An art gallery owner explains how he had little success using search engines to promote his Web site.
The electronic way to promote a Web site is to list it with one of the Web's search engines -- Yahoo!, for instance. Those giant indexes are where Web users go to find information, a process that uses keywords. But many companies make the mistake of relying too heavily on search engines to bring people to their Web site, neglecting more-traditional methods of promotion. For Alan Klotz of PhotoCollect, a small photography gallery in New York City, print promotion worked better.
The gallery owner's Web site debuted last September, and he immediately listed it with the dozen or so search engines. The listings are free, but Klotz had to go to each search engine's Web site and fill out an electronic form. "What you do is jam in as many words as you can that best describe your site," he says. With luck, some of those words will match the keywords that users enter to locate different sites. When a user types in the keyword photo, the search engine turns up hundreds of matching sites. The ones at the top of the list are those with photo in their description the most times. It's a system that Klotz says doesn't work well to get his site's listing in front of potential customers.
"If you type in PhotoCollect as a keyword, it takes you right to my site," he says. "So it's good for people who know me but have lost my business card. The problem is that I want to reach collectors who I haven't met. And those who search by photo have to wade through 1,600 gallery listings before they find mine." Klotz knows that because he tested the search engines himself, visiting and typing in keywords to see where on the list his gallery turned up. None of the keywords put him at the top, he says. And after spending about $7,000 (not including in-house labor) on developing the site, he was anxious for results.
So Klotz applied more traditional promotional methods to the new medium. He took out a small ad in the Sunday New York Times, listing the site's address, or URL. He also wrote a press release and sent it to industry magazines, two of which later featured the site in major articles. Soon he was seeing results: "Traffic at the site increased, and people referred to the magazine articles." The $125 newspaper ad attracted attention too: "I've gotten eight calls saying, 'What are all those letters above your phone number?" he says. "Good thing I ran the phone number."
Klotz makes his high-ticket sales over the phone or in person, not directly at the Web site. When customers call the number listed at the site, Klotz asks where they first learned about the site. "About a third say through the New York Times ad," he says. "The other two-thirds are from the magazine articles. Nobody has ever said they found me on a search engine."