NETSENSE: Site development includes promotion

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When you think of Web development, what types of activities and services come to mind?

Designing graphics? Mapping out site flow? Creating content sections? Installing a search engine? Interfacing your product database with your Web server? All of these are part of Web development.

As a Web marketer, you have probably paid one or several Web developers to help you accomplish these tasks. Some Web shops can do all, or nearly all, of the above and save you valuable time and sanity.

But whether you find a one-stop developer or bring together a patchwork of specialists to create each area of your site, one aspect of the Web development rests on your shoulders: the ongoing marketing of your site.

Developers don't always market

Let me state for the record what I have witnessed to be true: The best pure design and programming shops know the least about marketing your Web site. The better they are at building a back-end database or creating a stunning visual presence, the worse they will be at making sure the world knows the site exists.

This is not meant as a slam. Quite the contrary. As Web development gets more complex, the skills needed to bring a robust electronic-commerce site online must be more specialized.

But often, the marketing of the site is neglected or even forgotten.

I have clients coming to me with 2-year-old sites who still haven't gotten the sites listed with common directories and search engines, let alone industry-specific Web guides. Some marketers have never even announced their sites through basic news releases. Yet these types of activities are often the make-or-break aspects of Web development.

Some Web development companies, realizing their clients are demanding these types of marketing services, hire an in-house marketer to submit and promote all the sites they develop. Others contract out the site promotion to a third party.

The common thread, though -- and I've seen it repeatedly -- is they do not give site marketing enough thought. It's considered a hassle.

And that's understandable.

I was recently sent a copy of a contract a client of mine had signed with its Web developer for the redesign of its site. I don't build sites myself; I help others market the sites that are built.

In this case, the site was for one of the most famous golf courses in the world. The developer did a beautiful job with the design and functionality of the site. After six months, though, site traffic was just a trickle.

I looked through the contract and saw that the Web developer charged $1,000 for "site promotion, announcements and submissions."

I had to dig deeper to find the report that detailed what the $1,000 actually went toward and was shocked to discover it was submissions to eight search engines. I bet that took the developer all of eight minutes.

I won't go into what I told my client, but it had been ripped off.

Get involved

What's the NetSense in all this? You, as the point person in charge of your company's Web presence, need to set expectations with your developers about the marketing of the site once it is built.

The best approach you can take is to take the promotion of your site into your own hands, and interview a few third-party companies to help you. You can't out-source 100% of the marketing; you need to be involved.

In the past year, I've had a huge increase in requests for me to create year-round site-marketing plans. No accident. Sites succeed when they promote site activities year-round, not from out-sourcing to a developer who makes eight submissions.

Eric Ward is a consultant, speaker and writer who launched the Web's first awareness-building service for Web sites in 1994. Reach him at

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