Advertising Your Web Site: What They Don't Tell You!
by Jim Walker, Interactive, May 1997

If you have a Web Site on the Internet, you have probably asked everyone you know how to best market your Site to the world, including the guy you bumped into at the Deli last week...

Well, now that you've created a Site akin to the Sistine Chapel, how will anyone find it among the other Sistine's piling up daily? There is no easy answer, but here is a tip: Search Engines are nearly useless for marketing your Web Site... Now wait a moment, before you go reaching for the keyboard or picking up the phone to call and tell me how you've made a million marketing your Web Site through search engines alone, let me explain.

Search engines are quickly becoming overwhelmed with Sites similar to yours. Add to that the reality that more and more businesses are spending thousands of dollars weekly advertising their own Sites, it is becoming clearer that the medium to small size business Sites without a deep advertising budget will continue to spiral farther and farther down the list, falling somewhere along-side that of the two year old student resumes and technical journals listings.

In the meantime, no matter how many times you submit your site to multiple search engines or change the Meta-tags on your pages, you will continue to fight an uphill struggle to get to the top (Meta-tags are hidden values on your page defining your descriptions and keywords lists for the search engines). The latest business craze on the Net promoting the "I'll submit your Web Site to 400 search engines for $99.99" does not seem to be helping matters either. Simply put, search engines are a losing battle as the sheer mass of people promoting their Sites keeps growing and growing and growing...

The more people who see your web Site, or at least your name, the better, right? Absolutely. Passive marketing (search engines) on the Internet are all but dead as a means of effectively marketing a small business Web Site, so where do you start, you ask?

You may know the answer already. Some aspects of Internet advertising are becoming more like your local non-cyber business every day. Local advertising in mass distribution newspapers and magazines; networking with local businesses and associates are excellent ways to increase the hits on your Site. Don't forget to put your Web Site address on every piece of stationary in your office, including the signature in your e-mail messages.

Internationally, networking is what drives the Internet (excuse the pun), so take advantage of it. Begin by searching the Internet for Sites you believe may be willing to place a link on their Web Site for a reciprocal link on yours. Soon, you'll find more and more people finding you through similar interest pages and your Site will increase in popularity as your links and the links of your fellow reciprocal linkers grow exponentially-- talk about World community...

As your Networking efforts increase, consider bringing added value or content to your Site. If your target market is not specifically looking for your product or information on the Net, bring them in via other means. Consider adding interactive elements to your Site, like chat rooms or bulletin boards. Electronic newsletters or focused discussions on particular topics are other ways to bring in a varied and larger potential audience.

Newsgroups are another means of spreading the word about your Site. Providing knowledgeable and helpful advice in your favorite Newsgroups can be significantly more rewarding and profitable than spamming. The soft-sell works if you are willing to take the time to smooze with your potential customers.

Now that you have networked and added extra value to your Site, you might consider going for the gusto-- Local or National advertising. Hits are everything and National advertising will bring in those hits and release the flood gates of curious Web-surfers going online to see your Sistine in all its glory.

Local or National advertising can be as inexpensive as writing an article for your local paper (about the Internet of course), to purchasing high quality advertising space for the sheer purpose of branding your name to the World. If you believe that well known Sites on the Internet with the largest number of hits per day got that way for the the quality of information they provide think again. National paid advertising or banner ads in the top two search engines are the key. If your budget just isn't up to heavy commercial advertising, actively networking your Web Site and adding extra value to your content can still keep you ahead of the masses who continue to believe search engines are effective 'advertisers' for their products or services.

Jim Walker is the Service Director for Interactive, a service dedicated to to enhancing the Internet experience for professionals both on and off the Internet.

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