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Getting Visitors to your website

Additions to search engine advertising

Just like in the 'real world', where you have the choice of newspaper, radio, business card at the bulletin board at the library, word of mouth, referrals from various suppliers, etc., on the internet you also have various options for advertising. Search enging rankings are one of them.

One client doesn't care about search engine rankings. She makes horse trailers, built a website, painted it on the side of her own horse trailer, and goes to horse shows. This is effective for her, and she doesn't spend time/money trying to rank on search engines.

In our case, web design is a very competitive search phrase, and we rarely pay to be included in search engines on the phrase 'web design'. We will bid for 'affiliate software' (something we sell), or 'spinning popup generator' (something else we sell) and find that ALSO attracts web design clients to our site.

We also make a lot of use of banner exchanges, click exchanges, and ebay. Ebay doesn't bring clicks to our site, but we do sell web site packages, and often develop long-term relationships with the customers who buy one package from us, initially through ebay.

I'm not advising any client to ignore search engines. But, just as I would not recommend you ONLY advertise on radio, when perhaps newspapers and flyers would also bring you customers, I am reminding you that there are a number of advertising alternatives in addition to search engines. You may find these a great ADDITION to the traffic you are able to get from search engines, or as a great replacement while you are working to get search engine rankings.

Here are tried and true OTHER WAYS to get visitors to your site:

Put your web site address (your domain name) on all your correspondence, including stationery, business cards, literature, brochures, email signature, etc.

Put your domain name and phone number on promotional items that will reach your intended customers: magnets, t-shirts, baseball hats, pens.

Most of our housesitting clients are pet owners. We took a clean empty milk jug, cut a hole in it the size of a fist, then filled the milk jug with plastic grocery bags, which are always needed at dog parks. We wrote our website address on the milk jug, "Compliments of Housesitter.ca" and hung the milk jug at the entrance/exit of local dog parks. When pet-owners thought about leaving town, they thought of www.housesitter.ca and checked us out.

It is amazingly inexpensive to have vinyl lettering made to put your website address on the back window, or sides, of your cars.

Use the signature attachment in your e-mail messages to list your web site address.

If you have a product or new development that is newsworthy, issue a news or press release.

Include your domain name in any written advertising: magazines, newsletters, newspapers, etc.

Develop a free ebook you can give away, free industry advice you can offer, a free sample, something, in order to get visitors to give your email to them, and cause others to recommend your site. (However, this tactic must be mixed with other tactics; if you only offer the free advice or ebook, and have no other way to attract visitors, no one will even know about the free offer.)

Capture visitor e-mail addresses (especially if you are offering the free ebook or free advice) and request permission to send updates or future promotions.

If you have a regular mailing that goes to your customers or potential customers, include your website address in it.

Include a 'Tell a friend' link in your website so, when people do find your website, they can tell their friends.

Include a birthday club for your website visitors or their children.

Create a contest and, in your advertising, mention that the details are on your web site.

Refer customers who hear your telephone “hold message” or voice mail to special features they may want to see on your company website.

Don't be shy to TALK about your website

Update your web site regularly to encourage repeat visits – look at how populr blogs are on the internet. Why? Because their content is updated regularly.

Offer your current customers a referral fee for sending you new customers. As of October 1, 2005, 31% of our work comes from ebay, 21% comes from repeat customers, 12% comes from search engines, 7% comes from unknown sources, and 29% comes from client referrals. We create (for free) a referral page like this one:

http://www.the-place-for-reiki.com/website_special.htm

for any client who wants one, code it so we can tell from where the new customer came, and pay our clients for referring clients to us. We have found that this advertising is LESS expensive than most of the advertising we had tried previously (besides ebay). I offer this affiliate program only to my clients. Justify the expense by telling yourself that you are hiring dozens of salës people and paying them only when they sell.

Create repeat visitors. You know, people coming to your site who have already been there before. This is something you used to hear marketing experts talk about a lot. Nowadays, it seems that the value of repeat visitors has been overlooked. Yet repeat visitors are usually the people who end up making purchases at your site. And there are lots of ways to get these valuable repeat visitors. We get most of ours through updating the content on our website regularly, by providing follow-up service with clients, and by giving clients good value for their money.

Getting other websites to link to your starts with content. You write articles based on your niche, post the content at your site and share the content with other webmasters. You can do this "on-the-fly" by including a short footer after your content that tells webmasters they have permission to reprint your article at their website or in their newsletter. Be sure to let them know that they need to include a live link to your site. You may even want to tell them exactly how to link to your site. (Preferably with a short description of your site and a hyper linked keyword or two. This will help search engines determine that the sites are related and give the link more relevance.)

Donate a product or free membershïp to a competition on another site.

Try, try, again. If you try something that doesn't work, don't sweat it. Try something else. I have

(a) advertised in a local newspaper and gotten no calls
(b) done trade shows (and, for my time, made about 10 cents per hour)
(c) ran a contest that NO ONE entered
(d) started a forum (free) that only one person joined

and a number of other things that didn't work. But as we found things that didn't work, we found things that DID work. Don't be afraid to fail. Be afraid of not trying, and be afraid of not adapting as you find what people are and are not responding to.

If your business is more local, rather than national:

Community Flyers

For our housesitting website, we print business cards and flyers which we post at community boards and grocery stores, liquor stores, and, most importantly, pet supply stores in neighbourhoods where we would like to housesit. You can buy blank business cards at Staples or Office Depot and make your own at home for very little money. Most of these get replaced weekly or every two weeks, so you may want to make a plan where you do this every other week.

Roadside signs

You can go to your local Home Depot and buy corrugated plastic very inexpensively, cut it to the size you need to make 'Burma Shave' signs (those of you who are younger can go to http://www.fiftiesweb.com/burma.htm to find out what a Burma Shave sign is) and post them in neighbourhoods with high traffic. For instance, for our housesitting business, ours just say, "Going away? See housesitter.ca". These are fast and cheap to make and post (but watch out for city by-laws; if you aren't allowed to post them in public areas, ask some of your friends in high-traffic areas if you can post them in their yard). Also, some small business service place may make these signs for you for a great price. In Calgary, we have a business called Digital Post that will make the signs for a very inexpensive price, in a wide variety of color combinations, if you order 10 at a time.

Word of Mouth

We mention it to everyone we know that we do housesitting, and encourage them to let others know about us if their friends, neighbours, or relatives are talking about going away.

(On a personal note: Denise has taken this too far! :-) I buy something at a garage sale and somehow, the next thing you know, the owners of the garage sale know (a) I own a miniature schnauzer, (b) my husband and I have finally fulfilled our dream of living full time in our RV, (c) I am a webmaster and a housesitter.

Carry business cards on you

Come on! Admit it! You have had the nerve to talk to someone about your business, they ask for your number and you don't have your card on you! Always keep a couple of business cards in your wallet. They aren't doing any good being in your desk drawer (and make certain they have your domain name on them.

Church Newspapers

In Calgary, there is a newspaper (different than the church bulletin) that is distributed to all city churches, and it takes classified and display advertising -- at very affordable rates. There may be one in your town.

Local online directories

For instance, if you live in the Salt Lake City area, you might want to list in this directory, where you can list your website for free, http://slsites.com/dir.html

There are a few directories on the internet that cover multiple cities, such as http://foundlocally.com/, which provides listings for all of the major cities in Canada, or http://www.worldcitypages.net/ or there may be one for just your state, such as the http://www.michiganbusiness.us/. You will probably find lots of them if you search on the internet for the town, city, area, or state where you want to do business.