Low Cost Marketing

Many online marketers ask me about low-cost ways to boost their presence online, and if they have some time on their hands, I recommend doing some checks on who is linking to their existing site.

My site, OLAF – the On Line Advertising Forum, reaps some terrific benefits from simple link-checking and logfile analysis. Performed weekly, this analysis can tell you a lot about your site’s audience, potential advertising opportunities, online publications that should be targeted for PR opportunities, and more.

For the time being, OLAF has a media and promotional budget of $0.00. But traffic has been steadily building since it was launched. The development of the site’s audience is generally attributed to careful analysis of logfiles and the placement of the links pointing to the site.

You may want to adapt some of the methods below for your own online initiatives.

  • Search engines can help with link checks. HotBot and AltaVista are particularly helpful. Enter “link:http://www.yourdomain.com” into the search field on AltaVista, and it will return pages that link to your domain. HotBot is similar. Enter your URL into the search box and choose “links to this URL” from the drop-down box under the search field. You will get similar results.
  • Invest in an off-the-shelf solution for logfile analysis. WebTrends and Marketwave’s Hit List are two easy-to-use packages that can get you some good information. Particularly useful tidbits available in these two solutions are the referral link and referral domain reports. These reports make it easy to see where traffic is coming from. This information can be used for direction in future media buying and promotional efforts.
  • WebTrends and Hit List can also tell you the times of day when your site gets the most traffic, whether anyone is linking to a nonexistent page on your site, and the organizations that access your site the most.

    How do we use this information to our advantage? Let’s take a look at some steps I’m considering as a result of interpreting this data.

    • I’ve noticed that every time my column appears in ClickZ, I will get 60-80 referrals from the bio that appears at the end of the column. If I had a promotional budget, advertising on ClickZ would likely be a top consideration.
    • Hit List can tell me the keywords that were searched when a user clicked through from a search engine. I keep a list of these keywords and am in the process of attempting to barter inventory with some of the search engines.
    • A steady flow of referrals come from two articles that were written about OLAF — one in Fast Company, the other in Entrepreneur Magazine. Reprints of those articles might be a good promotional tool in the future.
    • 4 PM Eastern Time seems to be the time when OLAF gets the most traffic from the East Coast. Most of this traffic ends up in the resource sections of the site. East Coasters who drop by in the morning tend to hit the news links first. Weekend traffic tends to head toward the opinion articles section. This says a lot about how the site is used and can steer future overhauls of navigation and site design. Perhaps new opinion articles should debut right before the weekend. Hmmm
    • A significant number of hits fail because they are requesting pages that no longer exist on the site. A new 404 error page could probably help here. Users get frustrated when they can’t find what they want. Perhaps returning an error page with search functionality could make this less frustrating for users.

      Nothing can substitute for a well-placed advertising campaign, but regardless of how much you spend in media and promotion, logfile analysis and link-checking should be a regular exercise for your online business.

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