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Sustainable Development Communications Network
Erik Johnson, World Bank Institute (WBI)
The World Wide Web itself offers one of the most dynamic and wide-reaching vehicles for marketing your Web product/service. This section will address three main Web-based strategies, as well as a few miscellaneous tools that do not necessarily fit into one of these categories. These strategies include: using your own Web site, cross-linking and banner ads.
Making the most of your own Web site
In order to show site visitors what you have to offer and convince them to use it, you should incorporate some of the following elements into your Web design. Most of these elements should be found on your main page, seeing as that might be the only page your visitors see if they don't like what they find there.
As a Webmaster of a CSO, you have to be aware of ways to promote your site that don't require too many resources from your organization. Search Engines are among the most popular tools that people use to search something on the Web, and most of them are free! So, the key is what you do to ensure that search engines are noticing your Web site.
How do search engines work?
Although search engines are really a general class of programs, the term is often used to specifically describe systems like Alta Vista (http://www.altavista.com) and Excite (http://www.excite.com) that enable users to search for documents on the Internet. Typically, a search engine works by sending out a spider to fetch as many documents as possible. Another program, called an indexer, then reads these documents and creates an index based on the words contained in each document. Until the page has been indexed by the search engine, the information that the spider finds is not made available to the public. The indexer reads the documents from top to bottom, so what it looks at first is the primary determination of relevance.
Improving your exposure on the Web
There are a few things that you can do to ensure that search engines will index your site in the best way, so that you can be found easier in the enormous information sea that is the Internet. You can start writing your text using key words where you can, especially in the first paragraphs. Other things to have in mind are:
Using relevant keywords and descriptions that reflects your content will help you to get the "right" people going to your Web page. For example, if your Web page is about international environmental law for sustainable development, using "development" as a key word might bring to your site a user that was looking for "economic development." Following are some tips that will help you to take advantage of key words and descriptions:
Submitting to directories
Submitting your site to directories will increase your presence on the Internet, as well as help you to get better rankings on search results. There are several directories where you can submit your site for free. You should submit it to the most popular and general directories like Yahoo! (http://www.yahoo.com – regional Yahoos also exist), Google (http://www.google.com), Altavista (http://www.altavista.com), Excite (http://www.excite.com), among others, but also to portals specialized in your area, like the Global Development Network (http://www.gdnet.org), ELDIS (http://www.eldis.org), AmbienteOnline (http://www.ambienteonline.pt), etc.
A couple of tips:
One of the cheapest, yet most effective means of attracting visitors to your Web site is to ask other organizations to post a link to your Web site. Of course, the more traffic these organizations draw to their sites, the more attention your link will receive. The downside of this is that sites that attract large numbers of visitors (i.e., commercial portals such as Yahoo) know the value of this marketing tool, so they will often charge for a link. That's why the best place to start is with organizations with which you are affiliated with and others that are working in related fields.
Even though this strategy is cheap and can be quite easy, it will still be most effective if it is implemented through a written strategy. A process for developing and implementing such a strategy would look something like this:
To increase the chances that a Webmaster will agree to link to your site, you should also be able to offer them a link through your site. To allow for this, you should create at least one section such as:
One thing to keep in mind is that, all links are not necessarily good links. Links from poor Web sites or organizations with bad reputations can do more harm than good to your marketing efforts. You should keep track of who is linking to your site and ask people to remove links if you think that they are a liability to your organization.
The main vehicle for commercial sector advertising on the Web is called the "banner ad." These advertisements are the same as you might see in a newspaper, only they usually appear in the margin of a Web page, and they can also be far more dynamic than a print ad.
The effectiveness of these ads is still in question. However, given the ease with which statistics can be collected on the number of times ads have been "clicked" by users, there is strong evidence that they are often ignored. Even with this information, it is difficult to determine whether these Web ads are more or less effective than other ads.
The question we should be asking here is: how appropriate is banner advertising for CSOs? To begin with, these ads can be quite expensive to create, depending upon the graphic sophistication you desire (i.e., animation). Secondly, placing ads in high traffic places (i.e., global e-newspapers and e-zines) can be very costly.
If you do decide to try out banner ads, there are many resources that you might explore to prepare yourself. These include:
Odds and ends
A couple of other ways to utilize the Internet to market your Web site include:
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