In the prehistoric days of the World Wide Web - five years ago - sites were such a new fangled phenomenon that a workable marketing plan was ’build it and they will come.’
In the prehistoric days of the World Wide Web - five years ago -
sites were such a new fangled phenomenon that a workable marketing plan
was ’build it and they will come.’
No more. With about 800 million web pages in existence, chances are slim
that surfers will just happen upon a company’s online presence. Because
web sites compete against the entire Web for visitors and media
attention, it takes something special to get noticed.
To lure visitors to a site, there are a number of approaches to try and
experts agree that mixing and matching is probably best. The online
world is tailor-made for mixed marketing - for everything from the basic
(getting listed with search engines, getting the site reviewed) to the
more cutting edge (attending vertical trade shows, conducting polls and
- still the word du jour - ’affiliating’).
Companies should build buzz for a new site before it’s live without
spoiling the news of the launch. Ed Niehaus, president of Niehaus Ryan
Wong (NRW), which represents and helped debut industry gargantua Yahoo!,
says this can be done by developing a company - not a site - story
beforehand. For example, when NRW was preparing to help PlanetRx.com
launch its site, it pitched profiles of the new CEO of PlanetRx, Bill
Razzouk, who had been the number two person at FedEx. It also pushed
pieces on the venture capital funding for the company.
Niehaus advises companies launching a site to think about whether they
want to be first or foremost. With the threat that a competitor may
announce a similar product, many companies push the beta version of a
site, which can dilute news of the final product.
While companies may want to send out numerous press releases to gain
attention, this tactic may backfire. ’Don’t dilute your voice,’ says
Niehaus. Online greeting card site Bluemountainarts.com, ranked the 15th
most visited site by Media Metrix, sends out press releases to drive
visitors to the site only during the holidays.
When pitching to the media, PR pros should not only focus on technology
publications, but the vertical markets that a company’s site appeals to
as well. Frank Gelman, COO of The Rasky/Baerlein Group, says an
important component of PR efforts for clients Better Homes and Gardens
Online and Ladies’ Home Journal Online includes targeting food and home
’The media is more sophisticated in a way that’s made it easier and
harder’ to get attention for a company’s web site, Gelman explains.
’It’s easier because the media grasps the idea a lot quicker but it’s
harder because they’re in a ’been there, done that’ situation.’
The vertical media are also important to auction site eBay, which works
with publications like Marybeth’s Beanie World Monthly and Sports
To help drive site traffic, eBay participates every year in hundreds of
trade shows, on topics like baseball, gemstones, Star Wars, Beanie
Babies, coins and stamps. In addition to having booths at the shows,
eBay pitches its users as keynote speakers and panelists.
Many corporations also swear by web site reviews and awards. ’If you’ve
got a site, chances are, there’s an award for it,’ Niehaus says. Net-ads
has a page listing the ’best of the best web site awards’
One of the most important ways to get yourself known online is to
affiliate with other sites - to link up with them and, if you’re doing
e-commerce, to share revenues with the referring site. Several
companies, such as LinkShare, have popped up to broker these partnering
Erica Hartman, public relations director for Bluemountainarts.com, says
her company is beginning to develop an affiliate program with sites such
as LookSmart, barnesandnoble.com and Proflowers.com.
Polls also help drive site traffic. Yahoo! does a weekly poll in
conjunction with National Public Radio’s Marketplace, which announces
the results on the air. Every four months Shell Oil conducts The Shell
Poll, which covers topics such as teens, values and the millennium. It
posts the results on the Internet and issues news releases on the
Contests are another way to drive site traffic and generate excitement.
When Shell launched a site in February 1998 with the theme of ’Count on
Shell,’ the company used a combination of sponsorship, hyperlinks and
During the 1998 Olympics, the company sponsored a snowboarding game on
CBS Sportsline; users could click through to the countonshell. com
Shell also held a contest and awarded an all-expenses paid trip to the
Olympics in Nagano for the family that agreed to have its trip diaries
published on the Shell site, allowing site visitors to hear what it was
like to be an American at the Olympics in Japan.
According to Sixtus Oechsle, manager of corporate communication for
Shell Oil, hits to the web site increased by more than 10,000%, and
never dropped below 700% higher than the highest month prior to the
DOS AND DON’TS
1 Build buzz for the site before launch.
2 Search for ways to reach vertical markets, including pitching to
vertical trades and trade shows.
3 Conduct thorough research and submit for appropriate awards.
4 Get creative. Rather than just issuing press releases, consider
holding polls and contests.
5 Develop affiliations with other sites.
1 Overwhelm the media with press releases.
2 Fail the ’so-what’ test and assume that if it’s interesting to you,
3 Drift into a launch. You have only one chance to announce a new site -
make sure your plan is aggressive and well thought-out. Realize that if
you announce the beta version of the site, you may be the first one out
of the gate but you may also have to live with the media’s first