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Technology Q &A Column - From our March 2001 Newsletter


Q: I built a great web site for my business, but I don’t get the feeling that
anybody is finding it. I think one problem is no one — myself included — seems to
be able to find it on search engines. What am I doing wrong?

A: When it comes to publicizing their businesses, most small business owners buy a storefront sign, list their name in the yellow pages, print business cards to hand out at networking events, and maybe even mount a public relations and advertising campaign.

But often the same people who are so conscientious about their real-world marketing efforts forget to do the same for their web site. Developing a fabulous web site is only half the battle when it comes to developing an online presence. With 3 billion existing web pages and no uniform system for filing, accessing or storing this vast repository of information, it can be difficult for your prospective customers to find your site without your help.

In order for your web site to yield the results you want — increased sales or simply better awareness of your company and its services — you need to drive traffic to your site. That means helping your customers and prospective customers find you in cyberspace.

Publicize your Web site - There are two ways people can go to your web site: directly, or through a search engine/directory web site, such as Yahoo! or Excite.

Direct visitors will type your domain name into their browser and be linked immediately to your web site. In order to go directly to your site, these visitors must know a very important piece of information: your domain name, i.e.

Your brick-and-mortar customers should be the first to know about your company’s web site. If you haven’t added your domain name to your company’s traditional marketing collateral, business cards, letterhead, ads and signage, now is the time to do it.

Further, you may want to mount an advertising and public relations campaign — either on or off the web — touting the unique and useful features your web site offers to customers. Or perhaps you could organize a raffle and invite customers to fill out information cards that include their e-mail addresses, and then announce the winner in a mass e-mailing to all of them — that, of course, prominently features a direct link to your web site. This type of e-mail promotion is an example of "e-mail marketing," and can be an effective tool to cultivate repeat visitors to your site.

In fact, you can probably come up with a lot of good ideas for promoting direct traffic to your web site.

Search engines and directories - But the second half of the equation, which is a bit more complicated, involves search engines and online directories. Many of your prospective customers will try to find your business by going to Yahoo!, Looksmart, Google, Altavista or any number of other major search engines and directories.

When it comes to optimizing your site for search engines and directories, it’s important to draft keywords, description and title tags for all of your web site’s pages. The idea behind this is simple. What keywords will your customers most likely punch into a search engine or a directory if they’re looking for services that your company provides? It stands to reason that your keywords should generally be comprised of a list of the goods or services you’re providing, as well as your location and your business name.

Once you’ve determined these keywords, it’s time to insert these tags into the back-end source code of your site and then manually submit your site to the top directories and search engines. Source code is created by the programmers and designers who have developed your site and, with the exception of the title tags, is not visible to visitors of your web site.

Your site’s homepage text and internal navigation should also be reviewed to make it can be easily reviewed by search engine robots, which are automated devices that roam around the Internet analyzing web sites and ranking them.

For example, your homepage should have some HTML text that repeats the same keywords you’ve put in your source-code tags. Your source-code tags should load before any images. And in addition to having graphics-based navigation, it’s a good idea to include HTML text navigation, which is easier for the robots to navigate.

Finally, it’s important to ask your web site hosting company to provide regular visitor reports. For example, these statistics will tell you whether most of your visitors are coming directly to your site or if most are finding you through the search engines. If you’re not getting enough direct visitors, it’s time to bolster that part of your web site marketing campaign. Analyzing your traffic patterns will show you which of your web site marketing techniques are most effective – and where you’ll need to adjust your strategies.

Sandra Ann Harris is a senior account supervisor at e-agency, a subsidiary of MCAnet in Oakland. e-agency provides a range of Internet services including hosting, web site design, wireless and marketing.


Want to gain computer skills?

In the first issue of Our Schools, Our Community, the Alameda Unified School
District reminded residents that the Alameda Adult School is a great source for
computer classes at bargain prices. Students can take 6-12 week classes for only
$20-$40. You can choose from Microsoft Works, Access, Outlook, Excel,
PowerPoint, and Publisher. If you’re wanting to learn how to access the Internet
or design web pages, they can help you gain those skills too.

As might be expected, these classes are very popular. Last quarter, they had 304
students enrolled and they have now set-up a one-day registration process just
for the computer classes. If you would like more information, please don’t
hesitate to call CeCe at 510-522-3858.


Coral Reef Motel Goes Hi-Tech

The Coral Reef Motel and Suites has just completed the installation of data ports in their motel section. In addition to these 37 units, installation of data ports in the two wings which house the 52 one-bedroom suites will begin within the next few weeks.

Data ports will enable guests to have access to the internet and the room phone simultaneously. "We are in the process of significantly upgrading our technology for the convenience of our guests," says Coral Reef manager, Barry Adcock.

In addition to the data ports, the Coral Reef has enhanced its computer reservation system for the 89-unit motel. The Coral Reef offers business and leisure travelers a heated pool, free continental breakfast and the comfort of suites for those extended stays. Located at 400 Park Street, the Coral Reef also offers conference facilities for your business meeting. Contact Barry Adcock at 510-521-2330 and tell him the Alameda Chamber sent you!



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