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Build -- and Promote -- Your Web Site so 'They Will Come'

By: Mary Westheimer

Mary Westheimer is CEO of BookZone, the Net's largest publishing community at BookZone offers design, development, hosting and promotion to more than 3,500 publishing professionals, as well as BookZonePro, the publishing industry portal that offers information and assistance. For more information, contact BookZone at or 800-536-6162 (480-481-9737).

If you're not happy with the traffic your Web site is getting, you're not alone. BookZone's recent publishing Web site survey revealed that 60.7 percent of respondents were not satisfied with their site traffic. Thankfully, there are techniques and tools that publishers can use to boost traffic and thereby sales. (What visitors do once they get to a site leads to the subject of how to optimize a site for productivity, but for now let's zero in on how to attract visitors.)

Here's News
One of the biggest surprises in BookZone's Survey of Publishing Web Sites was the reported effectiveness of newsgroups for online marketing: those publishing professionals who used newsgroups to market online were the happiest with their site traffic. Newsgroups are online clubs that are not on the Web, but actually reside on another part of the Internet known as the Usenet.

Here's how to use such online clubs:
  • Find newsgroups by visiting Spend a little time pinpointing those that best serve your goals, then visit them regularly, say, once or twice a week. You can use their handy tracker to be notified of pertinent posts.

  • Get a bead on the culture of the newsgroup before getting involved. Some are more appropriate than others.

  • Communicate rather than sell. The most effective posts will likely be responses to questions or contributions of information. If it's accepted in that newsgroup, tell others about your books with an effective "signature," or automatic attachment to your message. Check your software for signature capabilities or create a small text message that can be easily cut and pasted onto the bottom of each post.

  • Mail lists also can be effective for marketing. Mail lists are similar to newsgroups, but are sent by email, with all messages sent to all subscribers. Find appropriate lists by visiting Again, be careful to pick your targets carefully, participate regularly, learn and fit in with the culture of each list.

I'm Searching
The giant indices of Internet sites, mail lists, newsgroups, Web forums, images and other components known as search engines have become battlegrounds for marketing prominence. The fight to stay at the top of the major engines is fierce and never-ending because this is where most people begin an Internet search. The battle to stay at the top can pay off - one publisher doubled its site's considerable traffic by joining the fray - but the cost is high unless your niche is extremely narrow. Researching your competition and each engine's requirements, crafting unique entry pages to match them and then playing "leapfrog" with your competition, is resource intensive. Nonetheless, it still is worthwhile to try to "shoot your best shot" with the engines.

Here are some specific tips for maximizing your search engine friendliness:
  • Include keywords in your domain name. This improves your ranking with some top engines. You can have more than one domain, so you can add another if you already have one.

  • Use strong page titles. These are the phrases that appear in the colored bar at the top of the browser window above the buttons. They are often used as the listing headings for search engine entries. Keywords go a long way here.

  • Don't rely on metatags. Only about half of the major search engines use them, so while these hidden descriptions and keywords can help with those engines and are therefore worth including on every page (varying them to reflect the content of each page), don't bank on them. Make sure you have strong keywords in your page text, too.

  • Think text. Search engines don't index graphics, so you also need text on your pages. To really score, make sure a keyword-rich line of text is above any opening graphic on your homepage.

  • Include strong keywords in page names. Page1.html means nothing, but railroadhistory.html can help boost your ranking in those search engines that rank linked terms higher.

  • Avoid frames. Most search engines hate 'em. Unless they have real functional value, frames can cost you in marketing performance.

  • Get links from those sites that are at the top of the search engines to piggyback on their hard work. Some of these are tough to get links with, but it's worth a try.

Birds of a Feather
Where else does your audience go? Use the search engines to find other sites they visit so you can request links from their site to yours. While search engines now sometimes drop listings, links have a cumulative benefit as you methodically add them to your marketing network.

These linking techniques will help you make the most of links:
  • Use search engines' advanced search methods to narrow your search. There is usually information on how each engine lets you combine words to find exactly what you're looking for.

  • Find and use the specialty search engines for your audiences. You can find them by combining keywords with "directory," "directories," indexes" and "indices" at the big search engines, or check places like or

  • When requesting a link, provide the exact text, code and image they can use to link to you. Including this information on your links page and an email confirmation of addition of their link to your page also makes it easy for them to link to you, which is usually the point!

  • Offer information for their site with a link at the bottom. Content linking is very much like PR. Site owners often want content for their sites. Let them have it as long as they have a link at the bottom of the article to your site.

Take it on Home
Electronic newsletters or "ezines" (short for "electronic magazine") are one of Net's the most powerful marketing tools. A Forrester Research study found that email click-through rates -- which measure how many people click on a Web address included in the email to visit a site -- range from 14 percent to 22 percent, compared to a click-through rate of just 1 percent for graphic banner ads. This makes sense, because people who sign up for ezines are interested in the subject and are more likely to read it when they come into their inbox.

Here are some tips on how to make ezines more effective:
  • Have a sign up form on your site that automatically subscribes people to the software you use to "publish" the ezine. Include signup boxes on every page of your site, if possible.
  • Register your ezine in ezine directories. There are lots of them. You can find them yourself by searching for "Free Ezine Content" in search engines, but here are some of the best:
  • Solicit subscriptions to your ezine. If you offer content and your ezine is free, you can actually solicit subscriptions. You'll want to be extremely careful about this so you don't get accused of "spamming," or sending unsolicited and unwanted email, but it can be done. Locate people who may be interested in your ezine and send them a brief email offer that emphasizes the value of your ezine to them and the fact that it's free. It's best to only send this solicitation once, and tell them that this is the only notice they'll get of this opportunity. You also can list your ezine at one of the sites that allow people to sign up to many ezines at once, such as
  • For more information about effective ezines, read "Amazing Ezines" in the BookZone Pro marketing articles area (
If you are starting to feel overwhelmed when planning your online marketing, "divide and conquer," creating goals for your newgroup and mail list participation, search engine and linking campaigns, and your ezine frequency and length. Adjust the goals as you go, logging your activity. Before you know it, your traffic - and results! - will have increased appreciably.

© 2001, Mary Westheimer, BookZone. All rights reserved.

Other Articles by Mary Westheimer

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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