New tools make it easier to enhance your facility's Web presence and positioning.
Fighting to get your facility noticed on the Web can be more than a full-time pursuit, but a number of new tools can give you a tremendous edge in that battle—and greatly automate the process. Here’s a sampling of the latest advances in website-promotion strategies.
Getting your club’s website to a top position on search engines like Google and Yahoo! can translate into more clients and greater revenues, and search-engine positioning software is one of the tools that can get you there. Essentially, these programs automatically submit your site to all the major search engines, track your company’s rankings on those search engines and identify which keywords are working best.
Recent updates to WebPosition 4 Pro from WebTrends ($389)—one of the pioneer packages in the realm—make it worth a serious look. This latest edition submits your site to more than 200 global and regional search engines, monitoring your performance and offering reports in both text and graphics formats. The program also suggests ways to optimize your Web pages in order to gain the highest rankings on search engines. If you use “pay-per-click” keywords, you can use the program to monitor the performance of those words on all the search engines WebPosition supports.
While most marketers realize that making regular posts to a company Web log, or blog, can lead to enhanced site traffic or higher placement on search engines, finding time to post blogs can be a challenge. Fortunately, you can now make blog updates simply by sending your posts directly from your e-mail program.
Major blog host sites, like Blogger for example, enable you to turn on this option with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. Once you activate the option, you’ll be able to post to your company blog anytime—from anywhere—simply by sending an e-mail.
Podcasts are audio and video feeds that can be downloaded from the Web to PCs, handheld computers, cell phones and similar devices. While they have some way to go before becoming as influential as blogs, evangelists of the medium say it’s only a matter of time. A number of software packages are available that enable you to quickly post your company’s audio or video pitch on your own website or on podcast directories like Podcast Alley. You can find links to many of those packages hosted on Podcast Alley at www.podcastalley.com/forum/ links.php?id=14.
During the past year, scores of sites have popped up on the Web that will distribute your company’s digital press releases to thousands of journalists worldwide for free. A sampling of those sites includes i-Newswire.com, PR9.net and PR Leap. (For more sites, enter “free press release distribution” into any major search engine.)
Google is redefining advertising with its “sponsored links” program, which enables a paying company to have its website URL and description appear as a highly prominent, Google-sponsored link in Google search-engine returns and on websites running Google ads.
Images are the latest addition to this advertising model. Currently available on websites running Google ads (but not on the search engine itself), the new program enables companies to run photo, illustration, animation or Flash images along with their Google ads.
The ad-triggering process remains the same: Google will automatically place your illustrated ad on “content-rich” sites—such as magazines or newspapers—that are related to your company’s business.
If you’re looking to snap up a high-quality, royalty-free image for your website or digital ad campaign, you may want to check out iStockphoto. As of this printing, you can search among 852,000 files for images that go for as little as a buck apiece. (A minimum $10 purchase is required.) According to iStockphoto, 14,000 new images—including photographs, vector illustrations and Flash files— are added each week. The company claims approximately 3 million visits per month from clients that range from the smallest businesses to those in the Fortune 500.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to generate traffic and win higher search-engine returns is to build a reciprocal links program. With this promotion strategy, company websites form a mutually beneficial relationship by linking with one another. Search engines favor sites that offer a directory of links, and also give higher rankings if a site has links on many other sites. For example, if 30 or 40 businesses in your neighborhood offer links to your site, you’ll most likely do better on the search engines than another personal trainer whose site has no local businesses linking to it.
Promotional linking has become so sophisticated that entire software programs are devoted to this single task. One that recently got an upgrade is AutoLinks Pro 3.8 ($99.97 installed). (For more options, enter “auto-linking software” into any major search engine.) As the name implies, AutoLinks is designed to fully automate every step of the linking process. This program enables visitors to add a link to their site from a page on your site and, among other things, monitors sites that have promised to link to yours.
AutoLinks also automates much of the e-mailing that goes on between sites that exchange reciprocal links, notifying a site about a link-exchange request, sending approvals or rejections to link-exchange requestors and sending a request to reactivate your reciprocal link on a site where that link has gone dead. Plus, your linking partners will be able to use a page on your site to update their URL or the description of their link on your links page.
For years companies have been successfully using polls and surveys on the Web to glean valuable market research and encourage repeat site visits. One of the leading online solutions in this space, WebSurveyor 5 ($449 per survey), recently got an update.
With the latest version you’ll be able to create your own poll or survey from predesigned templates that offer help with question design. WebSurveyor also allows you to design a poll or survey that enables users to skip questions at will, or to answer follow-up questions if they answer a primary question a certain way. Plus, it allows you to track and analyze responses in real time.
Other leading programs to check out include Snap Survey Software by Snap Surveys (call for price) and SurveyGold Standard Edition by Golden Hills Software ($149).
Companies that offer different price sheets to different customers are often reluctant to send their promotion materials via e-mail, for fear such discounts could be e-mailed along—and end up in the hands of another customer. Fortunately, a number of programs on the market make it all but impossible for a discount price sheet or other customer-specific promotion to end up in the wrong hands.
FileOpen Publisher3 from FileOpen Systems ($2,495 annually) enables you to send a secured PDF file to a specific customer that “locks” that file to the PC that receives it. Once the PDF file is opened, the recipient cannot e-mail it to any other device, nor can the file be printed or changed in any way. FileOpen also offers another solution, WebPublisher ($4,995 plus $1,495 annual maintenance), which controls access to PDF files via the Web. With this solution, recipients can open a PDF file only if their PC or other computerized device can be identified as “authorized” by the FileOpen website. A recipient’s computer or similar device must be connected to the Internet for such authorization.
Similar “authorization by remote website” solutions are offered by Lizard Safeguard PDF Writer by LockLizard (starts at $2,495 yearly, based on configuration) and by Adobe LiveCycle Policy Server (call for price).
Any company marketing e-mail or e-newsletter can be instantly personalized with an e-mail merge program like Broadc@st from MailWorkZ ($249). Essentially, the program allows you to personalize each e-mail with a client name, a company name and any other personalized variable. The latest version of the program allows you to auto-manage “subscribes,” “unsubscribes” and bouncing e-mails; send e-mails with HTML graphics; and send and manage unlimited campaigns. If you integrate the program with the MailWorkZ optional ezTrackZ online tracking system, it will track and report on who opens your e-mails and what links they’re clicking on within those e-mails.
Still other Web promotion tools for extremely specific purposes can be found in clearinghouse sites that specialize in such applications. Here are a few to check out:
- Webmaster Toolkit
- Free Webmaster Tools