Promoting Your Web Hosting/E-commerce Web Site
Website promotion is one of the key challenges facing not only web hosting companies but ecommerce operations as well. Just as their brick-and-mortar counterparts can’t afford to just wait for people to stumble unto their shops, so too do online enterprises need to let people know that they’re ready to do business.
And although spending huge amounts of money on online marketing and advertising certainly can’t hurt, lack of funds shouldn’t be an excuse not to make any effort to promote your site at all.
The following are just some suggestions to help you get started:
1. Get listed in Internet search engines and directories. This takes some time so it is best to submit to them as soon as you can. Although the best and fastest way to get listed is to sign up for * pay for inclusion (you pay a fee to be included in their database of websites) and/or * pay per click (you get charged only when visitors click on your link when you appear in search engine results pages) deals, most search engines do accept site/page submissions for FREE, with Google, being the most notable example.
But before you even submit to these search engines and directories though, you need to make sure that your site is already up and running.
* Check your HTML codes and links. – There is nothing quite like the sight of an ‘Under Construction’ or broken/dead links to kill interest in your site (and visitors also almost always never re-visit such sites)
* Make sure your pages have been optimized for search engines since a good SERP ranking translates to more traffic and of course more sales.
2. Research your target market and advertise accordingly.
* Approach local businesses (particularly those with websites) and get them interested in your services/operations for possible linkups.
* Post in newspapers or weeklies. It is in your best interest, however, to take out a big ad since nobody really notices miniscule ads, particularly if they’re lumped with a whole bunch of other, equally microscopic ones. Local publications are better because they’re more targeted and offer cheaper ad rates.
* Flyers can also help drum up interest in your site.
* “Hosted by.” buttons (small ones) may also be provided somewhere in your site, which clients can use to link back to you.
3. Sponsor relevant webmaster sites and support local causes to help boost interest in your site/e-business.
4. Sell (or offer for free) promotional items that have your logos, images and brand name (ex. coffee mugs, caps, pens, etc)
5. If you can, create scripts or programs that your target market may find useful and release them to the open source community. Make sure, of course, to have users credit your (hosting/e-commerce) company in their own sites.
6. Banner exchange/reciprocal link programs and/or web rings are not only free, but also quick ways to draw traffic to your site.
* Be careful not to overpopulate your site with banners and buttons as it could hurt your credibility (since it makes your pages look tacky).
* Make sure you link only to RELEVANT sites and either set aside a page exclusively for such links or highlight them in an area that visitors can easily find as this increases the likelihood of other sites offering link exchanges.
7. Sign up and participate in, and share your expertise via bulletin boards, discussion forums or newsgroups that allow the use of e-mail signatures (including your site’s name and address). You should lurk first before you start posting so as to get a feel of exactly how the board works. Do not, under any circumstance, spam them as that not only gets you kicked out of the boards, it could also get your site blacklisted.
8. Use e-zines (electronic magazines), newsletters or ebooks to promote your site. You can do this by:
* posting an announcement/advertisement about your site in them, either by paying for them or arranging an ad swap (hyperlinked web addresses in your promotions list)
* starting your own, making sure that you plan for several issues that offer interesting and useful information relevant to your site’s theme
* writing articles for them and including your website’s name and address in the ‘about the author’ section.
* Partnering with similar publications to exchange content (might be weekly columns or Q&As)
Use content exchanges to find e-zines to contribute to or download free articles to include in yours.
9. Look for free classified ad services in both online and traditional print media. You should, however, post
* only on the most relevant ones;
* from an email address that can withstand a slew of unsolicited emails; and
* when the board is refreshed (to increase the chances of landing on the top spots)
10. Set up a press release and send it to media outlets that might be interested. Some considerations:
* clear, concise and credible are not just words, they should be your mantra
* press releases are not advertisements (so don’t use advertising copy)
* stress what makes your site newsworthy and back it up with facts
* use wordings that that journalists can actually use in their report
* include a contact email and telephone number (for possible interviews and questions)
11. Include a “Tell a Friend” link in your site.
12. Encourage return visitors through newsletters and/or mailing lists. Those who sign up may receive short, periodic newsletters not only about your site’s offerings but also information of interest /use to them.
13. Translate your site into (an)other language(s) to widen your viewer/readership.
14. Update content frequently. This is important as this not only keeps your search engine rankings relevant and current, it also maintains interest in your site.
Of course all of the above tips and strategies are worthless if you don’t back them up with good.no, make that GREAT service and reliability. Word of mouth, after all, is a double-edged sword. It can either be your best advertising/marketing/promotional tool, or it can prove to be a death knell for your site.
Other website promotion No-Nos to avoid are discussed by Charlie Morris in his article `10 Ways Not to Promote Your Web Site.’
Finally, you need to remember that success in e-commerce (and web hosting in particular) is not, just about offering products (or plans). It is also about giving customers the kind of support and service they need, when they need it and in the best possible way that they can be provided.
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