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Website Promotion: UK Websites

Website promotion


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Trends towards farming e-mail addresses off websites are making this a more
common phenomenon and all the more annoying as you get several duplicate
e-mails saying the same thing based upon your website address.

A more worrying thing as a website promoter is that if you carry out this
process you are running this risk of action against your company from
disgruntled recipients of your e-mails. Not only that but website hosts
will often ban you from using their facilities if you carry out bulk mailing
as it can potentially cause them legal problems and get them penalised by
search engines as a provider of spam mail facilities, thus affecting all of
their other clients.

Looking at terms of many affiliate programs you will find that they
absolutely demand the avoidance of using spamming to promote their product.

Instead, you should be trying to establish pathways to your site. How much
better to get someone to find your site, by themselves, when they actually
are looking for your product or service, rather than clogging up their in
tray and annoying them, together with the other thirty unsolicited e-mails
that day.


News group announcements
There is no harm in making the occasional announcements on newsgroups
provided you follow the etiquette of that particular group. In short, don't
spam the group (repeatedly announcing the same thing over short intervals),
keep the announcement relevant to that group and tailored to the particular
set of people. Do not announce in groups if you are off topic, if the group
doesn't ever have commercial announcements and you are selling, don't do
this then either. Take time to read other announcements and if you don't
fit in then don't do it. The more relevant groups are often moderated and
therefore you will need to pay particular care to make sure you are fitting
in to get your website announced there.

In my experience, by far the best way to get a steady stream of relevant
visitors to your site is to carry out sensible website promo techniques.

How do you get your site to the top ten on a search engine (and am I about
to tell you how?)?

For the purposes of this article I may sometimes use the phrase 'search
engines' as a generic term for search engines like Google and directories
like Yahoo. The distinction is becoming less obvious anyway as Yahoo (a
directory) serves up answers using Google when it doesn't have any matches
and Google (a search engine) uses directory results from DMOZ for its
directory section! Many search engines also have a comprehensive directory
structure these days.

Registering
The question we always get asked is how can people get on the search engines
and nine out of ten times people mistakenly think that simply by registering
their site and keeping registering their site they will get a good response.
This simply isn't so. Of course you need to be on a search engine in order
to be found but once you are there, provided you don't infringe some rule of
the search engine and you keep your pages up to date, fast loading and
always available it is unlikely that your main concern will be whether you
are still on the engine.

There are many adverts for registering of your site with x thousand search
engines a week but how many search engines can you name? It would be a fair
bet that you will come up with the following list (give or take a few) -
Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Altavista, Lycos, Ask, Google, Hotbot.

Given this fact, it is easy to see that you are naturally less likely to
visit many of the others that form the bulk of what these registration
companies claim to be thousands of search engines. In fact there are really
around twenty top search engines that you need to worry about and the rest
should gradually fall into place over time. Many of the other engines
either have much lower traffic and should be lower down your list of
priorities or else will gradually take on the databases of the other search
engines, so if you concentrate on the larger ones, you will find yourself in
many of the other search engines also.

How many of you spotted some of the other important ones that I missed?
DMOZ, The Open Directory Project have a small percentage of Internet traffic
but its results are extremely important in weighting the answers of many
other engines (because it is hand reviewed and free to apply so it is a
quality issue as to whether you get in, not a payment one). Looksmart
powers the top answers to many of MSN's results and Inktomi fills in many of
the others where Looksmart doesn't provide the answers.

Inktomi serves many search engines with data from its database and so
registering with this is very important. You can do so by submitting your
site through Hotbot, however this is not guaranteed. If you want to get
into Inktomi, you can pay to do so (and be on MSN within seventy two hours).
Again, you can get onto Looksmart free but to be sure you need to pay for
inclusion in their directory.

If you purchase inclusion (around £30 for one page), Inktomi is extremely
useful for testing search phrases quickly and finding what actually gets you
to the top of the searches and what produces results (people visiting).


So you are on the search engine, what next?

As we said at the beginning of the article, getting on the search engine is
only one stage. Once you are on the search engine how on earth do you get to
the top ten?

What you first have to do is ask yourself what getting in the top ten means?
You have a product or service to sell or a website to share information
about your interests. Do you think that people are going to type in your
domain name to a search engine in order to get there. No, (unless you are
well known) they will use a search word or phrase and if your site doesn't
match that you will not show up in their results.

Be specific.
For example you sell doors on the Internet. You THINK that someone is
searching for 'doors' and therefore you MUST be at the top for 'doors' in
www.google.com and you spend all your effort trying to achieve this.

If you try this search on www.google.com, you will find 6.4 million other
sites relating to 'doors'. Yes, someone has to be top but you do need to
reduce your competition. Think about this also, if you search for doors,
you might actually be looking for the pop group. People using the search
engines quickly realise that they must use more than one word to find what
they are looking for, for just this reason.

It is much better then, to try to achieve top ten placement for a more
unusual phrase. Try 'bathroom doors' on Google.com and you will find that
suddenly there are now just over 600 thousand sites and therefore it will be
easier to get to the top ten. Add in a 'uk' to the end of that takes you to
only 68 thousand sites available. If your product is specialist or on sale
in a limited geographical area, being specific will also provide you with
much more defined hits that are more likely to result in an order or request
for quotation.

Don't guess what people are searching for.
The other problem is that as potential visitors are not likely to already
know who you are, you have to know what they will search for. You can guess
but this is likely to lead to failure unless you are lucky.

A good example is with a recent customer of mine who sells water softeners
on the Internet. He thought that he would like to be top for 'limescale
removal' on the Internet and on the face of it, this would seem a good
guess. However, upon investigation we found that even an unusual phrase
such as 'consumer reports on water softeners' was searched for many more
times a day than his guess of 'limescale removal'.

Getting a top ten position for a phrase is hard work so don't waste your
time on phrases that will only bring in small numbers of hits once you get
to the top.

Luckily, there are utilities available for finding just this and it is one
of the most valuable assets in your website promo strategy by taking
away the guess work and actually knowing what people are searching for.

Not only that but you can gain statistics for how many times a search phrase
is used on an average day and how many sites there are competing with you
should you wish to try for a top placement. A good measure (should you wish
to do this manually) is to add commas around a phrase for an exact search of
a phrase. Blue secondhand cars will bring up any sites that have any of
these words in, but 'blue secondhand cars' will show you how many sites
actually have that phrase on their page somewhere and these are the ones
that you are most likely to be competing against.


What is next?
You know that a phrase is popular having found the statistics and you know
that there are few competing sites. How then do you make your pages top in
the searches?

Site structure
Avoid the more common pitfalls such as using frames for your site. The
search engines will often be unable to spider (look through) all of the
pages, as frames, by their nature are difficult to follow by page links.
Use tables instead.

Don't use all graphics on your page. This will slow things down and text is
key for search engines, they cannot read text in graphics.

Dynamic (database driven) sites are often a problem for search engines and
will prevent a search engine from looking right through the site. However,
rules vary with different engines so you will need to look at each
individual case, as there isn't enough space here to list them.

Links on the site need to be correct and lead to all pages (and back again)
in order for a search engine to find all your content.

Content
Content is key to your getting into the search directories, who often hand
review your site. Someone looking at your site must therefore see that it
has some worth and is informative, complete and has no broken links. Make
absolutely sure your site follows this rule or you will be fighting a losing
battle.

Spamming
Avoid too many uses of the key phrase that you are aiming for. Use proper
sentences and not just repetitions of the same word or phrase in order to
get people there. Overuse of a key word or phrase may actually damage your
position. Some sites try to hide repetitions of words in the same colour as
the background of the site. This is definitely a no no as you will be
penalised by some search engines who can detect this.

Spamming also covers the use of off topic words to gain visitors to your
site. Using popular words just to attract visitors to your site, which is
nothing to do with that word will probably result in that person just
hitting the back button on their browser and immediately leaving your site.
What's more they may avoid your site if they actually do find you again.

Some sites try to be clever and use Javascript to push you on to the real
page from an optimised one but this is also penalised in certain cases.


Producing correct pages
There is no great secret to this. Produce a web page that says what you do,
has informative text, correctly spelt and correct links throughout the site.
Then, when you have done this think about promo of the site.

Only when you re ready and finished with your pages start to register with
the directories such as DMOZ.

Although auto registration facilities are useful, hand register with the top
10 or so search engines, do not just use automatic registration (in some
cases, such as Altavista you must use a code which they display as a graphic
before you enter your site, so it is difficult to see how registration
automatically can possibly be happening!). In my mind, it is too important
to get into the top ten or more search engines to leave this to an automatic
facility.

Your pages complete, and the registration process underway, it will be days,
weeks or even months for some search engines to spider (go through) your
pages. You can now be looking at how the key words that you have found fit
within your pages to produce the best results.


In order of importance, in my experience are the following:

Title meta tag. The page title is undoubtedly used by many engines as the
most important attribute of the page itself. Include the key words or
preferably phrase within the title as close to the front as possible. Keep
the title brief and descriptive.

Body text. The key words should appear throughout the body text. Again,
keep your favourites near the top and in headings but used meaningfully
within the page as a whole.

Keyword meta tag. Less important than many people think (some engines
ignore this altogether), this area is often abused to show off subject text
to get visitors. You should instead use this to colour the page with
related words around your subject. As an example if you sell cars, you
could add phrases such as the makes you sell, geographical areas you cover,
and related things like 'car warranty', 'free car insurance' and so forth.

Description meta tag. This is not always used by a search engine but where
it is it forms the 'tag line' to your title, filling in your sales message
that they will see when your result gets displayed. Again, keep it
succinct and designed to encourage the visitor to you and not to another
site. Although key words are not necessarily considered important by search
engines within this, the description should cater for the customer you want
and should not be ignored.

Where else can you put key words?
Always make sure you have suitable phrases as 'alt text' - the alternative
text behind an image. This is good practice anyway, as it allows people to
click on a link if the graphic is not loaded yet to tell them where to go.

Key words can also be include in links to other pages on your site, 'title'
tags for text, cascading style sheet names, and even comments within the
page (although it is doubtful whether either of these last two help a huge
amount).

All things being equal, the domain name can be of importance. Key words can
be included in domain names i.e. www.carsales.co.uk, sub domains such as
www.secondhand.carsales.co.uk (where secondhand is the subdomain) and in the
page name itself, for example www.carsales.co.uk/secondhandcars.co.uk. It
is also better practice we have found to split the key words up, so we would
prefer to purchase www.car-sales.co.uk, over www.carsales.co.uk and you
would split the sub domain and html page name in the same way e.g.
/second-hand.html.

This domain name technique is thrown into sharp focus the more you look at
the fiercely competitive search terms where all the stops are being pulled
out to get and keep that top rank.

You don't have to worry that people cannot type the url either as you are
not asking people to do this, but simply to click on the search engine
result. It is quite easy to have a simple domain name for your website that
is used in e-mails, on letterheads and over the phone when people ask and
another domain name for your promoal activity. For example you are a
car dealership and have www.johnsmithcars.co.uk as your domain name but
www.cars-new-secondhand-uk.co.uk as your promoal domain name, also
leading to your site and the one that you actually use to register on the
search engines. There is no excuse not to do this, with domain names being
available from under £3+ VAT per annum (see below).

Don't be left out in the cold.
One of the most important things you can do is to get other sites to link
with your site. This has several effects. Search engines will often seem
to rate a site more highly if they found it themselves i.e. through another
site. It is also good practice to make sure that links you establish are
with useful and popular sites that are themselves already on the search
engines. If you do this, you will get a small amount of traffic by people
clicking through in the links but far more importantly you are allowing your
site to be found by search engines that you haven't even registered with or
who may have not rated you very highly the first time.

You need to do a bit of leg work here and contact similar sites who are not
your direct competitors to suggest a mutual link. The thing to remember is
that it is not necessarily the visitors from their site that is important it
is the fact that someone else has linked to your site. The Internet is a
set of websites linked together through hyperlinks and if yours is not
linked then it is not really part of the network! Because this is so
important, we have set up a service for our customers to do just this.

I can illustrate this where in two projects recently there has been a marked
increase in visitors to the sites due to a link from another important site
having been set up. The numbers in one instance went from 500 visitors a
week on average to well over 1100 visitors a week to ten pages overall and
in the other from 1500 visitors per week to 3300 visitors a week (on just
eight pages). Both of these are without a doubt in my mind due to the fact
that the sites were suddenly found to be linked to from another (linked to)
site. Both of these large jumps in visitors happened overnight and are not
as a result of direct visitors from one site to the other.

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