Using the Internet to Promote a Web SiteHere is a summary of the ways that the Internet is commonly used to drive visitors to a web site.
- Search Engines
- Web directories
- Links appearing on other web sites
- E-mail advertising
- Promoting through bulletin board sites/usenet
(1) Search engines
The search engine is the most commonly used web site promotion tool. You will find a rather complete list of search engines here. A search engine is a web site resource that allows you to quickly search through millions of web pages on the Internet to help you find Web pages that meet your search criteria. The dominant search engine at this time is altavista.com.
Search engines maintain massive indexes of web pages so that users can search by keyword to find what they are looking for. Search engines find pages to add to their index by two methods.
- Web site maintainers specifically request that their pages get indexed because they want to be found when people do searches.
- The search engine automatic indexing program, called a "spider", will wander systematically through the Internet following all the links that it finds.
Different search engines have different strategies for determining the "ranking" of web sites it presents. Achieving a good ranking depends most on:
- Actual relevence of subject matter on the web site
- The popularity of the web site as measured by how many links on the Internet there are to your site
(2) Web Directories
Web directories are often confused with search engines but there are different animals. Search engines are automatically generated whereas directories are generally created manually and are intended to be used like a yellow pages to find information by navigating through topic, subtopic, and subsubtopic, and so on. The dominant directory at this time is Yahoo.com. You will find a rather complete list of search engines and directories here.
Directories find pages to add to their index by manual submission. Generally web site maintainers request that a web page be added. The page will be added at the discretion of the directory owner.
(3) Links appearing on other web sites.
Contrary to what many web site promotion services would have you believe, most visitors to web sites find the site through direct navigation or clicking on a link found at another web site.
In addition to providing more ways for people to find your site, links from other sites will generally improve your ranking in the search engines.
Links on other sites take many forms.
- Plain links that appear in context in the same way that citations or literature references would appear in a research paper or report. This form of link is generally only found when the author is writing about something and already is familar with the web site being mentioned.
- A link appearing in a list of similar links. Often a web site will have a section directing visitors to web site resources related to the original site. Often the list maintainer invites submissions of additional web sites. Usually a web site maintainer can e-mail to the webmaster to have a site added to the list.
- Advertisements on other web sites. These are similar to print ads or billboards. Web ads contain a link to the site being advertized. Ads can be placed for a fee on popular web sites. Many times ads can placed for free in the form of a "link exchange". A link exchange is when two web site maintainers agree to link to each other's site for free.
- Part of a Free-For-All (FFA) links page.
A free-for-all links page is a special web page
whose exclusive activity is to contain links to
other web sites. A link can be added to the page
for free by filling out a form.
For many this is an easy way to create outside links to try to boost ranking in search engines. This form of list of links is mostly useless for driving traffic to a web site since almost nobody visits these FFA pages. Search engines that examine the quality of the links to determine site ranking will classify FFA links as very low quality.
When a web site promotion service says that they will submit your site to "hundreds of search engines", they are confusing terms. What they mean is that they will submit to the sixteen or so real search engines and directories and then submit to hundreds of FFA pages.
(4) E-mail advertising
In the same way that mass postal mailings attempt to reach potential customers, mass e-mail is used to try to advertise a product or service.
Unsolicited e-mail is not usually well received and is becoming illegal in many jurisdictions. Opt-in mass e-mail is much more effective and is perfectly legal. Opt-in means that the recipient elected to receive the e-mail by signing up somewhere. They might sign up on your web site, an ad you have on some other web site, or through some means in the physical world such as a paper sign up sheet or other paper form. It may seem like a waste of time to send e-mail to people who have visited your site before, but word of mouth recommendations of your web site are a very strong way to generate new traffic. Cultivating loyal visitors is very important.
Frequently periodic mailings take the form of a newsletter or periodic information sheet of some sort.
(5) Promoting through bulletin board sites or usenet
A bulletin board site is a web site that provides an online resource where visitors can read the postings of other visitors and post their own contributions. A usenet newsgroup is similar except it uses the old usenet protocol instead of the web site format.
Searching for online bulletin boards and relevant usenet newsgroups is rather time intensive but when there is a good match between the topic of the bulletin board or newsgroup and the web site, the results may be quite good. This is because the readership of the bulletin board or newsgroup is highly focused on the category and this equates to highly targeted advertising.
You have to be very careful though. Like unsolicited e-mail, off-topic posts to online bulletin boards and newsgroups is not well received. The term "SPAM" is now popularly used to describe unsolicited mass e-mail but it originally was defined as posting the same message to many different unrelated usenet newsgroups.