With millions of websites out there, getting visitors to your site is often the biggest challenge for business owners. Your strategies for doing so may include search engines, paid search services, and affiliates. Let’s consider them one at a time.
1. Search Engines.
Every day millions of Americans go online to search the internet. There are many search engines out there, and they all differ in structure, search strategy and efficiency. According to a recent report from online internet research firm Hitwise, most searches take place on the following sites:
- Google-owned sites, such as Google.com or Google Image Search
- IAC-owned sites, such as Ask.com
For the best exposure, be sure your website is listed on most of these sites.
Perhaps the most important—and inexpensive—strategy in getting people to your website is to rank high for your preferred keywords on the main search engines in “organic” searches (as opposed to paid ads, also known as “sponsored links”). In general, achieving a high rank is based on three criteria: competition, relevancy, and content.
Think of “competition” like popularity. The more popular (talked about, linked to and clicked on) your offer or website is, the more competitive you are. “Relevancy” is based on how well your offer or site matches the keywords. Your site should include the keyword or be as close as possible to the keyword that’s being searched. Finally, your “content” should address the question being asked as directly as possible. You want the end user to say “Yes, this is the answer I’m looking for.” The sooner you master these three criteria, the higher rank you’ll be able to achieve in search results.
To use search engines effectively to draw visitors to your site, the keywords you choose in your domain name, title tag and the text of your main page can spell the difference in your search engine rankings because these things boost traffic. And remember, it’s important to have keywords appear naturally. You can check Google AdWords and Google Insights to get a good idea of what sort of words and phrases people search for in your category. You might even consider looking on Twitter at its trending topics for the prior few months for hints as to what people are talking about around the products or services you offer.
You might also want to check out SelfPromotion, a free resource for do-it-yourself web promotion. Here you can find information and tips about search engine submission, along with automatic submission tools that help you submit your URL to all the major search engines.
Paid Search Services
Many companies are also using paid search services to attract visitors. These services basically allow you to pay to have your website be part of the results of a user’s query on a search engine site. There are three types of paid search services: paid submission, pay-for-inclusion, and pay-for-placement.
In paid submission, you submit your website for review by a search service for a preset fee with the expectation that the site will be accepted and included in that company’s search engine—provided it meets the stated guidelines for submission. Yahoo! is the major search engine that accepts this type of submission. While paid submissions guarantee a timely review of the submitted site and notice of acceptance or rejection, you’re not guaranteed inclusion or a particular placement order in the listings. Yahoo! charges $299 annually (non-refundable) for this service, which it calls Yahoo! Directory Submit.
Paid inclusion programs allow you to submit your website for guaranteed inclusion in a search engine’s database of listings for a set period of time. While paid inclusion guarantees indexing of submitted pages or sites in a search database, you’re not guaranteed that the pages will rank well for particular queries.
In pay-for-placement, you can guarantee a ranking in a search listing for the terms of your choice. Also known as paid placement, paid listings, or sponsored listings, this program guarantees placement in search results. The leaders in pay-for-placement are Google, Yahoo! and Bing. These programs allow you to bid on the terms you wish to appear for; you then agree to pay a certain amount each time someone clicks on your listing. Costs for pay-for-placement start at around a nickel a click and go up considerably based on how high you want your site to appear—and competition for keywords has the biggest bearing on that. For example, a bid on “web hosting” will result in payment of a few bucks a click if you want to get on the first page of results. But if you’re promoting, say, lighthouse tours, you may be able to get on top paying just a dime a click.
Firms that sell products and services on their websites for commissions offer another way to draw site visitors. Affiliates place merchant promotions on their websites to sell goods or services. They control the type of promotion, location on the site and length of time it runs. In return, the affiliate earns commission on clickthroughs, leads or purchases made through the site. For every clickthrough that results in a sale, you’ll earn a commission, anywhere from 1 to 10 percent for multichannel retailers, or 30 to 50 percent in the software sector.
You may want to consider joining an affiliate program network, which provides all the tools and services affiliates and merchants need to create, manage and optimize successful affiliate marketing programs. Sites that offer quality programs include Rakuten Affiliate Network—which offers deals with Best Buy, 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., Lego, and Foot Locker, among others—and CJ Affiliate by Conversant. Another route is finding companies that have potential as affiliates. For example, if you own a gym and sell workout products, you might want to affiliate partner with nutritionists, personal trainers, sports drinks, and vitamin and health-food partners. If you decide to run your own affiliate programs, Infusionsoft offers a complete email marketing system and everything you’ll need to run a successful affiliate program.