Building a website is exciting. You've set aside the money for it, got yourself an awesome web developer (like Lifeline Design), and you've spent some time going over revisions, ironing out the kinks. Now, you've launched it.
You have to promote it of course!
Building your website is just the first step. Once you have a spot on the internet you can be proud of, you need to make sure people see it. New sites fight an uphill battle, struggling for attention in the infinite sea of sites, blogs, and apps out there. You can't expect your site to be topping Google's search results right away or become an overnight sensation. You need to earn some eyeballs.
How do we do that? There are few surefire ways you can attract some attention to your site.
1. Hit the streets
This is an old school solution applied to a modern problem. It might seem a little strange, but one of the best ways to get people to visit a fledgling site is to promote it with business cards, flyers, and stickers, just like you might for any other business or event.
Make up a stack of business cards with your new site's address on them. Hand them out to every client, business, hotel lobby, and person you can think of. If they'll take a card, put one in their hand. It's a small thing, but it adds up.
Pass out flyers advertising both your business, and prominently, your new website. You can pass these out from place to place, or you can find an event with a lot of people
This is a numbers game. Like any other kind of advertising, the majority of people you give a card or flyer too won't immediately jump to find your site, but some will. Increasing that attention level is important for a new site and every bit helps.
Handing out flyers in batches can do more than just direct people to your sites, they can help you evaluate aspects of your site and business. Let's say you go to a fair and hand out a few hundred flyers. Check your Google Analytics over the next week and see what kind or response you go. Do you see a bump? A jump? Great! What if you see nothing? Does that mean all that time and effort was wasted?
No, this just gives you more data to work with. Look at where you handed out your flyer, was that event attracting the kinds of people who would be interested in your product? If not, pick a different kind of even next time. If so, you need to know why your message didn't connect with them. It all helps you refine your approach.
"Wait” I can hear you say "I got a website to promote my business so I wouldn't have to pass out flyers and that kind of thing anymore” and you're not wrong. A website is a far superior long term investment when it comes to promoting your business. Once it's built up some steam, your website will steadily attract new visitors/customers without the need for all this legwork, but it needs time and momentum to get there.
Think of it like this, before your website, you were totally dependent on old school advertising. Word of mouth, introductions, flyers, business cards, etc. Once you have your website, you don't stop doing that stuff overnight, you keep at it, but now promoting your site alongside your business. As your site matures and gains momentum, you do less and less traditional advertising up until you stop doing it altogether.
Don't be too proud to do things the old fashion way. Nobody is too big or too small to go hand out a flyer or business card. You should never feel embarrassed for promoting your business.
2. Make a blog
Writing a blog is the single easiest and best way to promote your website, on both personal and technical levels.
First off, it lets you show off what you got. Your skills, your expertise, your opinions, and your knowledge all shine through in a regularly updated blog. It lets you put your money where your mouth is and concretely demonstrate that you know what you're talking about to prospective customers and clients.
Secondly though, a blog is a huge technical win for a site as well. It gives you a great reason to regularly update your site (Google LOVES lively, active sites). If you're not running a blog, not changing your services or products very often, and not uploading new content, your site will get dusty fast.
A blog will also help you build your SEO with targeted keywords. Make no mistake, blogs should always inform (and possibly entertain) first and foremost – they are not a soapbox to advertise from. That said, writing about topics near and dear to your business is natural, and if helps you show up higher on Google's search results, so much the better.
Simply put, you need a blog. If you can commit to updating your blog once a week (you don't have to go crazy, a 500 word little update or opinion can go a long way), you'll be sitting pretty. If you can at least update your blog once a month, you'll be doing far better than you would with nothing.
If you can't be bothered to blog, you're missing out. You can't just sit there and expect the hits to roll in through the ether – you have to give people a reason to visit your site.
3. Generate some press
Sure, if you really want to promote something you can go whole hog and hire a PR firm. They'll work on getting your site/business some attention, try and find ways to get your name out. And boy you'll pay for every bit of it.
Truthfully though, for a small business, you can be your own PR firm. If you've never interacted with the press before it might seem scary or too remote of a possibility, but it is possible for a small business to land real press if they put in the elbow grease.
Landing a small interview on a local news channel, being asked for your opinion about some industry news, or even just a tiny feature in a local paper or trade magazine can make a big difference. The trick is making it happen.
Not all businesses are always up to something new, exciting, and news worthy. In fact, very few are. That's why you need to make something interesting.
Join a charity event and donate some time and money to a cause. Don't just sign a cheque and be another logo on a poster, show up and promote the event, participate in whatever it is. Better yet, find a cause that is near and dear to you and hold your own event. It doesn't need to be huge – it just needs to be genuinely helpful, earnest, and positive for the community.
Promote it to everyone who may be interested, the people you'd help, other charities interested in the cause, and to the press. Take a look at your local papers and check the mastheads. Look for editors and contributors that work beats relevant to your business (business editors, lifestyle writers, arts columnists, etc) and write up an email script to let them know about what you're doing and ask if they would be interested in writing about it.
Again, this is a numbers game. Editors and contributors get mail like this all the time and like anything else, most of it goes straight in the deletion bin. But, if you can find the right event, the right pitch, and the right editor, you can find press that features your business.
The best part about this is that it tends to snowball. Once you're on an editor's radar, you'll become a contact, a source for your industry. Comport yourself well, be knowledgeable and interesting, and it won't be surprising when they come calling again for a comment on some piece of industry news or event in your sphere.
Do the work
If you want your site to be successful, you need to be ready to put in the effort to make it happen. The willingness to promote your site and keep on it for months after launch is what makes the difference between sites that drive sales, and sites that take up space.
Roll up your sleeves and get ready, because launch day is just the beginning!