So you have a new website but the phone isn't ringing off the hook? Were you expecting an overnight success with your website?
Having a website professionally designed ensures you have a good looking site that is optimised for the search engines. This article is not about web design or search engine optimisation but outlines some suggestions that you, the site owner, can take to help boost genuine visitors to your site once it has been professionally designed. Once your site has been completed, you may be sitting back wondering where all your new clients are. There are some simple things to keep in mind and some low cost ideas to help you get your website kick started.
THE SEARCH ENGINES
There are only a few search engines worth submitting to. Just think... how many search engines can you name off the top of your head.. and how many do you actually use? If your site was designed by us at Darwin Web Design, we would have submitted to the major search engines for you.
Submitting to the search engines doesn't actually guarantee a listing and isn't really necessary at all (although we submit anyway, it can't hurt). Search engines use a special technology (searchbots) that constantly crawl the web gathering information from websites - and your website needs to be designed properly so the searchbots can find your site and index it effectively.
It can take quite a while (up to a few months) for a new site to be indexed on the search engines and a lot longer to gain a high ranking. With this in mind, it is important to not become too stressed about the search engine side of things and take some additional steps to help boost your site's popularity.
Warning - You may have come across computer programs that submit your website to hundreds of search engines with the convenient click of a button. While this sounds wonderful, you are better off submitting your site manually ie filling out their individual forms (as they all have different requirements). It's time consuming to do it manually, yes. That is why I recommend only submitting to the few large search engines that really count.
ADVERTISING AND MARKETING
Don't neglect the good old fashioned methods of advertising your website such as the yellow pages, print advertising, brochures, letterheads, business cards - infact anything that is handed out to a potential client, ensure your website address is printed large and proud. I recently saw a huge banner in a public area advertising a local service. The banner showed the logo and telephone number. I noted that people are not likely to whip out a pen/paper to jot down the phone number. If the banner featured the website address - especially if it has a simple domain name, this would have been far more memorable and effective.
Also don't forget cheap yet effective forms of advertising such as displaying your website address on your vehicle's bumper bar and your shirts. Make it large and eye catching - so you can't miss it! Your website will be advertised while you're out and about every day - how easy and cheap is that!
An effective and free way to constantly advertise your site is to add your website link to the signature of each email you send out (along with your name, business name & phone number). This is easily set up within your mail software to appear automatically when starting and replying to a message and well worth the effort (5 minutes of your time).
Keep your website up to date. Have you visited a site that looked outdated, giving the impression that the owner didn't really care... Fresh web content will ensure you are continually updating key phrases to your site too (great for search engine robots). Consider adding and maintaining some of the following content on your site:
Newsletters, price lists, menus, photographic samples of your product or service, timetables and schedules, introduction of new products or services, information sheets and interesting (relevant) articles, recipes, special offers and discounts...
The list doesn't stop there, there are many ideas that could be applicable to your type of business. Marketing books can offer ideas or you could have a brain storming session with your friends or work colleagues for something truly unique! The more interesting your site, the more chance of other sites linking to you (see next section). When giving content to us for adding to your site, ensure you have not breached any copyright laws.
LINKS TO YOUR SITE (QUALITY NOT QUANTITY)
Try to obtain links to your site from other websites. Search engines will recognise your site as being 'popular' if it has other high ranking websites pointing to it and this will boost your ranking. Plus you'll have the added exposure by actually appearing on other sites. To do this, you need to contact other website owners requesting that they link to your site (and the advantages for them to do so), but approach 'quality' sites only. By 'quality sites', I mean websites that:
are already highly ranked in the search engines (ie reputable and appear high in search results when searching for a particular key phrase).
contain subject matter that is relevant to your website's content (that way the visitors to that site are definitely looking for your type of product or service).
Some examples of websites to approach for links:
Informative sites regarding your subject matter
Specialist directories (eg if you sell pet supplies, search for 'pet supply directories' in Google and then add your site to the good sites that offer free submissions)
Local directories - the large search engines are great, but local directories for your town and country are good especially if they are manually maintained and there is some control as to what is added. Geckosite - www.geckosite.com.au has been designed by Darwin Web Design for this very purpose. It is a search directory for local websites in Darwin NT Australia. No other sites are accepted, it is exclusively for Darwin and there is free online submission.
In many cases people will find your site indirectly through another directory or link, whether you were ranked highly in the search results or not... the visitor finds your site, that is the main thing.
Do not discount the option of adding your link to overseas specialist directories, so long as the subject matter is relevant and particularly if you have a niche product or service. Remember that keeping your website informative, fresh and up to date will make it more enticing to link to.
As with the search engine submissions, do not stress out over this! Adding to directories can chew into valuable time. Tackle the task gradually when you are in the mood or have time to spare.
TIP: Don't waste your time adding your link to 'link farms' and other 'dodgy' schemes. The search engines recognise these as spam now and this can have a negative effect on your ranking.
USE YOUR WEBSITE TO ITS FULL ADVANTAGE
Your website can save you time and money, even if you are not ranked number 1 or you aren't getting the influx of new customers straight off the search engines. Use it for what it is - ie a publically accessible document that is available to everyone 24 hours a day.
Your site is still a valuable tool, for example, when you get phone enquiries about something complex that you find yourself repeating over and over, you could refer that person to your website for a fact sheet that they can print out with diagrams and all. You could have forms on your site so people can make enquiries and submit them to you or you could have a special section of the site just for staff. A website can be a powerful vehicle to help you, your staff and clients on a day to day basis - just remember to use it and tell others about it! (its amazing how many people don't do this).
BE REALISTIC (AND PATIENT)
Perhaps you should be realistic with what you want your website to achieve for you. Are you expecting to become rich overnight with your website? EVERYONE wants to be number 1 in the search engines for a given search term and realistically (and obviously) - only one website can be number one for a given search. How many well established companies are you up against for that number one spot? Is it realistic and achievable to climb to the top? Even if it is a realistic goal, it will take time...
Hint - the more 'niche' your product or service is, the easier and more realistic for you. Ensure you are aware of your niche area and make sure your website content reflects this when you have it designed and updated.
Are you worried about how many 'hits' you are getting to your site? Once again quality, not quantity count here. If you receive hundreds of visitors to your site but no sales, you're not doing well even if you have an impressive array of visitors. If you receive only 5 visitors and 3 genuine enquires, that's far better and your site is working for you.
THE BOTTOM LINE....Is your website worth visiting?
OK, so you've had a site professionally designed, submitted to the search engines, specialist directories, practised all of the traditional advertising methods of advertising too and you're still wondering where all your customers are? Perhaps this item should really be the first to appear: "Is your website worth visiting?" Are you offering something that people want or are searching for? Why should people visit you? Lets face it, not many people are going to go out of their way to read a company brochure on a product or service that isn't in demand - even if it has good exposure. Think of the junk mail you throw out each day...
So when you advertise your site, you could also add a reason to visit. A special offer, the latest products, some free tips and advice (relevant to your products/services of course), a free assessment or trial, a timetable of events - it all comes back to keeping your website content fresh, informative and interesting.
Eva Pettifor owns and operates Darwin Web Design - A local web design business in Darwin, Northern Territory Australia. Eva has also created a local search directory for Darwin NT called Geckosite. Visit both websites at: http://www.darwinwebdesign.com and http://www.geckosite.com.au
Copyright 2005 Eva Pettifor