Positioning Is Everything

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If you build it and they don’t come, you need to take a fresh look at your Web positioning strategy

YOU BUILT YOUR BUSINESS WEB SITE by the book–bought an easy-to-remember domain name, registered with a slew of search engines, and added all the right metatags and keywords. Still, visitors are scarce; your online storefront is a great-looking ghost town. What’s wrong?

Chances are you put a lot more time and energy into producing your site than promoting it. From keyword placement to link exchanges and radio and TV tie-ins, our checklist of tips and expert advice should help you pinpoint the problem.

SEARCH ENGINE PLACEMENT

“Roughly 85 [percent] to 90 percent of all new traffic arrives at a site via one of the major search engines,” says Robin Nobels, a Mississippi-based facilitator for Web positioning courses. How can you tell whether your keywords are driving visitors to your site? Type your keyword into Yahoo or Excite; Nobels says your site should appear “within the top 30 listings.” If your site is landing in the basement or not coming up at all, consider these rank boosters:

Top Tier Only Take a pass on those $20 offers to submit your site to every index and search engine you find. Register instead with only the big guys–Yahoo, Excite, AltaVista, Netscape, and AOL–and you’ll reach 99 percent of your intended audience.

Early and Often To help ensure your pages come up early, put your keyword in both the title and heading of your Web page. Repeat the keyword frequently early on in the text and avoid using frames.

Easy Does It Read over the* text of your opening pages with an eye on wording that might confuse the search engines or affect your rankings. “Think simple–simple always wins out over complex,” Nobels adds.

Think Niche Brent Winters, president of FirstPlace Software, says one way to boost site traffic is to replace more general, overused keywords with specific ones. For instance, a travel agency might replace the well-worn “travel” with “Caribbean cruises.”

Add Software To help you tighten up your flabby keywords and mass up your metatags, you might consider investing in a Web positioning program like FirstPlace Software’s WebPositionGold ($149; www.webpositiongold.com) or PowerSolutions’ SitePromoter ($129; www.sitepromoter.com). Such products submit your spruced-up site to specified search engines, monitor your standing on the charts, and, in some cases, keep a log of your visitors.

Take a Class To learn more, consider signing up for online courses in Web promotion. For example, the JER Group (www.jergroup.com), in Dawsonville, Ga., offers accredited courses in Web positioning and a raft of workshops and tutorials on site promotion.

BUILD PARTNERSHIPS

bps“The Web is all about partnerships,” says Mark Roberts, a Warwick, R.I.-based counselor for Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). “You work with others who target the same customers and refer each other. Building traffic through referrals from other sites works far better than banner advertising.”

Working with others to drive traffic, however, requires a “bit of creativity,” Roberts adds. Try these tips to get the ball rolling.

Hook Up To cultivate leads, visit Usenet newsgroups and chat rooms and use search engines to seek out relationships with businesses similar to yours, as well as those that complement it.

Make an Offer Consider what you have to trade. Offer to exchange links, set up a referral arrangement, or share customer e-mail lists. Ideally, you’ll already have some site traffic to interest potential partners, which usually means developing compelling content.

Don’t Be Shy Don’t be timid in framing requests. For instance, when requesting a link exchange from a potential partner, provide your HTML code in the message to make it easy for the other site to cut and paste on the spot.

USE TRADITIONAL MEDIA

“Offline branding” is what Michael Tchong, publisher of the Internet marketing magazine “Iconocast” calls the process of bridging traditional and online media to increase site traffic. If you’re not promoting your site in traditional media channels, you’d better get busy: According to The Intermarket Group, more than 90 percent of online businesses use traditional media alongside banner ads. Here’s a start.

Mix it Up Not sure what media mix is right for your business? The Intermarket Group study reveals that more than half of all online businesses promote their sites via newspapers and magazines, and about one-third also advertise in television and radio.

Add the URL Print your Web address on your business cards and flyers, and include it in all your advertising.

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