How to advertise your web site

Posted on July 14, 2000

by Steve White

Advertising your web site can seem quite daunting to the inexperienced. Not because it is necessarily difficult, but because a mistake can have significant and detrimental consequences. If you have a limited advertising budget (everyone has a limited advertising budget), spending it all on an ad campaign that fails to produce results can easily and often does put many companies out of business.

Affordable Website Promotion

Advertising your onsite business is still critically important to many budding Internet entrepreneurs and marketers. I have avoided discussing it to date because I don't consider myself an expert and because the Internet is full of newsletters, articles and Spam email on how to advertise your site. Even so I have done my fair share of advertising from trade shows, magazines, ad agencies, banner ads and cold call telemarketing.

My first suggestion is to try to get someone that enjoys sales and marketing involved with your operation. Many entrepreneurs are specialists in a particular field. They are great designers, software developers, wine merchants etc., but not necessarily good promoters. If you don't enjoy it not only will you likely be bad at it, but you will also waste a lot of the time you could otherwise devote to the things that you are good at.

Whether finding sales and marketing help is possible or not, it is still important to have a good grasp of what is going on. Advertising can often be the single biggest expense you have. You need to know where the money is going.

So where should you advertise and how much should you spend? The answer; spend just enough in as many places as necessary.

It is a flippant answer but probably correct. I of course don't know anything about your business and I don't know how much you have. More significantly, getting this just right is the reason some people are multi-billionaires and most of us are not.

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Even so, I can offer a few practical insights.

First, try to identify your customers. Who are they, where are they and what are they interested in. This of course is a huge topic that entire industries are devoted to answering. Assuming you know (which you need to do), then you want to target this group as closely as possible. Every ad that is seen by someone outside of this target audience is a waste of your money.

Here are some Traditional Options:

Trade Shows: Usually a very targeted but relatively small audience. Not everyone at Comdex is likely to walk past your 10x10 booth. Trade shows can be very expensive costing anywhere from a minimum of a few thousand dollars to well into the hundred's of thousands of dollars. Because of the relatively small but highly target audience, a trade show is usually a better place to make strategic alliances than sales. Some Flee Market type shows are the exception. In any case, they will demand a significant amount of your time.

Trade Magazines: Also usually caters to a highly targeted national audience. Prices again vary from a few hundred dollars to $40-$100,000+ depending on the circulation, size of the ad, ad location etc. Expect to spend a few thousand dollars to get something worthwhile. Using magazine advertising is easily overlooked but can be very affective for the right products.

Newspaper Ads: A non-targeted local audience. Prices again vary depending on the size and location of the ad but you can again expect to spend a few thousand dollars for something with a presence. Because of the local, non-targeted audience, newspaper ads are better used by local "bricks and mortar" operations than by cyber space only businesses.

Radio: Is similar in its coverage to local newspapers. Prices again vary depending on the audience size and the time of day. Radio has become popular with many ".COM" advertisers recently but I suspect it will pass. You had better have a good URL that is very easy to remember.

TV: Is very expensive, not only for the time spot but for the cost of the video. For a few hundred dollars I suppose you could always use your home Camcorder to shoot your mother and daughter for a 3am spot on a small station. TV is better left to multinational corporations looking for product or corporate branding.

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Ad Agency: Will create and coordinate your advertising campaign, buy advertising slots and do all kinds of other wonderful things for you. Until recently you could get their interest for a little under a $100,000. With all the money being spent by Internet IPO financed companies it is a lot harder to hire their services these days. Once the IPO money is gone it will probably return to normal; which is still far too expensive for most of us.

Internet Banner Ads. Should be the obvious choice for most Internet companies. Their glamour was severely reduced when they failed to live up to their expectations. They are now so pervasive on Web Sites that they are easily ignored. The trouble appears to be that there are far too many web sites hoping to sell them and not enough that want to use them. This however can present a significant opportunity. When the supply is high and the demand is low, prices come down. Advertised prices seem to be all over the place but my guess is that there is a lot of room for negotiation. Expect to pay about $1000 to start but negotiate the number of clicks or impressions.

Opt-In Newsletters: Such as those seen in this newsletter have gained in popularity as banner ads have diminished. Newsletters can either be very targeted or general. None target newsletter ads are selling for $4-$8 per 1000 subscribers. Targeted newsletters are selling from $5-$15 dollars per 1000. Most newsletters charge a flat fee but some will accept clicks similar to banner ads. Prices start at under $100.

Non Opt-In Newsletters: Better known as Spam just don't seem to want to go away. They consequently must appear to be effective for someone. Because of their nature however, it does not need many Spam Advertisers to flood our email boxes. I suspect that they are most popular with failing businesses desperate to try anything.

Steve White is the lead software designer and developer for Virtual Mechanics Inc. at Steve also publishes a weekly syndicated newsletter on Web Design and Promotion. Articles and subscription information is available at


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