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Isn't it time you
updated your site?

 

Great sites don't happen overnight.
They happen over a lot of late nights.

I've put off writing this tutorial for as long as I can. Every day when I get ready to start writing, I realize that I'm not ready. How can I be an expert when every day I learn something new about Internet site promotion? So, don't expect great words of wisdom from an expert on Internet promotion.

There are no experts.

What you'll get instead are things that I have learned during hundreds of hours of learning site promotion the hard way, bit by bit. I am out there in the trenches every day, and every night. The same trenches you are about to muck about in. So maybe I can help you shorten your learning curve. Every time I rewrite this tutorial, I hope it will contain much of what I have been able to learn since the last writing. For truly that is what being on the Internet means: always learning.

Much of what I expect to learn in the future I hope will come from you: my hard-working visitors. Please share with me and the other visitors to this site, anything that you already know or will learn. If I've missed putting a tip into this site, it is probably because I don't know it.



INTRODUCTION

All of us who publish on the Internet, regardless of how we rationalize our efforts as business, wage earning, teaching or the myriad of other rationalizations employed, are really here for only one reason: to reach the largest possible audience with our personal vision. And that phrase 'largest possible audience' is the very soul of Internet site promotion. In order to gain satisfaction from our efforts, we must have an audience. Or 'hits.' Or 'traffic.' This flow of participants is our reward for the long nights of frustrating, challenging, satisfying site building.

I started, probably like you, thinking that if I built the coolest web site in the world, the traffic would overwhelm both me and my Internet Presence Provider. We would be looking for ways to increase server capacity to handle the great demands that my site's huge success would put upon his server. Needless to say, the reality was somewhat less than my expectations.

The first reality that sets in is that all of the wonderful search engines don't even know that my site exists. And the few that do find me wind up classifying me under some really bizarre categories and giving out descriptions of my pages that have absolutely nothing to do with the content of the pages.

The next reality is that my pages were not as cool as I thought. Cool turns quickly to room temperature when I discover that HTML is a much bigger challenge than expected. All of those really neat moving pictures, streaming video, slick forms feeding into data bases, sounds and graphics take a really long time to create and even longer to debug. And when you get them working just right, someone tells you that it looks really ugly on the browser that they are using. Go back to start. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

The final reality to materialize was: I was hooked. This Internet publishing stuff is addicting. Something new to learn every hour. Sleep became a thing of the past. My phone is always tied up and my family gave up on my attending things like movies and meals.

If all this sounds familiar: you are an addict. Especially if you are reading this at 2:00 A.M. But there is hope. You can get the traffic. You can debug the cgi and HTML. Java can be learned. Forms really do work, eventually. You can add more phone lines. Sorry, can't help with the family problems. Let me know if you figure that one out.

All of the tools and knowledge referred to in this site can be learned by anyone. There is no magic, just a lot of hard work if you want to do it right.  To that end, a supporting link list to this document exists here.Use it to find great information from many of the real pacesetters in web development and promotion. Additionally, read the checklist I've prepared. A trick: click on each item of the checklist to see more rambling and babbling about each subject.

 



BUILD YOUR SITE FOR TRAFFIC GETTING

It is not my purpose here to teach you how to build a good site that entertains, educates or sells your visitors. It has already been done, and done very well, by others and I have gathered many of them into the Webmaster's Toolkit pages elsewhere in this site. It is, however, my intention to arm you with the tools to go out and get that traffic.

To that end, you need to learn a bit about several tools that increase your chances of getting traffic from the search engines like Yahoo!, HotBot, Alta Vista, Lycos and Excite, and from content site that might be willing to list your site in their referral list of links. Keep in mind that the search engine services exist for only one reason: to make it possible for net surfers to find information on the web. They don't create the information. They only catalog it and serve it up as answers to inquiries.

Why do they do this? Mostly for money. The more traffic they get to their site, the more advertising they can sell. Each time you call up a page of answers from them, you are served up a banner ad as well. I mention this only so that you will understand that you are not asking them to do you a favor when you try to list your site. That is why they are there. And by and large, you will find these services to be staffed by devoted, friendly, customer oriented employees or volunteers who are trying to make sense of something that, at its foundation makes no sense: the Internet.

So, here are some tricks and tools for interacting with the search services:

 

Design each page with searching in mind. Do not call your home page 'Billy Bob's Home Page' unless that is all your page is about. If there is a purpose for your page, put that reason in the name. The search engines will make extensive use of your page titles. Keep reviewing each page's title to find more meaningful titles.
Use META DESCRIPTION and META KEYWORDS statements in each page. The META tags are used by many of the searchers as a way to allow you to control what they say about your site, and the categories they place you under.
Do not put words into your keywords list that have nothing to do with the purpose and content of your site. While putting words like 'sex' into your keywords might get you some extra traffic for a while, a couple of things will happen quickly. One, the search engines will figure you out and drop you from their service. Second, the traffic you get will be very upset and will probably FLAME you for false advertising. If you don't know what a flame is, congratulations. They are painful and to be avoided at all costs. Check it out. Avoid it.
Be aware that most search engines will index the contents of the ALT= part of an IMG tag (image or graphics statement). Why do I bring this up? Well, many of you will build home pages that are primarily graphics with links deeper into your site. It doesn't allow for a lot of text that the spiders can use to index your site. It can't figure out what the pictures mean. But if you have used the ALT=" " to put in some descriptive comments about the purpose of your site and some good keywords, you will get much better placement in the index. This should in no way replace your efforts to put in your META statements.
Try to build your site and its content to appeal to the real audience you are trying to attract. Build your reputation on quality, not on flash and hype. If you do this, you will have all of the traffic you need, and you will make a lot of friends around the world.
Early in each page, put concise information about the real content of the page and the audience for whom it is intended. Many of the indexers (search engines) bypass your META tags and try to analyze your page to discern its purpose from your content. If your page concerns Australian Tree Frogs, do not babble on about your dog. The search engines will list you under dogs and about 20 other categories relating to dogs and no one will ever find out that you are an expert on: frogs, tree, Australian.
Study the search engines. Visit them often. Run a lot of searches for anything relating to your site's content. Get a feel for each engine and how they present things. Read their FAQ pages and instructions on how to submit a site. Remember, they want you to get it right. Their index's content is their only product. And you control the quality of their information.
When you visit a site similar in content or audience to yours, study their site structure. Look at their code for META tags and hidden word lists. Find out how high they are in the food chain. When you type in Tree Frogs, are they in the first 10 links offered by the search engines. If they are, find out why.
Some indexers require you to place a text file in your directory, with a specified name, that contains the name of each page on your site, its title, description and a list of keywords. This is how they get their information. They do not analyze your site or its pages. They let you control what they say about you and who they say it to. Just because this seems complicated, do not avoid doing this file. It is really very easy and very rewarding to have.
Look out! The search engines are all working on getting rid of 'spam' (or keyword loading). You've seen the search results where the titles of pages come back as nothing but a list of keywords. Loading lists of keywords into your title tag, putting in long lists of invisible key word repeats at the bottom of your page, and the other desperate measures some webmasters go to to attract more traffic, will now get you dropped from several of the search engines, or at least put at the end of the results pages. The search engines are trying to find ways to level the playing field and make it easier for searchers to get real information. Don't get caught 'spamming' or you could wind out with even less traffic. This you don't want. Investigate carefully before doing keyword loading.

 

WHEN DO I START PROMOTING?

 

Don't get in a rush to start listing your site. Some of the information you will be placing into databases throughout the world will live a long time, and errors you make now will haunt you for a long time (seems like forever.) Go out and learn about the web. Learn about the search engines. Learn about your competition. Set your policies about cross-linking. More than anything, practice begging, groveling and going without sleep.
When you are ready to start your promotion, build your promotion toolkit. 'What toolkit?' you ask. Ah, good question. Here is the one I use and it will provide a decent starting point for your list. No two sites are alike, and no two toolkits are alike.
A small GIF graphic, not animated, to represent your site. Stay at under one inch high by two inches wide. Make it legible and meaningful.
A complete list of each page on your site that should be indexed. With each page, have a meaningful title and a short description (under 50 words) for the page. Some indexers require you to input each page and some only need the home page and they find the rest automatically.
A description of your site in each of the following words counts:
10 words
15 words
25 words
35 words
50 words
75 words
100 words
A list of keywords for the site. Put them in order by their importance, so that when you run into a site that doesn't allow your full list, you can submit just the front portion of the keyword list.
Fully contact information:
Company name
Address
Phone numbers
Fax number
Contact name and email address
The purpose of your site in three different word counts - 15, 30 and 75 words.
A description of the audience for your site or its products.
You will want easy access to all of the above information readily available to you. I keep mine in a text file that can be opened by a small text application (Teach Text on my Mac) and kept open in the background anytime I am surfing the net or promoting a site. This allows you to cut and paste the information each site asks for without having to retype it each time. Other people I know keep this data in a fancy multi-item clipboard or in a small data base. Whatever your style, just make sure it is readily available when you need it.
Another tool you will need is a method for keeping track of all of your efforts at site promotion. You will want to track each attempt you make. You need a quick way to go back to the site and determine if they got you listed. If so, thank them. If not, remind them again. When you have trouble getting listed, it will usually turn out to be your fault. Read their FAQ (If you don't know what a FAQ is, go back 3 spaces and lose one turn) and their rules again. Find out what you are doing wrong. Maybe they don't list your type of site. Maybe they limit listings to a specific industry.

I keep my efforts in a small 'flat file' data base (Filemaker Pro) that allows me to add information each step of the way. Again, like the data work-list above, I keep this application open in the background of my system so that I can get the URLs to go back to and post results or notes.

The fields I use in my file are:

URL (address) of site
Name of site (Yahoo, Joe Hot List ....)
Date of initial submission
Description of the site
Description of my submission (category, etc.)
Date verified that I am listed
URL to find my listing
Obligations involved with this listing (i.e.: must link back to the other site....)
Room for several notes with follow up comments and dates. This allows me to keep track of where I am with each submission.

This may seem like a lot of data to track, but keep in mind that you will be visiting at least one hundred (to several hundred) sites in order to promote your site. That is just too much to keep track of in your head. Trust me on this one. I tried it the other way and got hopelessly lost.



 

THE DISCOVERY CHAIN

The question is: How Do I Find Places To List My Site?

The answer is: 'EVERYWHERE.'

Want a little more detail to that answer? OK.

 

Right here on PLANETWeBDESIGN. We have accumulated a collection of several hundred (and growing) general interest sites that you should list your site with. These include all of the major search engines, yellow pages, hot site award sites, auto link-list sites, what's new and many others. If you list with all of the sites on our list, you will be well along on the road to high traffic counts.
Each place that you go to list your site will have one or more pages of links to other sites. Check these out. (If you find a good one, please let us know.) Follow these links to lots of new places on the web that you can list with. Sometimes, I will sit down to work a site from my list, and hours later will realize that I have only worked one site from my list, but have found many more by just following the links.
Trust me, we have no sites listed that are devoted to Australian Tree Frogs. Our list is comprised of general interest sites that will be of use to almost everyone. You can find other sites to link with by searching out other sites dealing with the same audience or subject as your site. Look for link pages. Follow those links. Dig. Dig. Dig.
Don't be shy. If you find a site that would be of interest to your audience, give them a link from your site. It is much friendlier to send an email to another Webmaster that says 'I liked your site so much, I put a link at (insert the URL of your page that contains his/her link) to your site. Hope it generates some traffic for you. I would appreciate it if you would visit my site, and if appropriate to your audience, put a link to my site from yours.'
Don't try to list your site in places that you don't fit. If a site is a collection to resources for writers and authors, your tree frog page would be a real stretch. Don't waste your time and energy, and don't waste the time and energy of the other Webmaster. Remember, it's not how many places you are listed that matters. It's how many visitors you get to your site. Keep focused on the goal.



 

HOW TO PLACE A LISTING

I'll talk about the promotion services that will do your listing and linking for you later. Right now let's look at how to achieve your goal of getting listed through your own efforts.

 

Step one is to visit the top layer of the search engine or referral site you are targeting. Don't just go to their submission page. Start at their home page. Look around. Get the lay of the land. Find out who else is listed there. What is the site's audience? How do they rate or review listings? What do the other listed sites say about their own sites in their listings?
Find out how the site is organized. If it is just one long list of links with no structure, go ahead and list your site and move on. Long, unstructured link lists are of little value to anyone (except the random URL linker engines) but since you are already there, leave a link. Can't hurt.
Pick the categories you want to be listed under carefully. Make them count. Most sites limit the number of categories you can list under, so don't waste them. If people who would want to see your site can't find you in the places THEY are looking, you might as well not exist.
Be polite. Most of the people you will be dealing with are volunteers who are maintaining data about the web as a labor of love. Don't get in their faces. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be aggressive about getting linked, but do it nicely.
Be prepared. Have your information ready. Fill in all of the blanks on the form. Follow the rules. Proof read you submission several times. Your mistakes are forever. Read the instructions and research the site.
Follow up often. Check back, even in places where you have already confirmed your listing. It could get lost. Web happens.
Get listed in as many places on a site as their rules permit. If they have no limit, submit everything you've got to every category they've got.



 

DO THEY HAVE TO LIST ME IN THEIR SEARCH ENGINES?

No. Some of the search services only deal with sites they have reviewed and found to be of value to their audience. Some list every bit of flotsam and jetsam they find on the web.

The trend is towards more structured response to an inquiry. That means hand working the data that goes into their data base. If you don't fit, or they don't like your site, or the moon is full, you could get rejected (read: ignored). But try again. If they all reject you, you might want to visit your own site and see if they have a point that you should listen to. Maybe your site needs a little work.

 



WHAT'S NEW?

There are many places on the web that deal with announcing new sites. While these won't get you long term traffic, they will get you started. Submit to all of them that fit your audience.

 



WHAT ARE THE PROMOTION SERVICES, AND WHY SHOULD I USE THEM?

The short answer is 'You shouldn't' unless you don't have time to do the job yourself, and to do it right. You will always do a better job yourself because you have more knowledge about your audience and you have the passion.

A commercial site promotion service primarily fills in a form and submits it to some agreed upon number of sites that will link to you. They can't guarantee that the sites will accept your listing, and at the low rates they are able to charge, they can't afford to go back and follow up on all of these submissions.

I am NOT saying that there is anything wrong with the service they are offering. They offer a valid service to people who don't have the time or interest in doing the job themselves. Just don't expect them to do the same quality of job that you would.

The other type of site submission is the free service sites. They will submit your listing for you to a list of places after you fill in a form giving them the data that the search engines and listing sites want. Again, there are several excellent services like this, and I give them a nice write-up in our Submission services page. But there is a basic flaw to the service they provide to the serious traffic builder. They submit the same data to each and every site to which they submit your information. It gives you no chance to look around a site and try to find a message that will best motivate their audience to want to come visit you.

 



WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW? That's easy. Lots. Some of the other subjects for you to study are:

Auto Submission Software.
Weekly Gazette Newsletter - Fastest growing promotion newsletter on the net.
Newsgroups and email discussion lists.
Cyber malls.
Non web methods of site promotion.
Search Engine Forums for up-to-the-minute search engine information.

Click on the blackboard to find places to go, things to do and people to see.

 

Remember, if it were easy, everyone would be a Top 5% of the Web site.


Great sites don't happen overnight.
They happen over a lot of late nights.

Remember, if it were easy, everyone would be a Top 5% of the Web site.


Great sites don't happen overnight.
They happen over a lot of late nights.

 

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