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Web site promotion and popularity

Site popularity. Anyone who has a web site wants it, because what's the point otherwise? If you build it and they don't come, why bother?

But popularity isn't easy. Oh, you'll get spam that tells you it is- "We'll submit your site to thousands of search engines and your web counter will go BALLISTIC!!" and so on. Or you may be advised that you need to pay Yahoo a whole bunch of money to get your site "indexed". Under some circumstances, you might consider paying Yahoo or Google for context based advertising, but most of us don't need to. The only folks who should even consider paying for site promotion are those who need to come up to speed extremely quickly. Even if you do pay, don't ignore the techniques discussed here- paying is only going to give you a jump start; it won't keep you in the game.

What you want is links to your site. Links equal traffic. Links come from two places: other pages, and search engines. The more links from other pages, the more the search engines like you. The more the search engines like you, the more people will click through (choose the link the search engine presented). Some of those people have their own sites, and if they like your site, they may add links pointing to you. That, of course, generates more search engine attention- it's a closed loop that feeds on itself and continues to grow. The art of getting more links is known as Site Promotion.

"Unique visitors" means individual visitors. That is, you might visit my site two times this month and look at 5 pages each time. That counts as 10 page views, but only one unique visitor (or maybe two - some programs count per day, not per month). It's not a completely accurate figure; the actual number could be more or less, but it's still a statistic that people use to measure popularity.

You don't believe it? You think you have to pay money to get noticed? I started my site in 1997 and never paid a dime to anyone. Current site stats are just below - this was done entirely by self-promotion as described here. Even more importantly, if you search for "SCO Unix" or similar searches at Google and other search engines, you'll often find my pages listed near the top- which is the place you want to be.

Many people tell you that you need to submit new pages as you add them. I've found that not to be true for my site: Google's Spiders usually pick up new pages here within a few days. That may be because I constantly add new material and the Spiders know to return more often than they would otherwise.

To get links, there are a number of things to do. Most of these apply no matter what the purpose of your web site is, though some work better for some types of sites.

Suggest a link

Go to Google and search for "suggest". You'll get about about 4,330,000 matches (yes, I'm serious) , most of which are search engines or other web sites that will let you suggest a link to you from them. Fill out as many of these as you can. Ignore any suggestion (like Yahoo will give) that asks you to part with money in exchange for quicker placement (unless, of course, you are able to just throw around money freely- in that case, have you visited my Contributions page?).

Next, search for "site promotion". These are less valuable, but some of them are free promotional thingies that will submit your site to some other sites. What they do is a small number for free, and then try to get you to buy a larger submission. Don't. Just take the free stuff. Most of it is useless, but it will at least get a few search engines to visit.

Newsgroups

Now we get to more valuable actions. If there are any newsgroups that at ALL relate to your site, make it a habit to read and post therein (see http://groups.google.com/ if you don't have direct Newsgroup access ). ALWAYS have your web site mentioned in your signature. If you can possibly work in a mention of a specific page on your site that would be helpful to someone posting, do so. But don't just post blatant advertising; people get annoyed by that.

There may also be mailing lists related to your business. Read them, and contribute when you can. If your site is technical, see OpenITx for listings of technical mailing lists etc.

Try to post intelligently. While the search engines that index the articles don't care if you say stupid things, the people who really read the newsgroups do. If you are helpful, polite, and all the rest (brave, loyal, trustworthy and true), folks will visit your site as a result of your posting. If they find something they like, they'll tell other people- maybe they'll even put a link to you on their own site.

Put your web address on EVERYTHING

Mention your web site on EVERYTHING you do: mail, invoices, pens, coffee cups, business cards- anything you do should mention your web site. I have a rubber stamp and I even stamp bills I'm paying- it never hurts.

I'm fortunate in having a short enough site to get a PCUNIX license plate (that redirects to aplawrence.com) - that's probably not an option for you, unfortunately, but if you have signage on vehicles, make sure it mentions the site.

ALWAYS USE "http://yoursite.com", not just "yoursite.com" in email or newsgroup postings- that makes it CERTAIN that it will be a clickable link for the person reading it- otherwise it may not be.

The site itself

WRITE as much as you possibly can and post the articles on your site. The articles don't have to be great, but the more informative they are the better. If you are an accountant, you can write about accounting and business issues. Your artist mother-in-law can write about brush techniques, color sense- whatever- just write, write, write. The more you write, the more traffic you get. Cross-reference everything as much as possible- with links to your other pages. Your own links make search engines happy, too.

Think about what the people you want to attract to your site are interested in and write about those things. If you are a head-hunter, anything HR related is valuable: legal issues, salary surveys, hiring tips etc. If you sell dog food, pet health and grroming, training techniques, reviews of related books, notice of upcoming shows and so on. Whatever your field is, there are dozens and dozens of things you can and should write about.

LEARN about using meta-tags to help search engines properly index your site. Metatags have been abused so much that many search engines ignore them now, but it can't hurt. Make sure that whatever your article is about gets repeated whenever appropriate in the text. For example, this article is about "web site promotion", so you'll see that I use that and similar phrases throughout this article. The more the search engine thinks that the article is about site promotion, the more weight it will get when it is indexed. An excellent place to learn about how search engines work and site promotion in general is Search Engine Watch.

By the way, if you are just starting to build your web site, you might want to read The Automagic Web Site.

DON"T do stupid things like repeating "web site promotion" a zillion times in a teeny font or with a background color the same as the text. Search engines are much smarter than they used to be: such tactics will not help and may even be held against you.

Consider allowing other people to use what you have written. If you look at the bottom of some articles I've written (including this one), you'll notice that I give free permission to copy it for any purpose- as long as you give credit for where it came from. Quite a few web sites do the same thing, which means that you can "steal" from other people to flesh out your own site and make it more attractive to search engines. It is of course better to have your own material, but when you are getting started, you can have a much more comprehensive site. PLEASE pay attention to copyright notices: for example, not ALL the material on my site allows free copying- other sites may have similar restrictions on certain material.

The advantage to me and the other people you borrow from should be obvious: more links back to us, more publicity, more site promotion and popularity.

Do book reviews- and provide links to Amazon or Barnes and Noble so you even get a little income from people who buy as a result of reading your reviews- I get about $50.00 a month from that- not much, but it pays for buying more books to review and every review brings more people to my site.

If you happen to be writing about tech subjects, consider publishing an article or two here with links back to your site - great way to build traffic.

These are the ways I built my traffic. I never paid Yahoo or anyone else anything.

You can get some relative idea of site ranking by visiting http://www.alexa.com/ and typing a domain name into the search box. It's not accurate (for one thing it only counts Alexa users) but it will at least give a relative idea- if you rank somewhere in the millions, or not at all, you have work to do. Go ahead and put "aplawrence.com" in there- last I looked it was somewhere in the 60,000's (lower is better with Alexa).

If you download Google's toolbar, that will show their Page Rank for the page you are looking at (see Discussion of Google Page Rank for more on that).

Speaking of Google: Adwords is a great way to advertise if you have something to sell. You can set a daily limit, and you pay for actual clicks. I have recently started running ads there, and it seems to have also increased my traffic.

Some books I especially recommend:




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Fri Feb 6 12:52:14 2009: 5315   JohnFletcher

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The link to Google groups is broken.

Interesting article. I'm not sure you should explicitly advise people to write about anything... I've been thinking about how broad I should make my own blog and whilst I understand your reasoning, I think there's value in keeping it focussed. If people interested in web dev and SEO start following my blog and then I keep putting posts about sewing on... well they might not be impressed and might look elsewhere.



Fri Feb 6 13:08:40 2009: 5316   TonyLawrence

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Thanks for the link catch - the links in old articles like this tend to rot away.

Focus.. I can't do it myself ( (link) ) but yes, it is wise not to be running off in multiple directions.





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