than 10 straggling and probably lost visitors each month for their entire lives.
So, how do you create a website that gets visitors? There are three golden rules:
- Navigation, presentation and content
- Publicity and content
- Oh, and content
This may seem a little strange. Publicity comes third? And what’s all this about content?
The more research that’s done on the Internet and the sites that make it versus the sites that don’t, the more it becomes clear that what people want is quality information, well presented and easy to find. How this happens to get to their computer they really don’t care. They don’t want loud colours; black on white is good with plenty of space and a readable, good-sized font. They don’t want too many pictures and images, so these have to be well chosen, clear and relevant. They do want a clear navigation system, maybe a search facility on a larger site, but most of all, what they really want is to find what they were looking for. If they don’t find it, they’ll leave, and they won’t come back, and they won’t encourage others to come.
Remember your visitor is the most important part of the website. When a visitor comes to your site, will they quickly be able to recognise that what they were looking for? That’s the crux of it. If so, your website is almost assured success, and all the planning and hard work has been done with proper focus and to good effect. If not, it’s back to the drawing board.
But you’re of course wondering how you get the visitor to your site in the first place. OK, there are several options you can consider for this. You’ll probably try a blend of them all, plus other ideas of your own. This isn’t an exhaustive list at all, and your imagination really should be allowed to scheme up wonderful plans!
- Search engines and directories
- Web rings
- Banner exchanges
- Reciprocal links
- Press releases
- Stationary and business cards
- Paid advertising
Search Engines and Directories
The primary online promotion of webites, getting high rankings on search engines can be the lifeblood of a site. Be wary, though, of software that claims to submit your site to 100s of engines, or slick marketers who claim they’ll boost your rankings for a premium fee. Getting good search engine results is not too difficult if you apply some basic principles.
First, make sure the site is in good order, that links work and graphics are in good shape, and that you’ve got your content right. Then, take some time to add in some META tags to the site, especailly the keywords and description tags.
Follow their directions for how to submit to their particular site correctly, and then be patient – your site can take weeks, even months, to appear in search listings. You can also look into a free google listing to help your website rank.
Finally, try and get links coming in to your site from other sites (see reciprocal links), and this will not only guide the search engines’ web spiders to your site, but can also provide a significant boost to the positioning your site achieves in results.
This is an old idea, not so popular now, but still available and possibly worth pursuing. Various websites covering a common interest form a chain, linking one site to the next and then back to the start. This ‘ring’ means that the sites pretty much share visitors, and as each site will have a fairly unique take on the subject matter, it allows the visitor to get a greater depth of information, and really explore the topic. Joining a web ring is often free, or you can look into starting your own. As a community builder, this can be a very effective promotion method.
A banner exchange works similarly to a web ring, but instead of a chain of common sites, there are banner links between related sites, controlled centrally by a banner server. You join a banner exchange by first creating a banner for your website, which is a particular graphic that forms the advert to your site. This is then submitted to the banner exchange program’s main website, along with some information about what categories of other websites you think your site might have relevance. It’s up to the banner exchange program to then display links to your site from other sites, hopefully bringing visitors.
Remember, this being an exchange program, you need to make sure there is space on your own site to carry a banner advert. You’ll be given a few lines of code to add to your own web pages, which will allow the banner exchange program to put banners on your website. You’ll have no real control over which adverts show up, except that they’ll match the categories you’ve indicated that you’re website fits into.
Some of these programs are free while others cost a subscriber fee. If you can find a free one that seems reputable, and you feel ok with adding their code to your site, it can generate some traffic, though it may be worth noting that banners are currently perhaps the least effective method of online site promotion.
This is a very simple and effective method of site promotion. Unlike banner exchange and web rings, you have complete control over the process. Essentially, you find a site that you like on the Internet, and contact the owner or Webmaster, probably by email, explaining how you like their site, and why it’s subject matter is relevant to your own. Then, you ask them if they’re interested in a reciprocal link. All this means is that you put a link on your site pointing to theirs, and they put a link on their site pointing back to yours. Simple! Both sites benefit, and everything can be worked out on an individual basis. It’s free, and again, it’s very good at community building, as at the very least you are bound to make a contact.
It has implications for search engine listings because the more links that point to your site, the better your chances of getting included, and the higher up the rankings your site will come. Look for quality, relevant sites, as a handful of high quality links is better than dozens of links from low quality and irrelevant websites.
This can be tricky, as newsgroups can be unpredictable, and you need a reasonable level of confidence with Internet use and Netiquette. If you’re at all unsure, leave this route alone, as it can cause you problems if you offend the wrong people. However, if done properly, this is an extremely good way of publicising your site to a wide audience and specialised audience.
First, peruse the newsgroups to find those of most relevance to your website. Now, assuming you have keen expertise in the subject matter of your website, watch for questions being raised to which you know the answers. Take time to answer them, but don’t advertise overtly yet. Keep to a discrete web address in the signature to your posts. Keep this up for some time, paying regular visits and answering as helpfully as you can. You’ll begin to get a reputation, and you’ll especially know this is happening when posts begin to refer to you even when you’re not involved. If this reputation is a good one, you can begin to slip in the quiet little pointers that you’ve been waiting for. At the end of answering a question, slip in, You can find more information at my website, at www.my-web-site-address.org.uk. If you’ve done this right, you’ll very often find that this can generate an enormous amount of traffic.
This can be approached in exactly the same way as newsgroups, with the benefit that there is generally a slightly less uptight atmosphere. Again, beware of overt advertising as you may find yourself banned (or worse!), but helpfully answering the questions of others where you can, including a discrete signature link to your site, can produce good traffic results, and also build your reputation.
When you launch the site, it’s newsworthy. Put together a strong press release, highlighting the reasons that your site has been created, who it’s for and what it offers. There’s no guarantee that it will get picked up, but it’s worth a try, and a little media attention can go an awfully long way.
Bear in mind, though, that your website changes. If you have a great idea for expanding the site, like adding a new chat and community section, send out another press release. If you get hold of an exclusive interview, send out a press release. If you upgrade the service that you provide outside of the website, put the information about that change on the website, and put out a press release pointing people to the website to find more information!
After all, it can be very surprising what even three lines on page 10 of a local rag can do. It’s well worth the effort.
Stationary and Business Cards
In the same way that you publicise you postal address and phone contacts on stationary and business cards, you should include your email and web address. It’s easy to overlook this!
If you have the budget, you can of course look into paid advertisements. If it’s part of a wider advertising campaign for your organisation in general, then of course incorporating the website address is simply essential. You might well consider paid advertising online, perhaps through channels such as Google or Yahoo ads, or advertising directly with sites. (PCTechGuide welcomes enquiries from those who would like to place their ad on the site.)
- Where to Learn More about Web Design and Website Development
- Web Development Guide 2
- Web Development Guide 3
- How to publicise your website