Ten Serious Site Promotion Mistakes

Do not promote a site before it is ready!

You must make sure your site is as ready as it can be before spending time and/or money promoting it. Since many search engines and directories offer only one chance to get listed, don't blow it with a site that's not fit for public viewing!

Do Not Spam

The email is seductive in its promises... "Reach over 100 million people for only $395." So you sign up for the "service" and send your message... and before you know it your site has been yanked off the web by an extremely irate hosting company, and you will have been blacklisted in HUNDREDS of places right across the web. You can never, absolutely never, rid yourself completely of the stigma attached to having spammed.

Don't do it. Whether it is called bulk email, unsolicited email, unsolicited targeted email or spam, it is the same animal in different clothes! If you ignore this advice, then quite frankly you deserve EVERYTHING you get.

[In case you are unfamiliar with the response to spam, it goes something like this: 90% of the people delete the message angrily; 9% of people take "revenge" -- anything from mail-bombing your email account to autodialing your 800-number for a few hours or mailing your hosting company to get your site shut down; 1% of people respond in some vaguely positive way...]

Do Not Use Automatic Promotion Software

In the past, I have used some site promotion software with limited success, but recently the tide has turned firmly against users of such software. As the number of scam sites has increased, more and more directories are cracking down on automatic submissions... and although the software companies will fall over themselves NOT to tell you, the use of submission software may in some cases guarantee you are EXCLUDED from certain directories, or blacklisted.

Do Not Use Bulk Promotion Companies

Any company that offers to submit your site to hundreds of search engines and directories for a handful of dollars must be using a program to do so, and you run exactly the same risks as if you chose to use automatic software yourself. The best promotion is tailored to each site, and of course manual! I would expect a comprehensive manual submission campaign to cost you several thousand dollars, if you sign up with a 3rd party to do it for you. Cheap services will kill your site dead!

I suggest that if you have signed up for a web hosting service that includes some kind of free promotion package, JUST SAY NO!

Do Not Try to Mislead or Cheat the Search Engines

There are so many ways to cheat the search engines... but all of them will come back to bite you in the long or medium term. Why? As the search engines tune the algorithms (rules) they use to find out what sites are "cheating" them, they often choose to sift through their records and dump all sites that cheated in that way... so one week your site might be ranked highly by the search engines... and the next week it is GONE, vanished, removed from the search engine in its entirety. This may also get you blacklisted, and prevent you from relisting your site in future.

A hyper-quick overview of frowned upon tactics:-

  • Misleading keywords or content: If your site is about widgets and widget collecting, don't pepper your pages with words like "sex" or "naked" just to increase your traffic. Search engines definitely disapprove of such traffic, and people surfing looking for "sex" are VERY unlikely to be interested in widgets.
  • Bait-and-switch: Don't use any technique that presents different content to search engine spiders (the little programs that are sent out by search engines to index your site) and "human" visitors! Some sites detect a visit from a search engine and offer a page stuffed with keywords and misleading information... but present a normal-looking page to visitors.
  • Keyword stuffing: Don't fill your pages with keywords, either in the visible text on your site, or in your site's header information. Search engines see this as spamming, and WILL penalize you.
  • "Invisible" keywords: Aha, you think... If I make my keywords the same colour as my background, nobody will see them. Aha, thinks the search engine spider... this page is trying to trick me so I won't list it very highly, or mark it as spam.
  • Multiple copies of the same page: If you present multiple copies of the same page, either under different domain names or different file names, just to boost your search engine ranking, forget it! Search engines are by and large on to this little trick, and those that aren't yet will be soon.

This also applies to using the service of any company that GUARANTEES you a top position on the search engines... the only way they can make that guarantee is by cheating in some way... and you don't want to be branded as a cheater!

Do Not Offer the Moon, yet Give Green Cheese

A little exaggeration can be helpful, but don't promise the moon but offer people nothing more than a lump of cheese. I have seen countless sites that boast "The cheapest XYZ anywhere" and with prices 3x or more higher than their competitors. This principle applies to everything... if your site offers a roundup of sites about "widgets" and you call it "The most comprehensive Widget Directory on Earth" then you'd better be sure you've got more than five widget sites on your list!

You have to treat your visitors as if they are geniuses. As such, they will see through clouds of excessive hype as easily as Superman can see through walls.

On the other hand, if you really are THE best, then why be shy about it?

Do Not Doubt the Pronouncements of the Search Engines

Always read instructions! If a search engine says that they will not accept pages on a certain topic, or more than a certain number of pages from a given site, it's TRUE. Not necessarily fair, but certainly true! So take heed of every single comment, hint and tip the search engines list on their help pages when you are trying to promote your site.

Do Not Abuse USENET

When you first come across USENET (the vast collection of "newsgroups" -- over 10,000 of them, divided into various categories such as "alt" for alternative and "rec" for recreation) it is very tempting to fire off a message about your website to half a dozen newsgroups or so. "Aha!" you think... "Here's a group about widgets, and this group is about widget collecting, and this one here's about wodgets which are almost the same thing as widgets..." Problem is that USENas founded on decidedly non-commercial principles, and while it is certainly not illegal to post advertisements on newsgroups, it is definitely frowned up and you are unlikely to win many friends. Instead, read the groups in question, respond intelligently to questions, and mention your site casually as a possible source of further information when presenting your ideas.

Do Not Abuse the Names of Your Competitors

This is a relatively new no-no, coming fast out of left field. It used to be relatively common practice to include the names of some competitors somewhere on your site in order to attract people searching for them -- not any more. There are a series of high-profile lawsuits taking place at the moment about just this issue. So to play safe, don't mention your competitors unless you really have to.

Do Not Promote an Illegal Product or Service

At this point, you have lost my sympathy completely, and I hope you will never fall into the trap of trying to market an illegal product or service. No matter how many thousands of people are doing it, it is ILLEGAL to promote any kind of pyramid marketing scheme... there are so many of this kind of site out there that they are a veritable blight on the face of the Internet.

A positive note to end on...

Well, enough of the doom and gloom pronouncements. I always tell it like it is, and if the above was enough to scare you... then I'm doing my job! The rest of this course is all about promoting your site correctly, so you'll have plenty of chances to be a paragon rather than a pariah.

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