You’ve heard the age-old riddle: “If a tree falls in the
woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make
a sound?” A variation of the same question might
be “If you have the best website in the world and no
one ever visits it …?” You get the point.
Websites are essential to business vitality in
today’s marketplace. And the most successful businesses
are the ones who really know how to leverage
internet marketing strategies. Savvy web marketers
know that a good website can give a company—even
a start-up—almost instant credibility.
Of course the web allows 24-hour access and
potential sales in a territory that has no geographic
boundaries. But it also has one disadvantage that
conventional marketing tools do not: It requires
active participation by the person being marketed
to. Unlike print, direct mail, television, radio, and
outdoor advertising—which allow the recipient to be
a passive observer—the web demands that the visitor
be committed enough to locate a site and then navigate
around it. The upside is that the opportunity
then exists to convey an unlimited amount of information
… for as long as the visitor’s attention holds.
There are two distinct phases of internet marketing:
first, creating awareness and then, keeping the
Making people aware of a site’s existence is a critical
step. Because of the changing dynamic of the worldwide
marketplace, it’s not something that can be
done once and then abandoned in order to move to
phase two. Some ideas to create awareness include:
It’s all in the name. Come up with a great URL,
perhaps one that is humorous or so descriptive of
the business that it is hard to forget. Although short
names are usually preferable, a long name—if it is
catchy—can also be an asset.
Mix media. Support or drive traffic with traditional
marketing vehicles. Direct mail can be particularly
effective, as well as advertising on specialty items,
since these things tend to be saved by the consumer
for future reference.
Swap links. Exchange links with other companies.
A link from another site can be effective because it
has the implied credibility that comes from being
“endorsed” by that site.
Ask them to come. Send e-mail invitations to visit a
new or updated site. Craft your invitation to sound
compelling, or give a reason to visit such as a freebie
or a chance to win something.
Get on the list. Get listed in the major search
engines. Periodically check to ensure your URL
comes up when key words are used. Also, register
in topic-specific industry directories.
Grow your list. Create a referral program, where a
guest to a website receives something in return for
putting a colleague on an e-mail list.
Don’t crash. Make sure your web-hosting company
is reliable. A nonfunctioning website is like that tree
in the woods.
Keeping the relationship going
Once visitors come to your website, what is the
motivation for them to return? With thousands of
new sites being added every day, it is important to
keep reselling the value of yours.
Keep it simple. Don’t cause viewers to be overwhelmed.
The “basics” like ease of navigation,
complementary graphics, and easy-to-understand
buttons are important to keep visitors on the page
and at your site.
Identify yourself. Consider placing a logo on all
pages, as well as including a way to return to the
home page. (Some search engines send users to a
subsidiary page, and they may have no idea where
they are or how to get to the home page.)
Make a splash. Use the home page to capture the
surfer’s attention and to spotlight major portions of
the site. Keep structure simple and straightforward.
Something for nothing. A site freebie can be effective,
especially if it changes often. A free tip, a special
deal—anything to make them come back again.
Collect names. Allow visitors to sign up for a newsletter,
e-zine, or notification of special offers. Ask for
a mailing address as well as e-mail information to
allow you flexibility in future communication.
Start a dialogue. Create a section within your site
for feedback that allows guests to contact you with
questions, concerns, suggestions, etc. Then be sure
to respond quickly.
Put it out there. Take advantage of the freedom the
web offers for you to become a publisher. Publish
material—whether images, audio, or text—that
your visitors will find useful, and that positions you
and your business as an industry expert.
Take a poll. Conduct an online survey and offer to
send the results to anyone who participates. Or ask
people to submit ideas or input on a particular topic. People like to be heard.
One of the easiest ways to establish and maintain
an effective website is to be aware of what works for
others. Pay attention to ads or mailings that draw
you in to new sites and take note of features you like
or dislike. Think ahead about how you will drive
people to your site and what interactive elements
you will use to make them return. And be sure to
build periodic website updates, promotions, mailings,
and offers into your marketing plan.