7 Essential Tips for Corporate Blogging

According to JupiterResearch (via Search Engine Watch), 34% of large companies and 15% of Fortune 500 companies blog. That’s quite a bandwagon. Before you jump on board, though, you should know what you’re getting into. Here are seven essential tips to keep in mind as your company enters the corporate blogging arena.

  1. Don’t be afraid. If a blog can benefit your company, you’ll do more harm by never trying than you will by messing up. The technology won’t stop gaining acceptance just because you don’t have the familiarity or willingness to use it. The important thing is to get out there. If you do mess up, learn from your mistakes and keep going.
  2. Establish goals. Just as bad as starting a corporate blog for the wrong reasons is starting one without clear goals. Do you want to have a voice in your industry? Develop your brand? Enhance your public relations efforts? Your blog should have a clear purpose that coincides with your company’s values.
  3. Don’t market; converse. To be successful, a corporate blog must be a conversational tool, not a propaganda engine. This means ditching the advertising and press releases in favor of engaging content. Imagine walking into a car dealership. Who would you rather talk to, an amicable salesman with a genuine interest in your wants and needs, or a pushy salesman whose only interest is selling you the biggest, most expensive car on the lot? Who would you recommend to your friends when they go car shopping?
  4. Provide value. Nobody will engage or subscribe to a blog that doesn’t provide valuable content. Know your readers. What are their interests? How do those interests relate to your products and services? What do they want to know about your company? Determine the topics that will offer the greatest value and structure your blog around them.
  5. Build relationships. The purpose of engaging your audience is to build relationships. This means being a part of the conversation. Listen to feedback through comments, trackbacks, and emails. Address customer concerns through open dialogue. Reach out to other bloggers in your niche through links and comments. By developing relationships with your customers, you help build their trust in your brand.
  6. Be human. Customers don’t want to talk to faceless corporations; they want to talk to people. Don’t just write; tell stories from your unique perspective from within the company. Share opinions, not sales pitches. When you mess up, admit your mistakes. Never forget that you represent the company, but censor posts with care to preserve their personal voice. Your company’s culture must be flexible enough to accommodate this level of personality if the blog is to succeed.
  7. Be positive. It is often said that the greatest bloggers have thick skin, and with good reason. The blogosphere is an open forum for criticism and outright negativity. Despite this, your corporate bloggers should take it in stride, respond constructively, and attempt to turn every conversation in a positive direction. Nothing good can come of giving into the temptation to respond to your critics with negativity.

Additional Resources

Most of this list was collected from the following articles:

Show Results, Win a Free Lunch

Case: Marketing Contest

Earlier this month, my supervisor challenged our team to produce our own original marketing campaign proposals. The rules of this little game/performance evaluation were simple. We were to create our own lead generation campaigns using any renewable audience, in any medium, targeted toward any of our company’s products. A week later, we were to deliver our proposals to the CEO, COO, and our supervisor in a five-minute presentation. Limited collaboration was allowed, and scoring was determined by a variety of factors, including the campaign’s viability, measurability, and materials provided. The winner would be rewarded with a free lunch.

It didn’t take me long to flesh out a worthy idea. Online marketing is my specialty, so I developed a keyword-targeted PPC campaign, complete with ad text and landing page. I didn’t stop there, though. Everyone in the competition had their own particular advantages. As the online marketing manager, mine was the ability to launch and test my campaign quickly. By the time we were to present, my campaign had already been running for several days. Instead of attempting to convince my superiors of the campaign’s merits, I devoted half of my presentation to results, conclusions, and plans for refinement.

Of course, my coworkers put on a great showing as well. The graphic artists of the bunch came up with some very compelling advertisements. Our direct mail marketing specialist prepared a letter that was practically fit to be mailed out that day. Our copywriter had some detailed ideas for video advertising with free gas cards and a Jimmy Buffet song thrown into the mix. Overall, it was some stiff competition.

In the end, though, what impressed everyone the most were results. With a hat-tip to our direct mail marketer in a close second, I took first place.

Point: Results Speak for Themselves

In the same vein that actions speak louder than words, proof is more convincing than conjecture. To put it another way, say something works and others might believe you. Prove that something works and everyone will believe you. I wouldn’t say my campaign was particularly exciting or original. Because I had results to prove its value, though, I won out over other seasoned professionals with more compelling pitches.

This is a widely-applicable lesson for any web professional. When you’re out to make a convincing argument, don’t just assert your point with eloquence; demonstrate it with facts. There’s nothing better than verifiable results when it comes to spicing up a resume, impressing a client, adding punch to a performance evaluation, or winning a free lunch. 😉

Goldilocks and the Three Copy Lengths

Once upon a time, after her well-documented encounter with the Three Bears, Goldilocks grew up and got a job in copywriting. One day, she was asked to compose some copy for a new web page. So she started writing…

Her first article was too short. It didn’t convey her thoughts effectively.

Her second article was too long. It stretched on for countless paragraphs, spelling out all of her thoughts in exhausting detail. Casual readers would happen upon the article only to glance at its size and promptly leave. A few stayed and started to read only to give up about half way through when it became apparent that the article had more filler than valuable content. On and on it stretched, seemingly without end, eventually taking on an almost repetitive and rambling tone. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but Goldilocks forgot to review it for readability. It had many blatant speling errorz because she failed to proofread, and her content ran together in huge chunks because there was nothing to differentiate areas of importance to her readers.

Her last article was just right. It was concise, but detailed enough to communicate her ideas. Every word added value, and every sentence flowed neatly into the next. Goldilocks even made sure to use titling, emphasis, and lists to summarize her content for casual skimming. Because it was both readable and valuable, her readers were delighted.

The Moral of the Story: When it comes to web copy, writers have to tread a fine line between too little detail and too many words. Readers do not have the same patience with web copy that they do with print. If it seems too long or lacking in value, your audience will simply stop reading. Even a genuinely valuable piece will often be skimmed rather than read in its entirety. It’s just the nature of the medium.

As a writer, the copy length that’s “just right” is the one that provides the most value in the least words. For every sentence, and even every word, ask yourself, “Is this adding value for my readers?” If not, take it out. Likewise, examine your article as a whole and determine if a casual skimmer could easily pull out the important points. If not, add a few summarizing elements. In this way, you can achieve maximum value in as few words as possible for every reader type.

Additional Resources: When it comes to copywriting, I’m a big fan of Copyblogger. Here’s what they have to say about trimming your copy until it’s “just right.”

Improve Search Engine Visibility with Xenu Link Sleuth

When you’ve been in the search marketing game for a few years, you tend to add a few interesting tools to your arsenal. Xenu has always been one of my favorites. No, I’m not talking about that Xenu (although the program icon does have an interesting alien motif). I’m talking about Xenu Link Sleuth, a useful site crawling application.

The Xenu Link Sleuth website describes the program as a link checker, a job which it does quite well. However, with a little know-how, it can easily be used to diagnose a number of crawl errors. If you spend an afternoon fixing the bugs you discover through Xenu, your site will be in great shape as far as search engine visibility is concerned. Here are some of the fields to consider.

Address – This column lists every URL available through links on your site. Sort it and look for duplicates. In particular, ensure that you’re not duplicating www and non-www or http and https versions of the same page. Also make sure that only one URL is in use for your home page (e.g., you don’t want both http://somedomain.com/ and http://somedomain.com/index.html showing up). Wherever you find duplication, right-click the entry to find out where it’s being linked, then change the link to the standard version.

Status – I almost always tell Xenu to “skip external links” while running a crawl. That way, I can sort by status to see how many external links I have. As far as SEO goes, excessive external linking isn’t advisable. If you find that you have a lot of external links, it might be worthwhile to trim them down.

Size – Some pages are so large that search engine spiders will only index up to a certain point and stop. The common wisdom is to keep page sizes under 100 kilobytes. Whether you adhere to this guideline or not, limiting your pages to a reasonable file size is still a good practice.

Title – Just like the Address column, you’re checking the Title column for duplicate entries. Often, this is an effective way to weed out poor title schemes and duplicate URLs. If you find duplicate titles, go through and give each of the pages unique, descriptive titles to differentiate them from one another.

Level – Some websites are so vast and labyrinthine that search engine spiders just give up trying to index all of the information. One stopping point is click depth. By sorting the Level column, you can see how many links a normal person would have to click to reach the URL. If this number is greater than 10, you’ll want to reconsider your internal linking and menu structure.

Out Links – As with click depth, search engine spiders eventually give up when they see too many links. Sort this column and look for entries with 100 or more outbound links. For those pages, consider eliminating unnecessary links or splitting the links out into several pages.

Duration – For search engines as well as users, long page load times are not advisable. Check this column for unusually high durations. If you discover any, determine if there is a programmatic reason or contact your hosting provider for help.

In addition to the main program view, Xenu Link Sleuth outputs detailed reports to your browser. Here are the two main areas to pay attention to.

Broken Links – You can get lists of every broken link ordered by link or by page, whichever is more convenient for you. It’s worthwhile to go through and fix each and every broken link on the site. Doing so will offer a better experience for your users and keep the link juice flowing properly through the site.

Redirected URLs – Redirects aren’t quite as bad as broken links, since users still end up somewhere other than a 404 error page. Still, they’re worth fixing for the spiders, especially if they’re temporary (302) redirects. Go through the list and fix every link to point to the correct URL.

The Developer Disconnect: Why the Best Requirements are Explicit

“Developers are profoundly disconnected.”

Those were my exact words in a recent department meeting. I let the statement hang in the air for a moment so that everyone could give it the consideration it deserved. There was dead silence as everyone waited for me to continue. After a few moments, I clarified.

“They are disconnected from the needs that their programs are intended to meet as well as the results that their programs produce. Beyond the code itself, they only know what you tell them. If their program doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, it’s probably because the problem wasn’t explained to them in sufficient detail. They’re not mind-readers. You have to be specific about your needs.”

My little speech went on for awhile longer as I played devil’s advocate with all of the problems the other marketers had been citing. Until that point, it had been a solid round of griping about the development team not delivering what was asked of it. As I picked apart their concerns, it became evident that many of them had not communicated their needs adequately, either before or after the program was written. Instead, they had waited until a problem escalated to become vocal and negative about it.

The Ideal

Ideally, developers are given firm, specific requirements for how their programs should function. There is no question as to what needs to be accomplished. They write the exact program that the client wants, the client is happy, and the work is completed without incident.

The Reality

In practice, however, requirements are often vague and inadequate. Clients rarely want to put forth the effort to be explicit, or else feel that their requirements are somehow obvious enough that the developers can just pull them out of thin air.

Naturally, this puts developers in a dilemma. Without good requirements, they are unlikely to deliver a program that fills their clients’ needs. If they press for good requirements, however, their clients become irritable and dismissive. I’ve seen it happen many times, and it never turns out well.

The same problem occurs after a software solution is in place. Clients are frustrated that the program doesn’t meet a need that was never identified. Instead of being productive and explicit about the new need, however, clients become belligerent, claiming that the developers did not deliver what was promised. Never mind that the clients got exactly what they asked for; it wasn’t what they wanted, so the developers are to blame.

The Solution

The point here is that you won’t get any more than you ask for, so it pays to be as explicit as possible. In software development circles, the process for this is referred to as requirements gathering. Before a single line of code is written, clients and developers document all of the program’s functionality down to the smallest detail. Only when the two groups agree on the explicit end state does the actual development begin.

From a business standpoint, the thorough documentation needed for proper requirements gathering is often impractical. The exercise itself, however, is anything but. Walking through the details isn’t just worthwhile; it’s imperative. If you take the time to think it through and spell out exactly what you need, your developers will be able to deliver exactly what you want, without the hassle, headaches, and hurt feelings that might otherwise occur after the fact.

10 Universal Truths of SEO

Google is great. I use its services on a daily basis and love the traffic it sends to my websites. As smart SEO professionals point out, however, Google isn’t the only search engine around, and may not be the biggest, baddest search engine on the block forever.

If you’ve got your SEO hat on straight, however, that’s not a problem at all. Why? Because the best practices of SEO are both search engine-independent and timeless. Quite simply, they’re universal. If you take these 10 truths of SEO to heart and practice them faithfully, your presence in search should be secure regardless of what the future brings.

  1. Don’t Game the System
    A wise mentor of mine once said that SEO is 5% what you do and 95% what you don’t do. Over time, every black hat SEO tactic eventually becomes defunct. If you don’t believe me, just practice some black hat SEO from a few years ago; your site will quickly get deindexed. Although it’s possible to stay ahead of the algorithms, you’ll reap more long-term rewards and save a lot of frustration by accepting their guidelines and avoiding black hat tactics altogether.  (Note: In a video statement concerning this sort of thing, Matt Cutts said, “Make a great site, promote it well, do white hat ways and you’ll sleep well and you don’t need to worry about, ‘How much can I get away with?'”)
  2. Focus on Goals
    As others in the industry point out, search engine rankings aren’t an end; they’re a means. You don’t want your website to rank just for rankings sake, but rather to help serve the website’s purpose. It’s not worthwhile, then, to focus on search engine rankings or traffic outside the context of your goals. Always focus on your goals first and SEO as a means to achieving them.
  3. Content is King
    Search engines don’t want to rank websites without good content, and users don’t want to visit them. If you fill your site with stellar content that everybody wants to see, you can practically guarantee good rankings. Conversely, don’t waste your time optimizing a website with poor content when you could instead put that effort into improving it.
  4. Users First; Search Engines Second
    Search engines exist to serve users. If they don’t do this job well, they die. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t build websites with search engines in mind. Rather, build great websites for your users that also happen to be search engine-friendly. (Note: Matt Cutts clarifies this one in his post about Google’s improved SEO documentation.)
  5. Link Naturally
    Whether you’re linking out or generating inbound links, do so as organically as possible. Search engines are very good at determining the relevance of a link, and they’re getting better at it. Eventually, even the slightest hint that your linking strategy might be artificial will reduce its effectiveness, so it’s better just to link naturally from the start.
  6. Text is Your Safest Bet
    Search engine spiders are getting smart enough to parse images, JavaScript, Flash, and similar data that has given them difficulty in the past. Despite these advances, you’re still better off filling your website with plenty of textual content and using other media on the side. Even in the future when search engines are able to crawl complex data reliably, text will still be considered the standard.
  7. Use Keywords
    This is not an endorsement to spam, but rather a recognition that your intended audience will use certain terms when searching for your content. By researching and using the correct keywords on your page, you’re helping the search engines provide a better user experience and receiving well-targeted traffic at the same time. Everybody wins.
  8. Communicate
    Nowadays, search engines recognize many different channels of communication, including robots.txt files, XML sitemaps, and webmaster consoles. Learn these channels and how they can be utilized. By communicating with search engines, you can diagnose and prevent many common problems.
  9. Diversify Your Traffic
    Search engine are machines. As such, they are prone to malfunctions. If you rely upon them as your sole source of traffic, you will eventually experience periods of reduced traffic. This is normal and should be expected. The best way to prepare for this is to diversify your traffic. Develop strong organic links. Use paid advertising. Drive traffic to your site in a variety of ways that don’t involve search engines and you’ll safely weather those off days.
  10. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
    Meta tags, length of domain registration, keyword density… there are dozens of little factors you can take into account when optimizing a website. And while giving special care to every minor detail might give your website a little boost, it’s rarely worth the effort. Do yourself a favor and don’t sweat the small stuff. Instead, put more effort into what’s really important, like creating quality content.

The Great Bloggasm Panic of ’08

This will be the first article in a format I like to call, “Case in Point,” where I present a specific, real-life scenario of success or failure on the web (the “Case”) and then the take-home lesson to be learned from it (the “Point”).

Case: Bloggasm and the Google Roller Coaster

On March 25, 2008, I saw a frantic post over on Bloggasm, one of my favorite independent news blogs, about a sudden drop in Google rankings and traffic. Simons Owens and I are friends, so I decided to offer my expertise. What followed was a lot of analysis, theorizing, and more than a little consoling.

I started where any good SEO should with the header response codes. Simon mentioned that he had recently upgraded his WordPress installation, so something could have happened to hinder spidering of the site. Everything looked fine until I discovered a 412 error for Googlebot 2.1. This sent up a red flag. Luckily, Simon trusted me enough to give me access to his Google Webmaster Tools, where I confirmed that Google wasn’t seeing any crawl errors. A more thorough crawl of the site revealed almost no problems at all.

Much like a clean bill of health from a physician, this should have been good news, except that Bloggasm’s rankings were still languishing. As Simon continued to panic, I advised that he should calm down and wait a few weeks. After all, common wisdom in SEO circles is that this sort of dance happens all the time due to algorithmic changes; all you can really do is wait for the rankings to return. If you’ve got a good site with quality content and you aren’t doing anything shady, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

That was the expert in me talking, but the friend in me wanted to provide more of an explanation. So, I performed some more analysis, theorizing that the site might now be seen as adult in nature due to some of Simon’s more risque post titles. I looked for evidence of paid linking and large-scale update news in the forums. I grasped for any explanation that seemed plausible, but all of them inevitably fell flat.

In the end, I gave up on over analyzing the situation and stuck with my original advice. If there’s nothing apparently wrong with the site, there’s nothing to worry about. Just relax and wait for the rankings to return.

On April 9, 2008, a little over two weeks after Bloggasm’s rankings plummeted, Simon emailed me with the good news that they had mysteriously returned. In fact, according to Simon, they’ve been higher than ever.

Point: Don’t Panic

In this case, common SEO wisdom was well-founded. Search engine rankings may suddenly drop for short periods of time only to return as if nothing happened. The important thing is not to panic. Take a careful look at your website and ensure that it doesn’t violate any of Google’s quality guidelines. If you don’t feel confident enough in your technical abilities to do this, have an expert look for you. If nothing is amiss and you know you aren’t doing anything to game the system, just relax and let the search engines work it out. Like a lost puppy to a loving owner, your rankings come back to you.

I’ll conclude with some words of wisdom that I shared with Simon early in his ordeal:

“Patience and strategy are the name of the game. Take a deep breath and accept that you may be suffering without ever having done anything wrong… It’s just how things work; as you say, Google is fickle. The important thing is that you keep writing good, organic content that people want to link to. If you do that, your blog’s success will grow despite these bumps in the road.”

Note: After writing this post, I helped Simon through some WordPress difficulties as well. In all fairness, then, a more appropriate title might have been the “First” Great Bloggasm Panic of ’08. 😉

Launching a Successful Website, Step Seven: Growth

You’ve come a long way since you first envisioned your website. Ever since it launched, it’s been fulfilling its intended purpose beautifully thanks to solid construction, an enticing brand, and diligent maintenance by a team of experts. Congratulations; you’ve come farther than most ever do.

Whether or not you stop here is really up to you. Your site is already a success if you’ve come this far, and it will continue to be if it is properly maintained. Still, that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. You can forge on to even loftier goals. Forget being satisfied with what your site is; you can grow it into something greater than it was ever envisioned to be. Here are a few ways to go about doing it.

Increase Traffic / Improve Traffic Quality
Promotional experts are at their best when it comes to producing tons of quality traffic, and there’s no end of ways to do it. You can split test different advertising, experiment with social media (e.g., Diggbaiting), optimize for search engine placement, or even launch forays into previously unexplored promotional venues (e.g., real-world print advertising).

Optimize Conversions
However your site measures success, it’s always possible to improve the rate at which it succeeds. Traffic plays a role in this, but on-site elements are equally important. Landing pages are one area of potential improvement; by giving the right first impression, you can improve the chances that your visitors perform the desired action. Form processes/goal funnels are also important; a little analysis goes a long way toward keeping your visitors on track to converting. You can even focus on following up with visitors to keep them coming back.

Add New Conversion Methods
Short of developing new goals for the site, you can think up new ways to realize its original goals. For example, if you run an e-commerce site, you can add on new products. If you run a blog, you can add features to draw in readers or monetize traffic. The trick is to review your site’s goals, learn from what you’ve already done to realize them, and explore new angles of approach.

Expand Goals
As in personal growth, goals must be reassessed from time to time. As your site grows, it may achieve its original goals in a conclusive way, or previously unconsidered goals may crop up. Blogs may expand into new topics, for example. As these arise, it’s important to consider whether the new goal makes sense. Does it expand upon the site’s original goals? Does it make sense from a user’s perspective? If it seems like a natural fit, go with it. If not, you might want to start a new website instead.

Start a New Website
In many ways, starting over is a way of bringing the whole process full-circle. You may have reached a point where improving your existing website is no longer worth the effort. Or, you may want to go in a new direction that doesn’t seem to be a natural fit for the existing website. Whatever the reason, you’ve gained valuable insights along the way. Feed those considerations back into the process as you set about defining your new site’s purpose.

Launching a Successful Website, Step Six: Maintenance

“Good decisions are not made; they are managed.”
– John Maxwell

Maxwell’s point is that just making a good decision is easy. However, most people fail to live up to their good decisions. Only those who stick to their goals with consistency can ever achieve them. That is to say, the decisions that bear fruit are those that are managed well day in and day out.

The same logic applies to websites. You can follow all of my other steps for launching a successful website. As a result, your launch may be a resounding success. Without regular maintenance, however, that success can only be temporary. Anyone can build a website, but the most successful websites are those that are managed well after launch. Thus, in many ways, step six is the most important step of all.

First and foremost, you have to deliver on your promises. If you’re a blogger, post regularly, engage your commenters, and converse openly with others in your niche. If you’re an ecommerce site owner, maintain proper product listings, ecommerce gateways, and distribution systems. Whatever your site is supposed to do, put in the work to make sure it keeps doing it and doing it well.

Toward this end, you must enforce accountability. People are more diligent when they are held responsible. Identify which of your experts is tasked with each aspect of site maintenance, then develop metrics to track their performance and monitor them on a regular basis. Ideally, good performance should be rewarded to keep everyone’s interests aligned with the site’s success.

It’s also important to address user concerns. Only the simplest sites can hope to persist after launch without problems cropping up. If your visitors or your experts are complaining, attempt to resolve the issue. Give any feedback you receive its due consideration; even the belligerent ravings of a disgruntled user can reveal a genuine problem that deserves attention.

In a similar vein, it’s important to know your market. If you run a gadget site, but you don’t know about the latest and greatest gadgets available, your site will fall behind its competitors. Likewise, if you run a news blog, but you don’t keep an eye on the top headlines, nobody will give your posts the time of day. Know what’s happening in your market and how those changes affect your website. Otherwise, it will fail no matter how well it is maintained.

Lastly, and most importantly, remain vigilant. Your site may be buzzing along fine one day and experiencing serious problems the next. It doesn’t pay to become complacent and assume that everything is fine. Regular review and quality assurance will go a long way toward rooting out problems that don’t crop up elsewhere.

With all the work you’ve already done to plan, build, and launch the site, what matters now is that you know what needs to be done to maintain the its momentum and ensure that those things are done with consistency.

In my next post, I’ll address the final aspect of launching a successful website: Growth.

Launching a Successful Website, Step Five: 3, 2, 1… Lift Off!

Every step so far has led up to this: Launching your website. Of course, the technical bits should already be taken care of, leaving only the launch itself. If your site is small, this can be as simple as turning the key and hoping for the best. More than likely, though, you’ll need to spread the word to get any attention. As with everything that came before, here are some best practices to keep in mind.

Set a date. Much like a shuttle takeoff, there’s often a lot of coordination involved in launching a website. Pick a reasonable date in the near future to schedule it all. Your promotional experts may be able to advise the most strategic time based on your market (e.g., launching a football paraphernalia website just before the play-offs), or you may aim to launch as soon as possible. In any event, setting a date and sticking to it will help ensure the launch goes off without a hitch.

Submit the site to search engines. This used to mean manual submissions. Nowadays, though, it means compiling an XML sitemap and submitting it to Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer, and MSN Live Search Webmaster Center, as well as adding it to your robots.txt file for smaller search engines. This should get the spiders indexing all of your content as quickly as possible.

Publish a press release. With today’s technology, you might think that the old-fashioned press release would have gone the way of the dodo, but it can still be a useful method for promoting a website.

Contact reviewers. Nothing can bring a new site up to speed like an endorsement from a respected professional. Just be sure your site deserves praise before soliciting reviews. Remember your manners, too; unless they’re paid, reviewers are doing you a favor, and attempting to forcibly coerce a good review could easily backfire.

Tap social media. One well-placed Digg, Twitter, or Stumble could easily get a new site off the ground. Where appropriate, spread the news of your site’s launch out in these and other social networks. As with reviewers, though, don’t force it; social networkers have a notorious hatred for overzealous self-promotion. Tread with care or you risk provoking a very damaging backlash.

Establish advertising. You might use pay-per-click services like Google AdWords, banner ad placement services like Tribal Fusion, or seek out independent advertising agreements with individual website owners. The key is to know your prospective audience and the kinds of sites they’re likely to visit.

Build inbound links. Listings in relevant directories can provide some modest traffic and the initial link juice needed for your site to rank in search engine results. Even more valuable, though, are links from websites with significant authority in your market.

Launching Ward on the Web

Most of the concept and planning work for Ward on the Web occurred early in May 2008. Thus, I decided to set June 1st, 2008 as my firm launch date. I installed the Google XML Sitemaps plugin for WordPress, submitted my sitemap to the big three search engines, and added it to my robots.txt file. I then hit up some of my blogging contacts, including Adam Schultz, Daniel Scocco, and Simon Owens, with notice of the launch. Lastly, I added social media bookmarking links to my WordPress template and submitted the site to Dmoz. As for press releases and advertising, I intentionally left them out because I don’t have the budget for them.

In my next post, I’ll address how to maintain your site’s upward momentum after launch.