First Edition, June 1996
Now that you've built it, how do you get people to come? That is a crucial question as the World Wide Web continues to grow. The Web is a relatively new communication medium, with no universal indexing system, so there's no simple solution to promotion--unless you're a deep-pocket business with a fortune to spend on advertising. This chapter explains the basics of increasing the number of visitors to your site.
Placing your site on Immigration Lawyers on the Web gives you two distinct advantages from the outset:
That's the good news--and most will be quite content with the level of activity that ILW brings. We guess that the average Web site on ILW will attract perhaps one new client a month without extra promotion. But if you want to generate more visitors, you'll either need to get involved in active promotion on the Internet and elsewhere, or pay for advertising and/or promotional services. It takes an investment of time and/or money beyond the initial development costs to attract large numbers of prospective clients to your site.
This has come to be a blanket term describing many different types of search and index services. Search engines abound on the Web. ILW itself has several [see http://ilw.com/ailalist, http://ilw.com/index2.htm, and http://ilw.com/ilwlist]. What differentiates our internal search engines from services like Infoseek or Lycos? For one thing, our internal search engines index only those files that reside on our server (i.e., our main computer). That is logical, because it benefits our customers. Services like Lycos and Infoseek are trying to index all or most of the millions of files on the Internet. All of the "major" search engines are fighting to become the definitive directory of the Internet, and the competition is fierce. Moreover, the various features that used to distinguish one service from another are rapidly being incorporated across the board, making them more and more homogenous. We consider inclusion in all of the major search engines to be a basic necessity, the starting point for promoting your Web site.
Important: Submission of your URL to any of these sites does not guarantee inclusion! All of these services are completely swamped with submissions and are constantly trying to stay ahead of the curve. Average lag time between submission and inclusion is two to six weeks. As part of our service, we submit your main URL (http://ilw.com/your_name/) to all of the majors. We strongly recommend that you take the time to submit every single page of your site to all of them (except Yahoo, which only accepts the main URL). For example, let's say your site has a home page (the main URL) plus four additional pages as follows: 1) Firm Profile, 2) Lawyer Profiles, 3) Practice Areas, and 4) Contact Questionnaire. Each page has a unique URL. For the Firm Profile it might be http://ilw.com/your_name/firm.htm. The Practice Areas page might be http://ilw.com/your_name/practice.htm. You can and should submit each unique URL that's associated with your site to numerous search engines. The time you spend submitting all of your pages will pay off by increasing the chance that a prospective client will find you when searching on particular words or phrases.
Here are brief descriptions of the dominant five search engines now sharing space on Netscape's hugely popular site on a rotating basis [see http://home.netscape.com/home/internet-directory.html].
For more on this topic, please see Search the Net/Submit Your Site [http://hake.com/search.htm], by Hake Internet Projects.
How do you promote your practice now? No doubt you use business cards and letterhead. Add your URL and email address anywhere you'd normally include your phone and fax number. If you send a newsletter or other regular correspondence to your clients and/or associates, include your URL there. Word-of-mouth, the all-time best form of advertising, can also be quite effective. Tell people about your Web site. When prospective clients call, let them know you have a Web site. They'll be impressed that you're keeping up with the times, and can easily access your information from anywhere in the world. Do you write articles or speak to groups? Those are other opportunities to promote your site. Basically, use any means at your disposal to promote your site OFF the Internet.
There are now 16,000+ Usenet newsgroups on the global Internet. Practically every conceivable subject is discussed 24 hours every day. Some immigration lawyers have found many new clients simply by providing helpful information in newsgroup postings. The answer to virtually any question can be found in the newsgroups, along with unparalleled varieties of nonsense. There are four newsgroups that you should consider participating in: alt.visa.us, misc.legal, misc.immigration.misc, and misc.immigration.usa. You can find direct links to these newsgroups, and a free newsfeed if you need it at: http://ilw.com/news.htm, hosted by Immigration Lawyers on the Web.
Good practice is to set up your email and browser programs so that a "signature file" is attached to the bottom of all your emails and newsgroup postings. Here is an example:
Please note: You should use a disclaimer in public newsgroup postings to the effect that your words are informational only and do not signal the creation of a client-lawyer relationship, etc.
Another method of increasing the number of visitors to your site is by arranging to have your URL included as a link from other Web sites. Many sites allow submission of free listings, and some require that you place a reciprocal link from your site to theirs. Whenever you're exploring the Web, keep an eye out for sites that may offer free listings or consider adding a reciprocal link. Just send a brief email to the owner of the page. You win some, you lose some, but it's always interesting!
A great place to start this process is the WebStep TOP 100 [http://www.mmgco.com/top100.html]. Some of the "top 100" are search engines, but many are other types of lists, indexes or specialty sites. Everything on this list is free, and we encourage you to employ all free means at your disposal to promote your site.
Then there's paid advertising. Unlike many services that can market effectively to the masses, immigration lawyers have a narrow and not clearly defined demographic base from which to draw. Your advertising might be seen by tens of thousands of people, none of whom happen to need your services. All of the major search engines offer paid advertising, as do many other high-traffic sites. It is VERY expensive. Some allow you to buy a word or words. Say someone goes to Infoseek and searches on the words "immigration lawyers." As of this writing, they will see a banner ad from a company called "AttorneyFind." That company paid Infoseek for the word "lawyers." Every time someone searches for that word, the company's banner ad appears. They say you get what you pay for, and that's most often the case. However, with paid advertising on the Internet it can be difficult to tell whether you do or not.
OK, we've discussed several ways to promote your Web site. How do you know how many visitors you've had, other than from the direct inquiries? We run a report every Sunday night and publish it on the Web at http://hake.com/stats/. Complete stats for the year are archived, so you can see what progress you're making.
What's a "hit"? People on the Internet and in the media at large toss around the word "hit" all the time, as if everybody knew what it meant! When you read that a site had 100,000 hits, it's impossible to tell what that means without an explanation. The term in general refers to requests to a server computer from a browser program to display a file or graphic, or to run a "CGI script" as with an online form. A single Web page may consist of dozens of files, and a single Web site may consist of dozens of pages. A page is one file, plus each individual graphic on that page is a file. If you have a page with nine graphic images, and one person accesses that page one time, it can be, and frequently is, counted as ten "hits." If that person "reloads" the page, that's ten more hits. If she then accesses another page on your site with nine graphics, that's ten more hits. One person in one minute just caused thirty hits to your site. That can add up fast! Therefore, we don't put much stock in counting hits that way. We're more concerned with estimating the number of visitors a site has had. We count in the most conservative way possible, only concerning ourselves with the number of accesses to the first page (index.htm) of the site, disregarding graphics. Our stats report includes accesses to all files, so if you wanted to add up all the hits you could. It just wouldn't have any bearing on how many people stopped by.
Now it gets a little more complicated. We've just looked at how hit counts can be inflated. Conversely, hit counts can be severely under-counted as well. Here's an excerpt from our stats explanation page:
The actual number of visitors to our various pages was probably significantly higher than the hits reflected in this report, which analyzes log files generated by our Web server program. There are two main causes of this discrepancy, both related to caching.
First, most Web browsers set up a cache automatically, and many users are not aware of this. If a user does not flush her cache periodically, she might visit our site 1,000 times but only be reported as one hit, since a hit is registered only if our server has to send something.
Second, many commercial Internet service providers, including large providers such as CompuServe, Prodigy and America Online, maintain enormous distributed caching systems, the details of which are not publicly available. It is possible that we might have 1,000 hits from AILA Infonet members over the CompuServe network that are reflected as only one hit in our statistics. That is so because while the CompuServe cache remains unrefreshed, any CompuServe user who requests a page from our site, i.e., points his browser to our site, will get the page delivered from a CompuServe cache computer, not from our computer, except for the first visitor from CompuServe to that page on our site.
This also means, incidentally, that changes we make to our pages may not be visible to CompuServe users (or users from anywhere who must go through a cache system) for an indefinite time after our change. We are working on some ideas for addressing these problems.
Please feel free to ask questions about stats or any other topics. Good luck promoting your Web site!
Hake Internet Projects, LLC.
Silver Spring, MD USA
301-589-7766 voice · 301-589-9798 fax