Get Ahead on the Web: How To Bring Visitors To Your Website - For Free!

Search engine optimisation ? it's the holy grail of website design, or, put another way, a buzzword which means "get listed on Google." Because lets face it; if your website doesn't show up on a Google search, you may as well not have one. It's like opening a shop on the moon.

So, how do you get listed? It must be very difficult, no? I mean, look at all of the website companies charging a fortune for "optimisation" services. Well, quite. You could throw away a chunk of your hard-earned paying someone to get you listed. Or you could just do it yourself. For free.

First things first: here's what you need to know about Google.com, the web's biggest search engine, and basically the only one you need to worry about. Google is like high school. It's a popularity contest. Google will only be your friend if you're one of the cool kids ? i.e., if you've got a lot of friends (or "hits" as we in the web-design business like to call them) already.

Here's how it works: you've got your website. Hopefully got it from us J It's all pretty and shiny and you love it. You want everyone to see it and admire it and love it just as much as you do. You wanna be an internet rock star. So you submit your site to Google. This is the easy part: go to google.com, click on the "about Google" link, and then on the "submitting your site" link. Then you sit back and wait, right?

Wrong. What Google does now is "scan" the web, looking for websites, which it then indexes on its search pages. But as I said, Google's fickle. It'll only go for the most popular sites ? the ones that are getting hits already. If you're not doing everything you can to bring visitors to your site anyway, you may get listed on Google ? but you'll be on page 14,562,572. Which really isn't helping anyone.

So, to get listed, you need hits. Here's how to get them:

1. tell people about your site

The more people you tell, the better. And I'm not just talking about telling people you think might be interested in it. Tell EVERYONE. Tell the postman. The man who sells you your morning paper. Tell that kid who keeps following you home from work every day. You need to get your web address out there. We don't care how you do it. Every time someone visits your site, Google sees. Soon you'll be creeping up them there listings?

2. Put your URL on your business cards

And your letterhead. Put it on your adverts, in your brochures, on your Christmas cards. Hell, get it laminated on a sign and hang it on your back. That's what we do. (I'm kidding) The more places people can come across your URL, the more likely they are to click on it. And clicks mean prizes? (Your URL is the address of your site, by the way. But you knew that.)

3. Get listed in online business directories

Yell.com (the Yellow Pages online), Touch Edinburgh, the West Lothian Council business directory? All of these give you the option to add your website address to your business listing. Once it's there, it's just waiting to be clicked. And we know what clicks mean..

4. 4. Post on message boards

There are online discussion boards all over the internet. Check out handbag.com (for girls), fool.co.uk (for money), or bigsoccer.com (go on, guess?) just for starters. Have a surf and you're bound to find something that catches your interest. Now all you have to do is join in the discussion ? and remember to add your website address to all your posts. Bingo.

5. Get a good signature

Not the kind of signature you write on your credit card slips ? the kind you add to the bottom of your emails. It should include your name, contact information ? and, of course, that all-important website address!

6. Get a good website!

OK, so this probably should have been number 1? Because attracting visitors is all very well, but if you attract them to a poorly designed website, they ain't never coming back. Make sure your designer knows what they're doing: get yourself a well-designed, functional website with something people want to see, and the visitors will come?.

Amber McNaught co-owner of Hot Igloo Productions Ltd., a website design and editorial services company offering writing, proofreading and editing. http://www.hotigloo.co.uk [email protected]

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