"If you build it, they will come." That famous line from Field of Dreams proved true in the film, but, unfortunately, it doesn't apply to the Internet. If you want people to visit your site, you have to make an effort to let them know it's there. Here are some ideas we've used successfully ourselves.
Create a signature file containing your URL in your email program and add it to all your e-mails. That way every message you send advertises your website. Signature files are particularly useful if you are writing to discussion lists or newsgroups - they allow you to publicise your site while not breaking the rules about spamming.
Take every chance you can to get your web address into print. You can add it to your letterhead and business cards and ask for it to be included in any background information for conferences, school visits and magazine articles. In addition, you can ask your publisher to include it on any publicity for your books and on the books themselves.
Links from Other Sites
If you think about how you move around the web, you'll realise the importance of links to your site from others on a similar theme. They bring you extra visitors and increase your ranking in some search engines (especially Google). Try contacting sites in related fields and suggest they take a look at your site with a view to linking. In particular, ask your publisher for a link, contact relevant directory sites like ours at UK Children's Books and remember that the Society of Authors and other organisations link to members' sites. Many people (but by no means all) like a link back to them in return, so you are more likely to get links if you have a links section of your own. But this isn't a good enough reason to clutter up your site with links which are completely unrelated to your content.
Search engines like Google are in the business of finding good sites for their users. So the best way to gain high ranking is to make sure that your site is interesting, full of information and easy to navigate. You also need to make the description and keywords for each page as suitable as possible. These are hidden in the underlying code and help search engines decide what the page is about.
Although some search engines scan servers for new sites, many of them require you to register. There is a wide selection of software available which will automatically submit your site to a long list of search engines. But many of the more important search engines no longer look at this type of submission so it's better and cheaper to spend time submitting your site by hand. Just go to the site and click the 'add URL' link. If you're asked for money, stop. Although some search engines charge you to register, there are still plenty that don't so it's not worth paying.
When you try to register your site with directory sites like www.yahoo.com and www.dmoz.org, you have to choose a category which suits your site. We've found we're often more successful if we choose a UK category. If your first attempt at registering doesn't work, try again after a couple of months using a different category.
If you run an opt-in newsletter for visitors to your site, each issue will encourage them to come back to your site. You can also use it to encourage new traffic by adding a paragraph suggesting they forward the newsletter to anyone else they think would enjoy it.
All these ideas are cheap, easy and effective. We hope they work as well for you as they have for us.