Some people erroneously believe that if they put up a website, business will increase dramatically, since the internet has millions of surfers. Not quite.
Being that I've been a web developer and administrator for a half decade, people regularly ask me if they should get a website. Some of them reason, erroneously, that if they put up a website, business will increase dramatically, since the Internet has millions of surfers.
This is sort of like saying, if you open a store in New York City, your sales register should ring non-stop, since New York City has millions of people.
This is not exactly how it works.
The big question on the Internet is the same as in any conventional business: How do people know where to find you?
Ironically, with a conventional business it's probably easier to luck out by opening a store on a busy thoroughfare and doing well from day one. On the Internet, it's not that simple; any "busy thoroughfare," is already someone else's website. For a new website, heavy traffic, and subsequent sales, usually comes with a vigorous promotional campaign.
At some point in the past, there actually was a way to get inexpensive Internet traffic with little or no promotion. During the "gold rush" days of the Internet, which goes as far back as eight or nine years (the Internet, as we know it, is little more than a decade or so old), if you got a generic name like register.com, cars.com, stocks.com or store.com, you could pretty much expect instant success. Such names are so generic in nature, that they generate constant, massive traffic.
Can you still get names like that? Not for the going prices of between $10 and $35. For several hundred thousand dollars, or, in some case, millions of dollars, you have a shot.
To generate traffic, there are also the old standbys; search engines. Here's a list of some of the top search engines and their addresses:
AOL - aol.com
AltaVista - altavista.com
AskJeeves - askjeeves.com
Google - google.com
Hotbot - hotbot.lycos.com
inktomi - inktomi.com
LycosFast - lycos.com
MSN Search - search.msn.com
Open Directory Project (ODP) - dmoz.org
Teoma - teoma.com
WiseNut - wisenut.com
Yahoo! - yahoo.com
There are many software programs and web applications that will submit your site to hundreds or even thousands of search engines. But when it comes to the top search engines, it's recommended that you actually visit each one of their sites and submit your website manually.
Major search engines account for over 90% of search-engine-generated traffic; they're too important to leave to an automated procedure. What's more, some search engines don't allow automatic program submissions.
Also, a very important aspect of doing business on the web is to get "targeted traffic." Targeted traffic means getting people who in some way are associated with or have already shown interest in your product or service.
Virtually every search engine will ask you for a "category." By choosing a category that properly describes, or at least comes as close as possible to describing, your website, you'll be maximizing on "quality" traffic.
Specifying the "wrong" category or neglecting it altogether, will only waste your time, money and efforts. For example, if you're running a bakery, and you wind up in some category like "hobbies," getting tons of people who are looking for kites and train sets won't add much to your pocket -- unless you happen to sell bagels that fly or apple strudel that goes "Choo Choo" when you bite into it.
The bottom line is, if you're going to spend time and money on a website, do it right, and for the right reasons. Instead of asking yourself that age-old philosophical question, to be or not to be (a webmaster), you should be asking yourself that other philosophical question: If your website falters in the forest (of websites), and nobody hears your cash register ring, did it make a sound in your pocket? Philosophers are still grappling with this question.
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