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Marketing

 Why Pay When You Can Get Free Advice

 to Sell Your Site?

 ByDavid Cotriss (davidcotriss@wwwiz.com)

 You've heard the stories: the Internet is the new frontier for entrepreneurial success as we head into the new millennium. Even after the dot-com crash, businesses large and small are searching for ways to turn the World Wide Web into a cash machine. When searching the 'Net, you've no doubt noticed the enormous volume of information available, with much of it being of lesser than average quality. The Internet is filled with sites telling you how to make your fortune, but only a handful of them are of exceptional quality. This article will help sift out some of the truly useful, free Internet marketing Web sites.

             Whether you are just starting to sell online or are already running a large business, there are sites that will assist you for free in many ways. The number of free resources is staggering, with many of these sites hoping to be able to charge fees in the future. However, at least for now, there is no shortage of free marketing help available online.

             One of the greatest benefits of the Internet is its ability to link people together from around the world to share information and resources. Experts and other like-minded individuals are just a mouse click away, but the trick is knowing where to look. Fortunately, there are dozens of terrific Internet marketing forums where people can post messages and get (literally) thousands of dollars worth of advice for free.

            You can find a directory of thousands of e-zines at  John Labovitz's E-zine List (http://www.meer.net/~johnl/e-zine-list/index.html). It's billed as the largest e-zine directory on the Internet, and you can view them by keyword or title. Listings include complete descriptions along with contact information, frequency and other relevant information. Many cover Internet marketing, but you may wish to subscribe to non-business e-zines also to learn more about your market. Many accept advertising or contributed articles, which is a great way to spread the word about your business.

As for overall Internet marketing advice and resources, one of the best sites is The Big List of All Resources ( http://www.topindex.com/bestvalue/resourceguide.html). You'll find this site packed with dozens of the best Internet marketing resources available, all rated for quality and categorized. For example, the site includes search engine listing resources for top positioning, information about banner advertising, a guide to get your site listed with indexes and directories, quality search tools you can use for market research, specialized banner ad networks such as those targeting women, and lots more.

 On the topic of search engines, it's helpful to know the nuances of each since they each have their own characteristics that affect how your site is ranked and indexed. Knowing this allows you to configure your Web site for the highest possible ranking. A terrific site for this is Search Engine Watch ( http://www.searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/features.html). This site contains a chart clearly showing the unique aspects of each of the major search engines and detailed explanations of each item below the chart. Also included is information on how to check your site's ranking with the engines.

             Another valuable site for search engine listings is Searchterms.com: The Top Ten (http://www.searchterms.com). This site ranks the top 100 words people are using to search on the Internet. This is very useful for knowing not only what keywords to use on your pages, but also what people are looking for in the first place. Since people are actively looking for information on the topics listed here, key markets are identified. While some may seem obvious, others are much less obvious. If you are considering entering a particular industry, you can find out what's hot in that industry, at least on the Internet.

             You may have heard the hype about Amazon.com's program where you can place their banner on your Web site and earn a commission on any sales resulting from it without having to do any paperwork or stocking/shipping of inventory. There is, in fact, good reason for the hype since associate programs, or affiliate programs as they are also called, can be powerful income generators. Well-placed ads and/or links on your site or in your e-zine can result in large commissions with little or no effort on your part. A good site for associate programs is Refer-it (http://www.refer-it.com/main.cfm). This site lists more than 1,000 programs by category and includes information on starting your own program.

             A great resource filled with information on banner advertising is Adbility's Web Publishers' Advertising Guide (http://www.markwelch.com/bannerad/). Banner advertising is one of the most widespread forms of Internet marketing, and with banner ad effectiveness decreasing, it's important to know what makes it effective. You'll find this site packed with general banner advertising information, sources of pay-per-click banner ad placement (where you pay each time someone clicks on your banner), banner exchange information (where you trade banner clicks or impressions with other sites), resources for selling banner ads on your site, and lots more.

             An important element of Internet marketing is keeping abreast of current online trends and user characteristics. Many aspects of the 'Net change often, so having a reliable resource to follow this helps greatly. A very useful site for this is CyberAtlas ( http://cyberatlas.internet.com). This site contains market research into the latest developments in the online world and information on worldwide Internet usage. Also included are geographic (location) and demographic (age, sex, etc.) analyses of Internet users. This highly useful site is updated often and will give you a good idea of what is happening in the ``real world" of Internet commerce.

             Many people don't realize how many free accessories are available on the Web for their sites. Forums, shopping carts, search engines, guest books, free graphics and animations can all be added to your site for free. Lots of these can be found at Matt's Script Archive ( http://worldwidemart.com/scripts/), a very popular and resource-packed site for free Web accessories. These scripts and graphic elements can be downloaded and added to your site fairly quickly for no cost. You will need to search the site for items of a type and quality that suit your needs.

Another widespread form of online marketing is with classified ads. This is something that must be tested, and there is a free service called Mega Bucks Free Classifieds (http://iwr.com/free/classadsfree.htm) that will submit your ad to thousands of free ad sites in one step, saving you time and giving a good indication of whether this form of marketing will work for you.

 As you can see, the Web is filled with valuable resources that can help you market your business. If you've used standard search engines, you know that many (or most) of the results are less than spectacular. The sites listed in this article are only the beginning. Use them to start your online marketing search, and you'll find that each contains many links to other valuable resources.

 David Cotriss specializes in marketing/advertising, about which he has published dozens of magazine and Web articles and offers consulting services. He can be reached at dcotriss@earthlink.net.

  

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