Promoting a Personal Website

A personal website is all about alternating between creating and promoting content. People create content in order to attract traffic and the traffic provides feedback and motivation to create new content. The two activities reinforce one another, eliminating one or the other results in an abandoned website.

There is no point in promoting a website if the results of the promotion cannot be assessed. Gathering data about the visitors and recognizing patterns in that data is of the utmost importance. Web-statistics packages are a great help in this task. Therefore, it is important to have a web-host provider who provides access to a good web-statistics package.

A good web-statistics package reveals a lot about the visitors. It lists the most popular pages on the website and the links that directed visitors to them. It reports about the visitors directed to the website by search engines and the popular search phrases. This statistics report generated by awstats shows the kind of information these packages can provide.

There is no correct way of interpreting and using the information provided by a web-statistics package. Invariably traffic reports will show trends that can be capitalized on. The traffic reports for this website clearly show some trends and new content on this website reflects this influence. Even the idea of writing this article was due to the observation that many visitors are finding this website by searching for "personal websites".

Many people regard search engines as the most important source of visitors. This is not totally untrue but focusing on search engine submissions is a waste of time. Most search engines are unimportant. In fact, the only search engine worth focusing on is Google. Google assesses the importance of a webpage by looking at inbound links to that page. If the inbound links to a webpage are from websites highly regarded by Google and the anchor text of the links contains keywords used in a search, Google will give the webpage a high rank for that search.

All of this means that search engine traffic to a website is almost completely dependent on inbound links. The maintainer of a website seems to have no control over inbound links but this is not true. The maintainer decides what content to put on a webpage and this choice determines the set of potential candidate websites for inbound links.

Informing the potential candidates of the existence of content on a personal website is very important. Hoping that inbound links will automatically materialize is hoping for too much. Websites such as Slashdot, OSNews, AMDboard, and many others feature stories and articles from other websites. Such websites also provide a story submission interface, and this interface is the key to informing a popular website of content on a personal website.

It is important to understand that submissions to popular sites often get rejected. Link submissions should only be made to sites to whom the link carries value. The article "How Intel Wrecked Itanium" on this website was submitted to AMDboard and Slashdot. Slashdot rejected the article but AMDboard featured the article on its homepage. The article was very relevant to people who care about AMD but somewhat less relevant to Slashdot readers, and hence the different outcome. It is also helpful to keep in mind that some of the editors in charge of reviewing the submitted links are complete morons, and reject perfectly good content for no good reason.

Finding websites that accept submissions is not a hard task. Web searches for keywords relevant to the webpage to be submitted work pretty well in practice. Once a candidate website has been located more candidates can be located using Alexa. It is extremely important to have good anchor text for the link submitted. The article "Search Engines and The Art of Linking" gives some guidelines for choosing the right anchor text.

A submission accepted by a popular website leads to a burst of traffic. This is great but the inbound link from the popular website also improves search engine ranking of the linked webpage. The article "Why Personal Websites Matter" was recently featured on Slashdot. This resulted in over 17,000 individuals visiting this website. Google considers Slashdot a really important website and as of now, searching for "personal websites" on Google returns the above article as the top ranked result.

Creating content for a personal website is hard and demanding work. The effort required to effectively promote a personal website is a small fraction of the time needed to create that content. Not taking the time to promote content is completely incomprehensible and a very unintelligent thing to do.

by Usman Latif  [Jan 11, 2004]


Search Engines and the Art of Linking
Why Personal Websites Matter