Danny Yee >> Web Design

Web Publicity

So you have a web site, and now you want people to visit it. There are two different approaches to this (a continuum, actually), depending on how much of a hurry you are in. Long-term publicity, building a high-profile site that will persist and grow, is "slow" publicity. More rapid results, informing people of something or getting them to take some action in a short time-frame, can be achieved with "fast" publicity.

Slow publicity | Fast publicity | An experiment in micro-advertising

Slow Publicity

Search engines and links from other sites are the major source of traffic for the sites I run, and will probably be for any text-rich site. So make your web pages search-engine and link friendly.

The major search engines will crawl your pages if they are linked to at all. But they can take several months to add new pages. Ranking in search engines is complex and many people offer hints on how to achieve high rankings. Apart from simple things such as adding META description and keywords tags, however, my advice is not to try too hard with this - what works for one engine is likely to put off another.

Most of the better search engines now incorporate some kind of link weighting, favouring pages that are linked to by other sites... So links have an importance on top of their direct value as a source of visitors. Static links are also more permanent than search engine rankings - they are part of your site's long-term "reputation capital".

Places to try to arrange links include general purpose directories, specialised directories, and specific sites. But the vast bulk of links to your site will come without request, from people who find it and think it's worth linking to. (There's an exponential component to this - the more links there are to your site, the more people will view it and the more links will created.) Anything that prevents people linking to significant content - some frames implementations, over-extensive personalisation or localisation - should be avoided.

Use other media - make sure your URL is on all printed publicity materials - brochures, etc.

  • Going by my web logs, the most important search engines are Google, Yahoo, and MSN. I've put together some statistics showing the rise of Google.

  • Getting links into Yahoo's directory is valuable, but can be quite hard. (I have never used their paid submission service.) The Open Directory itself is not that popular, but it is syndicated to hundreds of other sites, including important ones such as those of AOL, Netscape, and Google. Perhaps most importantly, Open Directory information also appears in Google search results.

  • If you change your site's domain, you must make sure the old domain redirects requests to the new one. If you don't do this, you will lose all benefit from the existing links!

Fast Publicity

In general web sites are not "fast": few people check any particular web page regularly.

An exception to the above rule is a select number of popular news sites, weblogs, and discussion forums. If you run one of these, you're in luck - you can use it to publicise content. If not, you can submit stories for consideration by the editors of such sites (and post comments to discussion forums).

You should have a page where people can find new content or the latest news.

Use mailing lists. Few people will check even the news section of your site regularly, but most people read their email daily. So you can use "slow" publicity to attract subscribers to announcement lists, which can then be used to do "fast" publicity when it's necessary. Jakob Nielsen has some mailing list tips.

If that doesn't work, you could try online advertising, either paying for it or, if you are a charity, getting it donated.

Specifics and Examples:

  • Slashdot and Kuro5hin are examples of news/discussion sites. Robot Wisdom is an archetypal web log.

  • Do not even think about avoiding the slow buildup of a mailing list by spamming! You are likely to get your web site terminated with prejudice.
Last modified: May 2001

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