How to promote your or my business website
Success with the search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) requires two things: firstly, your webpages need to be set up so that they highlight your key phrases and are search engine friendly. This ensures that the pages have the potential to do well with the search engines, but to realise that potential something esle is needed: Your website needs to be promoted. This means creating a rich network of incoming links from sites that are already doing well with the search engines. The first process is often called “on-site optimisation”. Let’s call the second “website promotion”.
Both of these are essentlial. On-site optimisation on its own is not enough. Similarly, it will largely be a waste of time and money trying to promote a website that is not well-optimised.
All websites made by Handcrafted Websites are built with excellent on-site optimisation. This is part of our standard service, not something that is charged for separately. Website promotion is a separate issue. We are great believers in DIY and we would recommend you begin promoting your website yourself. The information on this page should help you make a start. Alternatively, we offer a website promotion service for new websites and for others that currently have a very poor ranking with the search engines.
DIY website promotion step 1: Find your niche & choose the right keywords
Before you actually begin your website promotion campaign, you need to choose the key phrases that you are going to target. The secret here is to start off with something suitably specific – something that accurately defines your niche. An example: Someone has a guest house in Morecambe called The Sands. Ideally they would like to appear on the top of page one whenever someone searches for “UK holiday accommodation”. As a short term goal, that just isn’t realistic. You need to learn to walk before you can run. A more realistic goal is to get onto the first couple of pages for “Morecambe bed and breakfast” searches, so “morecambe bed and breakfast” will be the key phrase (note: the search engines will ignore the captals and the order of the words, so highlighting “morecambe bed and breakfast” will also cover you for “bed and breakfast morecambe”).
Basically, there are two questions to bear in mind here. The first is: Which words are my potential clients most likely to type in the search box of Google, Bing, etc. when searching for my product/service? To answer this you need to put yourself in their position. They want to type as little as possible, but they also want to be as specific as possible so they don’t have to wade through lists of irrelevant sites.
The second question is: Which lists give me a realistic chance of getting on the first few pages? The competition for more specific phrases (e.g. “morecambe holiday cottage”) will be less intense, which means that although the pie to be divided between you and your competitors will be smaller, at least you will have a chance of taking a bite. In addition to being more geographically specific, you could target people looking for something “romantic”, something “pet friendly” or something with “cycle storage”, for instance if you are an accommodation provider.
After drawing up a short list of keywords, you need to set about creating a few incoming links. But what should those links look like? It might help to take a short class in link anatomy.
The anatomy of a link
Let’s have a look behind the scenes at the code for a link to really understand what a link on a web page is made of. Here is the code for a link.
<a href=”http://www.my-morecambe-guest-house.co.uk” title=”Morecambe bed and breakfast at The Sands”>Morecambe bed and breakfast</a>
Like most of the code for web pages it is made of tags that each begin and end with angle brackets: <a> </a> The “a” in the opening and closing tags tells the browser that this is a link (or anchor – “a” for anchor). On the web page this would appear as: Morecambe bed and breakfast.
The words that appear highlighted in the browser window are known as the anchor text. This is one of the places where we need to highlight our keywords. If our business name has no keywords in it, we want to avoid having links that only have the business name as the anchor text, like so: The Sands. Links like that will help us get to the top of the list for “the sands”, but that is not what we want.
You will see that within the opening tag there is also a link title. Not every link has a title, but titles for links boost their SEO value. The title text appears in a little popup if you mouse over the link. Mouse over the link to see the title text pop up. The link title is another place to highlight our keywords.
The HREF attribute of the tag tells the browser which web page to go to when the link is clicked. It needs to begin with http:// or https://.
Now that we know about anchor text and link titles, let’s look at some places where we can create some incoming links.
Links from social bookmarking
One of the easiest ways to create incoming links is to use some of the many social bookmarking sites. These are sites where people can make a note of the web pages they like and can also see which pages are the most popular with the rest of that particular online community.
Social bookmarks play a dual role in your website promotion campaign. Firstly, each bookmark functions as a nice incoming link. Secondly, by listing your site/page with that service you make it easier for other users of that service to find your website.
To use the social bookmarking services you will need to register with each one (for free) before you can bookmark your web page.
In promoting your website you are going to register with a large number of organisations that may or may not be 100% trustworthy, and you are going to have to give them a valid email address when you register. There is a risk here that your address gets passed onto spammers and your inbox is soon inundated with spam. So: Don’t use your most important personal or business email addresses when registering. Head over to one of the free email services (like ymail.com) and create a free email address that you can dispose of later if it becomes hijacked by too many spammers.
As an example, let’s look at Google Bookmarks. As with all the bookmarking services, you need to create an account first before you can use the service. You will need a general Google account for lots of things, so if you don’t already have one, create one here: https://accounts.google.com/SignUp?hl=en-GB.
Then head over to Google Bookmarks here: https://www.google.co.uk/bookmarks/.
Find the link to Add A Bookmark, click it, and you will see a form like the one below:
Name/Title – this doesn’t have to be the same as the page title. It should highlight some of your key phrases.
URL – the full web address for the page you are bookmarking (beginning http:// or https://). It is what you see in the address bar of your browser. If you are bookmarking your home page, it should look like: https://www.mynewwebsite.co.uk/
Labels/Tags – these are used by the social bookmarking site to categorise links. Caution: Before typing anything here find out how this particular site wants multi-word tags separated. Some bookmarking systems want multi-word tags/labels in quotes or separated by a comma, others want you to press Enter after typing each tag/label. Note also that the most relevant labels/tags might be more general than the key phrase you are using with Google search.
Notes/Comment/Description – enter a longer description of the page that accurately describes the content of the page while also incorporating those keywords again.
All the social bookmarking systems use similar systems for recording details of bookmarked pages.
Use your favourite search engine to find recent lists of recommended social bookmarking sites. Here is a short list of the sites that we have found useful in the past.
Social bookmarking sites come and go, and some of them look very dodgy, so exercise some caution before signing up. If you see a big flashing ad at the top of the page saying you have won a huge amount of money because you are the lucky billionth visitor, click the back button of your browser and look elsewhere.
Points to bear in mind:
1. There are good psychological and SEO reasons for taking this link building campaign slowly. Add a couple of links a day and see this as the beginning of an on-going campaign.
2. Don’t copy and paste the same titles and descriptions each time. Vary the text slightly. The search engines are on the lookout for duplicate content and will penalise it.
3. Do it manually. There are automated bookmark submission tools on the market. They would save time, but the results might not be as good (e.g. because of duplicated text).
Make the most of social networking sites (facebook, twitter, etc.)
These are sites where the emphasis is on creating a network of online contacts and “friends”. You may well feel that the social media are symptomatic of the the decline of Western civilisation, but success online will be much, much harder without a number of active and well-connected social media accounts.
Four popular social networking sites are:
With Google Plus, Facebook and LinkedIn you first need to create a personal account and then you will be able to create a page for your business. (To create a business page on Facebook after creating a personal page, log out, then go back to the log in page and find the tiny link that appears under the log in/sign up form on the welcome page).
*For some good info and advice about setting up Google Plus business pages see this article.
When setting up accounts and business pages with these services look carefully in the profiles section for places for you to write a keyword-rich description of your business and include a prominent link back to your home page. Write a few posts/tweets about the business, include some key words and include another link back to the home page in each.
Each of these services work best when used as mini-blogs. In other words, to get the most from them going forward you need to be writing little snippets of news from time to time. Some of those snippets can include links back to your site. Aside from those links, if people find your little snippets interesting, they may look at your profile and see there your link to your site and click it to find out more (so make sure you fill out a profile and include a link to your site).
A “Must”: Get a Google Business Listing
If you put “morecambe holiday cottage” in google.co.uk, you will see a map and a list of holiday businesses at the top of the first page of results, before the actual search results are listed. To get onto that map and be listed on that page-one space, you need to register for a Google Business Listing. Start the process here: https://www.google.co.uk/intl/en/business/. The process involves a postal verification of the business address, so it takes some time, but it is worth it. (Tip: Give the address of the holiday property as the address of the business – things can get complicated if the two are different.)
Links from directories
Some directories specifically aim to list businesses. Look for ones that list other businesses like yours and that are also geographically relevant. Be careful to list your business in the most appropriate category. There are some paid listings worth considering (e.g. yell.co.uk) but before considering those, try these free ones:
Aboutus.com is a website that allows people with websites to create a page about their website. Pop over and create a page for your website. Choose keyword-rich categories, include a good description of the business with your geographical reference, and include a link to your home page.
Links from review sites
If you sell a product or provide a service, there will be a website where people can leave reviews about it. If happy customers are not spontaneously filling these sites with glowing reviews and including links to your site, you could perhaps encourage one or two people to make up for this oversight. You can use your favourite search engine to find the most relevant review sites. However, not all of them enable you to post a link. Here are a few sites for holiday reviews.
Note that a listing on Tripadvisor (and Tripadvisor often gets its listings high up in the search engine results) is no longer free. At the time of writing, holiday accommodation providers have to pay for a listing with Flipkey, which then results in also being listed on the Tripadvisor site.
Links from blog comments
If you have a UK travel-related website, put “uk travel blog” in your favourite search engine to find a few interesting and popular blogs. Then look for interesting posts that you could add a comment to. Lots of people leave comments like: “Great post! Thanks for sharing” but it would be better if you had a more interesting point to make in your comment.
There is usually no point including a link in the body of a comment (because this is often considered spam and blogging systems take steps to neutralise it). However, many blogging systems allow you to enter your website URL when you specify a username for the commenting system. Readers will then be able to click on your username and find your website. You might want to consider using a name that includes one of your keywords instead of your favourite nickname.
Links from your own blog
You could start your own blog. It would involve putting up short, interesting pieces on the web, and in some of these you can include links back to the relevant pages on your site. However, for this to workAs part of your blog promotion campaign, you would need to get your blog listed with a fair number of the blog directories (like technorati). This is a lot of extra work, but a well-written, newsy blog can attract regular readers whereas a fairly static brochure website has nothing to encourage repeated visits.
If you have the time and the literary inclination, you can set up a blog for free at www.wordpress.com. There are other places that offer blogs for free, but we recommend WordPress.
Note that you will have to promote your blog and the individual posts (using the above website promotion techniques) otherwise no one will find it. Use the social networking and bookmarking sites for this. Find related blogs and leave comments to attract visitors to your blog.
This refers to putting up material on your website which proves so interesting or useful to your visitors that they spontaneously create incoming links as part of the natural process of recommending your page to their friends and readers. This is the ideal path to success on the web: You upload interesting stuff and the incoming links just mushroom.
Publish an article
Have a look for sites that let you publish an informative article, and include a link back to your site. One such site is: www.hubpages.com
Once, again you will have to promote that new webpage so it gains some value that can then be passed back to your site via the link, and also so that it attracts visitors/readers.
Reciprocal links & links pages
Businesses that are promoting related products and services can help each other by setting up reciprocal links – “You link to me and I’ll link to you.” How should this be done though? It isn’t a good idea for the two of you to create a page entitled “Links” and then list each other on those pages. The best approach is to create a page with genuinely informative content and a more useful page title. A local adventure centre, for instance, could link to your holiday cottage website on a page dedicated to accommodation in the area, with a few paragraphs of keyword-rich text including a recommendation of your accommodation (and others). That would also be a page that visitors to the site are more likely to actually read, and so it could actually drive more traffic your way (regardless of the SEO benefits). To reciprocate you could include a paragraph about the adventure centre on you activities page with a link to their site. If you both have blogs, you could each agree to write a post about the other’s business.
The most valuable links are those embedded in real content that people might actually find useful, so try to avoid situations where you end up just having to add a link to a list.
When arranging quality reciprocal links with your business contacts make sure they set the link up with good anchor text and remember to include a title in the link, and make sure that the title of the page has some relevance to the service that you are offering. Give them the code for the link so they get it right.
Isn’t there a quicker fix?
You may come across ads promising an amazing boost to your Google ranking overnight. These need to be treated with caution. The systems at Google and elsewhere are continually being developed to weed out sites that use techniques to create an artificial impression of either extreme relevance or extreme popularity (sometimes referred to as “black hat techniques”, and the people offering quick fixes are likely to be wearing black hats) .
Because of this, our advice is to ignore the ads and be patient. With your own hand-made social bookmarks, social networking, reviews, comments, blog posts, genuine directory listings, embedded reciprocal links, etc you can slowly raise the visibility of your site, increase the traffic, and boost your website’s listing. This takes time, but it is safer, doubtless more effective in the long run and certainly cheaper than paying for a dubious “quick fix”.
How can I beat the competition?
Before you try to beat your competitor it might do to learn from him/her. How? One step is to see what sort of incoming links they have gathered. To do this just type their web address in Google and look down the list to see the sites that mention them or link to them. Look at the sites and see how to get your link included or your business mentioned.
How can I gauge the success of my efforts?
Of course there are two criteria of success: your traffic figures and the position of your site in the search engine listings for your most important keywords. In relation to the latter, if you can’t see your page in the search engine listing for Google, try this Google position tool (it can give a useful indication although the results are not necessarily 100% accurate).
Another useful (and free) tool is the Google Analytics service. This provides you with detailed stats about your visitor numbers together with how many people arrived at your site from the search engines together with the search terms they used. If you sign up for Google Analytics you will need to add a few lines of code to your pages. Handcrafted Websites can do this for you.
When will I be able to relax?
This depends on your competitors. If others a few rungs below you are busy building up their links and furiously optimising their pages for search engines, you might find yourself slipping back again. You will need to keep an eye on your position in the list and make sure that your rivals are not getting the edge.