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Top Ten Internet Marketing DO's & DON'Ts

Note: this article was written in the mid-1990s. Today the Web is a massive advertising platform and the challenge of standing out from the crowd is tougher than ever. Nevertheless, the advice below remains relevant.

There is definitely a trick to marketing your product or service effectively over the Internet. Here, for your information, are the top 10 or so bits of collective wisdom gleaned from a variety of Internet marketing lists and web sites:

DO

  1. Keep domain names short and memorable (if possible), and ensure that your web site address is widely published. Include it on stationery, business cards, brochures and advertisements, along with email contact information for key personnel.

  2. Use a sig file. This little file goes at the end of every email you send, (except when subscribing to a mailing list). It is considered acceptable to use your sig for advertising purposes, but keep it brief. It should contain your company name, a brief description of your product or service, and the URL of your web site, if any.

  3. Keep your web site simple and straight-forward. Resist the urge to glitz it up with gobs of bandwidth-gobbling graphics. Ensure that your site is constructed in such a way as to encourage repeat visits. A visitor who has to wait two minutes for a graphic to load is unlikely to ever return. Offer the visitor meaningful content, links to interesting sites, and regular updates.

  4. Find a way to stimulate interaction with visitors to your web site. An email link is useful for this purpose, and not hard to establish. Consider creating an online feedback form -- this is a simple and effective way to conduct online market research. Informal polls are also useful for this purpose, and free online tools make them easy to create.

  5. Consider news groups, mailing lists, and blogs important resources for gathering marketing-related information. Announce your product or service in a net.acceptable way and only in those places that welcome such announcements.

  6. Consider creating a blog to promote your site, as WebLens has done here. The blogging phenomenon is fast becoming the leading edge of the new "social Internet" and blogs offer many marketing advantages over static web sites, including the ability to push content out proactively, instead of waiting for the world to come to them.

  7. If you can't make the time commitment blogging demands — successful blogs require regular contributions — at the very least consider adding an RSS feed to your web site so visitors can receive updates automatically. Include a link to the feed on your site, and be sure to submit it to the various RSS feed directories.

  8. Write good copy, scatter relevant keywords throughout, and take the time to learn about the other optimization techniques that will help your site rank high in search results.

DON'T

  1. Violate the terms of service of Google's Adsense program or spam the search engines via black hat techniques like cloaking or keyword stuffing. It's not worth it — the penalties are severe, and can include banishment.

  2. Announce your web site until it is completed and fully functional. Take the time to identify the web servers, lists, and usenet newsgroups where it is appropriate to announce web sites. Consider encouraging colleagues to embed links to your web site in their web pages.

  3. Make users register before they can receive information. Research has shown this approach repels many more people than it attracts. If you must require registration, request only essential details such as name and email address. Make sure your privacy policy is clearly stated and prominently posted.

  4. Broadcast your message indiscriminately, unless you enjoy being flamed. Consider the case of Canter & Siegel, a Phoenix law firm that posted an advertisement for their immigration services to 9,000 Usenet discussion groups in the Spring of 1994. While they claim to have earned $50,000 from this approach, they also incurred the wrath of the Internet community, receiving thousands of flames and losing their Internet access provider.

  5. Lose sight of the fact that it is the user, not the advertiser, who foots the bill for Internet advertising. Therefore, if you wish to avoid alienating a prospect, it is imperative that you treat this person with respect and courtesy. Don't insult his intelligence or waste her time.

  6. Make your email messages or news group posts any longer than they need to be. Make your point clearly and concisely. If you are replying to another post, retain only the minimum amount of quoted material necessary to get the point across. You can make a product announcement, depending on the news group or list and on the manner in which it is announced. Discretion and courtesy are the keys.

  7. Underestimate the speed at which bad news can travel throughout the Internet, or the negative impact this phenomenon may have on your company. Intel made this mistake once, in ignoring the groundswell of customer anger about a flawed Pentium chip. This dissatisfaction originated in a news group and spread throughout the Internet like wildfire, ultimately forcing Intel to announce a recall.