Beginners guide to website marketing 2004
Why should I Market My website.
Lets imagine you are setting up a real world store. You are given 2 options. You can either have a store on the outskirts of a small village or you can have a store in the center of the city mall. What one would you choose? Of course it would be the city center location but lets think why. The sheer volume of people who would see your shop for a start. Website marketing is in many ways the same. You want people to be aware of your existence. Before people can enter your site they need to know it is there and have a way of getting to it. Ok lets imagine you are working on a website. Sorry to have to say it but right now you are the equivalent of the village store. People don't know you exist. No one passes your store. Website marketing is the most effective way of addressing this problem. But like the real world village store you may not have a massive budget to spend on advertising. Lets see what can be done on a minimalist budget.
Start as you mean to continue.
The best time to start marketing your website is during it's construction. You can make a very big difference to your websites chances of success if you plan it right from the start and work everything out very carefully. Imagine you are standing outside that city center store. What makes you want to walk through those doors. Do you feel welcome, are items easy to find can you get assistance easily etc. These aspects are not entirely marketing related. They are to an extent related to design and usability. They are however something you really need to look into. From the marketing point of view your initial aim is to get people through the door. What you need to try and do is build a page that has a good balance between design and search engine friendliness. When building a search engine friendly page many people forget about the users who are going to be finding their way there. If a page has been built with only the search engine in mind very often the users find their self on an ugly page filled with large text and no clear user understandable navigation. You should try to avoid this. Build your page with the user as first priority. You may find this to be slightly less effective at pulling in the visitors. But you will find your users aren't as likely to press the back button as soon as they arrive on your page.
On page optimization
On page optimization is a very important subject for any website promoter. What you are doing it pointing out to the search engine what your page is about and pointing out the vital information you want the search engine to take back to base camp. Lets start from the top...
Title. This is an html tag that goes within your <head></head> tag. It is a very short summary of the page.
Lets imagine you are writing a page about car information you may use the following title tag
|<title>Car information</title> |
This is very short and to the point, it is a good overall description of the page and it gives the search engine spider something to take home. On the other hand..
|<title>Mack's cool site all about cool cars</title> |
This title doesn't really hit the nail on the head. It leaves the search engine confused about the nature of the page. We need to remember search engine spiders are pretty dumb. We need to help them out as much as possible.
Keywords. This is a meta tag that is used to specify a list of keywords that describe your web page.
This list is a pretty short number of words that are directly related to our page about cars.
|<metaname="keywords" content="cars, automobiles, automotive, vehicles,"> |
this on the other hand will once again succeed in confusing the search engine. This list of keywords are way to varied to help the search engine analyze your page.
|<metaname="keywords" content="cars, lorries, roads, cool site, click here"> |
Over the past two or three years the meta keyword tag has been greatly depreciated by many of the top search engines. Now it is mainly used by the secondary engines and a few smaller search engines. I however feel it is still good practice to add this tag to keep your pages prepared. Lets face it the search engine world changes so fast that we never quite know when a depreciated tag will make a come back.
Description. This is another meta tag. This is placed within the head of your html document.
|<metaname="description" content="offering information and articles about cars"> |
The description tag should be a fairly short description of your web page. Try and keep it as related to your real page content as possible. In the good old days it was possible to put pretty much anything there and that is what the search engines would display on the results page. Those days are long since gone and search engines now rely on the true content of the page to work out their descriptions to be shows on the results pages.
The description tag (like the keywords tag) have also been depreciated by most of the top search engines. Descriptions are however sometimes used by some smaller web directories. I have came across quite a few that only ask you for a web address after you have selected a category. For this reason I still use the meta description tag, although I very often reserve it for the homepage.
h1 tags these are very often used to good effect for letting the search engines know exactly what a page is about. The h1 tag is used to specify a page heading. For example on our cars site we might use the following..
h1 tags should be used with caution. No more than one per page. The h1 tag was intended to be used simply as a heading. Excessive use of h1 tags is frowned upon by most search engines.
In effect the h1 tag is saying this is level 1 heading
h2 is slightly less important than h1 h2 is a secondary heading
h3 again is even less important (third level heading)
The correct way of using h tags is to use your h1 as a heading only. You can then use your h2 tag as a sub heading within the same page. You could then use h3 tags you set up various sub heading below your h2 area. In this case the search engine and the user are both happy with their use, if they are used correctly. For example a user would always expect the important header to be at the top. But a search engine will always class the h1 as the most important text no matter where it is on the page. For this reason it is important for you to nest your h tags properly.
On page elements in practice.
<metaname="keywords" content="cars, automobiles, automotive, vehicles,">
<metaname="description" content="offering information and articles about cars">
Earlier on we spoke about certain tags that have depreciated by many search engines (meta keywords and meta description) To an extent search engines have become a lot smarter and now read the entire page to try and work out what your page is about. In terms of search engine optimization all we can do it help the engine by trying to point out the content we want it to take from each page. The most important aspects it will look for is title, h1 tag and popular words that appear within the body of the page. By achieving a good keyword density we end up having a word or phrase that occurs quite a lot within the page. This is where things can go very wrong. If you write your content purely for search engines it will make little or no sense to your user. You need to try and find the balance where-by you have a nice keyword density but a page that ready very well to a user. If a search engine is able to find a good relevant title, a suitable h1 text and reasonable on page content they you really have done all you can do in terms of on page optimization.
The grand opening.
Ok you now have a website up and running and are all ready to start taking orders. you wait, you wait, you wait a little longer. Where is everyone? The truth is you are just getting started. You now have to start getting your message out and pointing people in the direction of your website. Before you even start trying to actively promote your site you need to be 100% sure that you are ready to go main stream. Do all your links work properly? Have you had your copy proof read? are you happy with your choice of domain name? are you happy with your hosting arrangement. If you are not happy with anything or if you feel you want to change anything then please do not start promoting yet. Wait until everything is exactly as you want it to be and more importantly as your users will expect it to be. Doing business on the web has one major difference to being business in the real world. If someone doesn't like your store they wont even pretend to be polite, they will simply click the back button and be gone forever. In the real world when you open a business people know you are new and will be a little more understanding to things that don't work quite as planned. On the web it is very difficult to tell the difference between a problematic start up and a failing internet business.
A press release can very often be used to great effect to give your online business the kick it requires, but this is one thing that really needs to be done properly. If you are not a content writer then I would strongly suggest you hire someone to write the release for you. If the release doesn't read as being totally professional then you are again loosing out on potential users and/or customers. The press release if written and distributed correctly can do wonders for any start up. There are many resources on the web who offer press release services. Many offer a free service as well as a paid service. To be honest the free services give you as much as you pay for them. The initial press release needs to be done properly. Very often this will involve a layout of a few hundred dollars to have it written and published. A press release is one situation where it is good isn't good enough . It has to be great. Within your press release you should offer information about your company, explain your products or services and in effect sell yourself. I cant emphasize enough that the quality of the copy will be what sells you to potential customers, as well as publishers who may want to use your feed in other media forms. A well written press release with a compelling topic could end up anywhere from yahoo news to the New York times.
Web directories are a very important aspect of website promotion. They not only send you traffic directly but they also create paths to your site that search engines can use to locate you. Think back to the store in the village. New roads are now being build. As more roads are built more users are able to find you.
When submitting to web directories it is important to follow your progress. What I tend to do is have a list of directories where I attempt to add my site. Then when I get listed I put a "x" next to them. This method is a very simple way of saving you time as you work through the list. Very often web directories may take some time to add you. What I tend to do is go through my list from start to finish, most directories will email you if they add your site. This will allow you to mark them off as "mission accomplished". What I do is go through my list once a month. and resubmit to the directories that have not yet accepted my site. If you follow this method you will find that eventually you will start to work your way through the list. Do not however expect to get listed in all. This just doesn't happen. Many directories have different criteria for inclusion. it would be unlikely to find a site that is acceptable for all web directories. When you are working through your list you should always have a look through the terms and conditions for the directories you wish to be added to. If you discover your site does not comply with a directories tos then there really is no point on proceeding to add it. This only serves to waste your time and that of the directory owner. If a directory rejects your site to be honest the best thing you can do is forget about it and move on. You can't make them list you. It is quite demoralizing to receive a "your link had been rejected" email but hey, life goes on.
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