Is Your Web Site Lost in Cyberspace?

As Web fever spreads and jewelers re-examine their commitments to cyberspace, Internet marketing consultants warn that without effective marketing and promotion, Web sites can quickly become cyber dinosaurs.

“The now clichéd Web maxim, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ has lulled many online jewelers into a false sense of opportunity,” says Charles Sayers, an Internet marketing consultant in Acworth, Ga. “The truth is that Web site traffic-building requires aggressive attention-getting tactics.”

Sayers says jewelers should first try to determine how many of their customers are online, then figure out how difficult it would be to reach them. “Don’t rationalize the number. Don’t inflate your projections,” he cautions. “Be conservative and determine whether it’s a number you can live with.” In other words, if only a small percentage of your potential customer base has Internet connections, it’s time to back off.

If you do take the plunge, your next job is to pull in traffic. If you don’t use all the tools at your disposal to attract customers, your Web site will go largely unnoticed. Here are those tools:

  • Use a professional search engine listing firm. Seasoned Web users turn to search engines like Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) and Excite! (www.excite.com) to find information on the ‘Net quickly. The user types a word or phrase, such as “jewelry” or “watches,” and the search engine provides “links”—sometimes thousands of them—to relevant Web sites, usually displaying 10 or 20 links at a time.

Search engines steer millions of ‘Net cruisers to specific sites. But if a search returns 1,000 links and your site is listed 999th—and your competitor’s is in the top 10—you’ll lose the traffic war. The visibility enjoyed by Alexander’s Jewelers (www.alexan.com)—the first link to pop up in an Excite! search for the keyword “jewelers”—is extremely valuable.

The Web Hitman (www.web-themes.com) is one of several Web-savvy firms that help retailers place their links near the top of search engines’ listings. For $795, it guarantees that any site it lists will appear in the top 10 links from one of the Internet’s “big eight” search engines: Yahoo!, Excite!, Alta Vista, Web Crawler, Hot Bot, Now!, Northern Light Search, and Planet Search. Another company, A1 Web Site Promotions (www.a1co.com/index.html) offers packages from $89.95 to $549.95.

  • List your site with hundreds of search engines for free. Some Web sites offer free help for listing your site on search engines. One site, www.the1000.com, is “a directory of other directories and search engines.” A message on its home page reads, “We have hundreds of places listed here where you can submit your site and usually get it listed without trouble.” A1 has a searchable directory of more than 600 free Web page promotion sites at www.a1.com/freeindex.html. Another site, “101 A Promotion Service” (www.meer.net/ kwik-link/c/promote.htm), offers “free ways to promote your Web presence” and features a list of about 100 search engines for listing your site.

It’s also advisable to stay abreast of mega-search engine listing services. One of the more popular is The Submission King at web.idirect.com/~tormall/links.html. It charges 4¢ per submission.

Another option is to use a software program like Web Site Traffic Builder, produced by a Utah company called Intelliquis (www.intelliquis.com). Traffic Builder registers your site with more than 600 browsers and will automatically put your business in the appropriate category for each one. You can also use the software to check your site’s position on the Internet’s eight most popular search engines.

  • Create “hook pages.” Many sites attract ‘Net cruisers with informational pages or links to sites that provide related information. E.M. Smith (www.emsmith-jewelers.com), for example, offers a no-nonsense hook page with information on buying a diamond. Fortunato Jewelers (www.fortunatojewelers.com) not only offers online tips for buying jewelry (courtesy of the Jewelry Information Center) but also includes a link to www.jewelrybuyingtips.com.

  • Think “link.” Probably the easiest, least expensive, and most effective way to promote a site is to link it with every other noncompetitive site that shares the same interest. The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce (www.seattlechamber.com) offers a link to European Jewelers at its site. And the Closeout Jewelry Warehouse (www.watchcloseouts.com) exchanges links with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

  • Enter as many Web site contests as possible. Want your site to be named “Site of the Day” or “Site of the Week”? Submit it to one of the numerous judging services. Winners receive the equivalent of a blue ribbon they can post on their home page. The awarding service also provides a free link to the winning site from its own home page—a perk that can generate thousands of visits, according to Sayers. National Gemstone (www.preciousgemstones.com), for example, is enjoying an increase in visitors thanks to Web site awards from Money magazine and others.

The “award” you win need not be a prestigious one to attract customers, says Jim Wilson, the Webmaster behind Virtual Promote (www.virtualpromote.com) and an experienced Web marketer. “All they see is that some people thought your site was good enough to win an award,” Wilson says. “Go ahead. Apply for everything.”

  • Get posted in Web directories. A number of businesses have packaged themselves in easy-to-navigate directories that help users find their sites quickly. Amulet Gemstone and Jewelry (www.gemstones.com), for example, is packaged in a San Francisco-area bridal directory dubbed “San Francisco Bay Brides” (www.bayareabrides.com).

  • Add a “Recommend this site to a friend” button. The maxim “Nothing is more valuable than word-of-mouth promotion” is also true in cyberspace. Your Web designer can add a “Recommend This Site” button to your home page, which allows a visitor to dash off a quick “heads-up” about the site and forward it to a friend’s e-mail address.

  • Start an e-mail newsletter. News-letters are one of the most effective ways to establish an ongoing relationship with current and prospective customers (See “Nine Nimble Ways to Use the Internet,” JCK, October 1999, p. 148). You’ll find a good industry model at Eric’s Diamonds (www.ericsdiamonds.com). And you can get good advice and a helping hand from an Internet consulting firm called iJeweler in Austin, Texas.

If you build a Web site, you owe it to yourself to promote it. In the words of www.the1000.com: “Keep working at it until you start seeing results. Then work a little harder.”

Joe Dysart is a freelance writer and Internet business consultant based in Thousand Oaks, Calif.