So, you’ve got a new website. Now what?
Your website is finally online. That was the easy part!
Now for the real challenge – getting the word out about your site & attracting visitors. And, since most of your visitors will find you through the search engines, you’ll need the search engines to visit your site regularly also. (That’s how they’ll figure out what your site’s about, what’s there, and what you’ve added or changed since their last visit.)
In addition to running Empty Mirror Books, I’m a webdesigner with a specialty in the arts. Following is a short primer on website promotion, and how to get your site in order for the best results.
There’s so much competition!
How do I get my website noticed?
So, you did a Google search on “poetry” and found 295,000,000 results! How on earth can your website ever distinguish itself & attract visitors? That task seems rather daunting, doesn’t it?
But keep in mind two things:
- Those sites don’t offer the same type of information you do. You, your work & your website, are unique. You have a niche.
- Many of those other websites don’t promote their website in any way, submit it to directories, or spend time improving it or updating it. If you do those things, you’ll have the advantage.
So, even though there may be a lot of competition, it still is possible to wind up near the top of the heap for your in your niche.
You can certainly be well-ranked for the search terms (keyword phrases) most important to you. And, by doing that, you’ll get quality visitors who are looking for the type of information you’re providing.
Promoting a website does take a lot of work and success doesn’t happen overnight. But if you have patience and a willingness to work at it, your site can succeed.
How People Find Websites
Folks find websites in one of 3 ways:
- They type a search into a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, or MSN, and your site comes up in the results. This is the primary way people will find your site.
- They follow a link from another site. (This is why links from sites related in some way to yours are so good.)
- They type in the address (they heard it from someone, already have been there, or saw it advertised…)
4 Steps to Getting Found
Thinking about the 3 ways people find websites gives a good idea of how to promote a new site. You’ll want address all 3 ways.
- Figure out your niche. What do you offer; which search phrases / keywords are important to your site? What are your visitors looking for?
- Design your website well; make it friendly to the search engines as well as to your visitors. Make it easy for them to figure out what your site’s all about.
- Get links to your website. Web directories are a great place to start. Try to get links from websites similar to your own, as well.
- Be persistent. Never stop updating & adding to your site, or promoting it (both online & offline). Keep it fresh, and stay enthused.
Now I’ll explain more about how to go about doing all of these…
What Do You Have to Offer? About Keywords & Phrases
So, in order to promote your website, you need to give some thought to what makes it unique.
By being very specific about your website’s focus, and by promoting your site, you can target & attract the searchers who are looking for just what you have to offer.
Write a couple of short descriptions of your site. If someone asked you for a one-sentence description of your site, what would you say? What words would you use to describe your work?
Then, consider things from the other end – what would someone searching for a website just like yours be searching for?
They’re probably not searching for just “poetry” – that’s an awfully broad term – but perhaps they would like to find beat generation poetry, religious poetry, goth poetry, children’s poetry, Oklahoma poetry, how to write poetry, inspirational poetry, light verse, cat poetry, angel poems, experimental poetry, postmodern poetry, poetry forms, nature poems, poetry publishers, farm poetry, erotic poetry, poetry teacher, avant garde poetry books or a poetry workshop.
Or perhaps they’re searching for an Oregon poet, Seattle poet, urban poet, lyricist, hobo poems, feminist poems, love poems, a poetry reading, or an article about sonnets.
Those are all specific areas – niches – relating to poetry. What’s yours? With a little work & some patience, you could be highly-ranked in the search results – maybe even #1! – for terms closely relating to your work & your website.
In addition to drawing the visitors who are most likely to be interested in just the type of thing you have to offer, there’s another benefit to specificity: it’s easier to be ranked well by the search engines for a specific phrase than for a single word.
The goal is to be a big fish in a small(er) pond. Or, better, in several ponds (several keyword phrases).
Here’s an example:
- The search term, books draws over 3.4 billion results! But, Beat Generation books are my specialty, and that search returns only 49 million. Though that’s a large number, there Empty Mirror Books is, right near the top of the list. It wasn’t easy or fast, but it was doable.
When you aim your website at a particular audience – those in search of a particular type of information – you most often hit your target.
Fun with Keywords & Links
Once you have your keywords, you want to do two things with them.
- Include them on your website. Just incorporate these words & phrases, very naturally, throughout the text on your site. (Many of them are probably already there.)
- Get links to your site that include the keywords, either in the link text (what you click on) or in the accompanying description.
These are the two primary ways Google (or any search engine) knows your site is relevant to these search words. It’s how they decide how important your site is. And, just as crucial (or more), it’s how your potential visitors will know your site (book) is of interest to them.
How Search Engines Work
Search engines run “robots,” sometimes known as “bots,” “spiders,” or “crawlers,” which roam the web, following links, and gathering information. They index your website, noting the words & phrases noted there. They store this information in a “cache.”
When you search for something on Google, say, “marshmallows,” Google doesn’t, at that moment, go out searching the web for the sites with information on marshmallows. Instead, they search their cache to locate the relevant websites. That’s how they can return 5 million search results in just a fraction of a second.
The search engines send out their bots to index, and re-index websites on a regular basis, looking for new, changed, and deleted information. In this manner they can keep their cache up to date.
While there’s no regular schedule for the bots to visit your site, there are ways to encourage them to find you, and to return. (These methods will also encourage human visitors to visit your site.)
- Get lots of links to your site, from sites relevant to your own. These are directories & websites with similar topics.
- Regularly update your website. Add new information, articles & pages. Keep it fresh.
- Make sure your website is well-designed, so it doesn’t present any technical obstacles to the robots.
- Optimize your site for the search engines (see below).
Getting Your Ducks in a Row: Optimizing Your Website for Search Engines (SEO)
Before you begin to promote you website, you want to take a good look at your website & make sure everything’s in order. That way, when the search engines (and your visitors!) show up to check out your site, you’ll be ready for them. (You wouldn’t hold an open house without making sure the place is tidy first, right?) By doing a few simple things first, they’ll see you & your work at the best advantage.
Since a large percentage of your website’s visitors will find your website through the search engines, you’ll want to make sure that your site is designed and written in a manner that the search engines find useful. Make it easy for them to figure out what your site’s about, and for them to get around.
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization,” and is the process of creating a site that’s search engine friendly. There are many ways to do it, but some of the simplest & most effective methods are outlined below.
In the coding of your website, right up at the top, within the <head> portion, there is a <title> tag. This is the place to briefly describe your website. The search engines give a lot of weight to this. It doesn’t appear on the webpage itself, but is found in the border at the very top of your browser window. And, when someone bookmarks your site, it’s what shows up in the Favorites list.
The title tag should be under about 80 characters. It should be specific to the page it’s on. If you’re a musician & the page includes booking information, don’t just title the page “Leah Kelly Band Official Website” (I just made up the name.) Instead, use “Leah Kelly Band – Booking & Contact Information.”
Meta tags used to be important, but they have been abused so much that the search engines largely ignore them when deciding what your page is about.
The meta description tag is still somewhat useful, however, because it’s often what’s displayed as the descriptive blurb beneath the link to your site in the search engine’s results. So, a well-written one can help pull visitors into your site.
It should be about a sentence long, perhaps two. It’s best to keep it under about 25 words, or 250 characters. Don’t repeat the same word more than a couple times.
The meta keywords tag isn’t used much anymore. This is because unscrupulous folk tended to load it full of irrelevant (but often searched on) words, hoping that would increase the number of visitors to their website. But that doesn’t work these days – most search engines (such as Google) completely ignore the meta keywords tag. Those that don’t ignore it completely give it so little weight as for it to be virtually useless. It doesn’t hurt to include one, but it’s OK if you want to skip it.
examples of title & meta tags
Here’s an actual title & meta tags used on another page of this website:
<TITLE>Interview with Fletcher VanVliet – Singer-Songwriter</TITLE>
<META name=”description” content=”Fletcher VanVliet talks about songwriting, his life, influences, and music in this August 2004 interview with Denise Enck.”>
<META name=”keywords” content=”Fletcher VanVliet, singer songwriter, biography, interview, influences, music, folk, acoustic, Pennsylvania, California, Santa Cruz, Denise Enck”>
Use headings to organize the text on your page. This will help your visitors find information on the page easily. An in a similar fashion to the <TITLE> tag, it will assist the search engine bots in determining what the subject of your page is.
A <H1> heading should be the first on the page.
Smaller numbers, such as <H2>, <H3>, refer to subheadings.
The <H1> heading will probably be similar to your title tag – but perhaps briefer.
- The heading “How to Promote Your Arts-Related Website” at the top of this page is the <H1> heading.
- The red headings, such as “Optimizing Your Website for Search Engines (SEO)” are <H2> subheadings.
- The small brown headings, such as the one immediately above, “heading tags,” are <H3> subheadings.
Headings smaller than <H3> can be used, but seldom are.
your website’s text
Take special care in writing and organizing the text on your page.
Good writing for the web isn’t the same as good writing for print. Since it’s more difficult to read text on a computer monitor than on the printed page, some guidelines should be followed.
- Keep your paragraphs short. Two or three sentences is usually sufficient.
- Keep your margins wide. A line of text should be 10-16 words wide.
- Dark text on a light background is easiest to read. Light text on a dark background is more difficult. Always keep your text/background at a high contrast. Remember that the brightness & contrast settings on other computers may be different than on yours.
- Keep your text short & to the point. Less is more.
- When writing your text, keep your keywords in mind. Don’t make it sound spammy, just include them in the language of your site.
- Use headings, as described above, when appropriate to make information easy to locate.
- If your text is very long, break it into separate webpages. It will be easier to read, and your pages will download faster.
- Make links easy to spot. Don’t underline text (on the web underlines usually indicate a link). Be consistent: don’t put links in unexpected places (for instance in headlines, if headlines aren’t usually linked) or use a link color similar to that of your text.
Keep it Fresh
Add new content every month or so – at least. For example, an article relating to your book’s subject (not necessarily an excerpt, but it could be). Or, perhaps have a question-and-answer column. People may return more often to see what’s new, changed. They are more likely to bookmark your site. And, when the search engines see that you update / add to your site regularly, they will give you more attention.
Old, stale sites don’t give anyone a reason to return.
Search Engine Submissions
It’s not usually necessary to submit your site to search engines. This is because search engines find new sites by following links. So, if there are already links to your site, from another well-traveled website, the search engines are likely to find your website just fine.
(If there are few, or no, current links to your website, then work on getting some! The SEs won’t give much attention to your site without them.)
Get Relevant Links
Web directories are a great start for getting links. But don’t ignore other sources which may be as, or even more, valuable.
When you find a website similar to yours (even a competitor!), or on a related topic, consider asking them for a link. (You may need to link back to them – this is called a reciprocal link.) Search engines find links from related websites to be more important than those from sites with topics unrelated to yours. And, every link you get is one that someone may click on, thereby discovering your site for the first time.
Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are great ways to get the word out about your book. Twitter is an especially good site for connecting with readers, writers, and publishers.
Other Promotion Methods
Check our my other article on getting the word out about your book or website:
Where and How to Sell Your Poetry Books (And Get the Word Out!)
Scope Out the Competition
Check out your competitors. What are they doing? Who links to them? What do they offer on their websites? Can you get links from some of the same places, or offer some of the same type of services or information that they do?
In a few months – often 3 to 6, but perhaps even sooner depending upon how much tine & effort you put in – you will see more visitors to your site. And, the visitors will be better quality – by focusing on specific keywords/phrases, the visitors to your website will be more likely to be the ones looking for the information that you are providing. And keep promoting your site, and your work…the more you put into it, the more benefit you’ll likely see.
I hope this information is not discouraging to you! It certainly takes a lot of work to market a website – but the results can be very rewarding!