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TITLE: 10 Easy Ways To Promote Your Website For Cheap Or Free
AUTHOR: Jen Merkel, Freelance Writer
WORD COUNT: 1,482
"10 Easy Ways To Promote Your Website For Cheap Or Free"
© 2004 Jen Merkel
You've built your website and you're quite proud of it. The graphics look nice, it has a few interesting pieces of information and it showcases your subject perfectly. But how do you draw people to it and get that hit counter climbing without breaking the bank? You’ve got your meta tags in place but you just can’t afford to pay the humungous fee to be a featured advertiser on a mega-search engine. Here are a few easy and quick ways to publicize your website which are either cheap or free.
1. Link Exchanges
One of the most effective ways to get traffic moving into your site is to list it as a link on other sites of interest to your target market. If you don't already know of another site similar to yours, just do a Google search using a few appropriate keywords. By using Google to do a search on the words "link exchange" you will also find entire sites – some free, some with a fee – with directories of sites willing to exchange links. Once you find a site, see if they have a links page and scan it to make sure yours would be a good fit. Usually instructions on exchanging links are somewhere on the website, but if they're not simply e-mail the webmaster or site owner and ask if they have a link exchange program. Be sure your site does not compete with theirs. After all, you will have to reciprocate with a link to their site on your own. Corporate sites don't normally do link exchanges, you will have much better luck with a site owned by an individual or small business. If you don't have a banner, you can create one for free online. A very user-friendly site for this is www.addesigner.com, but there are several others out there as well.
2. Join a Web-Ring
Web-Rings are a way of driving traffic to your site from others similar to yours. You simply place a web-ring banner on your home page using specified HTML code and you’re automatically part of the network. When a visitor clicks on the web-ring banner at one member’s site, they are directed to the next site in the web-ring, potentially yours. There are some things to consider when joining a web-ring. For example, when one of your site’s viewers clicks on your web-ring banner, they are being directed off your site onto someone else’s. If you join a web-ring, find one matching the interests of your target market that doesn’t have a large number of members competing with you. For example, if your site sells aquariums, join a site for tropical fish enthusiasts rather than one with for people who sell pet products.
3. Host a Contest
Everyone loves to win a contest, and if yours offers something of value to your target market you can spark a lot of interest. The prize doesn't have to be big - maybe a $10.00 gift certificate, a set of books, a pretty piece of jewelry you purchased on closeout, or of course one of your products. You may be able to get prize donations from your link partners or others in your network simply by offering them credit and a link on your site throughout the contest. It's also smart to offer extra entries to a contestant if they refer someone else – word of mouth (or e-mail) is extremely powerful!
4. Win an Award
This may take some legwork on your part, but it could be well worth it in the end. If your site is rich in content and appealing to the eye, you have a good chance of winning some sort of web award. Simply do your Google search on "website award" or "site of the day" and research the links for application procedures. If you win, the payoff will be the privilege of posting an award banner on your home page for all to see. The site hosting the award will literally be sending visitors to you by way of a link.
5. Put a Link in Your Signature Line
The easiest and quickest way to get publicity for your site is to put a link in your signature line. Every e-mail you send will announce your site, and including an enticing one-line ad such as "enter our contest to win a $10.00 gift certificate" will likely increase your traffic.
6. Join an E-mail Group
In case you aren't familiar with e-mail groups, they are basically networks of people with a common interest or purpose, using e-mail to communicate to each other. Using a single e-mail address, you can send a message to a whole group of people with interests similar to yours. Rest assured, no matter what your target market is, there is an e-mail group for it. It is important to keep in mind that most frown upon advertising and all ban spamming, however you are usually allowed to put a link in your signature line and make special announcements. Just be sure you actually contribute to the discussion - don't just assume you can use the list for free advertising or you will be shunned very quickly. Two of the most popular websites for e-mail groups are Yahoo Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com) and Topica (http://www.topica.com), both of which offer free memberships.
7. Publish a Newsletter
It can be sent daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, but be sure you send it out on a regular basis. Mine is published weekly on Fridays without fail. My readers have learned to look for it and I'd never consider letting them down by missing a deadline. Aside from being consistent, it is a cardinal rule to offer something of value to your readership. Don't use it solely as a venue for advertising – there are plenty of places to put text links and banner ads within it. To maintain readers, you will need to include some helpful information as well. If you aren't much of a writer, there are articles available on the web that are free for publication, providing you include a link to the writer's website and a promotional paragraph. If you have a hard time finding these, consider posting a call for submissions on writers' websites offering $5.00 and free promotion via a byline. You will be pleasantly surprised how many people respond with fresh and well-written ideas.
8. Purchase Advertising
Think advertising is expensive? Think again. There are countless inexpensive opportunities for advertising on the Internet. Start by looking for sites which target the same market you do, providing they don't directly compete with yours. Chances are they have a link for people interested in advertising on their site. If you can’t find it, simply e-mail the webmaster or site owner and inquire. Another option is to do a search on eBay. Many sites put banner ad placement on auction. You can find ad spots on eBay for as little as $5.99, but remember, it is an auction, and someone could easily beat you out. I recently saw a banner ad auction get up to $269.00. Don’t forget however, because it’s an auction, you have the power to limit the amount you will pay a your maximum bid. It is important to have a banner ready to go, since you will usually need to obtain permission from the website’s owner before bidding on the auction. Always read the terms of the auction carefully, to make sure you understand the dates your banner will be up and exactly where it will be placed.
9. Promoting Your Business Using an Online Network
Just starting to catch on is a unique way to network with other small businesses by way of shared advertising. The basic idea is to swap business cards, flyers, or coupons (called "fillers") for your site with other small business owners. They will put your fillers in their customer orders and you will put their fillers in your orders. Many groups put together bags or packs with a compilation of member fillers along with other goodies the recipient will enjoy. These can be given out at area businesses, schools, day care centers, parties... the list is endless. If you have trouble finding a networking group think about starting one of your own.
10. Write an Article
With a little work and a free morning, you should be able to put together a couple of paragraphs for a "how-to" piece on your area of expertise. Just be certain it somehow relates to your website. Use your article in your own newsletter or search on writers' websites for sites or e-zines looking for articles that may be a good fit for your piece. Whether or not they pay for publication they will be an excellent way to get the word out about your site. Just be sure to keep your byline brief and don't reference your website within your article unless absolutely necessary.
Jen Merkel is a freelance writer living in Chandler, Arizona with her husband and two children. Working from her virtual office, Jen offers business writing services (press releases, proposals, etc.) as well as assistance with meeting and incentive planning. Please visit her website at http://jenmerkel.bravehost.com or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Jen Merkel lives in Chandler, Arizona with her husband and two children. Working from her virtual office, she offers business writing services (such as press releases, reports and proposals) as well as meeting planning assistance. Please visit her website at http://jenmerkel.bravehost.com or email her at email@example.com.