Most people think “website promotion — you mean search engines and stuff, right?” They go and submit to the search engines, do nothing else, and are left staring in disbelief at their barely-twitching hit counter. If only they thought about it some more, they’d realise that the other ‘stuff’ they were talking about is hugely important if you want your site to be attracting the big hits. Let's have a look at 10 easy steps to hit count heaven. Submit your site to Search Engines Ok, it turns out that you still must do this — I’m just advising you not to use them as your only source of traffic. Before you begin, make sure you have given each of your pages good titles, and used keywords well throughout. Check for » broken links too. Take one sunny morning out to submit to each of the important search engines; and then wait. Chances are you won’t be added to any engine’s database for at least a month, so get cracking on some of the stuff below in the mean time. You should only need to submit your homepage, as the search engine’s crawler robot will follow the links on your page and index those pages too. To get an insight into how search engines work, have a read of » Search Engine Watch. Get into Yahoo! Yahoo! is not a search engine; it is a web-directory, which is maintained and added to by editors who look at every page sent to them, and only include the best. It is also one of the most popular sites on the Internet. Yahoo is a guaranteed hit-booster, provided you get in. If you don’t, be sure of the following things: you submitted to the right section. you have waited about one or two months (you can imagine how many sites they have to go through). your site works in, at the very least, both Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, because they check it in both and if it doesn’t look roughly the same (or doesn’t work), it won’t get in. Your site isn’t still under major construction, and has many working areas. You have followed their submission guidelines to the letter. your site is in some way good or interesting (uh-oh!). Try your luck: » Yahoo! Get Linked Now this is important. Many search engines give better placements to the sites which are linked from others. » Google especially, makes this a very important part of its grading process. So, you not only have to be linked by many sites that the engine knows about, but you have to get some important sites to do it too. Browse around and send a mail to some high-traffic, related sites and ask for a mention and a link. Most webmasters are nice people and will do it if you ask nicely. Not only will this boost your engine placement, but you’ll get loads of traffic from these pages too (often more than you’re pulling in from the engines). If you hear another person sing the praises of a site, you’ll be inclined to have a look, right? So tell people about your site. Tell your friends, tell your work-colleagues, your instant-messenger friends, anyone who may be interested in you, your work, or your site’s subject. Also, asking your current site visitors to link to you will usually see good returns. You’ll often see people sharing the URLs of websites that they like on message boards and in chat rooms. Create an Email signature The success of this method largely relies on how much emailing you do to people who aren’t your friends. Your email program should have an option to do this. What you do is add a short (keep it short!) sign-off with your name and the URL of your site; like this: -- Ross Shannon <http://www.yourhtmlsource.com> The first line is two hyphen characters followed by a space. This is the standard pattern that signifies that the text that follows is a signature, which allows some email programs to display it differently. Wrapping URLs in angle-brackets is another convention, designed to prevent the URL being mangled and split over multiple lines. Don’t start emailing random people about your site though, they’ll kill you dead. Participate in Newsgroups Newsgroups or web-based discussion boards are also a great place to spread the word. If you are part of any message board or newsgroup, you should add that signature to the bottom of all your posts. If your site is relevant to the current topic of discussion you will likely see a greater rise in click-throughs. Just popping in occasionally and saying something purely for the purposes of getting your URL mentioned isn’t going to be greeted with great enthusiasm from the regulars however, so try to get more involved in the group. Helping people out will be a definite boost to your reputation, as will becoming a regular yourself, and being well known among the gang. With respect comes trust. And remember, do not spam. Ever. Yes, you may get a small number of hits for very little work, but your site’s name will be forever tarnished (these guys invented the word ‘grudge’), and you’ll be flamed for wasting people’s time. Promote Offline There’s no reason to consign your promotion efforts purely to the online realm. Spreading your URL around in the real world will add another point of entry to your site. Companies should add their site address to all stationary, newsletters and business cards. Just making it known that you have a website is good enough to get many people typing in addresses and trying to find it. If there are any magazines you know of, related to your site’s content, write to them and make your URL known. Appearing in a mag or, even better, on TV will cause a deluge of people to check your site out. If you convince any of them to hang around and return, this can be a very quick way to multiply your audience. Join a Webring Webrings can be overt or go under names like ‘partnerships’, ‘affiliations’, ‘strategic alliances’ or somesuch. The idea is always the same — a group of similarily-themed websites band together and share traffic. Go on a search for webrings dedicated to your site’s focus. Remember when applying to be included in a webring that If your site isn’t as good as the others already in the ring, you probably won’t be taken on. If the ring has no criteria to meet before you can join, take a hard look at the sites that make it up. There’s no reason to associate your site with the potentially dire offerings that others have uploaded. If the other sites in the ring are rubbish, you’re not going to get much out of it and they will benefit more than you if you’re already bringing in the visitors. Hopefully you can find a group of sites that meet with your own site’s impeccable level of quality. Email the webmasters and ask if they’d be interested in affiliating with you. The usual setup is to add a link to the other site to every page on yours and vice-versa. Keep tabs on how many people are clicking onto their site, and how many are coming to yours from their reciprocal links. If there is a large discrepancy between the two, you might want to pull out. Once you’re in, remember that you’re working together, but you’re also in direct competition with your ringmates. Make sure you offer something that’s original and quality. Check out » Webring.org for more. Join a Banner-exchange programme If a webring isn’t for you, you might consider banner advertising. This scheme works thusly: for every two banners that are placed on your site, one of yours is displayed on another site. The ads you will display are generally targeted to your audience, so no strange or dodgy ads will be placed on your site. Again, the success of this will be largely down to the effectiveness of your work in designing an eye-catching banner ad. Humour and sparkles work best. A Note on Awards... The hastily put-together HTML Source awardAwards used to be a real mark of distinction for webmasters, who would proudly display their collection. These days, however, the same is not the case. When the glamour is stripped back, the reality of web awards is that they’re insidious devices used by webmasters of low moral fibre to garner a link to their site from whichever hapless webmaster they’ve bestowed it upon. Usually. Certain awards are notable, but stuff like the hilariously-overblown » Golden Web Awards are suspiciously easy to win, and are therefore meaningless. In the main, awards are worthless.