If you work on your own, this article is for you. Whether you provide services or have your own store, you know you need to make yourself known by potential customers. The great question is how to do it. You probably don’t have tons of money to invest in publicity. Besides, not all forms of publicity are the right choice for all businesses. The right publicity for you depends on the characteristics of your business. In this article we will explore how you can take advantage of the web to draw customers to your business.

The first thing you need to get is your own website. This can be a simple website, just telling visitors what you do and allowing them to contact you, either by email, phone or by filling in a form. It is important that your site has a nice design according to your occupation, because it will provide the first impression users will have of your business. You may contact a web designer to develop your site. If you do it yourself, pay attention to the styles, colors and layout you use. Some hints:

·    neat pages look better than over crowded ones

·    use colors to highlight phrases or areas you want users to pay special attention to

·    the site navigation (menus) must be easy to understand and use by all users

·    keep in mind that people use different browsers, and if possible, view your site with two or three browsers to check how it looks.

·    design your site to be search engine friendly. You will need search engines to direct traffic to your site, so you need them to be able to index it.

Once you have your website, it becomes the Internet branch of your business. That’s the beginning of your Internet presence. Now you need to register it in search engines and directories so users can find it. You will find global directories like DMOZ (http://www.dmoz.org) and there may be also industry-specific directories where you can register your business. Search for directories in the major search engines and register your site in as many directories as you can. Inclusion in some search engines and directories is paid, it’s then up to you to decide whether it will be a good idea or not to pay for it. It depends on your business, on whether your market is highly competitive or not, and of course it depends on whether you can afford it or not.

Next step is to generate backlinks to your site. It means to get other sites to link to your site. This helps your site get a better page rank in search engines, and also exposes your site to more people. In certain cases, link-exchange programs may be helpful. You have already created some backlinks by adding your site to the search engines and directories. Now, you have other ways to add more backlinks:

·    write articles about your field of expertise and post them in article directories, including the url to your business and a brief but tempting explanation of what you do in the resource box.

·    post in forums related to your field of expertise, trying to be helpful to others so people see you know what you do. Include your url in your signature. Don’t spam the forums, that won’t look good at all. Just post when you really have something useful to say.

Another way to promote your business is to offer a periodic newsletter in your website. This way you send an email including interesting and useful information to your subscribers, once a week, or once a month, for example. If they really like it, they will refer other people to it thus making your subscriber base grow.

You can also promote your business every time you send an email. Just add your url in your signature. This way, every person to whom you send an email will also have a link to your website.

There are also pay-per-click advertising programs in the web, major search engines like Google and Yahoo offer them. In these programs, you publish an ad, and search engines display it. You pay when someone clicks on the ad to be directed to your site. If you decide to use these programs, you need to experiment with them to get the best benefit with low cost.

Last, but not least: you need to add content to your site periodically, so visitors come back and search engines rank your site better. Both people and search engines like sites with useful up-to-date content.

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