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Promotion Techniques For Your Site

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Previously, we covered search engine listing as one way of attracting visitors to your site and the need for the listing to appear in the first couple of page returns. For the new guy on the block though, unless you have something entirely unique to offer, getting top listings is not always easy nor is it necessarily immediate.

Having spent the time and effort getting your store set up, you cannot now just sit back and hope visitors will come. Even offering all of your products for free isn’t going to do any good if no one shows up. So you need to explore alternative ways of advertising your site. The search engine listings are a good starting point because they can be covered in a day or two and cost nothing, just don’t forget to go back periodically and make refinements.

ADVERTISING YOUR SITE

Advertising a web site falls into two general categories: what we call on-Net and off-Net. Search engine listing is an on-Net effort. Some other on-Net avenues of advertising are:

- cross linking
- e-mail notices
- banner ads
- affiliate programs
- news group posting
- word of mouth

Off-Net advertising encompasses all usual media: print, radio, television, snail mail, etc. The problem with any advertising is that it usually takes a broad effort across multiple media types to be effective. There is an old joke about this: A merchant is talking to John, his accountant. The accountant tells the merchant, “Jake, you’re spending twice what you should on advertising. You need to reduce this ad budget by half.” The merchant responds, “I know that John, but which half?”

The point is: advertising can be expensive and it’s not always obvious where to put your money. It’s usually not any one campaign, but the overall effort that makes advertising work.

ON-NET PROMOTION
E-Mail is probably the method of on-Net promotion that comes to mind after search engines. You probably get so much unsolicited e-mail every day that it seems like this could work for you too. E-mail promotion is a major topic for discussion to which we will devote the entire next issue of E-ComTips.

Cross Linking is the “I’ll link to your site if you link to my site.” method of promotion. It used to be very effective as a way of increasing the apparent popularity of your web site. This popularity is used by some search engines as one element in ranking a site. Today, however, many cross linking offers of this type are simply scams to get you to place someone’s banner ad on your site in a prominent position while your ad or link gets buried on a page of hundreds of ads.

Banner Ads can be expensive and can produce very uncertain results. Except in special situations, we would not recommend buying a banner ad based on the number of impressions (the number of times an ad is displayed on a publisher’s site). You may find yourself paying for 10,000 impressions with almost no visitors.

A click through rate is the percentage of viewers that actually visit your site from the ad link. This can be can be very small. IE: under 0.1% of impressions. Paying for a banner ad based on the number of click through visitors will be much more costly per instance than paying for impressions and unless a high percentage of visitors actually make a purchase, the cost per sale may end up being be more than the item price.

There are, however, some legitimate banner ad exchange services such as LinkBuddies and LinkHut. These services can be a very good way to try out banner ads to see how well they work for you. The companies provide you with an account that displays your ad on other web sites based on a ratio of the number of times you display one of their ads. Check out: LinkBuddies.com and LinkHut.com

If you are intent on placing a banner ad, you will find numerous on-line services for locating sites and placing ads. There is also a wealth of information on things you should know first. Just run a web search for “banner placement”. The best known banner marketing provider is probably DoubleClick. Their banner marketing site is Dart.

If you’re on a limited budget, we recommend that you do your own search to locate web sites that relate very specifically to what you’re selling and negotiate prices and placement directly. For instance, if you are selling model airplane engines, find non-commercial, informative sites that cater specifically to the model airplane hobbyist. Such a site might just welcome the addition of a resource link and provide free space.

News Group Posting is essentially a public e-mail. Your message gets hosted on a news group server and is available to anyone that has a news group reader application and wants to take a look. Most browsers have news group capability.

This can be a very effective way of advertising for free when done correctly. First, don’t spam by posting to news groups unrelated to the products you are selling. Be very selective of the groups or you’ll soon be ignored. Second, make your posting is informational as well as promotional. In fact, this is a great opportunity to regularly publish a mini newsletter.

One word of advice when posting to news groups: show your web site URL but don’t publish your e-mail address. Many e-mail address harvesters scan news groups for new addresses and use these addresses to send you unsolicited e-mail advertisements. There is a limit to how much Viagra you can use if you expect to get any work done.

Affiliate Programs can be an effective way to drive traffic to your site. Amazon was one of the pioneers of a successful affiliate program. These programs involve paying a commission to a linking site whenever a sale results from the link. They require the merchant to keep accounting records of sales vs. link and make payments periodically to the linking site. For this reason, affiliate programs can be complex to set up and will require special server side scripts and a database to maintain records. There are, however, service companies that will provide the software and/or services for a fee. A search of the web will locate many. A couple of them are: MyAffiliate and ClixGalore

Word of Mouth sounds like a strange suggestion for Internet marketing since your customer’s are probably spread all over the globe. The fact is though that people of common interests still talk to each other via e-mail, chat lines, and over the telephone. And the best way for getting them talking about your web site is to make it interesting, informative, and compelling. So offer more than just a store for selling your products.

On-line shoppers are above average in their interests, education, and disposable income. These folks love information even when it’s trivia ….sometimes especially so. So, add some interesting facts about your products: maybe a little history, or the manufacturing process, or some demographics on usage. People return to and talk about interesting web sites.

And because people love to talk, don’t forget about the “blog” sites. We don’t have a clue why they’re called this but, these sites are a kind of interactive news group sometimes called web rings. Subjects can be regional, topic specific, and all over the map.

At last count, MetaFilter had 14,000 members and is a web ring that accepts very low cost two line text ads. The limited amount of copy is an opportunity to make your ad compelling by making it mysterious. With a good ad, we think you’ll be surprised at the visitors you’ll get. Read some postings at MetaFilter and get their information on ads at Text Ads. Find other blog sites that may be more suited to your particular situation by searching on “blog”.

WHAT TO DO
Let’s assume your Internet store is a new venture and you’re going to try and make it work on a shoe-string budget. We’ll further assume that what you have to offer either comes with a lot of added value, is a unique item, or is unique to your local area. If it isn’t one of these, and you’re going to try to compete with the big boys, well, good luck.

First, keep in mind:
Sell your web site and use the web site to sell the product.

Then avail yourself of any free on-Net avenue for promoting your site that seems appropriate. Just don’t spend a lot of time up front on these methods. Work them in as you go along. Also look for some suitable blog sites that accept small text ads.

Our main suggestion is to go off-Net with print media to sell your web site. You first need visitors and the sooner the better. There are some relatively low cost ways to do this. For instance, a two line classified ad in a related trade magazine or your local newspaper can be very effective.
The ad may look like this:

Everything about widgets.

http://my_domain.com

It doesn’t look like:
The best widgets around.

http://my_domain.com

That “best” statement requires a selling job. Save product selling for the web site. Sure, we may have over simplified but, you get the picture. Using off-Net avenues of promotion for a web site may seem counter intuitive but, take a look at what some of the major sites have been doing.

Mel Davey is the creator of ImagineNation (http://imaginenation.com/), a full service E-Commerce Application Service Provider, offering Storefronts, Order Management Utilities, and 3rd party credit card processing.

Promotion Techniques For Your Site
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About Mel Davey
Mel Davey is the creator of ImagineNation (http://imaginenation.com/), a full service E-Commerce Application Service Provider, offering Storefronts, Order Management Utilities, and 3rd party credit card processing. WebProNews Writer
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