Author: Nola Young
If you think your company is taking into account the vast opportunities that the World Wide Web can give your business, just by having a Web site, you may be sorely mistaken. A static Web site is just that, unless you take the approach of building a virtual business. Then you should consider on-line promotion strategies that will capture global attention. Smart businesses will not only build a Web site that is developed with the customer as an active participant but, will develop an on-line promotions strategy to go along with it.
That is not to say that the success of your company’s Web site will survive solely by on-line advertising. It is important to note that a combination of traditional and on-line marketing will bring you the most success for your business Web site.
Let’s say, for example, you sell candles from your Web site. A retailer in St. Jacobs does just that. Go to www.awordortwo.com. Doug Coulter is the owner of an intimate, candle, card and gift shop in St.Jacobs, Ontario and an avid reader of this column. He planned to build his on-line business over time, as he learned more about the Web. His long-term plan was to build a virtual store that he could run from his home during retirement. His site has been up and running for over two years now. He has had some good sales from his site but ultimately he would like to grow the numbers. Like Doug, you may be interested in promotion techniques on available on the Internet.
What on-line promotion options are available to help increase sales for virtual businesses like yours and Doug’s?
There are many on-line promotion techniques such as the use of search engines, link development, on-line press releases and subscription lists, that you need to consider.
Registering your Web site with major search engines and directories is a must. (Studies show that over 85 per cent of all Web browsers use
search engines and directories to find sites, making them the most popular choice.) Although no one can guarantee you a top placement on any of the search engines, you can take certain steps to improve your chances of a favourable ranking.
A higher success rate can be achieved when you submit your information manually rather than through an automated processor. When you submit by hand you can make the appropriate category selections and can verify that your information has been submitted properly.
There are four kinds of sites that fall into a category generally referred to as search engines. They are search engines themselves, directories, announcement sites and guides. You will want to understand how each one works and how it will benefit your business.
A search engine takes the text of a Web page and indexes it. A user connects to a search engine such as HotBot, Webcrawler or Alta Vista and inputs a keyword or phrase that represents the type of site they are looking for. The search engine then looks through its entire database of Web pages and lists sites that match the keyword.
For example, I have a new puppy and anytime I would like to see information about puppies I will log onto my favourite search engine to do a search for what I am interested in. I simply type in the word “puppy” and the search engine will search through all of the pages listed on it and return sites about puppies.
This is great for the Web surfer. However, if you are a business who wants to appeal to a mass market, it will be very important for you to note that a keyword search on a common word like “puppy” may produce a list of thousands of sites. Like most viewers, I will only click on those listed on the first few pages. Hence, having a higher ranking will potentially attract more visitors to your site.
Your marketing strategy will have to include proven methods that help you to rank high in search engine listings. If you do not know how to do this yourself, you should hire a company that can help your site move to the top of the list.
Directories, like YAHOO!, provide lists of sites that have been directly submitted. They will not go out looking for sites to list. Consequently, a directory will often require the user to enter more information than a search engine.
The sites will be listed in categories to make them easier to find. Visitors to a directory will often find a higher quality of sites listed because the directory’s editor chooses sites, which will be listed. This means your site will be listed at his/her discretion.
Netscape and What’s New are specific examples of announcement sites. They consist of listings of new Web sites and are therefore very helpful to site owners wanting to introduce or “announce” their sites. Keep in mind that these announcements are only posted temporarily.
Guides such as About.com, coolsites.com and coolhomepages.com list sites that have been specifically chosen by a person or an organization. The sites chosen are considered to be of high quality – often referred to as “cool” sites. (Cool, thus worth visiting.) Guides (sometimes referred to as portals) may also list sites that are representative of a specific topic. For example, classical music enthusiasts will list links to sites associated with classical music.
You should also consider link development to promote your site.
Referring links are the second most popular means people use to locate content on the Web. When done properly, link development is an extremely cost-effective way to generate continuing traffic to your site. This strategy takes time but is an important means to generate unique visitors.
Links can be placed to strategic sites including: specialty directories, malls, and geographic and industry-specific sites, to name a few.
We have a variety of links in K-W alone. Check out Kitchener.com and Waterloo.com as well as the City of Kitchener and the City of Waterloo Web sites. I find that community portals like these are a terrific way to advertise a business locally. You can investigate referring links yourself or hire someone to do the research for you.
Above all, get familiar with the statistics of the Internet. For example, to see statistics conducted on a regular basis as to the hottest Internet properties go to the Nielson Net ratings site at: http://pm.netratings.com/nnpm/owa/NRpublicreports.toppropertiesmonthly. I think you’ll find the ratings very useful in your endeavor to know which sites you should be looking at registering and/or advertising with.
Reciprocal links work with each other to pull up the ranking. If you have a reciprocal link with another company, and they are ranking high, it will help you and vice versa. Make sure their pages open in a new browser window so that your site remains constantly open in the background.
On-line press releases offer you yet another marketing tool. The Internet News Bureau is a subscription-based press release service. Through it, you can distribute general press releases to over 10,000 subscribing journalists and business professionals. In addition you can distribute to targeted audiences that are appropriate for your service or industry.
I also recommend that you implement a subscription list program so that you can e-mail your clients and update them on a regular basis. You will need to set up a subscriber list on your site so that people can subscribe. You can get viewers to subscribe for different reasons.
For example, www.lions-quest.ca (a site representing a local not-for-profit organization) offers viewers an opportunity to subscribe to two newsletters. All a viewer has to do is simply type in their e-mail address and click on “subscribe.” Clicking on “continue” will then prompt a thoughtful thank you message that confirms the subscription registration. An on-line merchant of candles, like Doug, would do well to start a “scent of the month” club that will allow people to add their e-mail to be reminded on a monthly basis of the scent of the month.
It will bring your business top of mind when they are thinking of gifts for themselves or for others.
If you are like Doug, focused on getting Internet sales, you will do well to pay attention to the many on-line promotion vehicles available on the World Wide Web. It will take a lot of work for your virtual business to become known locally or globally but I think you will see that the potential results are worth it.
Nola Young is the president of KW Digital Solutions. Send your comments or questions by email or call 519-741-7641.