In the late nineties, the current search marketing buzz words, “link bait”, “social media”, “search engine PR”, etc were nowhere near the lexicon of web masters tasked with promoting web sites. Sage advice of the day centered on evangelizing the internet as a channel first, and then focusing on web sites as the vehicle.
The logical question of, “How do I get people to visit my web site” from new web site owners would come up and advice often centered around using familiar marketing principles for web site promotion. For example, telling site owners to print their web site address wherever they were printing their phone number: on business cards, signage, direct mail and collateral, stationary, advertisements and even including it in hold music.
As players like Google came on the scene, the importance of link popularity and then the huge budget allocations to paid search made a number of effective site promotion tactics fall by the wayside. As the title of this post implies, what’s old is new again. Here are a few long term, tried and true tactics for promoting web sites and effectively engaging users.
Site announcements. Online editors on high profile portal sites and publications continue to provide a significant opportunity for web site exposure. Another way to describe this tactic would be online media relations. Researching online publications and pitching writers or site editors on story ideas is not all that different than offline media relations. Many publications both online and in print run features that announce new web sites (and increasingly, blogs) of interest to the readership.
I asked the grandmaster site announcement, link building and web marketing guru, Eric Ward, about site announcements as a way to drive web site traffic and he offered these three tips:
1). The more powerful a person is to help your site get exposure the less likely they are to ever be reached by a mass distributed press release. In other words, who has time to weed through 15,000 press releases a day to find the two that actually say something?
2). Take the time to research your industry for key influencers and vertical news distribution options. For example, if your news is about a new Christian web site, don’t rely just on traditional new distribution outlets, use a niche service like Christian Newswire. I have a database of hundreds of topical and niche news wires and key influencers I’ve researched myself over the years, so I know it can be done and will yield excellent results.
3). In many cases the people you should reach out to are not members of the media in the traditional sense. For example, when I announced a new Curious George educational site launched by PBS, I looked for contacts that maintained high trust web sites that would be most inclined to care about the Curious George content. An example? The Schaumburg Township District Library Cool Preschool Links page. I assure you the person that maintains this page does not think herself as a “media contact”, and is not looking for your press release or site announcement. You need to find these venues and reach out to them on an individual basis. This takes time, effort, and patience, and trust me, it works.
Awards. Getting recognized by credible third parties, not only builds brand credibility, but it offers both traffic and linking opportunities. There are several web site and blog award programs that do quite a bit of promotion pre and post award. This promotion draws attention to the participants but more importantly, to the winners. That visibility can travel via word of mouth as well as links.
One of the most popular and respected web site award programs is Web Award from the Web Marketing Association (Disclosure: a TopRank client). This program has been evaluating and awarding superior web site designs and functionality for 10 years and now covers 96 industries. I asked the President of the Web Marketing Association, Bill Rice, for his thoughts on web site awards as marketing tools.
“Much of successful SEO focuses on gaining links from authoritive sites in â€œgood neighborhoodsâ€. Search engines believe that if a site is linked to from trusted Web sites, then it is more likely to have valuable contact and deserves a higher ranking. WebAward.org has a Google PageRank of 8 out of 10, recognizing that it is a very authoritative site. And talk about a good neighborhood, the only way for a site to receive a link from WebAward.org is to have been recognized as an award winning Web site!”
“Another important SEO tactic that award winners can use is the press release. Winning a Web site award, such as a WebAward, is a newsworthy event. Many award winners will distribute press releases over Internet-savvy wire services, such as PRWeb, in order to have the releases picked up in the search engines. These releases provide additional links to the site, are indexed by the search engines and show up in search results.”
“The deadline for entries for the 2007 WebAwards is May 31st with entries at www.webaward.org.”
Widgets. Compact and portable, widgets perform basic, yet useful functions that can be a very effective tools for engaging visitors and increasing web site or blog “stickiness”. Widgets are also great branding, traffic and link building tools. How are widgets from the past? When personal web sites become popular, widgets also became very popular as easy ways to add functionality without programming. Widgets have become popular again, especially with blogs and social networking profiles like MySpace, offering useful functionality without programing.
If you’re looking for a great resource on using widgets for marketing online, look no further than Lawrence Coborn’s sexy widget blog. Lawrence made a big splash at Pubcon last year with his presentation on widget marketing, so I thought I’d re-post part of a recent sexy widget blog entry, “Anatonmy of a Widget” that describes the marketing advantages of a new RateItAll widget:
1) Provide feedback / consumer ratings functionality. With this widget, sites can add a slick, sophisticated consumer ratings engine in minutes. (Insert whatever functional purpose your widget provides here)
2) Build Community. This widget provides some simple social media functionality by displaying the icons of recent reviewers, and letting folks scroll through the reviews of others. (Building community is a benefit applicable to most widgets)
3) Drive Traffic. RateItAll is retooling its destination site to drive maximum traffic to blogs that implement the feedback badge. A site wide â€œhottest blogsâ€ module will be launched shortly to RateItAllâ€™s 800K monthly uniques in order to promote the blogs that are driving the most ratings via the widget. The obvious inspiration for this model is Digg. (This is a very generous benefit that RateItAll offers sites that publish the feedback badge widget. Traffic can go both ways too.)
4) Build Links. Any blog that implements the feedback badge gets a targeted, direct link from RateItAllâ€™s blog directory. (This is a benefit specific to RateItAll, but publishers of widgets also benefit from links included with each site that uses the widget)
There you go: three ways to promote a web site outside of search engine optimization and pay per click that offer traffic and visitor interaction benefits as well as long term benefits. While these tactics originated long ago, they continue to offer web site owners valuable marketing benefits.