Small Business Web Site Promotion
The most important thing to remember when you want to encourage visitors to visit your web site is to make sure they will want to return again. ‘Visitors’ means not just human web surfers, but also the search engines and directories. In small business website promotion, no matter how much you promote your site, it will be the look of the site that will keep visitors there and hopefully buy your products or services.
Optimize your Site for Search Engines; Check your links
Small business website promotion starts with a search engine spider indexing or cataloging your site by following the links from one page to another. Just as human visitors dislike a broken link, so do the spiders. If a link doesn’t work they’ll simply move onto the next page. No matter how sophisticated the search engine software is, it can’t index what it can’t find. Also remember that a spider will not be able to follow a link that requires a form submission or Java Script so small business website promotion is very important.
While considering the subject of links, if you are using HTML and CSS on your site, make sure that both work properly. A certain minimum level of requirements must be met so that your pages will display correctly. It is only if these are met that a spider can do its work. There are free facilities online that can check both of these for you.
* Make sure your links work.
* Check that HTML and CSS work properly.
Do not make your Pages too big!
Most of us have heard the expression ‘size isn’t everything’. While this may be true of many things, it does matter when it comes to web pages. People do not like having to wait an eternity for a web page to load. Search engine spiders may not fully index a page bigger than 150k in size. Remember that the size of a page does not simply depend on the actual HTML file itself, but includes everything on the page such as images, banners etc.
If you have a lot of images on your pages, then either reduce the number of them, or use a program such as Macromedia Fireworks to optimize them for the web. If the page has a big file size because there is a massive amount of text in it, then you should consider splitting the text into smaller, more manageable pieces and putting them on several pages and linking one to another. SEO Chat has a tool called “Page Size Lookup” which can tell you the size of your web page; you can check it out at:
* Keep the file size to below 150k
* Optimize images for the web
* Use a free page size checker to find out the actual size of the page.
Search Engines and Directories;
What is the difference between a search engine and a directory?
People frequently use the term ‘search engine’ as a catch-all expression for anything they use to search the Web. They are different things though, and an understanding of the differences will enable you get use both effectively to promote your site more successfully.
How does a search engine work?
Search engines use highly sophisticated software to search the web for new pages. It then automatically creates and updates their indexes. Whenever they find an active hyperlink, they will follow it and add that to the index and so on. These ‘crawling’ programs are generally referred to as ‘spiders’.
Normally, all this is totally automatic, but sometimes human intervention is involved. The spider will return periodically to the pages and check for updated content. Often there will be a delay between you uploading your page, and the spider finding it, unless you submit your URL directly to the search engine itself. You can submit a web URL to Google free of charge.
* Search engines are usually automatic
* They will revisit your pages.
* Spiders will find all the pages on your site as long as there are active hyperlinks for them to follow.
* You can submit a site to most search engines free of charge.
How Directories Work.
The primary difference between a search engine and a search directory is that a directory is compiled by a real person. Frequently the site owner will submit a short description of the site together with its URL to the directory compiler to be considered for inclusion. Directories are arranged into categories to make it easier to find what you are looking for.
When you submit your site to a directory, you choose the category you want your site to be featured in. A reviewer then checks to ensure that your site is in the most suitable category.
Another difference between a search engine and a directory is that whereas a search engine could list every individual page in your web site, a directory will generally only contain a single entry covering your entire site.
* Directories are compiled by real people.
* They are categorized.
* A reviewer checks to ensure your site is in the best category.
* A directory will usually only contain one entry for your entire site.
Shared Indexes and Hybrids
Things are never so straightforward though. Some search portals are a hybrid, combing a search engine and a directory. The search engine part returns automated results, while the directory gives human found results.
Normally, a hybrid will supply hits from the directory as the primary source, with the search engine results of individual pages as the secondary source.
Getting your Site Ready
It cannot be stressed too strongly that search engines and/or directories are by far the most important way of getting your site noticed. To do this, you have to properly prepare the site and submit your URL to them.
Keywords are important: Choose the right keywords
Think what your web site is all about. If you had to describe your site in one word, then that word is your first keyword. Then think about other words to describe your site. Make a list of them, with the most important at the top of the list and so on. You want a list of between ten and fifteen words. Since these keywords will be used in a variety of ways, it is important that you take some time selecting them.
Keywords are important because they are possibly the most important thing that a search engine uses to determine whether a page is included in the search results. Even although different search engines use keywords in different ways, most experts agree that the frequency and position of your keywords is an important factor.
* Select keywords to describe your site.
* Choose 10 – 15 keywords.
* Take your time picking keywords – they are extremely important.
Pick a Good Title for your Web Page
When you write a web page, there is always a <title> tag. This goes into the < head> section of your web page. The <title> tag is what is shown at the top of your web page when it is displayed in a web browser. Search engines, however, often use the <title> tag as the title of the listing in the results.
The <title> tag looks like this
<title>The name of my Web Page </title>
Not only is it good practice to make your <title> tag have a good description of the content of the page, but if you can manage to work into it some of your keywords, so much the better.
Why you should use Meta Tags?
What are meta tags?
Meta tags are a special type of HTML code that goes into the <head> section of a web page. Site visitors do not normally see them, but search engine spiders do. Just as some HTML tags have an attribute with a value, so too do meta tags.
As far as optimizing your web page for search engines is concerned, the most important meta tags are keywords and description. The syntax for the keyword < meta > tag is as follows:
<meta name =”keywords” content = “keyword1, keyword2, keyword3” />
The description < meta > tag is as follows:
<meta name =”description” content= “A description of the subject of the web page />
Unlike some HTML tags, it is not strictly necessary to have the meta tag closed, but if you want to have valid XHTML, then you do need to close all your tags.
Consider your URL
Since we are discussing matters that will influence how a page appears, it is worth considering the actual URL of the page itself. Since the URL that appears in your browser reflects the file path for the page, it makes good sense to have the file name reflect the navigation of the site.
You can see at a glance that this page refers to the Lower Square, which is part of the Castle, which in turn is part of Stirling. Not only does this meaningful URL impart information to the visitor, but for the web designer it makes sense to have the separate files arranged in a logical manner. This will only apply to pages that have not been dynamically created by a database program, of course.
* Choose a meaningful title for your page.
* Put your keywords into the <meta name =”keywords” tag.
* Give a brief description of the page into the <meta name =”description” tag.
* Pick descriptive file names, since they become your URL.
Extra Things you Can Do
* Ensure that your keywords appear in the body of your page.
* Don’t repeat your keywords too often – some search engine will disregard your pages.
* Keep your keywords as near the top of the page as possible.
* Remember to include your keywords in the alt = ” ” attributes for any images.
Where to Submit your Site: Free Places
Google and Yahoo
You should now have your web site ready to submit to search portals. There are free automated programs available that will submit your pages to a selection of search engines. There are drawbacks to using them though. Some search engines will not accept automated submissions, so you have to do it manually. Most search engines will accept manual submission of your site to them.
Google, far and away the most popular search engine, allows you to do this for nothing. You can also submit your site to Yahoo free, but you need to be a member of Yahoo. Yahoo is useful because several other search portals use Yahoo’s database.
The Open Directory Project
After Google, probably the most important place to submit your site to is The Open Directory Project (http://www.dmoz.org/). This is the largest human-maintained directory of the Web. Because it allows virtually anyone to access its resources, many search portals such as AOL, Netscape and HotBot take advantage of this and include their data into their own systems. This means that once you are included on the ODP database, you are also included in many others.
* There are places you can submit your site free of charge
* Google is probably the most important place to submit to.
* Yahoo is a good second choice if you don’t mind registering with them.
* Do not forget the Open Directory Project.
Although Google and Yahoo do not charge you anything for submitting your site to them, they do not guarantee where or when your site will appear in their listings. However, they do have sponsored links that appear either above or beside the listing of search engine hits. These are useful for promoting your small business web site since they are targeted links. If, for instance, someone searches for “bagpipes”, then not only will they get a list of bagpipe related sites returned, but they will also see the ‘sponsored links”.
Free Promotional Techniques
This is one of the easier ways of getting your web site promoted. What it involves basically is that you display an advertising banner, button or text link on your web site, and other sites do the same for your ads.
The simplest way of swapping banner ads is to join an existing banner swapping network
Banner networks work because you are provided with a few lines of HTML code to include on your web pages, usually near the top. The HTML creates banners from other sites on your pages. When a visitor clicks on them, they are re-directed to their web site. At the same time, you provide the network organizer with your own banner to display elsewhere.
There are many banner ad networks available, so choose with caution. Try to find one that will direct traffic to your site, by displaying your ad on related sites. In order for the network to make money, they will perhaps ask you to display 2 banners in return for displaying yours once.
No network will promise a 1:1 ratio, so avoid those that do. Do not consider paying for extra banners until you have proved to yourself that the free ad is generating enough visitors to your site. Although most networks will promise not to display ads for pornographic or other unsuitable sites, in reality you have no control over them.
* Banner ads are free
* Try to choose a network that is related in some way to your business.
* Avoid those that make extravagant claims about the ratio of ads.
* Be aware that you have virtually no control over what ads appear on your site.
* You might get buttons or text links instead of banners.
Peer to Peer Swaps
Although banner swapping can yield increased exposure of your site, sometimes a more targeted approach is required. The object of the exercise is to get your ad seen by as many possible visitors as possible, therefore if you can arrange a deal with the webmaster of a busier site than yours it could be advantageous.
You may have to compromise. In return for prominently displaying an advertisement for a busier or better known web site than yours, you might have to agree to less prominence on the other site.
These are networks of similarly themed sites which creates links from one to another to form a chain. You will display a web link icon and a list of at least some of the other sites in the ring. If you are just launching your web site it is probably best to try to join an established ring.
There are possible flaws in joining a web ring. You will need to allow space on your pages to display the ring logo. Visitors might think that you are part of an organization, and if some of the sites are badly built, you might be associated with the rest of them. You will have no control over which sites join the ring, and link to you and vice versa.
* Web rings are free.
* They are normally similar web sites to your own.
* You have no control over the quality of the other sites in the ring.
Article Submission Sites:
What is an Article Submission site?
An article submission site, and there are roughly 250 of them, are an effective way of promoting your own goods and services as well as generating traffic to your web site. Their purpose is to provide webmasters, e-book editors and e-zine publishers with free content for their own publications. The articles are usually arranged into different categories, and the site is normally searchable.
How they work
You write an article or series of articles about what you have to offer on your web site. The purpose of the article is not to directly sell your goods. Let us suppose that your web site sells a wide range of possible gifts for all members of the family. Your article might be about, for example, birthday gift ideas for teenage boys.
The purpose is to make your article interesting enough and informative enough for it to be used somewhere else. Since you have included some biographical details about yourself, including your own URL, and your article is published exactly as it appears on the article site, your URL appears in the end-user’s web site. Thus you are getting free publicity, and the publisher is getting free content.
* Article submission sites get you free publicity.
* Publishers get free page content.
* Your URL appears wherever your article is used, and so generates traffic to your site.
Paid or free submissions
All article submission sites will allow you to submit your article for nothing. You register with the site, and you can select what category you want your article to appear in. When you write your article you will include the same keywords as you did when you wrote the HTML for your web site. Thus a search engine will find your site, as well as the article you wrote about it.
Some article sites will allow you to bid for better placement within their pages. Basically, the more you bid, the higher prominence you will get on the article site’s home page. Thus you are the first thing a publisher notices. Even if you are outbid for top spot, chances are you will still be on the home page. Since a lot of the sites also have separate front pages for each of the categories, even if you don’t achieve prime position on the site’s home page, you likely will in the category pages.
* Use the same keywords you used on your web pages.
* You can bid for increased placement on the article site’s pages.
As you can see, there are many ways that you can promote your small business web site. By far the simplest way is to ensure that your web site has carefully chosen key words for search engines to find. You can also submit your web site to search engines, ad exchange networks, web rings and article submission sites free.