You need not spend a lot of money to market your subscription website, but you will need to follow these steps if you hope to have critical and financial success.
Start with a professional looking site.
You may not consider your website’s appearance to be part of your marketing effort, but it definitely is—especially if you want to get it mentioned by writers and reviewers.
If your site looks shoddy, you can forget about getting much exposure. Writers don’t want to jeopardize their credibility by recommending amateur-looking sites.
The same is true for potential subscribers; most will decide in the first 10 seconds whether they want to read what your site has to offer or go on to another site.
The quickest way to lose a visitor (and potential member) is for your site to have the wrong look and feel.
Graphics are important. Get your site’s design, layout, colors, logo, font faces, font sizes, navigation system, help system, and everything else right before you do any marketing at all.
If you want to survive, you’ll need that “Top 10” look. This is one reason most successful subscription websites are operated using content publishing software.
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Optimize your site for the search engines.
Most new visitors will find your site as a result of a search engine query. This means the sites most likely to be found are those with the highest visibility and ranking in the search engines.
There are a number of things you can do to increase your search engine visibility, including:
- Use of meta tags on all content pages, which define site content to search engines.
- Use of keyword laden headlines and body text, which emphasize content to search engines.
- Use cascading links to all content on your site through the main index page, which helps assure the search engines find all pages on your site.
- Use of alt text on images and links, which emphasizes content to search engines.
- Avoid using a splash page as your index page; they’re not search engine friendly.
- Register your site with the major search engines.
It generally takes six weeks before your site is registered with the search engines, so it is important to start optimizing your site for search engine placement early in the design stage.
Steadily add content.
Visitors to your site become paying subscribers because they feel that your site offers an ever-increasing body of the information they are looking for. The more content you offer, the more likely it is that visitors will decide to become paying subscribers.
Additionally, the more content you add to your site, the more visible your site will be, as the search engines continually catalog all your new content pages.
Get the media buzz going.
Only after you have completed the first three steps is it time to get the word out about your site.
The quickest way is through the writers and publishers who reach large audiences of people, who might be interested in what you have to offer. To reach them:
- Write a press release about your site and send it to editors, reviewers, etc.
- Write an article about your site and send it to editors, reviewers, etc. with permission to reprint.
- Send email to editors, reviewers, etc. offering your availability for interviews.
- Try to get invited to speak at events that reach your target market or that reach the press.
- If you’re not familiar with professional publicity techniques, pay a press release service to write and send a press release for you. Or buy Paul Hartunian’s Publicity Kit at www.hartunian.com.
- Write a letter to the editor of magazines that reach your market, commenting on a recent article, and include your site address in the letter.
- Write positive testimonials about software products you used to develop your site, and send those to the software company, including permission for reuse.
It usually takes several weeks before any of these tactics pay off, but the results from a single hit can be well worth the effort.
Get the consumer buzz going.
After you have planted all your media seeds, the next step is to begin to target your potential consumer market. There are several ways to do this, including:
- Send email messages about your new site to your email database (only with their permission; never send unsolicited email).
- Post information about your site in discussion groups that you participate in.
- Reply to messages in newsgroups and discussion groups that are related to the subject matter of your site, and include your site address.
- Buy inexpensive ads in e-zines that reach your target market.
- Publish a free e-zine that targets people in your potential market.
- Purchase banner ad placement in the major search engines based on keywords. These can be surprisingly inexpensive, yet highly effective.
- Consider buying Google AdWords and Overture pay-per-click search results. Track all your responses in order to know what works and what doesn’t.
Review your referral statistics.
One of the most important things you should know about your site is where your new visitors come from. This information can usually be found in your site management software’s referral report (assuming you are using a site management tool that offers this).
This report should show you where every visitor to your site came from, including the exact referring link and the number of visitors that found your site from that link.
This is extremely useful data in that it shows who on the Internet is talking about your site and who has links to your site. Additionally, if you are running banner ads on other sites, it will show how many times those ads were clicked, leading visitors to your site.
The information in the referral report is vital for knowing which of your marketing efforts are paying off, and which aren’t, allowing you to focus your efforts on those that provide the highest return.
Don’t break your budget.
The key to success with marketing is to stick with it long enough to crack the code. And the key to sticking with it long enough is to avoid blowing your marketing budget early on unproven techniques.
The temptation may be to spend a lot of money on your marketing efforts in an attempt to get big results quickly. In most cases, this will not pay off. You’re likely to end up spending a lot of money for meager results, often without knowing why.
Instead, take small steps in your marketing efforts until you find what works best for your site and then spend your money on proven results. While this strategy requires more patience, the results can be far more rewarding.
Marketing anything successfully takes a bit of time to figure out what works best in attracting paying customers. A great deal of trial and error is usually involved, as well as research into what techniques others are using to attract new customers.
Test, re-evaluate, make adjustments, and test some more. Keep trying until you find the right combination of marketing tactics for your niche topic and audience.
If you have chosen the right topic for your site as well as the right potential customer, eventually you’ll probably find what works best for you.