Promote your Site
Promote, advertise, market, spread the word. A nascent checklist of things to think about:
Get your name out there
Get listed on directories
It's not all about Google search; there are human-powered directories out there sorting and listing web sites by category. How helpful they are in getting people to your site is a matter for discussion, but a listing can't hurt.
Two good starting points are Yahoo! Directory (see Suggest a Site) and the Open Directory Project (see Suggest URL).
Find links to other directories at:
The Drupal Connection: One directory of sites made with Drupal (though not necessarily about Drupal) is DrupalSites.net. See Submit Your Drupal Site to add your own creations.
If your site is about Drupal, regular web directories should have a Drupal category into which you can request inclusion.
In addition, Drupal.org's own Planet Drupal aggregates Drupal-related blog posts; while not a directory per se, it offers a huge list of Drupal-related sites. [As of this writing, however, I remain foggy on how to submit a site for inclusion. Answers welcomed!]
Use social networks
Here's an overview from Conversation Marketing:
Create a MySpace page for fans/hobbyists/enthusiasts/students of your product or service. Don’t brand the page that heavily. Focus on the type of product or service. Attract folks who want to know more. Then wow ‘em with your knowledge, and build a circle of friends. Now you can announce offers and such to them, too.
Do the same thing on Facebook.
Find any industry-specific social networks that are relevant to you. It’s easy: Go to Google and search for " 'your product' social network". Bet you find some. If you do, join up.
Sounds good to me. Have at it!
Using social networks is a gigantic topic, and really calls for thorough planning and execution. For now, though, here's a tiny list of ideas to start with:
- Create a Facebook fan page dedicated to your site.
- Place a MyBlogLog widget on your site to identify what blogs are coming to visit.
- Get friends to submit your content to sites like Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon.
- Step away from the big names to explore some niche social networking sites (here's another list).
Make it easy for others to spread the word
Following up on that discussion of social networks: Add tools to your site that make it easy for visitors to tell others about you by email, Tweet, Facebook, and so on. A Facebook Like button is the perfect example.
The Drupal connection: There's no shortage of Drupal modules to build integration with Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and so on into your site. There are too many to approach here, in fact, and it's a fast-changing field as well. But for starters, you can't go wrong with the sort of module that does it all. Try the AddToAny Share/Bookmark Button for a single mega-button on your pages that lets readers foreward, bookmark, or share your content via countless services.
Work the content hubs
Contributing to content hubs gets your name, expertise, and URL out in front of people. Try these ideas:
- Help build and edit Wikipedia. If your site acts as a genuine resource supporting some Wikipedia topic, edit the Wikipedia page to incorporate your contribution and to link to your site. (Be very relevant, or your contribution will be weeded out.)
- Create a "lens" on Squidoo or a "hub" on HubPages. These are overview pages on any topic you choose.
- Create informational guides and lists on Amazon.com. See stellar (?) guides relating to Drupal here and here.
- Answer questions on LinkedIn Answers, Yahoo! Answers, etc.
Slap your site URL on everything online
You do diligently put your site name, URL, and maybe a little descriptive blurb into all your online activities, right? Those should be in your email signatures, your forum signatures, your online profiles for any site accounts... anywhere you can think of.
Slap your site URL on everything offline
Business cards. Letterhead. Company literature. Whatever fliers and posters and so forth you create for your work. Put it on your car or living room window, if you want. Spray paint it on the cat.
Blah blah blah
Talk. Tell family and friends to bookmark your site. Corner co-workers. Slip the word to bums and cats in the street.
Litter the world with offline schwag
Who doesn't like schwag, tchotchkes, and all manner of shiny trinkets? If you can sell or give away promotional goodies in some outlet – online shop, trade show booth, etc. – then whip up stuff with your site name and URL. (If you don't have such an outlet, make one! If nothing else, there's the option of a CafePress online shop.)
What makes good schwag? T-shirts, mugs, pens, whatever you can think of... But ask yourself whether your marketing goals and your karma are really served by something that'll end up as landfill. Useful schwag is best! Useless schwag... bleah. (Yes, I'm thinking of those logo-festooned neck straps with the clip on end, ostensibly for hanging cell phones. Who needs that?)
100 Ways to Increase Your Website Traffic includes suggestions to leave your website open, or even set your site as the default page, on browsers in libraries, stores, etc. The suggestion to list your site for sale on marketplaces like Flippa just for the traffic feels shady, though makes perfect sense if you're actually willing to entertain offers. Another agressive idea: launch contests in which people directly compete in building or promoting your site. Offer prizes for best contributed content or comments, for retweeting an article of yours, or even for sending the most traffic to your contest page.
The last idea, however – fake a hacker attack for attention – is a no-no. Don't fake anything for attention. It'll bite you.
Use other resources
A catch-all for other short ideas:
- Submit posts to appropriate blog carnivals, or host one yourself.
- Do you have (or can you make) any videos relevant to your site? If so, make sure your site name and URL are featured prominently, and post the goodies on YouTube.
- Did you create great graphics for your site? Can you offer any of these for free, such as placing your theme files on a CSS gallery? It's a way to make others happy and get more exposure for your site.
- Sponsor or assist events in your field.
Work with other sites
Leave comments elsewhere
When visiting blogs, forums, newsgroups, and web sites in general, always be on the lookout for chances to leave useful comments that mention your site (or better yet, specific content on your site). Just keep useful front and foremost. Relevant, helpful comments earn respect and visitors; comments that only exist to get your link out there garner sneers from a furlong away.
Watch out for sites' policies on links, though. Some will prohibit links. Many will allow links but will add the "nofollow" attribute, meaning the link won't gain you any juice with the search engines. (That's okay, as the goal with comments is to interest real live readers, not search engines.)
Why not head right to the sites that you like to read, and introduce yourself? You don't need to beg for links; it may be best not to, as those sites don't even know you yet. Just let them know you're there, let them know if you've mentioned and linked to some of their content, and while you're at it, offer some thoughtful comments about their sites.
Say hello and make friends!
Contribute content to other sites
Creating content for others gets your name in front of a ready-made user base (which someone else went through the trouble of building – sweet!).
Many blogs or other sites in your field would be tickled salmon to have guests provide content. Look for calls for guest bloggers on your favorite sites, or just research the best targets and send inquiries. Needless to say, whatever the target site, your content will have to appeal to the site's editor in order to be selected and published. So you've got to write with three key audiences in mind: the general reader, other sites/blogs that might note and link to your content, and your target site's editor.
An alternative to directly submitting articles to a target site is syndication. Article syndication services like EzineArticles and GoArticles will take your submitted articles and take care of getting them published on other sites. Some writers report high Google rankings for articles contributed to such services.
Contributing content may or may not net you monetary reward, but you should at least gain traffic from links to your site, and possibly ratchet up your status as an expert on a topic. If you're also allowed to post the same content on your own site, you get some new content out of the experience too. (Or if you offer the content exclusively to the other site, announcing your external guest appearance still nets you a post or press release of your own.)
Ask for attention
Directly ask others to talk about you. Ideas:
- Ask appropriate media to write the story behind your site. An interview is a good format.
- If you're a business, ask customers to write about you on appropriate review sites. (Make sure you're delighting those customers first!)
If your site and other legitimate sites can arrange meaningful cross-links that'll serve the interests of your visitors, go for it. You can suggest cross-links to the target site's webmaster, or take the lead in linking and then send the other webmaster a friendly notice. How to go about that is a debated topic; some say that "please link back to me" is bad form, and you're better off just sending a notice and leaving reciprocity to the other side's discretion and generosity.
An important note: When getting (or giving) links, meaningful anchor text links are the most appreciated. Anchor text is the text that contains the link; ideally, the text is descriptive of the content. For example, consider this link on an external site:
Head to Drupalace.com's easy Drupal admin manual, EDAM.
The link could be placed on "Head to" (or its common equivalent, "click here"), or on "Drupalace.com", or on "EDAM". Any of those would work for a reader viewing the sentence, but they're not as good for search engine purposes. Placing the link on "Drupal admin manual", words that searchers are likely to actually use in queries, helps the search engine associate the linked page with those keywords and rank higher in searches.
Make friends with other site editors and owners. Friends are likely to pay attention to your site, and write about or link to its content separately from any collaborations, cross-promotions, link-trading, or tear-filled begging. Be sure to offer the same attention in return!
Make linking easy
To encourage links, many sites offer buttons, banners, and/or link code. I'm not certain how helpful these are; big sidebars full of "link buttons" to other sites seem a fading practice (unless those buttons are for paid adverts), and experienced webmasters aren't likely to need your little aids to construct a simple link.
But if you'd like to promote your brand via a logo or other specific graphic (perhaps in conjunction with a promotional campaign), or are a stickler for certain link formats (like certain anchor text, or links to a specific preferred page), you might as well offer the buttons and/or code, and ask that people use those. Give it a try and see what happens.
Trackback functionality lets sites acknowledge and report links from each other. That is, when pandalove4ever.com ("PL4") angrily notes (and links to) your site's exposé of panda slovenliness, your article will display a brief text excerpt from, and a link to, PL4's indignant rebuke. When you, in turn, link back to PL4's article as you call into question the propriety of the group's infatuation with the bamboo bears, an excerpt from, and link to, your new diatribe will show up on the PL4 article.
The purpose: Readers of a page with trackbacks will be able to see what other sites have discussed that page, with all these cross-links forming a larger conversation that readers can follow across multiple sites. Just by mentioning and linking to another site, a link to your content shows up on those sites – which are likely to want to further mention your site, so their links show up again on yours.
That's all great in theory, as long as the sites in question are all trackback-enabled. The problem: Spammers have caught on to the game, big time. You need trackback spam protection enabled, or your pages will become filled with long lists of posts that "mention" your page within the textual context of their performance-enhancement pill ads.
The Drupal connection: There's a Trackback module for Drupal that handles the trackback gig nicely. My own story, though, is one of giving up on trackbacks due to spam. The Drupal module allows for moderation, so the spam wasn't showing up where visitors would see it, but it was stuffing my database faster than I could get around to cleaning it out.
I see trackbacks as a small, not vital, way to promote a site. If the spam problem were simpler, I'd enable the feature; until then, I'm not worrying about it.
Announce what's new
Make full use of RSS
Web users thought to themselves, "Instead of having to regularly checking all my favorite sites for new content, I wish the sites would just send me a message whenever some new content goes up."
Site publishers thought to themselves, "I'd like to send regular readers a message when I post new content, but managing something like a mailing list for that purpose is a nuisance for me and them."
RSS stepped in and made both sides happy. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, a great technology that lets site publishers automatically broadcast notices of new content. RSS is supported by browsers, many stand-alone RSS readers, and even mail clients, and is simple for both publisher and subscriber.
Let RSS be your own little automated PR bot. Make sure your site has an RSS feed for its blog or other new content. It's vital, especially for blogs; I myself have pretty much stopped following any blog that doesn't announce its new content to my RSS reader.
Also check out Feedburner to enhance your RSS feed. It's a free way to customize your fee and find out who's subscribing.
The Drupal connection: Drupal offers RSS feeds automatically, with simple settings at admin/content/rss-publishing.
Ping the world
Use pings to automatically inform search engines and aggregators (e.g., Technorati) of any new content you publish.
The Drupal connection: Drupal has an optional core Ping module. There's nothing to configure; enable the module, and when you post new content it'll automatically ping the Pingomatic service, which in turn will ping a number of external services. It's all very simple, if a bit of a black box.
Time your posts
Some bloggers swear by timing of posts as a key to maximizing traffic. That is, find out who your main audience is, and at what time of the day or week they're most likely to visit, or at what time they're most likely to be searching for new stuff to read. Hit 'em at their hungriest moments with your fresh-baked content.
My problem, though, isn't figuring out when people are visiting, but in knowing what to do with that information. Should you post at the busiest times, when lots of sites are feeding swarms of readers? Or during the quiet hours, when there are fewer readers in the waters but fewer competing sites tossing out bait? Week or weekend? Morning or lunchtime or evening? Should you vary your timing for long posts vs short, and time-sensitive posts vs "evergreen" posts? Opinions vary on all of these.
I'm not worrying about it for now, until I get authoritative advice or run some experiments. Try some different posting schedules of your own, and share your disocoveries here!
The Drupal connection: If you choose to time your posts, use the Scheduler module to write now and automatically publish later.
Distribute press releases
Create a full press release for the launch of your site, major new features, or notably worthy new content. This gives other sites a "template" for writing about your news, with the who, what, where, when, how, and why all spelled out. In addition to posting the release on your site, you can submit it to free press release submission websites or get help from paid distribution services like PRWeb.
Just tell people
What else to do when you've got newsworthy new content? Shout out to people. Send friendly notices to whatever contacts, blogs, forums, newsgroups, etc. you think will be interested. You'll get a better reaction if the target is a community to which you're an active contributor.
I refer to good old-fashioned advertising, in new-fashioned online ways. It's a huge topic to cover later. For now, here's a starting list of advertising channels to promote your site:
- Google AdWords
- Social network ads (Facebook Ads, StumbleUpon Ads, etc.)
- Banner ad networks (BuySellAds, etc.)
- Banner ads purchased directly
- Ad swaps with other sites
- Sponsored reviews (SponsoredReviews.com, etc.)
- Local newspapers (yes, dead-tree newspapers)
- The Internet Marketing List: 59 Things You Should Be Doing But Probably Aren't
- Blog Project: 30 Traffic Generation Tips
- 4,439 Words on Driving Traffic to Your Blog
- How to get traffic for your blog
- 13 Quick tips to Make Your Blog STAND OUT from the Crowd
- Top 38 Niche Social Media Sites (That Actually Send Traffic)
- 101 Ways to Promote a New Blog
- 100 Ways to Inrease Your Website Traffic