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Back to Design Tips Articles Website Publicity for Small Internet Businesses
Mario Sanchez

When it comes to promoting your website or internet business, you have two main alternatives: advertising and publicity. Advertising is something you create, pay for and control. Publicity is something someone else writes or says about you when you do something good, noteworthy or interesting. Needless to say, publicity can be much more effective than advertising.

For example, if a friend gives you a rave review of a product because he bought it and loves it (publicity), it will carry more weight than if it came through a commercial or a paid spokesperson (advertising). Similarly, the opinion of your favorite movie critic will probably be more influential than a movie ad, the same way a good editorial review of a product will most likely be more effective than a loud radio commercial.

In their interesting book: "The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding: How to Build a Product or Service into a World-Class Brand",

Al and Laura Ries write about the Law of Publicity: "The birth of a brand is achieved with publicity, not advertising." The authors point out that you build a brand with publicity and then maintain it with advertising.

As a small internet business owner, you must learn to use publicity to your advantage. Here are six ways you can generate good publicity for your website or internet business:

• Search Engines: users will have more trust in a website if they find it in a bona-fide way, for example through a search engine query. A good position in regular search engine results is great publicity, and it can be much more effective than pay per click results or sponsored listings. Granted, it is more difficult to achieve a good position in the regular results than paying to be placed on top as a sponsor listing, but that is precisely what makes regular results more powerful and credible. If you want to improve your rankings with the search engines, follow some common search engine optimization techniques. Don't over-do it, though: search engines are catching up very quickly to over-optimization, and it may do you more harm than good.

• Tell-a-Friend Scripts: In the internet world, the equivalent of word of mouth is word of mouse. Few marketing techniques work as well as a recommendation from a friend. You have probably seen those "Send This Page to a Friend" links or forms next to articles and news items. You must incorporate them to your site's pages to make it easy to recommend your site. These links or forms are created using cgi scripts, although it is not necessary for you learn how to create them or how to run them on your site. There are services like Bravenet.com that offer these scripts for free. You just cut and paste a snippet of HTML code on your page, and you're ready to go.

• Text-Based Ads and Content Links: By now you probably have heard about Google AdSense, the "text based" advertising links that Google serves in millions of websites. While both text based links and traditional banners ads are advertising, text links work better because they "don't look like advertising". They look more like relevant options of a web page's navigational menu. Another way to turn advertising into publicity for your site or business is to get in-context links (links to your site from the body of an article). This links must be smoothly integrated into the copy of the article, so that the the article doesn't look like a sales pitch, and will be most effective when they truly add value to the article.

• Testimonials: People tend to increase their trust in a business when they see that other people just like them have have tried its products and services and find them useful. It is important to include the name and email address of the people giving the testimonials, otherwise they will come across as phony, and their effect will backfire. Ask satisfied customers for permission to post their comments and their contact information before using them as testimonials.

• Press releases: A successful press release is probably the most cost-effective way to generate publicity and credibility for your business. When writing a press release, you must remember to follow some common sense tips, like making your information timely and unique, present it in a format that will be attractive and easy to understand to the editors, create a catchy headline, use quotes from newsworthy people and write in third person voice. If you don't feel confident about your writing abilities, there are copywriting services that can do a professional job for you for a small fee.

• Writing Articles: One of the best ways to promote your website is by writing articles that you can post in e-zines and sites that provide free content to e-zine publishers. This will establish you as an expert in your field and, with time, develop a solid customer base. The trick to turn your articles into effective publicity is to give useful, unbiased, value-adding advice (don't ever stuff your article with affiliate links or bogus recommendations). At the end of the article, remember to include a short bio with with your name, the name of your business, a short tagline, and the link to your website.

© 2004 Mario Sanchez
Business Card Tips Author Mario Sanchez

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Mario Sanchez publishes The Internet Digest www.theinternetdigest.net, an online collection of web design and Internet marketing articles and resources.

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