Business-like, isn't he?


 

 


Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    It's not enough to put your business on the Web--you've got to promote your site vigorously, too


    by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #362 October 1, 1996   High Tech Office  column

    It worked in Bill Kinsella's novel, Shoeless Joe, but when you build a Web page for your business, it may take a little more direct action to make people come and check it out. With millions of pages available on the Web and more being posted daily, it's highly unlikely that your potential readers or customers will find your new address without a little help.

    The first step is to get yourself listed by the popular search engines (Yahoo and the like) and the various "What's New" lists. Several of the search engines claim to use automated "spiders" which wander the Web, indexing what they find, but who knows when their virtual arachnid will wander through your little piece of the Web? You can make sure that your site gets listed, complete with a description that you've written.

    In the popular Yahoo site (http://www.yahoo.com), for example, wander through the categories at the bottom of the initial search page, finding the category most appropriate to your site, then click the Add URL button near the top of the page. You'll see a form asking for information about your new site. This gets your site listed in the category of your choice, as well as in Yahoo's daily and weekly "What's New" lists. Similar processes are available from other popular site indexes: try http://www.altavista.digital.com/cgi-bin/query?pg=addur1 (whew!) for Alta Vista, or http://www.lycos.com/register.html for Lycos, for example.

    Perhaps simpler is to go first to the free Submit It! service. Here, you fill in a short description, then select the search indexes where you'd like your site listed (Submit It! lists a couple of dozen). Click a button for each one, and your site listing is sent.

    In addition to the free general-search indexes, there are Internet-based yellow pages (not related to the various phone companies). These typically offer a combination of short, free listings, along with paid ads that can contain logos, graphics, or more complex ads. Check out your competition at the Worldwide Yellow Pages (http://www.yellow.com), GTE SuperPages (http://www.superpages.com/) or the WWW Business Yellow Pages (http://www. cba.uh.edu/ylowpages/), for example. Locally, bcyellowpages.com (http://bcyellowpages.com) claims to be one of the most frequently accessed sites in B.C.

    Add your new Web address to your promotional material, business cards, letterhead, brochures, and print ads. How about your ad in the print Yellow Pages?

    Depending on the content and focus of your pages, you may be able to attract visitors by exchanging hot-links. Contact other pages that you think might be of interest to your potential visitors and offer to include a link to them on your pages in exchange for a link to your page in theirs.

    Want to know who's visited your pages? Your server keeps log files which may be accessible to you (ask your Webmaster). You probably won't get names, but you will get numbers of visitors and the sites that they called from. A simple count of visitors is probably more useful: you may have seen these on popular Web pages--a counter that goes up with each access. Many of these are simple programs included as part of your Web pages, but even easier is to let another Web site keep count for you.

    For example, Digits (http://www.digits.com/) is free for sites with less than 1,000 hits per day, but costs anywhere from $14 to $90 for more popular sites, depending on just how popular they are. After signing up, you simply include its Web address as an image tag on your home page.

    However, counters can provide quite inaccurate data: visitors who jump back and forth between your home page and other pages will be counted multiple times, while others who've added one of your later pages to their bookmarks list won't be counted at all. You could require visitors to register before accessing your site, but unless you're providing a unique or vital service, you'll find this discourages casual visitors. Alternatively, you might politely request that visitors fill out an information form.

    In Field of Dreams, the movie made from Kinsella's book, Kevin Costner built his baseball field and the ghosts of Shoeless Joe and other baseball greats showed up to play. Even though the Web also brings your site virtual visitors, you'd like them to represent real, flesh-and-blood people, and for that, you need to actively promote your site.



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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan