Make your page a beacon
Is the Internet ignoring your Web pages? Have you worked for months to put your
agency's program on the World Wide Web and nobody seems to care? Or has that fickle public
moved on, leaving your pages high and dry?
Gone are the days when writing Web pages was something special on the Internet. Today,
every pimple-faced teenager is writing in Hypertext Markup Language. So keeping your
monthly hit rate in seven figures requires marketing savvy.
The producers of the World Series or the Super Bowl can take out ads. But few of us
have that kind of budget. Besides, those that do have the bucks and gumption then risk
criticism for spending money frivolously, as happened with the National Institutes of
Health computer ads on shock-jock Howard Stern's radio show.
Madison Avenue marketing is not the solution. Harold Goldstein, a civil engineering
professor at the University of the District of Columbia, recently spoke to the Capital PC
User Group on ways to get your Web pages noticed-- favorably, of course. According to
Goldstein, "Your page means nothing unless it is properly registered so that it can
be found by Web surfers and by people looking for particular products."
If you follow his instructions, you can have your Web site integrated into the Web in
an afternoon. All it costs is your time. That's the kind of advertising campaign that fits
into even the most miserly budget.
First, write 25-, 50- and 100-word descriptions of your site in text and HTML formats.
Then, gather all your pertinent Web page addresses (properly called URLs, for universal
resource locators), e-mail and postal addresses, contact names, and phone and fax numbers.
Then visit several of the automated registration sites Goldstein lists in his pages at http://goldray.com/register.htm.
For a Web page to reach its intended audience, it must be readily accessible to the
various Internet search engines. Most of these search engines send out automated probes
called robots to look for and catalog Web pages 24 hours a day.
Registering gives you control of the key words and descriptions for your site.
Otherwise, you may have to wait for a robot to find your pages and build the descriptions
in their own automated style. Registration is the only way to get your pages into Yahoo,
which does not send out robots.
Some robots use your description from special HTML tags called "meta tags."
Others use the first 25 words of your pages. Some employ the contents of your page's
heading elements. Search engines used to add weight by frequency of word occurrence, but
they stopped because some Web authors inserted long repetitive strings as comments to
enhance their rankings.
Some robots use just the contents of your web page's title tag. Title tags are
important for other reasons. Titles should stand on their own, as most browsers use them
in the creation of bookmarks, lists of URLs for future use. If people like your pages,
they'll save the URL so they can come back later. Because the title may be their only
reminder of your page six months later, you won't get much repeat business if your titles
are vague like "introduction" and "my Web page."
You can post an announcement on your new site in the appropriate newsgroups. Some
newsgroups even welcome notices of new pages in their interest area. These include
alt.internet.services, biz.misc, comp.infosystems.www.announce, and
Goldstein suggests sending e-mail to the Net-Happenings mailing list; see http://www.mid.net/NET/. The Weekly Bookmark
also accepts new-site announcements. Other newsgroups or mailing lists may be
appropriate, depending on the nature of your site and the receptiveness of the newsgroup
or list to such promotions. Do not send ads unless you know the charter and culture of the
group or list.
A more subtle technique is to answer questions on a newsgroup or mail list with
references to pages on your Web site. This saves bandwidth, as only those who are
interested need delve into the details in your pages. It also generates goodwill and
eventually revenue (if you can wait that long).
Another strategy I use is to put my pages in my e-mail signature file. Every e-mail
message becomes an ad for my Web site. A number of search engines index URLs collected
from newsgroup and mail list postings, so my signature ads become permanently available on
Browse other Web sites with related content and ask their owners to link to your site.
Of course, put your e-mail address and Web URLs on your business cards, magazine ads,
brochures, posters and other advertising.
Be sure to collect statistics before and after your marketing campaign. A Web page
visit counter is one measurement approach. For more tips, visit Goldstein's site. His
e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Walter R. Houser, who has more than two decades of experience in federal
information management, is webmaster for a Cabinet agency. His own Web home page is at http://www.//cpcug.org/user/houser/.