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Seven simple things you can do
to promote your site

“A good site with no promotion is about as effective as a watchdog without a bark: It’ll still work, but only if someone happens to stumble on it. ”

— Sonya Senkowsky

By Sonya Senkowsky

A good site with no promotion is about as effective as a well-trained watchdog without a bark; it’ll still work, but perhaps not quite as you’d envisioned — and only if someone happens to stumble on it.

Fortunately, there are many non-technical ways you can promote your site. Here are a few:

1. Broadcast the address. When you give out your Web address, you’re accomplishing much more than when you hand out your phone number or home address. It’s a business card and brochure and resume rolled into one — plus whatever else you want it to be. If the name’s easy enough to remember, you can “hand it out” by mentioning it in conversation. Here’s a list of some places/settings where you should include or mention your domain name. You may think of more:
• Business cards
• E-mail signature lines (my science writing signature says, “For more about me and my work, visit http://www.alaskawriter.com.”)
• Your e-mail address (don’t settle for sonya@myISPname.com; use one that includes your domain name, such as sonya@alaskawriter.com).
• Mention in phone messages you leave for your interview subjects, or in your outgoing voicemails
• Tag lines/bios that run at the end of a magazine or newspaper article you write should always mention your domain name (if you can’t include your Web address overtly, most editors will at least let you use your e-mail address; see last suggestion).
• Leaflets or posters announcing a book-signing or talk
• Interviews
• Your book!

2. No pay? Ask for a link. Links are a valuable commodity on the Internet. Though the major search engines won’t reveal all the secrets of how they determine who gets ranked highest, it is generally accepted that links from indexed sites (especially those that rank well themselves) can help your site likewise do well. Schools, nonprofits and professional organizations are all on the Web. If you give a talk or provide free services, see if they won’t give you a mention in the online newsletter, complete with a link.

3. Get Listed. You may already belong to an organization that maintains a printed or online directory of members, if not online links. Think of professional organizations, hobbiest groups, alumni organizations, your old high school Web site. If you need lots of traffic fast, it may be well worth a membership fee to get listed in an active (and large) online directory. (That is part of the thought behind Alaska Writers Homestead, where the very size of the site will, in time, benefit all members.)

4. Brag a little. If you’ve done something that would merit a listing in one of the announcement sections of your local or hometown newspaper, or maybe in your college alumni magazine (like, say, written a book), for goodness’ sakes, submit an announcement. (With a mention of your Web site, of course.) It’s free advertising.

5. Advertise. What, you think being on the Web means you don’t have to take out ads anymore? A Web site can help you reduce your advertising budget, but it doesn’t necessarily replace it.When my husband and I sold our condo, we used a dirt-cheap classified ad that pointed readers to a Web site, which had plenty of information and photos. It worked beautifully; the calls we got through the site came only from people who were very interested. You can use the same idea. Take out a small print ad on a newspaper books page, or an online ad with a link.

6. Update your content. Don’t panic. I’m not talking about re-doing your whole Web site. But, hopefully, you’ve got at least one small area where you can regularly update content, whether it’s just little notes to say where you are and what your next project will be, or something far more involved. Having a site with changing content keeps your readers coming back and (supposedly) also keeps search engines convinced you’ve got a site with content that’s worthy of a higher ranking. (If you are currently relying on someone else to update your site because you don’t know how, you may be interested in the Alaska Writers Homestead service, which will make available fill-in-the-blank forms for updating text without messing with html.)

7. Submit your site to the search engines. OK, this is as technical as I’m going to get this time around. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though. Basically, every search engine (like Google, for example) has a link somewhere that says something like “submit a site” or “submit a URL.” Look for these, and submit your site. Only do this once there is something on your site to look at, and just do it once per site. Believe it or not, there are real humans involved in this process, and part of what they do is review these submissions to add them to indexes. By submitting your site, you help kick-start what is otherwise a very slow process. By the way, if you do this in only one place, I suggest the Open Directory Project, or http://www.dmoz.org, because it is used by many of the major search engines. Be sure to read the submission guidelines carefully.

About the Author
Sonya Senkowsky is a freelance writer based in Anchorage and founder of AlaskaWriters Homestead. She offers advice, coaching and a home on the Web to Alaska writers of all kinds.


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Photos of Sonya Senkowsky © 2004 David Jensen / David Jensen Photography.

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