A website can be a powerful tool for promoting your business, but it is not enough to simply build one and hope that your customers will visit it.
Whether you are trading online, or just providing information about your offline business, you need to ensure that potential and existing customers find your website easily, discover the information they are looking for, and are keen to come back to it.
This guide summaries ten popular methods for increasing the numbers of people visiting your website.
1. Tell people about your website
* One of the simplest and easiest ways of directing people to your website is to make sure that you include the address in all your offline advertising and marketing.
* Just like your physical address or telephone number, you should include your website address (URL) on things like your letterhead, envelopes, business cards, receipts, brochures or Yellow Pages adverts.
* If you send e-mail, make sure that your URL is included in your e-mail signature.
2. Know your audience
Include things that could attract people to your website.
It is no use telling them about your website if the material it contains is dull, uninteresting, or irrelevant to the service or product you are offering.
To attract more visitors you could:
* Feature articles
* Regularly updated news
* Lists of useful links
* Special offers
* Interactive items like competitions, surveys and quizzes
3. Make your site easy to navigate
* If visitors to your website can't find what they are looking for, or are presented with screens and screens of out-of-date information, they will be unlikely to return for another look.
* One way to make sure that your website is easy to navigate might be to get friends, family or customers to test it for you. You should also check information such as prices or dates to make sure that they are kept up to date.
* The way in which your website is written is also important. The text on your pages should be simple, concise, friendly and helpful.
4. Request a link from related websites
* One way for new visitors to find your website is via a link from a complementary site.
* You could approach businesses in related areas to see if they will include a link on their website, in return for you linking to theirs.
5. Create an affiliate programme
* An affiliate or associate programme is a popular way of encouraging other websites whether business-related or personal, to link to your site.
* One of the most famous affiliate programmes is run by online bookseller Amazon, www.amazon.com which has built up more than 900,000 associates.
* By placing a link to you on their website, affiliates earn commission or 'referral fees', when visitors they have sent to your site end up purchasing one of your products or services.
6. Start your own online newsletter
* A weekly or monthly newsletter which you send to your customers bye-mail is an economical way of reminding them about your website.
* The newsletter could include news, extracts of articles, information about special offers or details of competitions or quizzes running on your site.
* You may find that your newsletter gets forwarded to other people, creating word of mouth referrals about your website.
* Make sure, however, that you get your customers' permission to send the newsletter, and with each issue ensure there is a facility on the newsletter for unsubscribing.
7. Use keywords to help search engines
* Search engines such as Google are among the most common routes through which visitors find their way to your website.
* Search engines generally divide into two categories: crawler-based, automated engines eg Google; and human-powered directories eg Yahoo.
* It is vital to include keywords or phrases about your products or services on each page - in the text itself and also in the title and meta tags to make sure that your site can be categorised and ranked.
8. Submit your website to search engines
* Search engines all have different ways of adding sites to their listings, but if you simply wait for them to find your website magically, you maybe waiting for a very long time.
* Most of the major search engines offer free listings. You generally register with these by clicking on the 'Suggest a site' or 'Submit your site' button or words on their website, and following the instructions.
* It's a time-consuming process, and listings may take up to a month to come into effect. This can often be speeded up by paying to have your website listing fast-tracked by search engines such as Yahoo and LookSmart.
* Alternatively, there are professional search engine submission firms who you can employ to carry out the process.
9. Pay for an advert on a search engine
* Another popular method of directing traffic to your website using search engines is to pay for an advert or a 'sponsored link'.
* These adverts then appear often in a sidebar column, or above the free listings, when people search on particular key words, and are presented with the results.
* Paid listings are often sold on a 'pay-per-click' basis where you only pay if someone clicks on your advert, and is directed to your website.
* The advertisers who pay the most per click are generally ranked higher in the list. Major sellers of 'pay-per-click' listings include Google, Overture and FindWhat.
10. Buy online advertising
* Another method of sending visitors to your website is to pay for classified or banner advertising; adverts which appear at the top of web pages.
* You could advertise in online business directories, such as those produced by your Chamber of Commerce, trade association or national directories such as www.yell.com
* You could also approach other popular sites with relevant content to see if they would accept advertising or sponsorship.
Business Link has access to a wide range of expertise and can work with you to build an understanding of your business's ICT needs and source the most relevant assistance and, if appropriate, help with the identification of funding, to ensure you achieve your business goals.
Call Business Link now on 0845 600 9 006 or email email@example.com or alternatively visit www.businesslink.gov.uk to see how you can get the most from your business.