The Goal: Organically Grow Your Website Visibility
Your website is your online presence and you want to increase its visibility. It is a tool to get your message out and it won’t be effective if no one is seeing it. If you don’t want to (or can’t) spend money on a high dollar advertising campaign, then you are going to need time and patience in order to get the word up and start generating traffic. There are a number of tools at your disposal which will aid you if used appropriately.
To begin with, understand that online, as in the physical world, reputation is vital. It won’t matter what you say if no one believes you have a reputation making you worth listening to. That’s going to be a guiding light when making use of any of the tools available online. When using social media like Twitter or Facebook, or commenting on other blogs, you have to know the community you are moving within and understand what they see as friendly participation and what they view as abuse. Since we’re taking a long term approach, you want to make sure you are being a productive member of any online community if you want to able to make use of that reputation later to get your message out.
Get Your Own House In Order
Before you reach out to the rest of the world and begin advertising your website, make sure it is going to look good. This goes beyond cosmetic appearance, though that is vitally important too. Cosmetically you want visitors to enjoy visiting your website. This means making good use of screen space, color selection, layout and so on. It helps to use a tool like WordPress where you can select from many themes, allowing you to just plug your content into place. But you want your website to look good to search engines and other tools that might want to come check you out. For example, you’re going to want to submit a sitemap to search engines like Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Center. While you can also submit to Yahoo, Yahoo actually uses the Bing search engine, so you needn’t submit to both. Tools like WordPress will create a sitemap for you while in other cases you may have to generate one yourself. Likewise, you should consider providing an RSS feed which you can submit to sites like FeedBurner.
Nearly as important as the look of your website is its optimization for searches. While advanced search engines do detailed analysis of pages crawled to determine rankings, you can assist in this somewhat by providing tags, categories, meta information and the like. How you construct your pages and posts is also important. Begin with one or two keywords before you write a single line of text. Always refer back to this anytime you find yourself wondering where to go next with what you are writing. It helps keep you focused and will make your content more desirable for those looking to read about that topic. Make use of headers when possible to enhance readability. This can also be scanned for by search engines too, to give hints regarding the substance of the text. Remember that all a search engine is is a gigantic text processor. It looks for relationships between what you write and what others search for. Try to help by using associated words and phrases. Above all, stay on topic.
Letting the World Know
Now you have your website in order and it’s time for the world to hear what you have to say. As mentioned above, one big help will be to proactively let search engines know about your site. Once you have submitted your site index, search engines will routinely crawl your site and incorporate new content, so usually you won’t have to resubmit. This is also the case for some services like FeedBurner. You can also provide links to sites like Technorati which will go through a onetime registration process and then check back from time to time. Such sites are like an index for blogs and are a good resource for both measuring how you stack up as well as helping your own visibility.
If you are promoting a business, you should also work to claim your business at sites like Google Places and Yahoo! Local Listings. This may take awhile but is vital to allowing your business to show up in local searches. There are other similar sites like Yelp and Localeze. Each has their own registration and might have affiliations with networks such that a single update pushes your information out to many other sites.
Keep It Fresh
In addition to accessibility and submitting your site to various site indexes, you want to take pains to keep your site up to date. This isn’t just a matter of changing your address when you move (though of course you need to do that) but also a matter of keeping content coming. Search engines value new content over old. If you let your site sit and become stale, you will drop in the search results. You might not need to update every day, but you want to be consistent and not go more than a week without adding something. Of course you still have to make sure you are saying something meaningful, something worth hearing. But if you can’t come up with something new to say about your message once a week, chances are you aren’t going to be terribly interesting to those looking up that topic.
In addition, when you do provide such updates, it’s important to let sites know about that, too. While some sites will already be checking you out once you register, others won’t. You can use a site like Pingomatic to alert such sites that you’ve posted something new and interesting. WordPress is preconfigured to use Pingomatic but you can add others as needed.
Keep It Real
Even if you are notifying other automated services about your latest missive, you won’t be reaching everyone. After all, the automated feeds are fine but some folks need a more direct touch. You can also use communities like Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Reddit and Digg to get your website some views. Just remember you have to play by their rules. For starters, Twitter won’t be very useful until you have followers. To get followers, you have to say something of interest to them. This is going to mean getting involved in other conversations. Do searches for topics you want to tie into your website, look for conversations you can jump into and absolutely make sure you are contributing when you tweet. If it looks like you are just parroting others in order to get a little traffic, you will be ignored.
This really goes for any community. Remember, you are walking into a place that others have built up, virtual communities where folks went out of common interest. If you want them to hear what you have to say, if you want to rely on them to generate traffic and interest in your website, you need to be very polite and play by their rules. It would be no different than walking into someone’s living room and asking them to hear you out. You wouldn’t do it by barging through the front door, jumping into the recliner and yelling over the conversation that was already going. If you want to be heard in a community, you need to be a community member.
While Twitter, Facebook and others are well known examples of sites that have general use for interaction, you can also use other blogs. The same rules apply. Find articles pertaining to what you are posting about. Do not just spam links to your website. Comment, be productive. If your profile link can include your website, include it. If it can’t, and you can tastefully incorporate it into blog posts, go ahead. You might still get moderated out, but it’s worth a shot. Just remember to be a part of the conversation. Remember, whoever built up the blog started where you are now and worked to create this community. Be respectful of that.
This is perhaps the hardest and most difficult part to grasp. Remember, you’re doing it this way because you want organic growth, not something that is artificially generated via a marketing campaign. You want to create a real online reputation and reputations take time to develop. You can’t get discouraged and quit. You need to remember that even Google started as a garage project. You can get the views you want if you’re willing to put the time and effort into it.