There are millions of websites on the Internet, but not all of them provide real value to the visitor. Before promoting your website, you need to have a few fundamentals of success in place.
Review the website for quality content. The information should be presented in simple, concise and practical language, with particular attention paid to good grammar and correct spelling. Ensure that the navigation is simple. Is it easy for visitors to contact you by phone, fax, email or post? Your website branding, appearance and usability are a reflection of your business, so make sure your site displays properly on different browsers, and that it downloads efficiently.
Service and response
Be prepared to respond to inquiries that are left at various spots throughout the website. Your customers won't come back if there is no way to contact the business or if there is no response when contact is initiated. Make sure that phone numbers are correct, that email is answered promptly, that customer service systems and processes are in place, and that orders are filled properly, with the least possible inconvenience to the customer.
Once your website is ready to go, it may still be a challenge to attract visitors. Here is a look at where website visitors come from and how to maximize each traffic channel:
Direct visitors — These are people who type in your domain name and go directly to your website. Three key tactics are regularly used to increase direct visitor traffic:
- Memorable domain names — Choosing the right domain name to represent your business online can have a significant impact on visitor traffic. An existing business should generally try to use an established name as its domain name. For example, Joe's Beach Pails should obtain a domain name such as joesbeachpails.ca or joesbeachpails.com. By doing so, Joe is taking advantage of the branding that his company has achieved. People who are already familiar with the real world Joe's Beach Pails company will easily remember the domain name, which will make locating the website more intuitive.
- Offline advertising and promotion — Business cards, postcards, traditional direct mail, newspaper ads, flyers, giveaways and brochures that feature a domain name are all excellent ways to promote a website. A good marketing campaign will use a combination of offline advertising to direct a potential customer to your website where you can display more detailed sales information and encourage the visitor to make contact or to buy.
- Viral marketing — The premise of viral marketing is that there is nothing quite as valuable as a friend's referral. On the Internet it is quick and easy to let someone know about a great website, company or product. Like a virus, a good idea can be spread at an incredible rate, passing from person to person and steadily increasing awareness of your website. By turning your own customers into sales agents, your business can implement viral marketing as an effective, inexpensive promotional tool.
Visitors who find you through search engines — Most people find websites through the help of a search engine or directory, so it is important that your website be properly listed and accessible to users.
While there are thousands of search engines on the Internet, only a handful are widely used. It is helpful to learn that each search engine works differently, sorts differently and ranks results differently and that they often change their rules.
Paid ads — All major search engines and directories offer a range of advertising options to suit every budget and every type of marketing campaign. Here's an overview of some of the options that are available:
- Buying a higher ranking position — Search engines will provide your business with a higher ranking position if you buy a search term. For example, the term "fishing" may be bought by Burt's Fishing Store. When a visitor searches for the term "fishing", Burt's listing will appear at the top of the list.
- Pay-per-click ads — Some search engines offer an advertising option in which you are only charged for the actual number of clicks to your website. For example, when a visitor searches on the term "fishing", the ad and the link to B's Fishing Store website is displayed. If the visitor actually clicks on it, then B's Fishing Store will be billed.
- Banner ads — All search engines offer banner advertising. You can negotiate various deals and models. As explained above, banner ads can be displayed based on certain search terms. Banner ads are often designed in multiple versions and then tested online to see which ones are most effective.
Linked visitors — By its nature the Internet connects people with other people and businesses, and encourages cross-linking and cross-integration. To drive more traffic to your website, it makes sense to have as many other websites as possible link back to yours. Many search engines also use the number and quality of links directing people back to your website when calculating the ranking position: the more links, the higher the position.
Depending on the type of website you have, you will have different linking strategies available to you. A website rich in content will be a more valued link than a business website that simply promotes its own product. There are various opportunities that you can explore.
Free links — Sources of potential free links include:
- Clubs, organizations or business affiliations to which you belong
- Niche business directories, government directories or non-profit organizations
- Partners, suppliers, resellers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers
Paid links — Some of the same sources as above, plus:
- Industry magazines, directories, news sites
- Local government or business associations
- Resource websites, online malls, search terms, retail directories
Banner advertising — This is available on a vast range of websites from search engines to portals to industry specific websites. When planning a banner advertising campaign, you need a significant budget in order to sustain the ad strategy. One benefit of banner advertising is that the creative can be tested while the campaign is still running and extensive data can be collected to measure the success of the campaign.
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