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How To Advertise Your Web Site

One of the major functions of having a web site is, of course, to draw in visitors. We will look at a few ways you can accomplish this. For best results, it's a good idea to use more than just one or two of these methods.

Domain Names

People will be attracted to domains that are easy to remember or that seems relevant to what they are looking for. For instance, if someone was searching for "yellow feathers" and you happen to have a domain named "yellowfeathers.com", it's more likely your domain will be one that gets visited.

Creating domains that sounds similar to what you are trying to draw visitors to (like goldfeathers.com or even yellofeather.com for examples) may also help you attract visitors. And remember, we give discounts for having multiple domains online.

You can also purchase abandoned domains or domains that are up for sale, and use them to draw people to your main web site. First, you'll want to get the domain hosted with us. See Pointing A Purchased Domain To An Existing Directory, Transferring A Domain to Active Web Hosting, and How To Transfer A DNS for more information. After the domain is online, you have several options in which to direct people to your main domain:

  1. Place a banner or other text in the index.html file directing people to your main site.

  2. Use the meta refresh tag in the index.html to automatically redirect people to your other site. Be warned that many search engines will not follow the refresh link to your main site. Here is an example of such a tag (just replace yourdomain.com with your actual domain name).

    <META HTTP-EQUIV="refresh" content="0; URL=http://yourdomain.com">

  3. Create some good text comment and links to other pages on your main web site in the index.html on the domain you just purchased. This is probably the best way as search engines will more than likely index this page and point visitors to the site, and thus to your main site.

Warning About Domain Names:

When choosing or even buying a domain name, you should be careful that the new domain name does not infringe on any company's intellectual property, copyright or trademark. You may end up having to pay restitution and give up your domain if you used the name of celebrities, TV shows, movies, brands, companies, etc. which may be owned by someone else.

Optimizing Your Web Site

Setting up your web site so that it has the best chances of higher rankings in the search engine (and thus, more likely to be seen by those using the search engines) is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Search engines regularly send out spiders, crawlers or robots which go through the internet looking for web sites, and indexing them in the search engine database. There are also other ways that a search engine will determine which sites will be in the first 10 results of a search query. It depends on the keywords used in the search, and how relevant your page is to those keywords. There are many things you can do to increase your chances that your site will be near the top of this list as possible.

The Page Title

One of the most important parts of your web page, besides it's content, is the Page Title. This is enclosed in the <title></title> tags. Search engines use this text as the title of the search result and as a link to your site, and put the description under it. For example:

How To Pick Good Running Shoes - The Shoe Shop
Before you jog, you must pick the correct type of running shoes. We will show you how.


This would be the HTML code on the actual web site:

<title>How To Pick Good Running Shoes - The Shoe Shop</title>

In addition, when visitors bookmark the web page in their browsers, this title will be the name of the bookmark link.

Be sure to keep your title less than 80 characters. Any longer than that may be truncated in search engine results. Furthermore, the create elongated drop down menus in visitors bookmark menus in their browsers and can become troublesome to read.

Your title must at least describe your page well, and provide good key words. In our example above, the name of the document is first, then the name of the store or site. This serves two purposes. It provides keywords that the search engine may match with search results (how to pick, running shoes, shoe, shoe shop for example). It also identifies your site (in the example above, The Shoe Shop).

Meta Tags

Meta Tags are special tags that contain text that some search engine crawlers may use to help index your web page. However, not all search engines will use them and often they are ignored. Search engine crawlers are relying more and more on the actual content of a web site in an effort to reduce indexing of spam sites and sites that have no valuable content (such as abandoned and other sites). Use meta tags at your own discretion.

<meta name="Description" content="Before you jog, you must pick the correct type of running shoes. We will show you how.">

The line above gives an example of a Description Meta Tag. Using the previous example, you saw that the text shown in between quotes after content= would appear under the title link to the web page in the search engine. Note that the meta tag has to be all on one line. Note that some search engines will truncate the description to only 250 characters or less. Depending on the search engine, some may ignore this meta tag and use your web site text instead, use only the description meta tag, or maybe use a combination of both. Some suggest taking the first 250 characters of your web page text and placing it in the Description Meta Tag.

<meta name="Keywords" content="pick good running shoes, shoe, jogging, sneakers">

The Keyword Meta Tag attaches keywords to your site. You shouldn't have any more than 25 words or phrases, and not repeating (as in shoe, shoes, Shoe, Shoes, etc.) The keywords should be relevant to the content of your site. However, many insist that this tag is obsolete. Most major search engine crawlers are now ignoring the Keyword Meta Tag, even though many online meta tag generation tools include it as part of the service. If you have it in your web document, you can safely leave it in there. But while creating new web documents, you don't have to include it if you don't wish to. Apparently, it will not make much difference. Having good content that includes some key words in the first 250 characters of your site is best. On a final note, you still want to be sure what keywords you choose. Believe it or not, some people have been sued for using certain names of businesses in an effort to draw traffic to their site.

<meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow">

The Robots Meta Tag isn't really necessary unless you want to keep a specific page from being indexed in a search engine. Eventually you page will be spidered and added to search engines at some point. Generally, this meta tag is obsolete. It is more efficient to use a robots.txt file instead.

To see which search engines support which meta tag and other features, check Search Engine Watch's Chart.

Content

This is probably the most important part of optimizing your web page for search engines. Also in doing so, you will be making your page easier for visitors to read and navigate your site. Even the basic layout of your site is important. Search engine crawlers will also try to determine relevant keywords from your page content which can aid in matching with a searcher's keywords. Here are some tips which may help you do better in search engine listings:

  • Page Keywords: Put most of your key words in the first 250 characters of your site. But be sure not to overuse the key words. This introduction paragraph should contain valuable content and not a list of words. In case some search engines may index more than 250 characters, it's a good idea to keep your page file size below 100K just to be sure that search engines grab as much relevant text as possible. If this text shows up in search results, it may convince a visitor that your site contains content they are looking for. If you need help in choosing keywords, you can try Most Popular Keywords for a guide or use a Keyword Selector Tool.

  • Accessible Content: Try not to hide content behind password or otherwise protected pages for best results. Having more plain text content than HTML elements (images, javascripts, flash and media, etc.) is best. Javascripts, Flash and other media included on the page may be read first and therefore pushed your important content further down the page where some crawlers may miss it altogether. CGI generated and dynamic pages are becoming more common. However, some search engines still may have problems finding relevant content on the page. Sites that have question marks (?) and ampersands (&) in the URL may still confuse some search engine crawlers. Having static pages that are updated by a database is best. Some PHP-based sites use templates for this reason.

  • Relevant Content: Avoid adding other irrelevant content (ie. links to other sites, etc.) that don't fit the subject matter of the page or site. The best sites are those with a specific function or theme. However, having links to other sites that contain similar content to your site may produce better results. Do a search using keywords you use for your own site, and then ask the webmasters if you may link to them and ask that they might link back. Some webmasters will be glad to do this while others may not respond at all. It's still worth a try. You can also see who is linking to you in some of the major search engines by typing in the following in their search box (replacing yourdomain.com with your actual domain name):

    link:http://yourdomain.com/

    In Google, you can filter out your own URL:

    link:yourdomain.com/ -url:yourdomain.com/

  • Reduce Unnecessary Advertising: Try to keep advertisements such as banner ads, text ad links to a minimum, unless you are purposely trying to generate an income. One banner or text ad per page should be more than enough. If however, the advertisement is relevant to the content of your site (such as Google AdSense, for example) then it can actually help bring in traffic and may even increase your chances of your site being shown in search results.

  • Be Careful With Tables And Frames: Search engines read tables top to bottom, left to right. So if you have a left side menu of links to other pages in a table, and your content on the right, a crawler will more than likely notice your side menu first. You may still need to use tables, but careful planning is wise. It's also best not to use frames as crawlers often will not follow links within frames.

  • Navigational Menus: Menus are best made up of a small list of text links. This may provide relevant keywords for your site. Avoid use of image maps if at all possible. Crawlers may ignore these and not go to other pages on your site.

  • Use of Images: Sites with a lot of images (such as graphics sites, for example) may have some problems getting noticed. One way to help crawlers correctly index a site with images is to use the alt property in the image tag to effectively describe the image. Avoid using a list of keywords as search engines will filter those out as possible spam. Here is a good example of an image tag:

    <img src="running-shoe.jpg" alt="White High Top Running Shoe">

    This describes the image and will show up also in text-based web browsers as well. This is important also for visitors who use screen readers to read web pages and others who either use browser that don't support images or have images turned off by default. Images are nice and should be used only if needed. Graphic sites should also try to include as much descriptive text as possible.

  • File Names and Directories: File names of web pages, images and other files are also sometimes noticed by crawlers. For example, above we used running-shoes.html for an image name. Some search engines may assume a keyword as running shoes, which also may be considered when matching a searcher's keywords with a site. Underscores and special characters may be ignored and thus create a keyword such as 'runningshoes' instead of 'running shoes'. Most people would not type both words as one word. It's also a good idea to keep your files as close to the root directory as possible, and not have too many sub directories. This can get truncated in search results and may also keep crawlers from accessing those pages.

  • Your 404 URL Not Found Page: This page can actually benefit your site. By default, Active Web Hosting provides a generic 404 URL Not Found page which is displayed in a visitor's browser when they try to reach a page that does not exist on your domain. You can Create A Custom 404 Error Page which can contain content that would bring the visitor to your main site. It's best to set it up like you would your other web pages, include a text navigation menu to your other pages, the title and description of your site, and text mentioning that the page is no longer available. This way the page integrates with the look of your entire site, and also allows the visitor to visit other areas. In addition, web crawlers will still follow the other links to the other pages.

  • Create A Site Map: Creating a page of text links to all the other pages on your site is very useful in helping crawlers reach your entire site. Put the link to the site map on your web pages also for visitors to easily access your entire site.

  • Avoid Using Tricks:

    Search engine crawlers may omit sites that use special tricks to try and gain a higher ranking. If you're in a search engine's paid advertising program, you may be penalized for using such techniques.

    For example, one common trick is to use hidden text, or text the same color as the page background, which consists solely of a list of keywords separated by a comma. Search engines consider this spamming and will often remove the sites from their database.

    Another is called keyword stuffing, which consists of adding keywords, often different variations and capitalizations of the same words or phrases in the Keyword Meta Tag, hidden text, image tag alt= property, or even input type="hidden" in a form.

    Portals or content with fake links, ie. links that go nowhere or to the same exact page (the code may look like this: <a href="#">Shoes and Sneakers</a>) are also screened out by crawlers. Remember, all your links should got either to relevant web sites or to other pages on your web site. Some links may go to other areas of the page, and should be used with care. Naming these links may also help generate keywords for searches, if used properly. For example: <a name="best-running-shoe">The Best Running Shoe</a>

Monitor Your Success

Even if you do optimize your web site, you may find that your site is still not in the top 10. It may take time, practice and patience before you see results. In addition, you shouldn't get discouraged if other sites are in the top 10 because some search engines also bump up sites that are generating more clicks (ie. visits) than those further towards the top. Having an interesting page title and interesting content text will help towards this goal as well. For more information on how to optimize your web page for search engine crawlers, see Search Engine Submission Tips at SearchEngineWatch.com.

If you would to see how well your site is optimized, and get help with optimizing your web page, try Webmaster and Search Engine Tools at Submit Express. This site contains many useful tools which you can use to check and better optimize your web site.

Site Advertising Options

You could also add other options to your web site to draw in and keep visitors. Here are a few ideas:

  • Newsletter: Create an informative newsletter about once a month and allow your visitors to sign up to receive it. Be sure that you provide a way in each newsletter to opt out. You may need to save all signups and opt-outs in case someone may accuse you of spamming (at least you have proof they asked for your newsletter to begin with, and that you provided a way for them to decline). You could also use services such as Yahoo Groups to create mailing lists and newsletters. These services normally take care of the opt-in/opt out process themselves. Active Web Hosting can not support mailing list scripts and software on our servers.

  • Visitor Incentives: Have incentives for visitors to want to come back, or sign up. Awards for things like best web site, Contests and Giveaways with cash or merchandise as prizes, or Special Sales may bring back visitors. Another useful thing is a page of free items that visitors can sign up to receive or download from the site themselves. Changing these free items every so often may also bring in repeat visits.

  • Bookmark Link: Putting a Bookmark This Page link or button in an obvious place on your site may encourage people to place your page in their browser bookmarks for revisiting at a later time.

  • Affiliate and Link Programs: Offering affiliate or link programs help you generate relevant links on other people's web sites and can increase your site's popularity in search engines. Affiliate programs usually offer a reward such as money or position in a special listing on your site. Link programs usually offer a link to the visitor's web site in return for them placing a link to your site on their page. Another time of link program is called linkware, where you can offer free graphics or software in exchange for the visitor to agree to put a link to your page on their web site as long as they are using your graphics or program. Creating your own text or banner link rotation is also useful.

  • Google AdSense is a free program which you can even earn money while participating. You place code on your web pages that place ads or links to other sites on your page. However, these links are based on the content of your site. Not only can you earn money per impression or if your visitor clicks on one of the ads or links, but your site may also be added to the mix and shown on other people's web sites, increasing your site's popularity in the search engines.

  • Joining other banner link exchanges such as BanXchange can also help draw visitors to your site. Some link exchanges are free and some require a small fee to join. You'll have to create a small graphic that will catch the attention of potential visitors, and provide enough information that will draw people to your site. You'll need to consult the banner exchange program terms for their specific requirements.

Search Engine and Directory Submission

All sites that are not restricted by the Robots Meta Tag or a robots.txt file are eventually spidered (ie. visited by a search engine crawler) and indexed in one or more of the major search engines. Once in the major ones, your site will often show up also in the smaller ones that are powered by them. However, this may take anywhere from weeks to even months before your site would start showing up in search results, if at all. You could do a search for your own domain name or web site title in major search engines to see if your site is listed. If it isn't, you can also submit your site to the search engine yourself. Often, you will have to submit your site manually to most web directories as sites are usually inserted by humans, and not automatically by web crawlers. Unfortunately, this does not mean that your site will be indexed in the database, even if you had used a search engine's paid service. You'll have to read the search engine's terms to determine if you want to invest in such a service. Here are some tips for submitting your site to search engines:

  • Submit a couple pages that are most relevant to your web site. For example, if your site is about shoes, maybe submit a page that is an introduction of your site which contains an article about shoes. Another useful page would be a site map which contains links to all the other pages on your site. It's best to not submit more than two or three links overall.

  • Since the submission process may take awhile, check back and if it doesn't appear, resubmit your site. It's best to wait a month or two before checking.

  • If you update your site more often then you used to, resubmit your site. Crawlers may notice how often you update the site and may revisit less frequently if you did not update in awhile. Alerting the search engine of updates by resubmitting the site after two or three recent updates may help crawlers visit your site more often.

Here are a few search engines where you can add your site:

Checking Your Rankings

Probably the easiest way to check to see if your site is even listed is to type in your domain name or web site title into a search engine. There are also a couple other ways. You can check your Site Logs. Click on the link called Search Query Report and from there on down the page you'll see pie charts and other information relating to what keywords in search engines brought visitors to your site. This can be useful in optimizing your web site. You could also check your site's popularity with major search engines using LinkPopularity.com or LinkPopularityCheck.

Participation In Online Activities

By participating in certain online activities, you can also generate visitors to your site and even increase your site's popularity in search engines. For example, you could join a forum, newsgroup or other online club and help other members. Occasionally you could direct them to your web site where there would be content that could further help them, or you could even put your web site address in your profile or signature. Be sure to read the club or forum's rules to make sure such advertising is ok and on what terms. Some forums only allow non-commercial links and others may forbid linking to other sites altogether.

Placing your site URL and description in your email signature is also useful. Be sure, however, not to send out emails to people that you do not know or who have not asked for an email from you. Active Web Hosting has strict rules on spamming and unsolicited commercial email.

Please do not join forums, chat rooms, or clubs solely to advertise your site. Join and provide useful help and conversation. And never use special scripts or 'bots' to automatically post messages on forums, blogs comments, email, or any other interactive medium. This is also a form of spamming.

Writing EZines and Articles

Writing for other newsletters, EZines and online publications can also draw in traffic to your web site. You could write about a topic that your site covers. Instead of writing it as an advertisement though, you would write it as an informational article. Then at the bottom of the article you would summarize it inviting your readers to visit your site for more information. Or you could sprinkle links to files and downloads on your site that are examples or relative to what you are writing about. You could look at Ezine Hub for a list of online publications to write articles for. Always read the publication's site carefully and be sure to submit articles according to their guidelines only. If you can not find any guidelines, always email the editor and ask before submitting your work. Many editors will not consider unsolicited articles for publication.

Professional Marketing Solutions

There are a number of professional marketing solutions that will help you market your web site or online business. You will have to pay for these services but they may help you generate income as well. Below is a list to get started. In addition, you can check programs with web hosting companies that provide free hosting with the condition that a banner or pop-up ad is displayed.

Offline Advertising

While you advertising on the internet reaches many people, it may also be beneficial to advertise offline as well by passing around business cards, flyers, and brochures to people you meet that may be interested in what you have to offer. Selling promotional items such as t-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, etc. with your site name and URL is another good way to generate income. You can do this through Cafe Press which allows you to set up a free store. You can also purchase these items yourself for only the base price and then resell them offline. If you have the funds, you can also place ads on radio stations, newspapers, magazines, and even TV.

 


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