How To Drive Traffic To Your Web Site

Now that you have your Web site online it's time to tell the world about it. Here's where to start.
Welcome to Accidental IT, a series of technical how-tos for people whose job descriptions don't necessarily include tech support but who often find themselves doing just that for their co-workers.

Having a well-crafted Web site online doesn't mean a thing if no one sees it. Now that you've put your company's Web site up and it has all the elements necessary to let visitors understand your company, you still need visitors. One misconception that early Web enthusiasts fell into was that simply having a web site was enough to get business. The truth is that the "old school" rules of advertising and attracting customers still apply, and unless you're able to motivate people to visit your Web site, you've spent a lot of time and energy developing a site that only you and your development team will see.

There are as many ways to publicize your Web site as there are advertising venues, and the ones that work best for you may be different from those that work best for other businesses. In general, don't overlook traditional forms of advertising (newspaper, yellow pages, radio) just because they aren't part of the Internet. Any method of attracting visitors to your Web site is a good one, as long as it works economically for you.

Traditional publicity

-Television/Cable TV -Newspaper -Direct mail -Catalogs -Brochures -Word of mouth -Networking

Online attraction methods

-Search engine submission -Email campaigns -Webrings -Affiliate marketing -Blogs -RSS feeds

Start with what you have

If you are already sending email, direct mail, catalogs, brochures, or any other kind of customer communication, don't pass up the opportunity to announce your new Web site in every communication. Modify your address block to include your Web site address, and include a phrase like "Visit our Web site for the latest..." in your correspondence.

Online venues

Search engines are the most frequently used method for finding information people are looking for online. Your Web site will be found and scanned by the various search engines even if you do nothing... it's their job. But that doesn't mean that people looking for your products or services will find them when they enter search terms into Google, Yahoo!, or any other search engines. To show up in the first 10 items for any particular search, you will need to devote either time or money to optimizing your site.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an industry in itself, and there are plenty of software tools, consultants, and services ready to help you move your web site higher in search engine rankings. Use your favorite search engine to find them with a search term like "search engine optimization."

Webrings can be effective for some types of sites. Webrings link similar Web sites together so that a visitor to one site can easily find other similar sites. Webrings are typically free to join, and usually provide equal traffic to all participants. The downside is that you're linked directly to your competitors. But as they say... "Any publicity is good publicity." See for a starting point.

If you're inclined to create a blog, you can use it as both content and advertising for your Web site. Be sure you are prepared to dedicate the time and effort to updating your blog regularly. A blog is much like a newspaper in that copy needs to be fresh and timely to keep its audience.

If you already have an audience, you can go to them rather than have them come to you, by setting up an RSS feed from your site. Your visitors can elect to subscribe to your RSS feed, and whenever you make a change or publish to your site, your RSS subscribers will receive the update in their RSS reader.

And don't forget

If your visitors come to your site twice and don't see anything new from their last visit, it's likely they will assume there is nothing new and never come back again. If you're inviting people to your Web site, make sure your visitors have a reason to see it. Keeping your site fresh can be a full time job, but making frequent minor updates may be enough, depending on the purpose and content of your site.

Keep at it, and use multiple methods to reach your audience. Over time you will find the best combination of services and communication types for your business. Once you've distilled your efforts to a few that produce good traffic, concentrate on them to refine your messages and effectiveness. Try a new or different method once in a while. You may find that the market has changed, or that you have learned something about addressing your prospective customers.

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