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Beginners guide to web promotion.

Getting started (2004)

11:12 pm on Nov 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

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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.

H tags

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>Car information</h1>

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.

<title>Car information</title>
<metaname="keywords" content="cars, automobiles, automotive, vehicles,">
<metaname="description" content="offering information and articles about cars">
<h1>Car information</h1>
<h2>Car makers</h2>

Keyword density

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.

Press release.

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.

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.

Continued on next message...

11:13 pm on Nov 5, 2004 (gmt 0)

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When adding your site to directories there is an important factor that you may be able to take advantage of. This is called anchor text. Anchor text is the actual text used to create the link to your website. You can do this by choosing a desirable title for your website. thinking back to our cars website. lets assume the site is hosted on the domain example.com (where example is the company name) when adding this site to a directory many people would simply place "example" as the title. It would be far more beneficial to you if you used "Car information site" When a search engine follow a link from one page to another the text it finds within the actual link is called anchor text. If the search engine finds similar content on the destination page then this anchor text can do wonders for a sites ranking within the results.
Most directories will also want you to supply a description. Unlike the meta description tag this section is very important. This is what the directory will display to it's users when your site is displayed on their results page or within a category. Within the description you should try to keep it short and simple but it should contain enough information to make the user want to click through.

Here are 2 links to Dmoz and Yahoo from these 2 links you will be able to find a great selection of web directories for you to work through.

DMOZ [dmoz.org]
Yahoo! [dir.yahoo.com]

If you work your way through both of these lists you will be well on your way to getting some good inbound links from the directories You should also try if possible to get listed on the two majors yahoo.com and dmoz.org. Dmoz is free but yahoo charges for listing to commercial categories.

Directory listing will benefit you in 2 main ways. You will receive direct traffic from them and it will provide a way for the search engines to access your site. In theory you really don't have to add your site to the search engines. If you get good quality directory listings your site will find it's way into the search engines. Never the less it is important to keep a track of your sites progress in defusing into the search engines.

Search engines

In terms of search engines I tend to more or less check first to see if my site is already listed. If it is then I do not re-submit. It makes sense to wait at least one month from your first round of directory submissions until you start checking up on the search engines. When checking for your site you can just type your site title in the search box and click search. If your site is listed then there is no reason to add it again. If your search doesn't find your site then it will do no harm to add it . Most search engines have an add url link either on the homepage on from within the results page. Normally it is simply a case of typing in your url and pressing submit. Some search engines have become abused by automated services and now use a "ransom note" submission process. A ransom note is simply an image of a word or series of characters that you need to type in a form to proceed. This type of submission process has been designed to prevent people from being able to make automated submissions.
When working through the search engine I strongly suggest you use the list idea again that I suggested for the web directories. This helps you keep track of your progress as you work through your list.

You can find a list of search engines from Dmoz and Yahoo here.

Dmoz [dmoz.org]
Yahoo! [dir.yahoo.com]

Post directory and search engine submission

Through time if you continue to work on your directory and search engine submissions you will start to see an increase in traffic from both the web directories and the search engines. There is a relationship between search engines and web directories. To an extent search engines rely heavily on web directories to point then in the right direction for finding content. Search engine spiders love web directories because they are literality staked with links to other websites. As I mentioned before you could simply choose to ignore the search engine submissions and just let the search engines find you. To be honest I can't remember the least time I actually added a url to a search engine. I tend to focus my efforts on getting listed in as many directories as possible. Directories are a great place to get links to your site because lets face it the entire point of a directory is to point the users to other locations. Web directories and search engines have to be the only sites on the web that actually have a business model based on loosing users. Once you are happy with your director listings it's time to move on to the next level and actually go looking for links from other sites.

Topical and local directories.

Almost every industry has directories related to it. They can be a little difficult to track down although using a search engine with the query "Add url [your industry]" may well throw up quite a few options. Another options is go promote localy within business directories that are related to your area. You might want to try a search for "[your city] business directory" again this may offer you a few places where you can list your site.

Link building.

There are 2 main types of link. The first one is the direct one way link where a site links to you. The second type is a reciprocal link where two sites exchange links. The second type is generally a lot easier to achieve.
Generally speaking direct link is preferred because you do not have to link out. The best way of getting good quality inbound links is to have great content on your site that makes people want to link to you. On the web content is king. If a site offers top rate content that offers a good information to your users then you are very likely to find that over time sites will link to you due to this. In many cases with a fairly new site though, this is not the case. It is at this point you need to think carefully. "Do I want to exchange links or go only for one way links?"

To start off I would tend to try exchanging links with a few carefully chosen link partners. Try to seek out sites that are related to your site, but are not in direct competition. Very often this can be very beneficial for both sites involved. Once you have chooses the sites you are interested in exchanging links with it is simply a matter of emailing then with your link exchange proposal. When doing this to be honest you cant expect much more than a 1-10 success rate. The key is to seek out sites that you feel are realistic exchange partners, so don't bother emailing a link exchange request to Nasa.
When writing the email try to keep it short and sweet but get across the basic advantages of the link exchange. Try to put yourself in their shoes and think., "how would I sell this to me." If you can stay within the 1-10 success rate you are doing very well. When you are doing a link exchange request it can sometimes help you actually link to the other site before you send the email. Sometimes this can be enough to just swing it in your favor. When I email off a link exchange request and I receive a "Not interested" reply I just deal with it and get on with it, although I think it is good practice to reply with a "thank you for your time" type email just so the other person knows you are a person and not an automated tool sending out "canned" messages.

Why go after links.

The more links you have pointing to your website the better. Not only do search engines find your site easier but you start to build up your link popularity. The most important reason though is traffic. Not just through the direct clicks you get on your links but from the search engines. This is where the relationship between web directories and search engines gets very complicated. The Google search engine uses a system for ranking called Page Rank. "Page rank" in simple terms is a score awarded to every page based on it's link popularity. 

What is page rank

Page rank is a system used exclusively by the Google search engine. When we think of a link we think of a link from site A to site B. Google classes this as a vote for site B from site A. When a page links to another page it doesn't only pass a link, it passes some page rank value from one page to another. When Google updates it's page rank it takes into account the total score your page accumulates from all it's inbound links. But this is not just based on the actual number of links. A page with a higher page rank will pass more value to your page than a site with lower page rank.
Up until about a year ago the Google toolbar used to display what was classed as an accurate portrayal of page rank. Today The Google toolbar is very much out of sync with the true value. I guess it makes sense for Google to keep this information private. By doing this they have removed a lot of the seo value from the toolbar. For a while Page rank was becoming a commodity. Now we really have no true way of knowing the true Page rank vale of a page. To be honest Page rank is far from being the end all of Google promotion. It it just one of many factors that Google uses when ranking pages. For a while Page rank has though of as "ego rank". The best possible measure of how your site if doing is the actual user figures. Given the choice of a Page rank 6 with little traffic or a Page rank 3 with lots of traffic, the high traffic site seams a better option in my opinion.

Further promotion

If you have followed through with all the relevant steps you should slowly start to see a marked improvement in your websites performance. Do not expect things to suddenly change over night. Web promotion is a very gradual process. As your promotion sets in it's only then that you will start to see the benefits. It doesn't end there. You still need to work very hard to secure good incoming links, work on your directory and search engine inclusions. There are also a number of options open to you.

Banner exchanges

Banner exchanges are not as popular as they used to be. They are very often run as free services where-by you display banners for them and in exchange they will display your banners on other members sites. To be honest the main benefactor from a banner exchange is the exchange operator. Generally they will offer you a 2:1 ratio. This means that they will display one of your banners every time you display 2 of theirs. To have any success through banner exchanges you need to be creative. Don't simply have a banner saying "click here" it will not work. You need to be artistic and design banners that make a user want to click. This is very similar to the real world store scenario, they now see your store but how do you make then walk through the door. You need to really think about this. If you intend to use banner exchanges or banner advertising it may well be worth your while hiring a graphical artist to produce the artistic media for your campaign.

Pay per click advertising

Pay per click advertising is probably the most successful method of advertising on the web. Advertisers love it because they only pay when a user actually clicks on an advert. Pay per click is still pretty popular within the banner ad industry , although it has come on in leaps and bounds within the search advertising industry. Pay per click search engines allow you to place your ad so it will appear when a user carries out a search that is targeted at your service. The engine will then present the user with a link to your site within a certain area of the results page. The pay per click listings are usually very visible. Most advertisers agree that pay per click is a very good converter. This is because the user who clicks on the advert is within the advertisers target group. Another feature of pay per click that had really taken off in recent times is contextual adverts. The most popular service within this field is Google adwords. They provide adverts for the Google search engine, but advertisers can now opt in for their ads to be displayed on partner sites. Contextual adverts are also great converters, because the advert that is shown has been targeted to the page content. This has opened a whole new field of opportunity for pay per click advertising.

The small things that matter.

There are many small things you can do to drive people to your website. So far you have worked your way through the major points, but now you have to start thinking for alternative ways of bringing in a few more users.

Email signatures: Have a link to your website within every email you send.
Letter heads: This can work very well. Simple have your url on company stationary
Tell people about your site: Start your own word of mouth marketing program.

There are many things you can do to let people know you are there. In many cases you need to put on your thinking cap an think out-the-box on this one. Very often it is the little thngs that make a difference.

Website promotion is never going to be a quick and simple task. In involves a lot of work, a lot of reading and very often a lot of sleepless nights. Nowever if you are willing to see it through you it may well be very worth your while.

Give it your all, and one day you will have that city centre mall.

You can also view the 2003 version here. [webmasterworld.com]


3:27 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Wow thats quite something.
4:14 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for your efforts Mack,
That is some good quality information!
4:21 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)


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Wonderful post, Mack.

WW Resources:
Newcomers Guide: [webmasterworld.com...]
Building the Perfect Page: [webmasterworld.com...]
Brett's Successful Site: [webmasterworld.com...]

4:56 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Great post there Mack
4:58 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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posts like this why I love this place so much


6:20 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Great post! Thanks.
7:00 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Nice one Mack, this is great! Thanks for spending the time to write this.
7:18 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Excellent, Mack! Thats certainly a very very helpful guide to a sucessful website promotion.
7:43 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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*wild applause*

A suggested addition:

Title Tag

Most users never notice the title tag once they're on the website itself - but they certainly notice it in the serps (search engine results pages) - and it is also the default name given to the page when your user places a bookmark/adds to their favorites.

Keep it clear, brief and relevant - but do make an effort to make it attractive.

8:06 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Fantastic guide Mack. Goin' in the bookmarks, and will be referenced often.
9:10 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Awesome post. Kudos on taking the time to write it out.
10:21 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Excellent post mack, thanks for sharing that.

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.

I definitely agreee taht H1 tags should not be abused. However, I do on occasion use more than one per page if the page is segmented into sections which carry equal weight. I have read that that was the approach to take in such circumstances.

Anyone care to comment about using more than one H1 per page?

11:40 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Mack!

A big picture overview with information to get into the details is very helpful. It is easy to get lost in the details (personally speaking) and miss things or not focus enough on some areas within the big picutre.

11:42 pm on Nov 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I'm no expert, but in my understanding an H1 tag is sort of like the internal title for the page. Why don't you like using H2 tags for major sections?

BTW, Mack, thanks for this thread!

-- Rich

12:39 am on Nov 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Thank you Mack,

I'm due to do a presentation to a bunch of business newbies next week (about the value of websites) and your post is a fantastic summary of what I should cover. Thanks for your thoughts, time and effort. Much appreciated.


12:57 am on Nov 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Way to go Mack.

Your description of this threat hit the nail on the head. There is so much brilliance on this site, it can be intimidating for the newbie, or in my case the oldbie.

Thanks for your insights!


7:40 pm on Nov 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Thanks a lot for some first class advice Mack.


8:19 pm on Nov 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Great post Mack.

I would like to add, three additional & important marketing steps that can be done on a shoestring budget


Since you mentioned pay-per-click advertising, it is also worthwile mentioning pay-per-sale advertisng.
This is advertising, where you display a link ad or banner ad on another site, and instead of pay-per-click, you give the referring site a share of the sale (if it come from the visitor whom the site reffered).
Done diligently, this method of marketing can go a long way in adding to your sale basket.


From the very start of your new site, you must set-up a system to generate orders from those that have become your customers. Don't bomb them with junk mails, but sent them "relevant" and useful emails that gently prompt them to return and buy. When they do return, treat them well: don't make them fill in the same details again; give them special offers, etc etc.


Once you have your people on the website, you need to convert them into buyers. This is where design & functionality come in.

It is important that you design your site to be usable by the average & below average experience user. Don't just design for whiz kids.

Also, remember, people are in a hurry, they scan stuff instead of reading it. You must design for scanners: group stuff, make what's clickable obvious, etc.

10:28 pm on Nov 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Excellent work Mack! Very well laid out and presented for the newbie and experienced alike!
6:49 am on Nov 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

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That is an excellent post on the basis of need analisis. I did not post for a long time since I thought my 100th post should be very meaningful, now I think I can't post anything more meaningful. Well done. Great Job.
8:42 am on Nov 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

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wish I'd had that to read the week before I blindly started building my first site.
8:47 am on Nov 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

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nice information for bignner... good article...
9:10 am on Nov 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

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11:07 am on Nov 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Nice article Mack!.

I have just given this to 3 of our project managers whom I am trying to persuade that flashy and pretty, a website does not make. I'll see what they make of this. It is hard enough trying to convert clients to usable, well presented content, but when your own team have stubborn preconceptions the battle can become futile. I hope that this and some other reading I have given them will open their eyes.

Cheers, Limbo

4:43 pm on Nov 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Way to go Mack, you have provided great information in one location.
4:58 pm on Nov 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Well done mack. But why? Pure altruism, or are you just trying to get your own thoughts in order?

Either way, an A+ primer. There are companies out there paying thousands for the same info.

8:25 pm on Nov 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

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joined:Nov 8, 2004
votes: 0

wow mack excellent post! Thanks a bunch!
6:07 am on Nov 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

10+ Year Member

joined:July 26, 2001
votes: 0

Nice information Mack. Thanks.

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.

Why would you say that? I always thought free press release services like PR Web, do an excellent job as long as you have written a great copy for the press release.

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