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Problem: I don't have my own e-mail list but need to reach a sizable audience—soon.

Solution: Which comes first, the e-mail newsletter or the list? It's a common chicken-and-egg scenario; after all, you typically don't start building your list until you have something to send, yet you don't want to put too much work into a newsletter until you have people who'll actually read it.

So if the newsletter arrives before the list, how do you start building that subscriber base, like, pronto? Here are three options:

1) Sponsorships: The easiest way to get access to an e-mail list is to find someone already sending to it and become a sponsor. Just make sure the landing page people hit when they click on your banner ad or link prompts them to join your e-mail list.

2) Co-registration: Find an organization you like—and whose audience might also be interested in what you're up to—and see if they'll let you piggyback on their e-mail signup form either as a favor (if they really like you) or for a fee (if they really like you but also like making a living). There are also co-reg firms that help simplify the entire process.

3) Customers: Remember that often the best way to grow your e-mail list quickly is to start with your existing customer base. Make sure your cash register, signup forms, front desk, event booth and Web site all encourage people to join your list. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how many actually do.

Clint Smith is co-founder of Emma Email Marketing (www.myemma.com), a Web-based e-mail marketing service.

Problem: Unsure whether to measure Web site success by hits, visitors or visits.

Solution: The real answer is "none of the above." While large and growing numbers of hits, visitors and visits are all a good thing, serious Web marketers know these measurements alone don't provide a true picture of a site's success. Search engine spiders, spambots and curious competitors all inflate these numbers. While a good site traffic analysis program can distinguish wanted from unwanted traffic, there is a much better way to measure your site's effectiveness.

The real key is conversion rate, the percentage of site visits that actually result in transactions.

Every well-conceived and strategically designed site has at least one holy grail, which is the place where a desired transaction occurs. For e-commerce sites, it is the order confirmation page at the end of the shopping cart. For institutional sites, it is the "thank you" that appears when the "contact us" form is submitted. For affiliate link sites, it's the qualifying click-through that creates a commissionable sale. Other such events include e-mail list signups, forum memberships, completed surveys and contest entries.

A good Web site traffic analysis package tracks navigational paths through the site from entry to exit. Armed with that information, you can:

  • Add links to guide people to a transaction from every logical point within the site and eliminate links that don't;
  • Analyze referrers to gauge which sites and search engine/keyword combinations produce the most transactions;
  • Use unique landing pages for your promotional efforts so you focus on the ones that result in transactions.

Your goal should never be to merely have people visit your site. Continually monitor your conversion rate and adjust.

Tom Snyder is president and founder of Trivera Interactive (www.trivera.com), a Web site development and online marketing company.

Problem: Maintaining results after initial search optimization efforts produced a spike in traffic.

Solution: Search engine optimization (SEO) is like brushing your teeth—you can pay a dentist to clean and fix them, but you still need to brush daily.

First, make sure you aren't messing up what you paid to get done. If you had a page optimized to include keywords, be careful about making changes to it. When creating new pages and content, make sure you apply the same SEO standards used when you first optimized your site.

When redesigning your site, keep the site structure the same or similar. When you restructure a site, search engines will have to reindex the site, and you will break valuable inbound links from other sites. If you can plan ahead, SEO takes the least amount of time and money when you do it in conjunction with a revamp rather than before or after.

Second, you need to build off what you already have. Many search engines gauge how important you are by looking at who else thinks you are important, i.e., who is linking to you. Make time to find related sites and cultivate relevant inbound links.

Blogs are also an effective way of interacting with the community, creating inbound links and generating dynamic content. And don't forget to update the content on your site. Search engines look at how fresh the content is when assigning relevancy.

Aaron Kahlow is managing partner at Business OnLine (www.businessol.com), a b-to-b Web site services company.

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