Promoting Your Business Website

by Mike Hallaron

So you paid good money to have someone create your new small business website and now you are waiting for the payoff -- new sales. But, nothing happens, no calls or emails. Building a web site and not promoting it is like posting a billboard in your basement. You’re not going to get much traffic. Whether you hope to attract new prospects locally or across the globe, you need to let people know it exists.

Registering your site with the major search engines like Google, Yahoo!, MSN and AOL is a must. This tactic is relatively easy and inexpensive. However, there are also several obvious marketing tactics you might be overlooking.

1. Include your website in print ads.

This will get you more bang for your advertising buck out of your newspaper ad, chamber of commerce ad, church bulletin ad and yellow pages ad. Readers can get more details about your company and products or services instantly, 24 hours a day. For better results, offer them a good reason to visit your site; a daily poll, FREE offers or e-coupons, consumer information, etc.. Be sure to include your phone number and street address as well.

2. Use web address stickers.

Still sitting on a huge box of unused business stationery? Print small, peel-and-stick labels that feature your online address and copy inviting people to visit. Stick them on outgoing envelopes, on seminar folders, on the backs of your business cards and more.

3. Start an email newsletter.

Gather emails from customers, prospects and site visitors and offer them a regular newsletter via email. Then promote your relevant updates, schedules, sale prices or industry news. This is an extremely valuable marketing tool. In the newsletter, include links to your website for more information on related subjects.

4. Include your URL in answering machine or voice-mail messages.

Customers who call when you’re away can write down your Web address immediately help themselves to the information they need.

5. Don’t forget your on-hold message as well.

Skip the elevator music while they wait on the line for a representative, you can tell them that if they’re calling for directions, prices, return policies and such, they can click on over to your web site.

6. Post notices of your site’s content on discussion boards.

Whenever you add useful non-promotional content to your website, such as a topical "Frequently Asked Questions" page, post notices to relevant newsgroups, forums, discussion boards and mailing lists. This usually not only increases traffic at your web site, but also prompts people to add links to your site.

7. Ask for links.

Visit non-competing informational sites in your area of expertise and ask the owners to add links to your site. This works best when your site includes useful informational resources rather than strictly promotional material. Check if your parent company site has a Find a Local Representative by ZIP code directory. Trade groups also frequently list local members on their websites.

8. Exchange links.

Add a "Links" section to your site that presents links to related businesses. Then contact the webmasters of those sites to request a return link. You’ll find many are happy to comply. The more sites linking to yours the better. This is considered by search engine editors when determining your search engine ranking.

9. Publicize your content.

Write a press release announcing important company news, unique offerings or technological advances, then email it to industry trade magazines and local newspapers. Only offer genuine information that is newsworthy or educates the public, not just the announcement of an upcoming sale. Include your website address in the press release.

10. Host a giveaway.

Announce a drawing for a free service, inspection, evaluation or sample once each quarter. Those who sign the guest book during that period - and people can re-register every quarter - are eligible to win.

11. Create outdoor signage.

Find creative, but legal ways to add your URL on billboards or other outdoor advertising venues. A great twist on this theme is to buy ads that include your website at your local movie theater. Captive audiences see your message several times before the coming attractions.

12. Invent alternate domain names.

If you started off as "pamsparties.com" and then discover that "balloons.com" is available, grab it and have it open up your same site. That’s what Coca-Cola did when it registered for both www.cocacola.com and www.coke.com. The shorter and more memorable your domain names, the better.

13. Update your email signature.

At the end of every e-mail message you send, update your contact information to include your Web address, and add a short line about what’s new at your web site. Use this as a teaser, encouraging the reader to click on your link.

Summary: Your website’s success requires promotion, and that means serious dedication and some hard work. Make sure you include your website when determining your annual marketing budget. Follow these tips and your small business site is certain to bring you new business.

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