Whoever said that it is impossible to promote your web site without spending a dime hit the nail right on the head. Web sites are not Kevin Costner movies where you simply build it and people come. To win visitors and customers, web site owners must promote and it takes some spending of both precious time and money.
But before spending big bucks on promotion, try some of the inexpensive ways you can do promotions. There are various techniques available and the results will vary from site to site. This is why spending time is equally important as spending money. Time spent on trial and error usually pays off for the webmaster. It is only when you actually dip your toe in the water will you be able to tell if it's hot or cold.
The following are some of the cheap techniques (listed in alphabetical order) any web site owner or web developer can employ. As already disclaimed, some will work yet others may not. The key is to find one that suits your needs.
If you have products or services that you offer through your web site, starting an affiliate program is something to strongly consider. An affiliate program allows other web site owners to sell on their web sites, the same products and services which you are offering on yours. In return, you pay them a percentage of your sales earnings. This is a definite win-win scenario since both parties benefit from the relationship. You get additional sales which you probably wouldn't have been able to generate on your own, while the affiliate webmaster gets compensated for selling your item.
To start an affiliate program, I recommend signing up with a 3rd party affiliate broker. Two such brokers worth checking out are Commission Junction and ShareASale.com. The advantage of having a broker act as middle-man is that you take away the headaches of systems maintenance and sales tracking. An affiliate program requires a sophisticated system in order to successfully and accurately track all the sales transactions. Setting up such a system on a hosted account may be too complex for the starting webmaster. Furthermore, a 3rd party broker removes the possibility of the webmaster being accused of deliberate undercutting of sales. Brokers charge a percentage of your pay-out which means you don't pay them anything (other than the joining fee) if you don't make anything.
For the more advanced (and daring) webmaster, you can several CGI scripts to run your Affiliate Programs by browsing our listing. Superscripts.com also has a huge listing of similar programs.
Just like chicken soup, banners work for many people but not for everyone. The key to a successful banner is in getting people who see it interested enough to click on it. Design a banner that is both appealing and catchy. A beautiful banner does not always guarantee success. Sometimes, simpler is better. Targeting is also key so place your banner on sites that appeal to the right audience. The cheapest way to experiment on your banner's effectivity is to sign up with a free banner exchanges. These sites allow you to exchange banner impressions with other web sites. Check your banner statistics and see if they are getting a good click-through rate. Once you have determined a good and effective banner to use, you might want to purchase extra impressions either through these banner exchanges or directly from another web site. You may also wish to consider signing up with banner ad brokers like
FastClick or ValueClick. These companies specialize is serving banner ads across their network of sites.
This is a great way to promote your web site off- and online. First, let's talk about offline press releases. This refers generally to the print medium which includes newspapers, magazines, trade publications and the like. In deciding where to send your releases, choose a publication that appeals to the same audience as your web site's. If you run a web site about teen life, you may want to try and submit press releases to magazines that cater to teenagers. Most publications accept press releases for no charge at all. The key to getting printed is ensuring you have an interesting write-up. This is where you might want to spend some money - hiring a professional copywriter. If you are on a budget, talk to friends and relatives. Someone is bound to know someone who can help you find a copywriter.
The other side of the coin is an online press release. The technique is similar - choose a web site or an e-zine that caters to the same people your web site is targeting. Additionally, the online medium may be used to augment your offline PR efforts. Web sites like PRWeb offer free press release services. There are also service bureaus like Xpress Press that offers mass PR services for a fee. If your budget permits, it may be well worth the investment to let a reputable PR firm handle your release.
One of the simplest ways to spread the word about your site is to let your visitors do the spreading. There are various ways you can do this. One is to acquire a cgi program that will enable web site visitors to send out referral messages. Check out our Tell-A-Friend section for various options. If you are not a savvy web developer, installing a cgi program may not be your cup of tea. An alternative is to sign up with a 3rd party company that enables you to do exactly the same thing simply by linking to their web site. MailBits is one such company.
This should probably have been first on the list because this is by far the most important promotion tool available to the webmaster - novice or advanced. Note I said "important" not "effective." It's true that while it is easy to submit a web site to search engines for listing, it does not guarantee massive visitors. It is important because search engines are the primary tools used by anyone to look for something or someone on the internet. Effective search engine listing or positioning covers a different ball game altogether (we'll probably cover that topic in a separate article).
For now, we'll suggest a couple of cheap techniques a starting webmaster can employ to submit his web site(s) to search engines for listing. First, check out sites like SelfPromotion.com where you can submit to a number of search engines just by filling out a form. Such services are free and are quite easy to use if you can follow instructions. Next, check out Priority Submit. This service is not free but is at the same time, not expensive. You pay a minimal amount per year and Priority Submit offers to submit and re-submit your site on a monthly basis to major search engines.
Running web site is a tough full-time job. It takes patience and perseverance to determine which promotion actually works. Once you zero in on the techniques that are effective, spend big money on them.
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About the Author:
Peter Go owns and operates Icthus.Net Communications. CGI City is one of several web sites developed by Icthus.Net Communications.
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