How to Promote Your Website
It is often beneficial to view the creation and development of a website as a two part process, each of which involves a number of distinct and interrelated activities. The first part of this process is the creation and design of website content, and the second part is the act of website promotion. This two part model can be applied to practically all aspects of online development, with both parts being important for the ongoing success of any website. The promotional phase of website development is often underdeveloped and sometimes even ignored by webmasters, but it can often make the difference between sinking into digital oblivion and rising to the top of the virtual heap. Even the most well designed and content rich website in the world is useless if there is no-one around to appreciate it.
Whether you want to start an ambitious personal website or develop a commercial presence in an online setting, it is important to find smart and effective ways to drive users your way. The Internet is a constantly evolving virtual landscape, with so many powerful promotional services available that it is impossible to take advantage of them all. Websites need to be smart and selective about the different ways they carry out their promotions, and give themselves the best chance to connect with their target demographic in the most efficient way possible. Website promotion has traditionally been centred around the major search engines; however, the rise of commercial advertising, social networking, and other Web 2.0 sites means that there are now lots of other promotional opportunities available to Internet developers.
Getting Friendly with the Search Engines
Search engines are the number one most powerful tool used in the promotion of websites around the world. Search engines have been around since the mid 1990s, when names like Lycos, WebCrawler, and AltaVista began attempting the arduous process of linking user search queries with masses of available online content. The largest three search engines operating today are Google (with the majority market share), MSN, and Yahoo. Search engines exist as a way to aggregate web content, and also to link it with specific user search queries. Individual website information is collected by specialised software known as robots and spiders, and is then categorised within the various search engine databases. Perhaps the most important thing that a web developer can do in terms of site promotion is to make sure that the search engines are aware of and able to categorise their site effectively in relation to user queries. While the search engines often do this automatically, this process can be helped by registering each new site with each individual search engine at its time of creation.
There are a number of individual sections of HTML code that can be optimised by website developers, in order to make sure that the search engines are categorising web pages correctly. TITLE tags, META tags, and ALT tags can all be combined to ensure that the search engines are putting your website in the right place. Paying attention to keyword density and overall niche relevance within all published content can also go a long way in a healthy search engine relationship. Any enhancements which are made to the specific code and content of a web page are known as on-page promotion, and are related to search engine categorisation. This can be contrasted with off-page promotion, which optimises a website through the manipulation of its relationship to the rest of the Internet. The number and quality of inbound links to your website can make a big difference to how it is ranked by the major search engines. Along with on-page promotion, there are also a number of different off-page search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques, including the use of web directories, Internet portals, social networking, and link exchange campaigns.
Effective Off-page Promotion
In order to make the most of off-page SEO techniques, it is necessary to understand just how the search engine programs work to categorise and rank individual website content. Search engine robots and spiders collect information not only on website content, but also on the linking patterns between websites. Google and the other search engines rank individual web pages according to their perceived level of authority and reputation within their field of specialisation. Exactly how this is achieved is partly a mystery, as the search engine algorithms are never released to the public, however, it is certain that the quantity and quality of inbound links plays a major part. Getting incoming links from other respected and popular pages operating within your niche is one of the best ways to get ranked highly in organic search results.
The rise of social networking and interactive Web 2.0 sites has provided website developers with a number of new avenues for promotion. Websites like MySpace and Facebook are great places to network and create a buzz around your site, and other sites such as HubPages and Squidoo are fantastic ways to get back-links while also acting as a method of free advertising. Many website promoters also either spend their own time developing mini sites and writing articles to get back-links, or employ the services of professional SEO companies, writers, and developers. When attempting to get a back-link to your main site, it is important to pay attention to the 'do follow' HTML attribute value. Some pages and article directories are 'nofollow', which effectively blocks the search engines from being able to index the back-link. This essentially makes a back-link almost useless from a promotional perspective, as although you may get some direct traffic, it will not act as a way to increase your overall search engine ranking.
Commercial Search Engine Promotion
The promotion of a website via organic search engine results is often distinguished from promotion via one of the commercial advertising networks. As the search engines have evolved over time, advertisements have also become an important part of how they work and generate income. In Google for instance, the organic search engine results are listed on the left hand side of the page, and the commercial Google advertising network creates another smaller list on the right hand side of the page. These two distinct ways of listing information can both be used as powerful promotional tools by website developers, with both organic and commercial advertising working equally effectively in different situations. While online advertising space can also be brought in individual websites, online directories, and portals, it is the search engine advertising networks themselves that are often able to deliver the most traffic to your virtual door.
Promotion via the Google Adwords network can be extremely effective for some websites, although it can have a steep (and sometimes expensive) learning curve as well. The key to doing well on Adwords - as it is for any online promotion - is in researching and promoting the keywords that are right for you. Adwords has two distinct personalities: the content network, which will show ads on third party websites; and the search network, which will show ads on Google and its affiliated search engine pages. Adwords is based on a pay-per-click advertising platform, meaning that you only need to pay if a user is interested enough to actually click your ad. The content network typically has a much lower click through rate than the search network does, although in most cases it also comes at a much lower cost.
The online promotion of a website may be the last link in the chain of
development, but it is also one of the most important. The
Internet is quickly becoming saturated with content, and websites need
to be clever if they want to survive and prosper. With the right
mixture of on-page search engine optimisation, off-page promotion
through third party websites, and the use of commercial advertising
campaigns - any website can be noticed by its target market and give
itself the best chance for future growth and success.