Promoting your new web site.
One important question to consider when setting up a new web site, especially one that promotes your business, is -- how are people going to find it? There are millions of web sites out there and yours is just a needle in a haystack. People find what they are looking for by employing what are known as search engines. Google, Yahoo and Live Search are three of the largest search engines.
Since you want to be found, the search engines need to know your name and consider you as a serious player. If your web site doesn't show up near the top of the listings for a search relevant to your site's topic, you will likely go unnoticed. Most people select from the first couple of websites at best and rarely drill down the list that the search engine presents.
While none of the search engine companies reveal exactly how they determine which sites get listed first we do know some criteria. Links pointing to your web site from other quality web sites are a big factor in the search engine determining that your site has relevance. The key word here is quality, because links from unknown or penalized web sites won't help you and could actually hurt your rankings. Lots of web sites will recommend that you get your web site listed on "link farm" and "web ring" sites. These sites exist just to provide links back and forth to other sites. They have no content of their own. Sites like these are essentially there to fool the search engines into thinking that the sites listed are relevant. The search engines can identify these sites and will penalize them and you for being part of them. Basically, the links pointing to your site have to be honest pointers essentially saying "this is a good site". This is the logic behind the search engines using links as a factor. They assume if people take the time to link your site form a quality site than your site has merit.
Another factor is the quality of your site. Search engines don't care about how pretty your site is or what colors you use to make it look good. They look at your site as a combination of words and letters that they analyze. They determine whether the content of your site has merit. For example, a site full of pretty pictures and nothing else may look wonderful to a human observer. However, to a search engine there is essentially nothing there and it therefore has no significant content. When designing your site, it has to consider BOTH the human viewer and the search engine. There needs to be enough text on the site so that the search engine can extract enough key words to determine what your site is about. Pictures should have names that have meaning and all pictures should have a text tag associated with them that describes the picture. The search engine can't see the picture but it can read the file name of the picture and the text tag. Your page should have a proper description in the header and be named something that is relevant to the content of the page. Many of these things are common sense things. The bottom line is, the better your page reads and is labeled -- the better the search engine will be able to determine what it is about.
There are many SEO (search engine optimization) companies out there that will try to convince you that you cannot achieve good rankings without them. Many of these companies use deceptive practices in getting their clients good rankings. Ultimately, the clients pay the price of being de-listed from the search engine results when the deceptive practices are realized. There are legitimate SEO firms out there and none of them will promise you results overnight. However, with diligence and patience, you can do anything the SEO can do and save yourself a lot of money in the process. The one thing that you have to realize is that good rankings take time and you have to work hard to get your site there.
If you just registered a new domain name, your site is instantly at the bottom of the search engine lists. You have no history or track record and no matter what you say on your web site it will take a long time for the search engines to list it. This is one reason a lot of people pay premium prices for existing web sites or buy expiring domain names (see our page for more information on capturing expiring domain names). Many people believe that an expired domain looses all of it's links and page rank. This does happen some times however in our experience the odds are in your favor that old links will persist and apply to your new site. We've picked up expired domains with page ranks of 4 that kept all of their links and page rank after the transition. However we've also picked up domains that were set to zero. A lot depends on how long the domain was expired and what content was on it prior to expiration. Always check a site that you want to pick up using the WayBackMachine to be sure it wasn't used for purposes that would get it blocked or low rated in the future. Web sites that have been around for a long time have a history, they have links and they have ranking in the search engines. Purchasing such a site gives you an advantage out of the box. But it does not guarantee that the site will be successful and rank well forever.
Regardless of whether you are starting from scratch or working with an existing domain name, your next steps are the same. After building a well designed site that is optimized for the search engine and human visitor you have to promote it. One way to promote your site is to buy targeted ads from the search engine companies. These ads will appear in the search engine results under sponsored searches, based on key words you select. Where they appear is dependant upon how much you pay per word. These ads can get quite expensive as you pay every time someone clicks on your ad, regardless of whether or not they buy anything from you. However, if you target the ads properly and limit your costs they can be effective in promoting a startup business. Customers will see the ads and come to your web site. In addition to making purchases on your web site some of these customers will post on forums and blogs about your site. As a result, you will gain high quality incoming links and be on your way to a good search engine ranking.
Forums and blogs are excellent for promoting your web site. In addition to providing incoming links they are free advertisements to your web site. Many times they will be read by people who will then post your links in other forums and blogs -- ever increasing the number of links to your web site and your search engine ranking. In addition to forums and blogs, sites like Yahoo Answers provide excellent links when people talk about products or services you offer. There are many sites out there these days where people are exchanging ideas and information. The search engines constantly browse these sites and find links to other sites there. However, forums and blogs are not a perfect solution. When people visit your site and talk about it on a forum or blog, it does not mean the search engines will give you credit for it. Many operators of forums and blogs have set up their sites to tell the search engines not to index user inserted links. This is a response to unethical people posting spam on these sites hoping to create better ratings for themselves or to sell spam products. However, as your site grows you will notice that the search engines will give you link credit from many of these sites.
One final factor people often don't think about is how "fresh" your site is. A web site that updates daily or weekly is considered more important than one that is stagnant and never changes. Even if the information on other sites is similar, the site that changes and adds material often is going to rank better since updates equate to more relevant and timely material.