Many people are new to the web and much of the advice there is aimed at the experienced Internet user. It is a fact that, apart from having a good product, site promotion is the key to successfully building up a business on the Internet so here are ten tips for newcomers that don't cost any money and which can save an awful lot of wasted time.
One - Submit your Site to Search Engines
Here it is wise to avoid the 'autosubmit' software programs. The best results are obtained by submitting manually to the top ten engines. This way each one's quirks and foibles can be accommodated.
Some engines, for instance, will only allow a certain number of characters when listing a site description and/or key words. If this limit has been exceeded using an autosubmitter, the site would be rejected out of hand. Even worse, no feedback would let the submitter know that had happened and they may then wait in frustration for their listing to appear. Worse still, there is the quandary of whether to resubmit the site as some search engines consider multiple applications to be 'spam' which may lead to the site being permanently rejected from that engine's database. Manual submission is time-consuming but definitely worth it.
Two - Submit your Site to Directories
These are different to search engines in that they have their own categories within which inquirers can find a listing of the sites that interest them without necessarily using a search button. This may well be the future of interrogating the Internet and should certainly not be overlooked when trying to make a site 'visible'.
Pay attention to getting the site listed on as many directories as possible, especially the Open Directory Project as their database is used by many of the top search engines and directories.
Three - Webrings
These are associations of websites with a similar focus. Joining one will allow the site owner to insert a webring logo at the bottom of their page site which will allow visitors to move on to browse all other sites within the ring. Similarly, this will allow visitors to other sites within the ring to find the site being promoted and thus hopefully increase traffic. Some of these rings are huge and others quite tiny. It depends on what sphere the site is operating in but, either way, it is another good way to gain additional traffic for the site. A popular webring organisation can be found here.
Four - Email Discussion Lists
It is generally a good idea to get some market feedback and general discussion building up around the site. This can be done by allowing people to join a hosted email list directly from the site itself. There are many providers of this type of service, some of whom charge but many are free. Which is chosen depends on the quality of service required.
Five - Be your Own Publicist
Don't be afraid to let other people know what you are doing. While not advocating that the web marketeer bore all his/her friends to death at every dinner party, it is worth mentioning now and then. Also, if visiting public places, why not leave some business cards in the foyer/bathroom of the hotel/pub/restaurant (after asking permission, of course).
Six - the Press
A lot of money can be wasted in purchasing unfocused advertising, even in specialist magazines. If the site is selling something fresh or doing something a little different, it is worth calling the editors of trade magazines and letting them know. Including a free link to their publication as an information service on the site will assist the chances of being given a hearing. If things go well, it is possible that the magazine will do a small article about the site - tremendously more valuable than random advertising and for free. It won't always work but, hey, nothing ventured...
Seven - Reciprocal Links
Search engines are lately giving higher listings to sites that they calculate to be 'popular'. What this actually means is that the search engine programs (called spiders or 'bots) can find lots of references to the site on other people's sites. To assist in this process, as well as making the site more valuable to the users, it is worth including links to other sites in the same field. Achieving this can often be as simple as emailing the other site owners and suggesting reciprocal links for mutual benefit. Normally webmasters are quite receptive to this and will try to accommodate such a request. This is especially advantageous if the site linked to has high traffic. Information sources are amongst the best of these.
Eight - Banners
Initially, paying people to advertise on their sites was seen as a good thing on the Internet and the use of banner advertising was endemic. This seems, of late, to have fallen out of favour within business models as either a viable revenue stream (selling space on a site) or a way of attracting business. Try it if it seems appropriate to the business but be warned that it may not yield much in the way of returns for a fledgling concern.
Nine - Be Discreet
It can be very productive to belong to several email lists, discussion forums and/or newsgroups related to the area of business involved. Helping other people with their problems can increase people's awareness of the webmaster/site owner's expertise and standing in the Internet community.
Being careful not to include glaring sales pitches in with those replies will show respect and courtesy to the individual concerned (something which is not always apparent on the Internet). Appending a small 'sig'1 to the email will allow people to visit the site if they choose and people tend to appreciate this kind of approach.
Ten - Write an Article for a Magazine or even a Guide such as h2g2!
All publicity is good publicity and if it can help others by sharing knowledge with them at the same time, all the better. Adding contact details to such a piece will mean that if potential customers subsequently want to find out more about the author or their business, they know where to go.