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Lanch Your Website Success
 
(by Tony L. Callahan)  
 
Like it or not, your web site will remain virtually invisible to the bulk of the Internet unless you take the proper steps to draw attention to it. But take heart, driving qualified prospects to your site is not difficult if you plan properly. A proper plan for launching your web site will take into account all four phases of a successful launch: preparation, pre-launch, launch and post-launch.

Preparation
 
This phase could also be called the research phase and should begin at least three months in advance of your launch date. The preparation phase should include:
 
  • Develop your advertising campaign. Create banner ads, text for posting to classified ads and full page text ads. Be sure to follow the rules of good ad development and test market the ads for effectiveness.
  • Competitive research. This means gathering information on the competition. Who is ranked highly in the search engines? Visit their web sites, analyze their page structures, utilize what you learn to hone your web pages. CAUTION: Copyright law on the Internet is not always clearly defined. Be sure your research does not extend to "borrowing" your competitors keywords or copy.
  • Research the publications and media outlets specific to your product or service. Develop a press release. Make sure it is newsworthy. NOTE: Just stating "Web Site XYZ Now In Business" is not usually considered newsworthy. The editors of these publications are looking for items of interest to their readers. Give details, explain the who, what, when, where and why of your product or service.
  • Identify businesses in complementary industries that also have a presence on the Internet.
Pre-Launch
 
It is usually adequate to begin the pre-launch phase about sixty days prior to the launch of your web site. The pre-launch phase should contain, at a minimum:
 
  • Submit your optimized web site to the search engines and directories. Excite, Infoseek, WebCrawler, Lycos, Alta Vista, Hotbot and Yahoo account for better than 80% of the searches performed on the web, focus your attention here.
  • Develop strategic alliances with the businesses you identified as complimentary in the previous phase. These alliances should include cross-promotion of products and services, reciprocal linking, and editorial recommendation, if appropriate.
  • Submit your press release to to the media. Remember, the goal here is to develop a relationship with the media. Make certain you press release is newsworthy and do not harass the editors in attempt to get them to publish your information. Done properly, this is an efficient, low cost way to get a large amount of attention for your web site.
Launch
 
The third phase of the plan is the web site launch. Essential elements of a successful launch include:
 
  • Strategic advertising. Arrange to run banner ads on major portal sites. If possible, pay by the click through, not by the impression. Submit ads to several high traffic classified ad sites. Run ads in ezines on subjects related to or complimentary to the specifics of your product or service. Develop a method of identifying which ads are drawing traffic. This information will be invaluable in the post-launch phase. Make sure all advertising and tracking is in place by the launch date.
  • Begin your direct mail campaign. Only use true opt-in email lists! Spamming is the most certain way I know to lose your email account, web site, ISP and your reputation, both personal and professional. The best way to have a true opt-in email list is to gather it yourself by asking visitors to your web site to join your mailing list. Maintain records of all subscriptions. Always make it at least as easy to unsubscribe from your list as it was to subscribe.
  • Post announcements in related newsgroups. Not all newsgroups allowing business postings. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of the particular group before posting your announcement. The consequences of newsgroup spamming can be as severe as the those pertaining to email spamming.
Post-Launch
 
A few weeks after the launch of your web site, it is time to do an evaluation. Having tracked the statistics both prior to and after the launch, you should be able to see improved traffic and increased sales. Now is the time to take stock of what is working and what is not, what needs fine tuning and what should be left alone. After the evaluation, it is time to begin the cycle again.

Clearly, the process I have described is not a recipe for over night success. It is, however, a methodical and practical means of organizing your promotion efforts to build the kind of long term success that should be the goal of any true business person.


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