I have seen it happen many times. A client asks me to code their latest great idea into a web site, and opening day has arrived. The site goes online, and… Nothing. No orders or signups that day. None that week, and maybe one or two that month. The days when one could launch a site and recline on a Lazy-boy, watching orders pour in are long gone, if they ever truly existed. Design and programming are only the first steps. It takes constant efforts to promote a site, a daily chore site owners often overlook. So, what steps should you take after launching a site? I will try to give you the minimum list of things to do…
Your first step you be making sure that you have the correct meta tags. These tags are embedded in your pages and provide information about them, such as title, content, related keywords, intended distribution, etc. Search engines use them to classify your pages and link them to keywords. They are an important part of your pages, but because they are not mandatory, many designers do not use them.
Use a robot.txt file. This file tells automated web browsing programs how and what to index on your site. You can specify areas of your site not to be indexed. Robots can ignore it, but the legitimate ones will make good use of it.
You can control spiders/robots more efficiently using a .htaccess file, but that topic is beyond the scope of this article.
Allow your users to share your site on social media. A Facebook page can help you make your site more visible. There are tons of sites to submit yours to, like reddit.com. Add share buttons to your pages!
It is unfortunate that Google has become a quasi-monopoly in web services. You really can’t compete these days if you are boycotting Google, or if they are boycotting you! Fortunately what they offer does work.
Your site needs a site map. Search engines need a map of your site to index it. It is an XML formatted file placed in the root of your site, and often named sitemap.xml. Don’t worry about the format, softwares do that for you. Most E-Commerce software packages have built-in sitemaps. You can also use an online service to create it. Now that you have your sitemap, you need to submit it. Open a google webmaster account to do so. You will be asked to place a small file on your site to identify you as the owner, but that is easy to do. Google will now start indexing your pages, and they will be available (although far down the list at this point) in search results.
The most important factor in Google page ranking is how many sites link to yours. You should ask related sites to provide a link and offer them one on yours. One way to rank higher is to sign-up on related forums and regularly post or answer threads on them. You place your link in the signature of your posts, a setting that is usually available in your forum profile.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of search engines out there. You could visit all of them and submit your site manually, but it would take months. I suggest using a program like SubmitWolf. It will automate the task to a great extent. Even if each search engine sends you only one visitor a day, it will be worth it.
You need to know who visits your site, where they come from, what pages they load, etc. Open a Google Analytics account, place their piece of code in you page’s footer, and find out! Traffic information is also available in your web server log files, which you should be able to download. You can have a neat report generated and printed with a log file analyzer.
One often overlooked marketing tool is the RSS feed. It is mostly used for news. Your site probably has news too.. After all, it just opened, and isn’t that a big news? An RSS feed is another way to get the word out about your site. Like a site map, you can create it manually or it can be software generated. You need then to submit your feed to RSS aggregators, which will make it available for search, like a search engine.
If your site is selling products or services, it is a good idea to provide useful material which they might search for. For example, if you sell bathroom fixtures, provide tips on plumbing, soldering pipes, etc. Visitors are then more likely to find your site looking for related subjects.
You need to work on promotion every day, online and off-line. Don’t forget more traditional avenues of marketing, they work too! If you are still not getting enough visitors, try Google Adwords. You will pay for your visitors, but if it generates more profit than you spend, it is a good way to acquire new customers who might become regulars.
It does take a while to build traffic. Keep at it, update your site regularly, and soon or later, they will come!