TUTORIAL: Promoting your Dolphin Site - Advertising & Marketing Tips

After your Dolphin site is installed (http://www.boonex.com/trac/dolphin/wiki/DetailedInstall) and personalized (http://www.boonex.com/trac/dolphin/wiki/TutorialHowToPersonalizeYourDolphinSite), now you need people to find you! Using the following advertising & marketing tips will attract not only members, but potential advertisers!

Standard thinking is that the only way to promote your site is to buy adspace on other sites in order to attract people. However, there are many other ways to advertise and most of them are free and cost you only your time!


Buy Adspace

There are an unlimited number of places online where you can purchase adspace for your site, however you want to find the places where you are most likely to attract your market base. For example, if you have a community focused on fishing, you'll want to look at other sites that focus on fishing. Pricing for adspace can vary widely, it's best to inquire about advertising costs with the websites where you want to promote yourself.

To find spots where you want to advertise, look at the related websites that you and your members most often visit. You can also google select keywords to find sites that would have visitors you want to target (for example, if your website is a fishing community then you would google "fishing lures boats bait" and find websites in the top returns that look appealing). In general blogs will be cheaper than websites and can offer equitable traffic. You can even ask blog writers if they will visit your site and review it for you, free advertising!

There's quite a few people out there claiming that paid advertising doesn't work anymore, that internet users have learned to not click banners and links and that more interactive methods (see all other items below for examples!) are the way to go. However, if you make a visually appealing banner and have a website and/or product that captures interest, traditional banner advertising can be profitable.

There are oodles of free advertising places out there, some are junk and some are worthwhile. Beware of sites that are link farms, if the site has nothing but list after list of links it's likely junk. Think of how you surf the web, if you come upon a site that just randomly lists a bunch of links are you going to even look at it or hit the back button as fast as you can?

Some alternate free advertising options:

Banner Exchanges

As an alternative to paid adspace, you may be able to work out a banner exchange for no cost with other related websites. However this won't work with larger, high-traffic websites unless you are a high-traffic website as well. Look for sites that are the same size/status as your own, they're most likely to find mutual benefit in a banner exchange.

There's been controversy over banner exchange and how it impacts your SEO rating, but I haven't found any issues with it as long as the site that you exchange with has relevant content and isn't a banner farm. In addition, if you place your reciprocal banner somewhere other than your homepage it isn't really an issue. You can even use the Admin>Tools>Banners or the Sites module for placing their banners.


A topsite is a site that lists, for example, the top 100 websites of a certain interest. WARNING: Topsites can also refer to websites distributing "wares" and illegal file sharing sites, avoid these! You can join topsites for your website's interests by Googling your site's keywords along with "topsite" to find them. For example, if your site is a fishing site, you might Google for "fishing topsite" to find http://www.topfishingsites.com/ and http://fishing-topsite-directory.blogspot.com/ and http://cyber-lake.com/topsite/ ) .

You'll have to provide a link back to most topsites. Your rank rises up with the number of clicks in and out of the topsite. The more links you bring in, the higher you rise on the list. The more people who click your banner and/or link from the topsite to your website, the higher you rise on the list. Most topsites have cheating blocks to keep you from padding your own rating, allowing you to click just once a day or week from any one ip address to boost your own rank on the lists.

If you can't find a topsite related to your site's interests, then can create one for yourself. There's free software (for example Aardvark http://www.aardvarktopsitesphp.com/) that you can use on your server or you can host one elsewhere. There are free and paid options available for topsite websites. (for example: http://www.gotop100.com/ and http://www.websitetoolbox.com)

Creating Banners

For banner advertising, you'll need to create banners! You can use any graphics software (photoshop, illustrator, etc.) to create a banner. If you don't have any experience with graphic software, you can also use any of the nearly endless free banner creators online. Here are just a few to choose from, google has many many more:

Free graphics editors:

Standard banner sizes that you'll encounter are 468x60 pixels (this is probably the most common), leaderboard (728x90 pixels), 300x250 pixels, skyscraper (300x600 pixels, 160x600 pixels or 120x600 pixels) and button banners (125x125 pixels or 100x100 pixels).

Be Searchable!

Search google for your url, if google has your site listed, it should show up first in the search results. If it doesn't, then you need to add your site to google. It's free! http://www.google.com/submityourcontent/website-owner/

If your site is locale-based, then add your site to Google Local Business https://accounts.google.com/ServiceLogin?continue=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Flocal%2Fadd%2FbusinessCenter%3Fgl%3DUS%26hl%3Den-US&service=lbc&hl=en-US&gl=US

Search bing for your url (yahoo has merged its listings w/ bing, so this is a free 2 for 1). If your site shows up, you're good. If it doesn't, then you need to submit your site to bing. It's also free! http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmasterhttp://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster

You can add your website for 12 months for free to Yellow Pages' online directory http://listings.yellowpages.com/

Free Search Engine Submission


A newsletter is a great way to keep interested people up to date on your site, to promote special events or otherwise publicize your site. You'll need email addresses in order to send out newsletters (the subscriber list on your website is a good place to start: Admin>Tools>Manage Subscribers). It's a good idea to set a schedule for your newsletter (daily, weekly or monthly) so that people know when they'll get it.

In order to encourage people to Subscribe to your site's newsletter you should consider offering a free bonus (site access to restricted part of the site? 1 month free membership? free eBooks or other products?)

Dolphin has a built in Newsletter feature, although it isn't called that anywhere on your site. When visitors "Subscribe" on your homepage, they register for you to send them a newsletter. To create and send your newsletter, go to Admin>Tools>Mass Mailer and write up a newsletter and save it. Then choose which of your subscribers and members you want to send the newsletter to.

You can also use an independent newsletter service or even an occasional eVite for special events or promotions on your site.

Free Newsletter Services:

Email Signature

Advertise in the signature line of all of your email addresses whether professional or personal (however, make sure that your signature is appropriate for whoever you are sending the email to - it would probably be a faux pas to send an email to your boss at Widgets, Inc. that includes a link to your pornographic website!). This way every single email you send out will have a free ad in the signature. Make your signature as enticing and non-annoying as you can, if your signature and link looks like spam it is likely to be ignored. Something as simple as "Visit me at <your link>" can be quite effective.

If your email is forwarded, it increases the likelihood of your signature link being seen by more people. However, if you are sending out mass annoying emails then you are more likely to be blocked as a spammer than to see any return on your links.

Forum and Blog Signatures

If you participate in online conversations in forums or on blogs, you can add a signature to every post and every comment with your website name and link. The same rules apply as in email signatures.

If you don't already participate on forums and/or blogs, then you should consider it! Especially in special interest communities that are similar or compatible with your website. Join forums and create a signature line with your website name and link. This can be especially productive if you are helpful in the community, people will follow your link hoping to learn more.

When you do post with a signature link, make sure that you behave in a professional manner since you are representing your website with your behavior. If you're a jerk, no one is going to want to follow your link to find out more unless it is to harass you back!

Start a Blog

If you're an expert on a subject, or even just have a passing interest in it, you can start a blog separate from your website using any number of free blogging services. You can include links and banners in the sidebar or footer of your blog pointing back to your website. You can post about new activity or sales or promotions on your site.

Don't forget to promote your blog using all of these tips as well, the more traffic your blog gets the more is likely to be directed to your primary website.

Write Articles

If you're able to do so, write articles on subjects related to your site. For example, if your site is a fishing community site, write an article about the latest fishing gear available or the best times of year to fish or about hidden fishing spots around the country. Include a link back to your website in your signature or your bio. Don't forget to promote your article on your website as well.

As an additional bonus, you might even earn a few extra dollars for your articles!

Article services:

Youtube it!

Create a free youtube (http://youtube.com) account, put links to your site on your main account page. Make videos on your subjects of expertise, or even just entertaining videos, and upload them to youtube, including links back to your website in the description section.

Social Networking as Promotion

Rather than competing with existing social networking sites, maximize their usefulness! Join any/all that you can and promote yourself using their traffic to get your own!

  • Make sure that you 'brand' yourself really well on these sites, using the available formatting tools to coordinate your pages on those sites with your main website and by linking back to your website and your website's content every chance you get.
  • You can post to your Twitter and Facebook or other accounts whenever you have a promotion or event on your site.
  • Whenever you post blogs, pictures, videos, etc. on your site, you can use AddThis? or ShareThis? to quickly announce it on your social networking or bookmarking accounts.
  • If you have active members posting on your site, encourage them to do the same using their existing accounts at Twitter, Facebook, et.al..
  • The more you interact with other Twitter and Facebook users, the more action you'll get.
  • Remember to be social on social networks in order to maximize their usefulness.

Cross promoting yourself between several sites can give you a strong web presence. This is potentially the absolute best way to subtly advertise and market your site! Link all of your sites together so that you cover all of your bases, attract more website visitors and create a relationship with those visitors:

Here are a few of the more popular social networking sites:

Free sharing buttons to easily post content from your website to other sites:

In addition, you should bookmark your site on social bookmarking sites, such as:

Also, add your website's feed to the rss feed aggregator sites:

While I've listed a few sites you can join and/or list your website as, there are sooooo many more out there. Here is a long list of 300* "sharing" sites from AddThis? for you to join, list or otherwise promote your site:


Here are a few miscellaneous resources that will help with your site promotion:

Last modified 12 years ago Last modified on Feb 16, 2012, 7:55:58 AM

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