To get people to visit your website, you need to promote it. The higher your site's visibility, the greater the number of hits.
A hit is a visit to your website. Be aware that although your site may get, say, 50 hits in a day, that doesn't necessarily mean that it was visited by 50 different people. It's simply a record of the number of times a copy of your web page has been downloaded.
There are many ways to promote your site. You can list it on major web directories and indexes, include the URL in your email signature, put the URL on your business cards, and so much more. The following sections describe each approach.
Getting Links from Other Sites
It doesn't take much surfing to figure out that the Web is huge. It seems like there's a site on every topic, and when it comes to popular topics, there may be hundreds or thousands of sites. Once you've done the hard work of creating an interesting site, the next step is to get other people to link to it.
The direct approach often works best. Find other sites like your own and send a personal email to the people who run them introducing yourself and telling them that you have a site similar to theirs that they may be interested in. If they are, there's a good chance that they'll provide a link to your site. Oftentimes, there's a quid pro quo involved where you might link to someone else's site and ask them if they're interested in linking to yours in return.
This doesn't mean that you should go out and pester people or email them repeatedly if they don't do as you request. The subtle approach often works best. If diplomacy isn't your strong suit, or even if it is, you might also want to look into some of the larger web directories as well. Many sites exist solely to direct users to other sites. Generally there's a process by which you can submit your site for inclusion in the directory. I'm going to discuss some of the larger directories individually but bear in mind that there are lots of other directories out there that are restricted to particular areas of interest. You should find the ones that are appropriate for your site and submit your URL to them as well.
By far, the best-known directory of websites is Yahoo! at www.yahoo.com (see Figure 18.1), created by David Filo and Jerry Yang. This site started in April 1994 as a small, private list of David's and Jerry's favorite websites. Since then, it has become a highly regarded catalog and index of websites and is one of the most successful Internet companies out there.
Figure 18.1. The Yahoo! site.
Yahoo! uses an elegant multilevel catalog to organize all the sites it references. To view the contents of any level of the catalog, first you select the hyperlink for the major category that most closely represents the information you're interested in. Then follow the chain of associated pages to a list of related websites, like the one shown in Figure 18.2. The following is the full URL of this page:
Figure 18.2. Yahoo's Announcement Services category.
To add your site to Yahoo!, return to www.yahoo.com and select the category that's appropriate for your site. Work your way through any subcategories until you locate a list of sites that are most similar to your own.
Suppose that you've created a site that discusses camel racing. You navigate your way through the Recreation links, which then leads to Sports, which then has a category called Camel Racing. Yes, there really is a category like this:
When you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you see a Suggest a Site link. Click this link to display the Suggest a Site page. This page provides complete instructions for adding your site to Yahoo!. Currently, the process involves filling out four easy-tounderstand forms.
Even though I'm discussing how to register for search engines individually, you may prefer to wait and register for them all at once. Later on in this lesson, I'll discuss some services you can use to do this.
These days, it can take an awfully long time to get your site into the Yahoo! directory. If you run a noncommercial site, you can submit your site for free and take your chances. If you want to be listed as a commercial site, or you just don't feel like waiting, Yahoo! offers an express listing service that guarantees consideration within seven days for $299. To maintain your listing as a commercial site, you must continue to pay Yahoo! $299 a year.
After you submit your site, your request is processed by the folks at Yahoo!. Eventually, you'll find your site listed among the other camel racing pages!
dmoz: The Open Directory Project
The Open Directory Project at www.dmoz.org is a web directory, just like Yahoo!. It differs from Yahoo! in that it's maintained by volunteer editors who are responsible for maintaining individual categories in the catalog. The project was purchased by Netscape, which was in turn purchased by AOL, so it's technically an AOL property. Even so, it's still maintained by a volunteer staff.
Like Yahoo!, you can request that your site be added, and the editor of that category will check out your site and include it in the directory. The huge group of category editors ensure that sites are considered for inclusion on a timely basis. There's no charge for listing your site in the Open Directory.
One of the biggest advantages of having your site listed in the Open Directory Project is that everyone can publish its contents on their site. For example, Google (www.google.com) includes the contents of the Open Directory Project on its site. A screenshot of the dmoz home page appears in Figure 18.3.
Figure 18.3. The dmoz home page.
Yellow Pages Listings
Another popular method of promoting business sites is to register them with the growing number of Yellow Pages directories that have begun to spring up on the Web.
As a rule, Yellow Pages sites are designed specially for commercial and business web users who want to advertise their services and expertise. For this reason, most of the Yellow Pages sites offer both free and paid advertising space, with the paid listings including graphics, corporate logos, and advanced layout features. A free listing, on the other hand, tends to be little more than a hyperlink and a short comment. When you're starting out, free advertising is the best advertising. Of the Yellow Pages sites currently in operation, the Verizon SuperPages home page at www.superpages.com is one of the most popular (see Figure 18.4).
Figure 18.4. The Verizon SuperPages home page.
In addition to the broad mainstream web directories, many private directories on the Web cater to more specific needs. Some of these directories deal with single issues, whereas others are devoted to areas such as online commerce, education, business, and entertainment.
The best way to locate most of these directories is to use an Internet search tool such as Google (www.google.com) or MSN Search (search.msn.com). Alternatively, most of these directories are listed in such places as Yahoo! and dmoz, so a few minutes spent at these sites can be very beneficial.