PR2 Newsletter : Issue 8

Welcome to issue 8 of the PR2 Website Promotion Newsletter.

Subscriber numbers continue to grow, and this issue will be going out to 3,380 subscribers. Shows that I must be saying something useful...

I would like to focus my attention this issue on some of my favourite promotion-related sites, all of which will benefit your quest for more traffic. Before we begin, just a reminder that you can find out about search engine promotion here.

Usability Rules OK

There are two fantastic sites on improving site usability (by which I mean the accessibility of information and the ease of navigation on your site). The first is useit.com's Alertbox, a bi-weekly column on website usability written by Dr. Jakob Neilsen. His columns make such fascinating reading that when I stumbled across his site for the first time I read over a year's worth of back issues at a single sitting!

The other great usability related site is User Interface Engineering. Although the main meat of the site is reserved for subscribers to the Eye for Design newsletter ($79 per year) there are a lot of fascinating free articles archived on the site.

Chatting about Site Promotion

No site is an island... Sometimes, web building can be a pretty lonely pastime, especially if you work alone from the corner of an office or bedroom. Wouldn't it be great to have somewhere to exchange views with other people who are struggling to promote their sites? Look no further than the two great forums provided by VirtualPromote (which incidentally is a great site to visit as well). The Search Engine Forums are devoted to discussing the ins and outs of promoting sites on the Top 10 search engines; there are over 3,000 archived messages for you to peruse. The Get High Traffic Forums cover other aspects of site design and promotion, such as producing good content, designing sites to be accessible to all browsers and a special forum dedicated to site reviews. You'll learn a lot by hanging around in this community for a few days, so give it a try -- but remember to read the archived posts first, as many dozens of topics have already been debated to death!

Major Promotion Sites

The Website Promoters Resource Center offers a wealth of resources for free. If you are interested in banner advertising, there is a great guide, including a handy rate calculator to work out what banner ads are worth, a list of banner exchanges and more. Other sections focus on online advertising and press releases. My favourite part of the site is the Tip of the Week, a one or two paragraph hint that captures the essence of a useful concept or idea for improving a site.

Another interesting site for promoters is MMGCO. They offer various paid services such as site development and press release distribution, but it is their free area that really shines, with a variety of free email newsletters to subscribe to, plus WebStep Top 100, the hundred best places to promote a site.

And now for something completely different...

I'm sure you picked up on the obvious Monty Python-ism in the title above. It's appropriate since I wanted to talk a little about another topic dear to the MP team's hearts: spam. The spam I am talking about, however, is not pink processed meat that comes in a can but the practice of sending out unsolicited, bulk or ^$#@ email.

Those of you with long memories will be saying to yourselves about now: "Hey, didn't you already talk about spam earlier in the course?" Before you rush off to the archives, let me put you out of your misery: I did.

However, spam is such an important topic that it bears returning to. First off, don't do it! Spam, that is. It is almost impossible to get rid of the taint of spam once you have been labelled a spammer. The snag is that it is also so easy to get gulled into spamming! I receive every single day, rain or shine, at least 3 or 4 badly-worded emails promoting various spamming services that will DrIVE MillIONS to youR SigHT. Here's what actually happens if you spam (small children should turn away, it's not pretty when a site implodes)

A) You send out your cheque or give out your credit card number to Acme Dodgy Enterprises Unlimited
B) Your message gets fired out to millions of people if you're unlucky; if you are very fortunate, Acme takes your money and does a runner
C) The email letterbox you had reserved for replies explodes with profanity, mail bombs (huge files designed to make you exceed your server's capacity for storing email) and occasional viruses masquerading as email attachments. In most cases, these messages of pure hatred will be mixed in with thousands of "bounced" messages (messages that were sent to email addresses that no longer work) and the occasional enquiry from a genuine customer.
D) Your ISP (the company that provides your email and web service) shuts you down, or takes you to court
E) Almost simultaneously, your name, email address(es) and site URL go into various spam databases scattered all across the Internet. This guarantees that you will no longer be able to send email messages to thousands of separate sites, including some of the largest on the Web. Many national or regional ISPs (such as AOL) maintain comprehensive blacklists of spammers.

Convinced yet? The above may sound melodramatic, but the truth can be even worse: by getting your company blacklisted you guarantee that all future ventures to which you affix your name will also be tinged with the taint of spam (blacklists are easy to get on to, almost impossible to get off)

The worst thing is (if all the above was not bad enough) most of the retribution is invisible. ISPs do not publish lists of banned sites; you might never know that a large percentage of your emails destined for clients are disappearing into a virtual black hole.

Ok, so you're hopefully convinced not to give spam a try. But what can you do to guard your email letterbox from spam?

One thing I suggested before, which bears repeating, is that you should acquire a free email address and use it when posting your site to various promotional places such as USENET or free-for-all lists (a free-for-all list is a large page of links to sites; you can add your site instantly to the list). There are hundreds of free email services around; you'll find over 500 listed on my Free Email Address Directory site.

The other thing you can do is protect your email address on your site from being collected by spambots. A spambot is a little program that automatically and systematically moves from website to website collecting email addresses and adding them to an ever-increasing list of places to spam. There is one very effective, very easy way of protecting your site: use the Mailto Encoder. All you have to do is add your email address in the box, and you will receive within a few minutes a specially encoded version of the email address that people can still use to contact you, but which will choke the spambot programs and stop them from picking up your address. This system REALLY WORKS! I have been using it on two of my sites for over a month now, and neither has received a single spam message.

The Power of the Web

I'd just like to close this newsletter with a brief comment on the power of the Web. Every time I want something, from a free service to information about a specific (hard to find) topic or even a book (I live in Japan; it's difficult to find a good selection of English language books here) I turn to the Web. And do you know, I think that in over 5 years of being online, I have rarely been disappointed.

The moral of this is simple: whatever you are looking for, from a penfriend to a new car, from information on playing the guitar to the latest sport scores from the World Cup, just take a look around the web and you're bound to find it somewhere.

Until next time... enjoy a spam-free couple of weeks, catch up on your reading from some of the sites I suggested above, don't feel shy about evangelising PR2... and good luck promoting!

Edwin Hayward

Next: Issue 9

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