Seth Godin links to a blog post about exposure on MySpace today that’s a fairly interesting read.
I’ve had several endeavors so far that I have gained a ton of exposure for by tailoring the content to the interests of certain powerful blogs and asking them to post a link on their site. This kind of honest and simple marketing is cheap and effective if you’re trying to score eyeballs. Faking it will hurt more than it will help.
In my opinion, getting a rush of eyeballs is actually pretty easy, provided you create good content and get your links up on the right areas. Bloggers are like newspaper journalists – constantly hungering for content. Give them something to whet their appetite for a day, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.
The real challenge is what to do when you get those eyeballs. Despite the huge influx of visitors to the sites I’ve successfully promoted, I’ve rarely been able to maintain more than 20% of those numbers on an ongoing basis, and I’ve made almost no money on the propositions. In other words, getting the exposure you want is easy. Maintaining interest takes effort.
In all honesty, I simply haven’t cared that much so far because the sites I have promoted were never intended to be massive affairs. This will soon be changing, though, as there are a few things I really want to build buzz around. So my new challenge is keeping folks coming back, getting them to click on the things I want them to visit or buy and getting some value out of my work.
Typically, I put the word out there about something way before I’m ready for the traffic, which makes everything extremely daunting. It’s a tough risk, but I believe the best plan of action is to put all of your effort into making your site complete, clean and built around the goals you are striving to achieve (i.e. selling your wares, getting folks to click on your Google ads, etc.) before you bother going for the big numbers. Wine Spotter is a good example of this strategy. I’ve already put in about 50 hours worth of work, and I estimate I have 30 or so to go before it’s “ready for prime time”. I think it would be a breeze to start promoting what I have, but I’m afraid that folks will come and see what’s there rather than what’s to come. You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and that first impression really counts for everything in the short attention span world.
This is, of course, why having a well-defined plan for a site is of the utmost importance. Take all of the goals and desires for your site and get them down on paper. Once you’re confident you have just about everything, begin prioritizing the features. Break them down into three groups:
- Required for Launch
- Valuable Enhancement
- Nice to Have
Required for Launch covers everything you consider vital to making the site work and making it valuable to your visitors. If you had to cut out every single feature but a vital few, these would be the ones marked “Required for Launch”. Those items that add significant value to the site but don’t keep it from being valuable or usable should be dropped in the second category. Everything else goes in the third. This is a very subjective, touchy-feely process, but it’s the best way to ensure that your site serves its purpose.
Don’t heavily promote your site until everything laid out in the first category has been completely implemented, tested and re-tested. You want to make sure that, when you gain exposure, the folks coming to your site immediately find what you want them to find. Don’t be coy – lay it right out there. If you’re selling something, put the “Buy” button prominently in front of your visitors. If you’re making money off of ad sales, put your ads in places where they’ll actually look, not in the places they’re trained to ignore. Perform some user testing on your friends and family. It can be as simple and asking them to visit the site and take a look around. Watch and record every move they make. Are they going to the locations you want them to? How long until they get bored and click away from your site? Don’t get frustrated and don’t lead them around – let them explore while you objectively observe how the average user uses your site. If you’re unhappy with the results, change the site around. Ask questions about why they went a particular route, what caught their eye first, etc. Ask them to narrate their surfing, to think out loud as they visit your site. All of this will lead to a much better experience for everyone and ensure that, once you do get the exposure you want, you’ll be able to make the most of it.