As webmasters, we typically spend much time online. Some of us live on the web. So, it is natural that we promote our web sites online. We examine various ways of attracting the browsers to come to us elsewhere on this site.
Perhaps the single most important factor of a successful offline promotion is having the “right” URL. That means, first of all, that you need your own domain. Why? Well, consider this conversation I might have with a friend about a different web site of mine:
I said I might have such a conversation. Actually, I never could. The reason: I can never remember that URL myself! How could I possibly expect anyone else to remember it?
Now consider a conversation that actually transpired several days ago between me and a good friend whose name is Paulette:
Which of the two conversations do you think is more likely to result in a visit and to which web site? So, do I need to get a second domain for my assembly language page (and third, forth, etc, for the rest of them)? No. All I would need to tell anyone enquiring about assembly language programming for Windows 95 is to go to www.whizkidtech.net and to click on the assembly language menu item there.
Now you may be saying, wait a minute, you are suggesting elsewhere on this web site that if I am just starting out, I should cut my teeth on one of the free web page services. Aren’t you contradicting your own advice?
To that, I offer two suggestions. Pick one depending on your budget. One, you can have your own domain and a free site. Services like register.com will help you register a domain (that will cost you $70 for the first two years, $35 for each successive year), and then offer you a redirecting service for something like $2 a month. That will let you talk about your web site using your own domain name. When people enter your domain into their browser, they will be automatically transfered to your free web site.
Two, if you absolutely cannot afford even that, go to Bigfoot.com and sign up for their Bigfoot for Life service. It’s free. When you sign up, you will choose a user name. For example, mine is whizkid. With that they will give you a free e-mail forwarding service. The idea is to have a permanent e-mail address that does not change when you move to a different ISP. So, if you send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, it will come to me even if I move out of Rhinelander and my local e-mail address changes.
More importantly, for our purposes here, they will give you a free web site forwarding service. In my case, my Bigfoot web address is http://www.bigfoot.com/~whizkid. Try clicking on it! Then press your Back button to return here. I still suggest you get your own domain name, of course, but until then, getting a forwarding address from Bigfoot.com is a very good idea.
Once you have a URL that you can remember, and, more importantly, others can remember, talk about it, write about it, print it, place it, use it everywhere!
Do you remember my conversation with Paulette I quoted above? Could you guess where the conversation took place? I bet not! I happen to be an actor, among other things. The conversation took place at Nicolet Theatre in Rhinelander, right before a performance of Anastasia. I was playing Petrovin, one of the conspirators. Paulette was one of the ushers. What’s that got to do with my web site? Absolutely nothing! But that’s the whole point: This was a casual conversation with a friend. And a friend should know about my web site. And she should visit it. Remember: Marketing is most effective when it does not look like marketing at all.
So, talk about your web site to everyone, everywhere. Talk to your friends, to your family, to your bank teller, to your customers, to your boss, to those whose boss you are, to your colleagues, to your pharmacist, to your doctor, to your patients, to your minister, to your teachers, to your students. Use the five-foot rule: If anyone is within five feet from you, tell them about your web site. And ask them to tell others. But don't be pushy about it. Just mention it casually. As I said, the most effective marketing does not appear to be marketing.
One person you should definitely talk to is your librarian. Ask her to write it down and tell anyone who asks about the Internet. Word of mouth is the best advertising.
Give a lecture. Your web site has a them, doesn’t it (it should!). That makes you an instant expert in the field. You are an authority that people from all over the world consult whenever they access your web site. So use the fact you have a web site to offer a lecture. And use the lecture to mention your web site. This is virtually guaranteed to bring people to your web site. They came to your lecture because they are interested in your theme. Your talk showed them you know what you are talking about. So, they will want to read what you have written on your web site. Indeed, these people are most likely to become regulars on your web site. They will even tell others: “I know him personally. I can assure you he knows his stuff!”
Send a letter to the editor. It does not have to be about your web site. It can be about something else, but mention your web site in it. I once sent a letter to the editor of Windows Programmer’s Journal. I mentioned my assembly language for Windows 95 web site in it. He printed it. Perfect advertising that did not cost me a penny (not even for a stamp, I e-mailed it to him).
Internet News Bureau will submit your press release to over 2,000 journalists. They let you choose from various categories as well as geographical location. If you wish, they will help you create the copy of your press relase.
Web Cards will take a picture of your web site and print post cards you can mail to your friends, customers, clients, prospects, or whomever else you want to attract to your web site. Of course, you do not have to mail them. If, for example, you have a physical book store, you can insert a web card in the bag with your customer’s books. Or you can leave some at your local chamber of commerce, post them on community bulletin boards. I am sure you can come up with dozens of other uses for the post cards.
You print your name, address, phone number on your business card. Probably your e-mail address too. Don’t stop there. Print your URL on your business card as well. It costs you the same with or without the URL, so why not mention it there?
Do the same with your stationery. Print your URL on your letterhead and on your envelopes. And since your letterhead has enough room on it, also print the topic of your web site near the URL. People are more likely to visit your web site if they know what it is about.
Do the same with your fax cover sheet. And make sure to actually send the cover sheet with everything you fax.
Publish a newsletter. Advertise your web site in your newsletter, and your newsletter on your web site. And, people will pay you money to receive your newsletter. These are the people who are specifically interested in the topic of your web site, so they are likely to become regulars.
Earlier I suggested you write a book. Go one step further: Publish your book. More and more authors are turning to self-publishing these days. Plus, as a publisher, you will be able to publish other people’s books. And of course, you will mention what the publisher’s (yours, that is) web site is.
Print posters on your laser printer, or have them printed professionally, and post them on your community bulletin boards, such as in grocery stores and shopping malls. You may be able to post them in a local book store, your public library, a computer store, and any place that has something to do with the topic of your web site.
Get Web Cards printed. These are post cards with a picture of your web site. See the side bar for more details.
Have your URL printed on T-shirts. Wear them, give them away, sell them.
Get a rubber stamp with your URL. Imprint it on everything you can. Use it on your personal letters (your business letters will of course have it printed on the leterrhead), and on post cards mailed from your vacation, as well as Christmas cards, get-well cards, birthday cards, etc.
Get a bumper sticker with your URL. Stick it on your car. Give it to others. Put your URL on refrigerator magnets, pens, pencils, screwdrivers, key rings, and similar gadgets, and give them away.
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