Jump into online publishing

If you’ve decided to jump into online publishing — putting out an online newsletter, magazine or other content that will interest your business’s customers — you may think that designing your website is your biggest challenge. But that’s the easy part. Much trickier is gathering an audience that will sustain the publication. Here are some tips on building a loyal audience for your site.

Start where you are
The Internet is a surprisingly personal place. A thousand people, each with unique personal interests, can spend the same 60 minutes online together and never come close to crossing paths. It follows that the key to Web publishing success is forging a lasting personal connection with people based on your own skills, interests and contacts. In other words, the best place to start is with the connections you already have online. Then use those connections to build a community of like-minded people and keep expanding from there.

Your own interests and expertise are your strengths as a publisher. Study the information that is already available in your niche, looking for gaps you can fill. Then, fill the gaps with valuable information nobody else provides. An example is www.businessbricks.co.uk a small business advice website in the U.K.

Your goal should be to create unique, valuable information that meets the needs of your targeted audience. On the Internet, there are many ways to provide that information that aren’t available to print publishers — for example, you can offer searchable, interactive databases and encyclopedias.

Work Your Niche
Get to know the online habits of your prospective audience. What other sites are they likely to visit? Make a list and try to develop a relationship with each one. There are a variety of ways to do this. Your best options include offering to write articles (informative and not self-serving) for other sites, or posting messages with your Web address on their bulletin boards. Trade links and adverts with other sites in your field, and if you can afford it, buy classified adverts at related sites.

One web publisher doubled her traffic by spending two months (and a small amount of advertising money) working through all the sites in her niche in this way. Another got similar results by hiring and supervising a Net-savvy college student.

Don’t neglect offline ways to publicise your website. Send press releases and emails about interesting features on your site to print as well as online media in your niche. List your Web address wherever you also list yourself — business directories, professional associations, and chambers of commerce. Speak at trade shows or conventions.

Work the search engines
Lots of people will find — or not find — your site by using online search engines such as Google, where they type in the words they’re searching for. You need to do a little work to make sure your site will turn up when a potential reader conducts a search. Here are three good places to go for tips on making your site stand out to search engines.

  • SEARCH ENGINE WATCH
    http://www.searchenginewatch.com) is an online newsletter that offers comprehensive, practical tips about making a site that search engines can find. There are also some good links for Webmasters here.