There is a saying in advertising that “no publicity is bad publicity” but is that really true for website promotion? The correct answer is “it depends.” There are lots of situations where promotion and publicity for your website is a good thing, but there are a few situations you should avoid if possible.
Good Publicity Opportunities
There are lots of ways to get publicity for your websites, both solicited and unsolicited. Here are some ways you can get publicity for your site through your own actions. These are usually seen as marketing and advertising and include things like:
- Paid advertising – by paying for advertising for your website, you know (to some extent) where your site will be publicized and who will be viewing the ads. Depending upon how much you pay, this can be a great way to get new readers for only a small outlay of cash.
- Product reviews – if you offer a product or service, offer bloggers and other web writers a review copy to review it is a great way to get publicity. However, you should be prepared for negative reviews along with positive. Most people online don’t believe 100% glowing reviews and suspect they are company shills rather than real reviews. But getting a few 3 and 4-star reviews on reputable sites is a good way to boost your site.
- Giveaways – If you provide free copies of your products and services in contests or giveaways, you will get a lot of free publicity.
- Link requests – you can request that other sites link to yours. But remember that most popular websites get hundreds of these requests a day, so don’t be surprised if you don’t get any response.
But there are also publicity opportunities that you don’t create yourself that you should be open to. These are when fans, customers, and other web owners choose to highlight your site for some reason. This type of publicity is usually more viral than marketing efforts and include things like:
- Links – this is the most common way another web owner will show their support of your company, by linking to you.
- Unsolicited reviews – while most professional reviewers would prefer to keep their expenses down by receiving review copies, there are many sites that request customer reviews of products and services. Like with professional reviews, most people are skeptical of extremely positive reviews, but in general you will see mostly 5-star and 1-star reviews, and very little in between.
- Awards – some awards you can attempt to win, by entering your site, but for others your site might be chosen seemingly out of the blue. Winning even awards that seem minor can give your site a boost.
Don’t Ignore Positive Publicity
What I find interesting is that many people (and companies) feel that any publicity that they didn’t explicitly request is bad. While you don’t have control over the unsolicited types of publicity listed above, that lack of control can actually be a good thing. Most customers can tell the difference between marketing and word-of-mouth. And those same customers often weight word-of-mouth as more reliable and trustworthy than marketing publicity efforts.
I have seen websites demand that links to their site be removed or changed to a different page than the author wanted to link to. I have personally received demands that reviews submitted by my readers (and a few of my own reviews) be taken down – both positive and negative reviews. And one Guide participating in the About.com Readers’ Choice Awards was told that her site was not a “legitimate news source” and so they would not be accepting any awards from her.
Honestly, this is stupid. These types of publicity are all good, relevant forms of publicity for a website or company. By demanding that a link or review be removed or changed you show yourself to be pushy and unappreciative. And by refusing to even acknowledge an award (or in the above case, a nomination), you just come across as arrogant. You may feel that this publicity is coming from a source that won’t be very useful for your site, but that is no reason to diss the person or site giving it to you. If they really are that unimportant, ignoring them is a better strategy. This allows you to take the publicity they give you without any effort on your part.
The only exception is negative reviews. If you are really concerned that a negative review is incorrect or puts your product in an unfair light, the better solution (than demanding the review be removed) is to ask for the chance to refute it. In many cases, negative reviews are written because the customer feels ignored. If you are genuinely interested in improving your product or service for the customers, that will become apparent and your negative reviews will become positive publicity for you and your site.
But There are Some Ways to Get Bad Publicity
On the web there are some ways that you can get bad publicity. If you rely on search engines for most of your traffic, then becoming linked with a spammer or link farm or other other black hat techniques can be really bad for your site (consider the J.C. Penney’s scandal in December 2010). This type of publicity might make your site really popular for a while, but when Google and other search engines figure it out, your site may be removed from their indexes completely.