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Legitimately Promoting Your Site On The 'net

Marc Bissonnette

I was spammed today by someone pushing an employment site. This isn't uncommon at all. The site they were promoting was unprofessional, looking like it was thrown together in about 5 minutes using MS word and there were several "Coming Soon" links. This isn't unusual, either. I sent her (the spammer) a note telling her that not only was she spamming, she was spamming a very poorly thought out site with little content and terrible design. We're still not at the unusual stage, yet.

What prompted me to write this article was the fact that she wrote back. She was apologetic for bothering me, saying that she was only trying to promote a site that was beneficial to those seeking jobs and that she found my name and email address from an online directory. Since she took the time to actually reply in person to me, I got the impression that she was yet another new web business owner, trying desperately to get the word out about her new service at the lowest cost possible.

This is not only not unusual, but depressingly common. It used to be, not too many years ago, that when you received commercial email in your in-box, it was at least a semi-genuine attempt to promote a legitimate business. You don't need me to tell you that the trillions of spam mails sent out over the past couple of years have completely ruined email as a legitimate, or even effective, method of first-contact business promotion.

So what are you supposed to do when you've got a hot new online business, little to no promotional budget and a burning desire to succeed ? Some people turn to spamming, thinking that while it is distasteful, it is a low-cost method to reach millions of people. Some even rationalize that those they tick off with their spam weren't going to be customers anyway - how naive this thought process is!

It's not just that you're annoying, aggravating and angering millions of people at once - even that some businesses can live with - it's the fact that some people - like me - get so annoyed with spam that we take the extra ten seconds out of our day to forward the spam to the spammers mail AND web provider. Most legitimate ISPs absolutely cannot afford to have entire IP blocks blacklisted by Real Time Blackhole operators that it is simpler and more cost-effective to simply cancel the offending spammer's email and web accounts without notice.

Some people figure "Well, I'll just get a new web provider and a new ISP" - but they fail to think about the double-whammy in doing that: Out of the millions of unsolicited mails they sent, they may well have recieved a few legitimately interested customers. In the time that their ISP has cancelled their web and email accounts and they restart with a new ISP, however, those legitimate responses were lost - deleted by an annoyed ISP. Now you've got people who are even more ticked off with you because they actually replied to your message, but you never replied back to them - because you were shut down - forever causing them, your potential customers, to go out of their way to avoid your outfit.

It is a shame that so many people think that the Internet operates in a vacuum - they forget that the Internet is just one tool of the business person - it should be used in conjunction with the rest of your business acumen to achieve success. For example, I have recently started a small venture with a small paper publishing partner called Penny Pincher Newspaper - I know the classifieds and auction market online is saturated - I'm doing this to prove a couple of points to myself:

  • Traffic to an classifieds/auction site can be achieved without spamming
  • Quality tools, as opposed to the brochure-ware that is out there today, will generate return visitors
  • Old fashioned pavement and telephone pounding can generate interest - and profit - in a website.
  • You don't need a million dollar ad budget, or a million email address spam CD, to get the word out about a website.

My point is that this site I'm working on is like, in it's concept, a thousand others - but I'm going to generate at least a moderate amount of success for it without resorting to spamming the living daylights out of people. If, in the possibility that I fail at achieving success for this site, I'll leave this article up and post a follow-up as to what I did wrong. Don't count on it, though :)

So what can you do to promote your site legitimately?

  1. Start locally: Talk to local businesses and people about your website. If you can't impress the locals with your website and services, what makes you think you're ready for the global scene? Better still, if you do make a few mistakes, better it is only the local populace, who is much more likely to be forgiving, to see it, than the whole world.
  2. If your site would benefit from cross linking with another website, pick up the telephone and talk to the site owner - an email will likely be dismissed as yet another spam - it's unsolicited commercial email (UCE), so it IS spam!
  3. Try a few classified ads in your local or regional papers to promote your site. This goes with 1) above, but when you've generated a considerable amount of local traffic, it makes your site look already heavily trafficked when you go to global promotions
  4. Don't forget Usenet! Find usenet newsgroups that relate to your site and start participating in the discussions. When appropriate, point out your website as an answer to a question or discussion in the newsgroup. If your site does not *specifically* answer a question in a discussion, then feel free to participate and simply have your URL and site name in your .sig file.
    (If you do a google news search for my email address, - you'll see what I mean - my .sig is at the bottom of almost all my posts and very rarely do I mention or in the body itself.)
  5. KEEP YOUR SITE CONTENT FRESH! There are several other articles on this site that talk about avoiding the brochure-ware effect on your website. You must give people a reason to come back to your site by providing new content whenever they come back. Do not assume that just because you are selling something, that the only time someone should visit your site is when they're ready to buy - if you don't give them reason to come back and browse, they'll never give themselves the reason to be ready to buy from you!

Marc Bissonnette is the proprietor of CanadianISP, Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider search and comparison site.

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CanadianISP - Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider (ISP) list and comparison web site

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