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Episode 8: Marketing Your Winning Web Site

Air Date: June 18, 1998


If you build it, will they come? Or will they even be able to find it?


The good news is that the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI) web site is up and running. The bad news is that traffic to the site has been sporadic. Even though the 'hit' reports that Executive Director Susan Langdon has been reading show that the web site is receiving in excess of 200 hits per day, IBM's Tom Vassos points out that the number of reported 'hits' can be misleading. In essence, a 'hit' is recorded each time a file is accessed on the web server, and since a single web page can consist of several different files (pictures, sound files, text, etc.), the actual number of visitors is only a fraction of the number of hits reported. Furthermore, as a single visitor clicks their way through the different pages of the web site, those 'clicks' are also registering as hits, further inflating the numbers.

To boost the number of visitors to the web site, and thereby increase exposure for the TFI and its resident designers, Susan must ambitiously market the web site, so that it will stand out amongst the millions of web sites currently in existence. And how is she going to do this?

According to recent surveys, the top three methods by which Internet users find new web sites are:

      1. Internet directories and search engines
      2. UseNet newsgroups
      3. Cool lists

As a first step, Susan should hit these three avenues for generating traffic to the TFI site.


Step 1: Get Web-wired


Search Engines and Indexes

As we learned in a previous episode, the key to finding information on the Internet is the search engine or web index. However, in order for a web site to be found with any search engine, its address must first be registered by that search engine. Some search engines, such as Altavista (www.altavista.digital.com) and Webcrawler (www.webcrawler.com) automatically update their listings with 'spiders' that snake their way through the World Wide Web in search of new web sites to catalog. Other search engines, such as Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) and Excite (www.excite.com), require the web site address to be registered.

Registering Your Site

Registering your web site is simply a matter of going to each search engine and finding a menu option that says 'Add URL' or something to that effect. After typing in the web address, the search engine will record the details of your site, and update its listings not long after, which can vary from a couple of days to a few weeks, depending on the search engine. Even though the top four search engines and indexes are Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com), Infoseek (www.infoseek.com), Lycos (www.lycos.com), Webcrawler (www.webcrawler.com), and GNN (www.gnn.com/wic), there are still hundreds of search engines out there, some of which may be relevant to your specific business or industry, and are most likely being used by your potential customers. You can find these other search engines with the help of All-in-one, which is a search engine for search engines (www.albany.net/allinone).

With literally hundreds of possible search engines to list your site with, having to go to every single one to list your web address can be a time-consuming process. Fortunately, there are many free submission utilities available that will help streamline the process-- you can find links to these utilities at www.manasota.com/submiturl.html. In addition, there are also other on-line services available for a fee with more extensive capabilities (such as www.submit-it.com), as well as software packages that can be purchased.

How to Stay on Top

Having your web address listed with search engines is only one aspect of becoming web-wired. As Susan discovered when doing market research, hundreds of possible web sites can come up when using a search engine. And though your site may be listed with the search engine, your listing may only show up at the bottom of the list. To ensure that your web site comes up near the top of the list, you must tailor your web site to take advantage of the techniques by which different search engines record web addresses. Some search engines record the full text of the web page, some only look at the title, while others examine the 'meta-tags' contained within.

First of all, make sure the title of each web page is as descriptive as possible, instead of using a generic title for every page-- if the page contains an order form for buying 'widgets', make sure the page title reflects that. Second, you should use 'meta-tags' in your web page, which are hidden lines of text embedded within the web page containing a description of the content, the name of the web page's author, and keywords that are relevant to the subject matter. Like the title of the web page, the description meta-tag should be as specific as possible. And when selecting keywords, you must anticipate the keywords that your potential customers would be typing into search engines. For example, for the TFI web site, relevant keywords would probably include "fashion", "fashion design", "Toronto", "incubator", "designers", "production facilities", and so on. There are several good resources available for learning more about meta-tags, such as www.stars.com/Location/Meta/Tag.html, which explains how different search engines use meta-tags. And if you are still unsure of how to create meta-tags, vancouver-webpages.com/VWbot/mk-metas.html is an on-line resource that creates meta-tags for you.

After you have created relevant meta-tags and given your web pages specific titles, you can see how your web site ranks on the most popular search engines at Rank This! (www.rankthis.com). Enter your web address and the keywords you wish to search with, and Rank This! will tell you how far down the list your web site is.

Cool Lists

One great way to gain publicity and traffic to your web site is to be listed as a 'cool site'. There are many organizations, both in the real world, such as USA Today (www.usatoday.com), and on the Internet, such as InfiNet's Cool Site of the Day (cool.infi.net) and Yahoo!'s Picks of the Week (www.yahoo.com/picks), that publicizes the more unique offerings on the web. Each cool list has its own submission and selection criteria, but if your web site offers a unique service or interesting content, who knows?

UseNet Publicity

UseNet discussion groups are another great way to let thousands of like-minded Internet users know about your web site. UseNet has two advantages over the World Wide Web, the first being that discussion groups zero in on specific topics, allowing you to narrow down your message to your exact target market. Second, because it is e-mail based, there are less hardware and software restrictions for participation, and you will be able to reach Internet users who may not have access to browsers and the World Wide Web.

In addition to the various announcement venues available on UseNet, such as comp.Internet.net.happenings, comp.infosys.www.announce, and misc.news.inet.announce, there are thousands of UseNet discussion groups on various topics, some of which may be relevant to your target market. And of course, this means that there may be potential visitors and customers just waiting to be notified of your web site. To find these discussion groups, simply use a search engine such as Altavista (www.altavista.digital.com) or Hotbot (www.hotbot.com), but you must specify to search in 'UseNet newsgroups'.

But before you start publicizing on UseNet, be sure to create a 'sigfile' for yourself. A sigfile is your billboard on the Internet, which consists of a few lines that follow the body of your e-mail messages. Contained within these 3-5 lines could be information on yourself, your company, your e-mail address, your web site address, your phone number, and your marketing message. Most browsers and e-mail applications have the ability to create these sigfiles for you and attach it to every piece of e-mail you send out, but it is up to you to create a compelling sigfile.

Furthermore, there are certain rules about posting messages in UseNet discussion groups, what is allowed, and what is not. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of 'netiquette' at www.fau.edu/~rinaldi/netiquette.html, especially if you want to avoid nasty e-mails. It is also a good idea to merely read the postings of others for a couple of weeks before posting anything yourself (known as 'lurking'), in order to have a good understanding of the types of issues being discussed. And where possible, actively participate in the discussions by answering specific queries or by initiating new ones, thereby building a 'net' reputation of expertise. Finally, be sure to 'brand' your submissions, so the UseNet participants associate your postings with your business-- for example, Tom Vassos brands his submissions as 'Web Diamonds' whenever he is in a UseNet discussion.


Step 2: Get Real-wired


By becoming web-wired, you inform the Internet community of your web site. However, what about all the other potential customers out there who don't use their computers that often, or don't have the time to wade through search engines or UseNet discussions? The answer is to become real-wired, with a real world marketing program to publicize your web presence.

Becoming real-wired means combining your traditional marketing strategies with your Internet marketing strategies. This means making sure your web address is visible on every piece of advertising or promotional copy you produce, such as business cards, advertisements, annual reports, and brochures. Even sending out a direct mail piece to existing customers and potential customers, notifying them of your web address, may help to spur interest where there may have been none before.

Serena DeParis, one of the resident designers at the TFI, has even thought of placing her web address on her clothing labels. Tom goes one better than this by suggesting that she could also place it on the front of the runway during her fashion shows. With all the fashion media present, not only will the reporters be able to find out more about Serena and her designs by visiting the web site, but Serena will be able to put her web address front and center on the pages of fashion magazines around the world. Another possibility is to put the web address on the labels of all her fashions-- if a customer is interested in making a repeat purchase, all they would have to do is visit the web site, see Serena's new designs, and find out the retailers where they are being sold.


As you can see, marketing your web site is an involved process, almost as intensive as creating the web site itself. By becoming both web-wired and real-wired, you can generate awareness for your web site and your business, and maybe even gain some new customers in the process.


Hot Links


Want to learn more about the topics covered this week? Then check out these great web sites and resources:


Getting Listed with Search Engines


Top Search Engines and Indexes








A search engine for search engines

Free Submission Services





A service that can list your web site with up to 400 search engines

Rank This!


See how your site ranks on the top search engines


Meta Tags


What are Meta Tags?



An introduction to meta tags and how they are used

How Search Engines Use Meta Tags


The secrets of search engines revealed!

Meta Tag Creation


An on-line application for creating meta tags in your web pages


Cool Sites Pages


InfiNet's Cool Site of the Day



Yahoo!'s Picks of the Week



All-in-One Cool Sites Page


Links to all the cool sites pages




UseNet Search Tools









The Rules of Netiquette






Mark Schneider		CTV - Host of "Digital Desktop"
Tom Vassos		IBM e-business Advisor and Host of "This New SoHo"
Susan Langdon		Executive Director, Toronto Fashion Incubator
Serena DeParis		Fashion Designer
Crystal Siemens		Fashion Designer


Production Credits


Anthony Steward		Camera
Anthony Leong		Senior Web Editor

All episode summaries and supplemental information written by Anthony Leong, with material and assistance from Tom Vassos, his book Strategic Internet Marketing, and Mark Schneider.

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