Your firm Web site will do better if it is promoted, right? Do submission services claiming to do just that really do the job? How do they measure up against one another?
By Erik J. Heels
First published 5/1/2000; Law Practice Management magazine, “nothing.but.net” column; American Bar Association
One of the most common questions I am asked is, “How can I publicize my Web site?” I usually recommend using one of the name-brand submission services, such as Submit It! But I had never measured the effectiveness of these services. Until now.
A submission service is a service that allows you to submit your firm’s Web site address (its URL) to multiple search engines and directories simultaneously. The theory is that a great deal of Web site traffic originates from search engines, directors and portals (let’s call them “directories”) such as Yahoo, Excite and AltaVista. If you are listed in these directories, you are more likely to be found.
So how did I find and choose the submission services to test? I wrote to Submit It! and Web-Promote, two submission services that immediately jumped to mind. Then I searched Yahoo for Submit It! and WebPromote and found Yahoo’s listing of submission services (http://dir.yahoo.com/…).
The problem with Yahoo’s list is that there are too many choices. There are more than 200 listings in this section, and 63 listings in the “Search Engine Placement Improvement” subsection. I evaluated each listing by how effectively they market themselves. For each listing, I searched AltaVista to determine how many Web sites linked to each. For example, according to AltaVista, more than 38,000 Web sites link to Submit It! (http://www.altavista.com/…).
Using this method, I determined that the top five Web submission services were Add Me (58,727 links), Submit It! (38,103 links), Register It! (25,883 links), DEWA Network (9,456 links) and WebPromote (5,697 links). I eliminated Register It! because its service was being rebuilt at the time of this test. Of the remaining four, I decided to purchase the least expensive, comprehensive service offered by each.
Rating the Top Four
Add Me (http://www.addme.com/) claims to be the most popular Web site promotion service. Interestingly enough, Add Me uses the same method I used to rate popularity – counting links to itself from other sites. Add Me is free. It submits your information to the top 30 search directories on the Web. In return for this free service, users who visit http://www.addme.com see banner advertising on that site, and Add Me asks users of its service to add some HTML codes to their own Web sites for links back to the Add Me Web site. In other words, Add Me asks users to promote its service instead of paying cash for the service. Submit It! (http://www.submit-it.com/) also has a free service, but I decided to use the basic paid service, which costs $59 for 12 months. It allows you to submit up to two URLs to up to 400 directories. According to Submit It!, 85 percent of Web surfers use search engines to find what they need. The price for this service works out to be about 15 cents per directory submission. DEWA (http://www.dewa.com/), which I’d never heard of, offers Gourmet Pass service, which includes 250 submissions, for a one-time fee of $39.99. This works out to about six cents per directory submission. WebPromote (http://www.webpromote.com/), at $199, was by far the most expensive of the services. But it offered something the others didn’t: manual submission by people who could customize the information submitted and categorize it appropriately for the top 100 directories. The price per submission of this service was $1.99.
Each service requested information in a slightly different format. For example, short and long descriptions were requested by more than one service, but each varied in length. So I created a master list of this information and cut and pasted it into each service’s forms. Then I created four separate shortcuts on my Web site (addme.shtml, submitit.shtml, dewa.shtml and webpromote.shtml). To make sure that each submission service was given the same chance to succeed, I opened four different windows in Netscape, and clicked the Submit buttons within seconds of each other in each of the four windows. Even so, a handful of the directories rejected some listings because the URLs I submitted were too similar (differing only by the filename). In total, I received about 75 -e-mail messages from the various directories confirming the listings. Had I been more concerned about measuring these e-mail messages, I would have used different e-mail addresses in each of my submissions.
How much traffic was generated by each service? After about two weeks, the results were in. The hands-down winner was WebPromote, which generated 145 visits to my site in the first two weeks. Second was Add Me with 50. And rounding out the top four were Submit It! with 31 and DEWA with 5. The chart at left shows that same information in terms of bang for buck.
Based on these results, I recommend that law firms budget for the cost of using these submission services at least once a year. You may only generate a few hundred more visitors each month, but these are visitors who may not have found your site otherwise. And if they’re in a buying mood, you will more than make up the cost.
In addition to WebPromote, Add Me and Submit It!, it is probably worth checking into the popular Register It! (which was under construction at the time of this review). However, it may not be worth paying $39.99 for the few additional visitors generated by DEWA.
Keeping the Hits Coming
Making sure you are listed in directories is important, but it’s only one of the tools available to draw visitors to your site and keep them interested. Here are a few ideas: A good directory of promotion services is AfterPage (http://www.afterpage.com/). You can enable users to e-mail recommendations about your Web site by adding Recommend-It (http://www.recommend-it.com/) buttons to your site. If users like a page, they click on the Recommend-It button and are taken to a form where they can enter the addresses of friends who might enjoy your site.
URL Minder (http://www.netmind.com/) is similar, except users “subscribe” to receive e-mail when a particular Web page changes. A firm concerned about having its name hijacked by cybersquatters may want to register with RealNames (http://www.realname.com/). RealNames is to the Internet as keywords are to AOL. Outsourced search engines – search engines that do not need to be installed on your site – such as Searchbutton.com (http://www.searchbutton.com/), are also becoming more popular. AltaVista is also considered an outsourced search engine, but it is free and you can’t control how much of your site is indexed.