| Building a website is just the beginning of the journey towards successful e-Business. Once you have a site, it’s just like having an additional store in a mega mall called the Internet. Without visitors to your online store, you will not even have a chance to sell your products no matter how great your products are!
Therefore, we need to allocate our resources for promotions and marketing of the website. There are various tools available, depending on your budget, time and resources.
The first step towards driving more traffic to the website, starts with the domain name. You’d realize that some sites such as www.geocities.com/members/1234 do not have their own domain name. The tip here is to register your own domain name relevant to the company’s name, or industry for branding and image. If a website owner doesn’t even invest US$70 to get his own domain name, it seems he is not serious about his online venture and this would have a negative effect on his image.
You can get an International domain name, .com, .net, at just US$70 for 2 years of registration, or a local Malaysian domain name, .com.my, .net.my, at RM100 per year. This investment would do wonders for the image of the website. For instance, www.InsuranceKL.com, www.eFlowerCottage.com, and www.WebHostingMalaysia.com are some great domain names.
Next, make sure that your website is registered in the international search engines (eg. Google), directories (eg. Yahoo!) and even the local ones. It is without doubt that much of the traffic to sites are still driven by these search engines and directories. You do not need to register your site with all the search engines out on the Internet. There are probably more than 7,000 so-claimed search engines! Just focus on the top 15 search engines and get your site listed there. You can either do the submission by yourself, or hire a consultant to do it. Either way, before proceeding, you need to read more about the search engine submission process, and their criteria. It’s not just about the metatags (as some so-called consultants will tell you), nor just the domain name. Various search engines and directories have different sets of criteria on what sites they would add on to their database and how do they rank a site. It makes a huge difference whether you’re No. 1001 or No.11 in the search results. If you’re listed at the very end of the search results, you should focus on optimizing your website ranking, to push it to a better position.
Your site should do everything possible to entice surfers leave their email addresses, join your membership or sign up for newsletter, for you to do email marketing. If your list is small, say 300 emails, you can even use your Outlook Express to send them Newsletters. However, when your membership grows, it might be easier to use professional service or email softwares. Email marketing is not just about sending them an email about your latest product, it’s about reaching to your members and giving them value-added information with irresistible offer! The successful formula of a newsletter is time-sensitive materials, reference information, special offers and fun. Email marketing’s effectiveness increases if the message is personalized to the reader, eg. “Dear Fione” in the content & subject rather than just general “Dear valued customer”.
Another important marketing tool on the Internet is participating in group discussions or forums. Just go to a search engine, and look for these sites, eg. Yahoo! groups. You should choose the groups/forums carefully and evaluate whether these could be prospects that are interested in your products and services. When you join a group, you must be very tactful in your promotions. Posting commercial messages without value to the other members is a total No-No! You have to get into the group, build the relationship through helping the other members figure out answers to their problems. Once the relationship is built, these users would rather deal with your products and services because they trust you. This is an ongoing process, and you can only see the results in the long run, so you’d need to be patient.
One misconception about increasing website traffic, is over reliance on online marketing, and not doing offline marketing. It’s amazing that people would actually spend money on their website, but not list the domain name on the name card, nor the company’s documents, eg. Letterheads, invoices, or store front. Sometimes, even the employees are not aware of the website! You must focus on where your prospects are. If they are offline now, offer them incentives to go online to your website as well. For instance, if you run a restaurant, your website should have discount vouchers for the members to print out, and redeem it at your outlet.
I often hear comments from small business owners that their websites don’t work. The truth is they don’t make their websites work. A website owner needs to take responsibility to promote his website just as much as promoting his physical business. Don’t just blame others. Increasing traffic to your website requires commitment and creativity.