Make the most of your Web site by promoting it

Make the most of your Web site by promoting it

By c

Your Web site is up and running. You’re proud of that little baby and maybe a little tired of tweaking it into perfection. Alas, don’t rest on your laurels for too long. The Internet is growing exponentially, and you don’t want your site to get lost among the multitudes. Following are some guidelines you and your technical crew can use to make sure your target audience is visiting, learning and responding to your community presence on the Internet.

Add meta tags

At the top of every html page is an opportunity. Using special tags you can add capsule descriptions that appear as site summaries in search engine results. That means each page has the potential of being picked up by a search engine such as Yahoo or Alta Vista, and your short summary will appear when your page is picked up by a search engine. Remember, search engines are the main way people find information on the Internet.

With meta tags you can provide long lists of keywords and phrases that the search engines use to find you. To find out more about creating meta tags, consult your technical crew or see the Web sites listed at the end of this article.

Notify the search engines

It’s simple, and free, to post your site info on most search engines. It takes time, though, so you’ll probably want to do this in phases. Here’s a sample schedule, with live links:

First set

Second Set

AltaVista

Excite 

Hot Bot

 Web Crawler

Yahoo

Google

Lycos 

 

 

Your third set will be a list you develop over time. Research the smaller, idiosyncratic search engines and list sites that cater to your audience. Search engines dedicated to the law, medicine, arts, music, etc. can sometimes do a better job pointing users to your site than the big guys.

Each engine’s submission form is similar. Search engines need to know your site name, a description, the URL, and some keyword and categorization information (see the box about choosing keywords on page 27). Expect a three-day to two-week or more delay in finding yourself with each engine. And you’ll want to go back every six to 12 months and re-submit, especially if your site changes and grows.

Should you use the fee services, the ones that promise to post you to X number of search engines for $40-$75 per site? Tough call. Most sites do well by notifying a couple of dozen search engines, and this much “posting” is not too much work. If you’re overwhelmed with work, have a number of sites to post, or simply find compelling what a particular fee service offers, it might be worthwhile to let someone else do it. Be sure to check the results carefully.

There are a few sites that organize posting for you. Submit It (http://www. submitit.com) is a popular service. If you want to learn more about search engines, Search Engine Watch (http://www. searchenginewatch.com) is a great resource.

Register with directories

A directory is a subject guide. Organized by categories (industry or issue, for example) they contain links to related sites. There are financial directories, romance directories, medical directories, food directories.... Nearly every field of interest has a directory that you can add your link to. Sometimes directories have a brief form that adds your link. If not, compose a brief e-mail requesting that they link to your site.

Webstep 100 (http://mmgco.com/top100. html) is a list of the top 100 directories, indexes and catalogs linked directly to their registration pages.

Support your site with marketing

If you already spend time and money marketing, advertising or promoting your religious community, add Web site information to your ads and literature. Put your Web site address on your business cards and stationery. Add it to any ads you place, along with mentions of special events, services, products or discounts available on the site. Add your Web address to your recorded phone message.

Add it to your e-mail signature. Most email software allows you to automatically include information about yourself in a “signature” that automatically attaches to the end of your e-mail messages. Your Web site can be part of your signature.

News releases

Be sure to consider the story you’re proposing from a reader’s point of view. For example, the fact that your religious order’s simple “brochure” Web site has been launched is of limited interest. Of greater interest to Web visitors is the chance to offer prayer intentions that your community will pray for. A chat room about living celibately and joyfully is another special feature that merits news coverage. If there is a reason to go to the site besides basic enterprise information— special resources, interactivity, breaking news, critical setup or how-to information—you are more likely to see your news release used by an editor.

Participate in chats, newsgroups, Web discussion groups, and listserv mailing lists

Join in some chats and threaded discussions that focus on your strengths as a vocation minister: prayer, spirituality, Catholicism of young adults, or areas specific to your charism. Seek out discussions and chats that are aimed at the kind of person you want to attract to your religious community. Or better yet, get another site to book you as a guest on a chat. Don’t advertise your “wares” too heavily though—master the art of casual "Web-site-dropping": mention your site a few times when appropriate, and let your knowledge be your best promoter.

A good list of the best places to chat and a calendar to search for chats by subject can be found at The Ultimate Chatlist (http://www.chatlist.com).

HotWired’s chat service has many channels. Many of those have guest speakers. (http://wwww.hotwired.com/talk/club/ info.html)

Talk City (http://www.talkcity.com) hosts over 100 live chat events every week, dealing with subjects from computers to relationships. Remember, you have much to offer; spirituality is a topic of great interest.

Consider ad banner exchanges

Finding other sites with which to exchange Internet ads is a good way to expose your site to a new audience and test advertising without spending money. Compose a brief e-mail requesting that you exchange “banners”—those little ads you click on that appear in lots of Web sites. Be prepared to exchange information on who your users are and how many user sessions you get each week.

There are organized programs, such as LinkExchange, that can be a good way to build traffic, and they don’t cost you anything but a little screen real estate on your first page. They put a lot of ads on your site, in rotation, and you have to provide an ad that is placed on other sites. Be cautious though, and assess your target audience: if you think they expect a certain look and atmosphere in your site (perhaps a non-commercial look), you may want to be selective about who you “tout.”

You’re going to need ad banners if you traded placements with other sites. Here’s a quick how-to:

  • Use an image editing program like ImageReady or PhotoShop.
  • Keep it simple and bright. One singular message per ad. No one has time to study or decipher long messages. An ad is a “hook,” not a letter home. 
  • Consider animation. It gets attention, especially if it has textual or visual wit. Textual wit depends on words (the first frame says "Get Lost...", the second frame says "in our miles of online book aisles"); the visual kind uses pictures (a computer on wheels zooms by, the final frame says "our CPUs really move").
  • Keep it as small as possible. Limit the number of colors, avoid "noisy" areas (lots of multi-colored pixels), and optimize it with your software.

Create strategic alliances

The simplest thing is to target several sites that have audiences and interests consistent with yours, existing traffic and credibility, that is, reasonably good design and maintenance. Then negotiate a mutual link posting. Quality is always better than quantity. Carefully chosen “partners” demonstrate your interest in providing users with superior quality information, and show respect for users’ time and energy. The best way to develop successful links is to target a prospective site, learn enough about it to understand what makes you compatible and then compose a brief e-mail requesting that you exchange links. Be sure to have a follow up plan (even a follow up to the follow up) before you initiate contact. You might also create a small selection of button/link images for these other sites to post. Mutual linking can be a very effective form of networking.

You may not be able to take all of these steps to promote your Web site, but working on a few at a time will help your site to work harder for you.

Pick an effective title, keywords and description

For meta tags and for submitting your site to a search engine, you’ll need to have keywords, a title and a description. Here are some pointers on making these work for you.

Keywords

For your keywords, choose a main keyphrase that incorporates about 2-3 main keywords that you would think people would use to find a site like yours. Don’t be too vague. Vague keywords (like Web, Internet, or free) are words to avoid. They are dead weight words that will hurt your placement. Alta Vista (and most search engines) will ignore words like Web and Internet. Specific keywords that are relevant to your Web site is what you want here. Also avoid words that your target audience—young lay Catholics— won’t know, such as “charism” or “apostolate.”

Narrow down and refine your initial list of 20 to about 10 keywords. More keywords are not better because the more keywords, the less weight each receives by search engines.

Put yourself in a Web surfer’s shoes and think of what you would type in a search to find a site like yours.

Just like when you're researching keywords, use the same tips when finalizing them.

  • Don't use general, vague words like "Web" or "Internet."
  • Use specific words and 2-3 word phrases if possible.
  • Never use irrelevant words.
  • Always use relevant words.
  • Use words that are in the vocabulary of your target audience
  • Target, target, target.

Title

The title is one of the most important factors. Don't get more than one keyphrase in the title of each page. If you are sure of the phrase that you think people will type in to find your site, incorporate it into your title. Don't write keywords multiple times in the title, or in the meta tags either. This is considered “spamming,” and all major search engines will penalize your site’s placement if you keyword spam.

Description

The only search tool that puts major emphasis on the description is Yahoo!, and it's all up to them what the description will be. Just remember to keep your description to about 200 characters long (including spaces) and make it interesting so people click.

Adapted from Web promotion materials electronically published by Internet Promotion Services, www.2submit.com.

 



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