The phenomenal popularity of the Internet in recent years has resulted in the current boom in the number of web sites that are added to this quickly growing resource each day. As webmasters become increasingly savvy in their attempts to promote web sites, their newfound knowledge is merely keeping them afloat in a world of millions of competitors.
Yes, search engines are seemingly here to stay, with an estimated 78% of all web site traffic being generated through their use. But the veteran webmaster is now discovering alternative promotion methods to complement and, in some cases, replace search engine positioning. Such methods include paid banner placement, banner networks, targeted e-mail, on-topic newsgroup postings, classified advertisements, etc. But perhaps the most often-overlooked method of online marketing is simple word of mouth advertising. In a world dominated by meta tags, banner rotation ratios, and mass e-mailings, the most basic, and arguably the most effective method of advertising, remains the communication of information from one friend or associate to another.
Think about this for a moment. Which are you more likely to value — a banner ad from a company that may or may not have a web site worth viewing — or the recommendation of someone you know, and whose judgement you trust? The answer is obvious and is at the heart of the success that word of mouth advertising can produce.
While this is hardly a revelation, it can be used as the cornerstone of a push on the part of a webmaster to increase traffic to his or her web site. The crucial consideration for the webmaster is the ease with which a visitor to the site in question can recommend the page to a friend or associate. In cyberspace, where attention spans are short and time is at a premium, it is not always realistic to assume that a visitor who likes your site will write the address down and tell their friends or associates about it. Many will not even take the time to send an e-mail message containing your URL to someone whom they feel may benefit from your site. You, as a webmaster, must make it easy for the visitor to recommend your site.
One method of providing an easy resource that visitors can use to recommend a site is the inclusion of CGI scripts. Such scripts can typically be found for free at CGI resource sites and can be modified relatively easily to work with your existing web site. These scripts allow the visitor to send a standard e-mail message to a friend directly from the web site itself, without taking the time to open their e-mail software or to describe the site in the message. All that is required to recommend a given site is the name and e-mail address of the friend and the name and e-mail address of the visitor.
As the Internet continues to become inundated with new web sites, gaining exposure through search engine position will continue to decline as an online marketing strategy. Webmasters currently toiling to attain high rankings within the search engines must keep the near future in mind — a time when having one's site indexed within the major search engines may require an inordinately long waiting period. The traffic that a web site strives to generate should, in turn, be in a position to promote that web site through the use of a simple e-mail recommendation that requires almost no time and very little effort. As search engines continue to be smothered with URL submissions, the most valuable resource available to innovative webmasters may be the millions of users who browse the web on a daily basis. Placing these users in a position to easily promote a web site may be the most important and successful online marketing campaign that a webmaster could implement.
Matthew Blevins and Michael Wist were the co-founders of Ei Web Promotion.