* Create links. Probably the easiest, least expensive, and most effective way to promote a site is to link your page with every other noncompetitive page on the Internet that shares some interest. For instance, Kfoury Construction Group (www.kfoury.com), based in Reston, Virginia, exchanges links with selected businesses and trading partners at its site to enhance its exposure on the Web. "Link until you drop," says Craig Settles, author of Cybermarketing: Essentials for Success, published by Ziff-Davis.
* Enter as many Web-site contests as you can. Webmasters should attempt to get the site judged by some of the "cool site of the day" evaluation services. Sites that are judged worthy of an award are given the equivalent of a graphic blue ribbon they can post on their site. And the awarding service also provides a free link to the winning page from its own home page -- a perk that can generate literally thousands of visits to a new Web site, according to Mr. Sayers.
Burt Automotive Network (www.burt.com), based in Englewood, Colorado, displays a banner certifying the site as winner of the Year 2000 Best Auto Dealer Web Site Contest, for instance. For the seasoned Web cruiser, it signifies that Burt has gone out of its way to accommodate both technophiles and average Internet users.
Adds Jim Wilson, the Webmaster behind Virtual Promote (www.virtualpromote.com) and a Web marketer: "Keep in mind that most people who will be surfing to your Web site don't know the relative difficulty of earning different awards. All they see is that some people thought your site was good enough to win an award. So it's wise to apply for everything."
* Establish a virtual press center. This is probably one of the most overlooked opportunities on the Web. With journalists increasingly turning to the Internet to search for stories and develop new ideas, there is no reason why any company with a Web site should pass up an opportunity for free media exposure, says Mr. Settles.
McBride and Associates (www.mcbride.com), a computer retailer and consultancy based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, offers press releases online, as does Pharmed Group (www.pharmed.com), a pharmaceutical and medical wholesaler based in Miami. Meanwhile, Hamilton Bancorp (www.hamiltonbank.com), also based in Miami, offers a link to a Yahoo-maintained press center on the company.
* Offer a branded news ticker. This is probably one of the more innovative of Web-site promotion strategies in use today. Essentially, companies contract with online news providers to design news tickers with their own logos -- which can then be offered for download from the company Web site. Many companies offer news tickers featuring breaking sports news, for example.
* Get posted in Web directories. In an effort to make Web cruising a little easier, a number of businesses have packaged themselves in easy-to-use directories that help Net cruisers get to their sites more quickly. Hispanic mega-directories -- Sepuede.com (www.sepuede.com), based in South San Francisco, California, for example -- offer an easy way for Hispanic businesses to get noticed quickly on the Web.
* Offer coupons. Time-tested and effective, coupons have naturally migrated to the Web. Gus Machado Ford (www.gusmachadoford.com), based in Hialeah, Florida, gives Web cruisers a reason to make repeated visits to its site with an offering of online coupons that can be printed directly from the Web.
* Consider banner ads. Many Web sites are promoted by brief flourishes of color and text banner ads that float across the screen while Net cruisers are visiting related Web sites. "During the past year, many services have sprung up to help Webmasters find other sites to exchange banner advertising," says Mr. Wilson of Virtual Promote. Find a list of these services, as well as how to buy banner ads on highly trafficked sites, at www.virtualpromote.com/promote9.html.
* Start a newsletter. Newsletters are one of the most effective ways to establish an ongoing relationship with current and prospective customers. A good industry model can be found at Miami-based Latingrocer.com (www.latingrocer.com), where Web visitors can sign up for an e-mail-delivered newsletter featuring weekly specials and discounts. The Plaza Group (www.theplazagroup.com), based in Houston, also offers an online newsletter. And Paul Young Automall (www.paulyoungautomall.com), based in Laredo, Texas, puts its own spin on relationship-building via e-mail with a free quote-by-e-mail service.
* Add a "recommend this site to a friend" button. The old maxim that nothing is more valuable than word-of-mouth promotion is even more applicable in cyberspace. Get your Web designer to add a "recommend this site" button, which enables visitors to dash off a quick heads-up about the site and automatically forward it to a friend's e-mail address.
Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Thousand Oaks, California. Phone (805) 379-3673, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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