You've taken the plunge, opted to join the digerati, and hired some very hip-looking types with goatee beards and glasses to build your company a web site. It's up-and-running, you're online at last, and it looks great. The trouble is, nobody's visiting. More people are coming through your office reception than are clicking onto your home page. How can you get yourself some net presence?
PUT YOUR NAME ON IT. Your URL (uniform resource locater) is the address by which your public shall know you. Make it snappy, but obvious, and use it wherever you can. 'Put your URL on everything - your product packaging and all your literature,' advises David Hurren, creative director at ad agency Ogilvy Interactive.
PLAY THE DOMAIN GAME. If somebody is looking for your site and doesn't know the address, they'll take a guess. If they can't find it quickly, they may just give up. Suppose your company is the Old Oak brewery; you might choose oldoak.co.uk as your main URL, but also register oldoak.com, oldoakbrewery.co.uk, old.oak.co.uk and so on. 'It's also worth registering other names that are associated with you, for example Nike might register justdoit.com,' says Richard Mellor, MD of new-media design company Hyperinteractive. Each name you register costs as little as pounds 30.
BE SEEN IN THE BEST PLACES. Register with the most important search engines and directories for your business. Many are free, but some will charge. If you don't, your web site may not be picked up in a search. Registering keywords will boost your chances. 'If you sell snowboarding gear, you can buy the word 'snowboard' and ensure that you are either high up the search listing or that, when a customer types 'snowboard', your advertising banner will appear,' says Ajaz Ahmed, of web-design company AKQA. 'Meta-tags' coded into your web site are another way of showing up on key-word searches. It's bad netiquette, but if you type in 'plumber' 20 times at the top of your home page, you should be in with a shout.
CREATE A BUZZ. 'If you have a credible site that is easy to use and provides great content and services to customers it will not take long before people are discussing the site with their friends and colleagues and e-mailing each other about it,' says Ahmed. In other words, become essential. Alternatively, try your hand at 'viral marketing'. 'Create something like a screensaver or a game which features your web site, and then mail it to everybody you can think of,' says Hurren. 'With luck, if it's good enough they'll mail it on to others, and you benefit from a pyramid effect.'
SWAP LINKS. On the net, coopertition rules. Find sites whose theme is loosely related to your own product or service area, and offer to give a free link from your site in exchange for a reciprocal agreement. Avoid direct competitors, but choose those that are complementary - for example, a firm of solicitors might do a contra with a firm of accountants.
OFFER INCENTIVES. Provide a reason for people to visit your site: a fascinating piece of research, a special price offer or a competition with top prizes. This also gives you a legitimate excuse to e-mail potential customers.
JOIN DISCUSSION GROUPS. There's no harm in chipping in to groups that will be interested in what your company does, and mentioning your web site, so long as you try to avoid using the hard sell.
ADVERTISE - BUT AS A LAST RESORT. Advertising, whether online or offline, is expensive. A week on Yahoo!'s home page will cost you pounds 12,000-pounds 40,000. 'Buying your media intelligently is 90% of the task,' says Hurren. 'If you're going to spend pounds 50,000, then ask if that will save pounds 50,000 of revenue or savings at the other end.'
DO SAY: 'We are the Amazon.com of bespoke kitchens.'
DON'T SAY: 'We've got a brilliant web site. I can't remember what it's called but my secretary could look it up for you.'