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On Your Marks, Go! Bookmark Marketing

  |  February 6, 2001   |  Comments

Bookmarks are effective tools, both for Web visitors and marketers. Just a little extra effort can make bookmarks easier to find for readers, generate traffic from repeat visitors, and help convey a marketing message.

Bookmarking a Web page has become the key method for returning to a Web site. Users have saved millions of bookmarks in hopes of finding their way back to interesting sites. But as users bookmark more and more Web pages, finding a particular bookmark becomes harder and harder to do.

Each time a user cannot find a bookmark, the site loses traffic from people interested in it and wishing to return.

Fortunately, marketers can improve the chances that visitors will be able to find their way back to a site by making sure that bookmarks communicate a targeted marketing message.

The Title Tag Text

The text stored in a bookmark for a Web page is the same text used in the page's title tag at the top of the browser window.

Search engine optimization consultants know that the title tag is important because search engines give extra weight to that text. As a result, a site's title tag is often full of keywords that don't necessarily include the name of the company or accurately indicate the content of the Web page.

So when users bookmark that page, they're storing a list of generic keywords -- not the name of the company. This makes it hard for the user to later spot that bookmark in a sea of bookmarks with the same or similar keywords used at multiple sites.

Organizing Bookmarks

People improve their use of bookmarks in different ways based on their needs and the features of the software they use.

Once users accumulate so many bookmarks that they can't scroll through the list and find a particular one, they start organizing bookmarks into folders and subfolders. This works -- until they collect so many bookmarks that even subfolders have too many entries to scroll through.

What's needed is a way to enter keywords and let the software search through the maze to find the bookmarks the user is most likely looking for.

Netscape users can use a "find" function to search through bookmarks to locate a particular one. Unfortunately Microsoft Internet Explorer doesn't have this feature, so users must scroll through their list of bookmarks (called "favorites").

Tools for Managing

Web users who spend a great deal of time online and bookmark a large number of sites frequently use an external tool to manage bookmarks. Two types of bookmark managers -- Web sites and software products -- run on users' computers. Both types allow users to save, manage, and search their own set of bookmarks. Web-based bookmark managers also allow users to share their bookmarks with others on the Internet.

Some of these Web-based bookmark managers can also retrieve text in the metadescription and metakeyword tags. Metatags can be longer than title tags, so there is more room to describe a site and include a full set of keywords.

Many marketers carefully craft the text used in the title tag on the home page. However, they frequently do not include accurate title tags or metatags on other pages within the site. Since users can bookmark practically any page within a site, all pages need attention to ensure that bookmarks can pull people back to the site.

A search function for bookmarks means that marketers can target users by including appropriate search words in the title tag. However, including many keywords in the title may run counter to the company's search engine optimization strategy, so the text should be balanced to meet both needs.

In Short

You can do the following to improve the marketing effectiveness of bookmarks:

  • Ensure that the title tags on all pages describe the content of the page

  • Use metadescription and metakeyword text, appropriately customized for each page

  • Include the company name in title tags to take advantage of brand awareness

Bookmarks are a valuable tool for Web visitors, and they can be an effective tool for marketers to help generate traffic from repeat visitors. It takes just a little extra effort to make sure that bookmarks are easy to find -- and that they help convey a site's marketing message.

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Cliff Allen

Cliff Allen is President of Coravue, a company that provides content management software and application service provider (ASP) hosting for Web and email. Allen is coauthor of three books about Internet marketing, including the "One-to-One Web Marketing, Second Edition" (John Wiley & Sons, 2001).

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