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    Reaching Out with the Web


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2005


    Simply building a web site won't bring visitors. It takes careful strategy and targeted marketing to lure visitors to the site once, and even more work to bring them back

    The Internet has become one of the most powerful tools in communications. More and more people are getting access to the Internet. However, we are also living in a very competitive world of information providers. Almost all organizations, companies, communities and even individuals have a web site. Reaching an audience and encouraging repeat visitors requires a careful and targeted approach, and Trade Forum online is no exception.

    Add value to increase traffic

    Trade Forum online passed 200,000 visits a month in October 2005. It was a big jump from a year ago, when there were 50,000 visits a month. What made this happen? From content development to networking, we would like to share with our readers the lessons we are learning from our online marketing that you may wish to adopt. What pops into your mind when you think of Internet marketing? Since the audience we can reach through the Internet is so diverse - anyone between the ages of 5 and 85, in any country, in any profession, who has Internet access - "mass marketing" is often the first thing that people think of. The idea behind mass marketing is that the more people we contact, the more e-mails we send out, the more advertisements we put out, the more people will visit our site - and technology will do most of the work. The fi rst thing we learned was that this idea is a dangerous trap. Just narrowing down the vast potential audience to your interest groups (for example, trade associations, business schools, media, etc.) requires time and eff ort to research and can bring few results. Instead, we found that more customized marketing, as part of a long-term strategy, was the way to go. Below are the key points of our strategy:

    • Links bring new readers. The most popular way to find a web site is by using a search engine. If potential visitors don't know a web address, they will resort to search engines. Unfortunately, many people don't go beyond the first page of the search results. A good ranking from the search results is therefore essential to gain traffic. Although each search engine uses a diff erent algorithm to order results, incoming links from relevant and reputable web sites are one of the main elements to placing your site in a higher ranking.

      Trade Forum
      looks for links with online partners where the content is of interest to readers of both sites. Reciprocal links with sites of the World Trade Organization, the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Bank Development Gateway, OECD Observer magazine and national trade promotion organizations bring signifi cant cross traffi c. Th ey also boost rankings in search engine results.

    • Evolve as a portal. To keep visitors on your site and bring them back as regulars, how you organize and provide your information is as important as what you provide. Trade Forum online has been redesigning and reorganizing its site since late last year. The most popular new feature has been to group articles thematically, and select other good sites with more information on the same theme. By clicking into a trade development theme, the reader not only finds seven years' worth of past Trade Forum articles related to the topic but also high-quality links for further information. By providing significant information in a user-friendly way and uploading new and topical articles every month, Trade Forum online has started to become a major source and reference point of trade development issues to readers.

    • Learn more about your readers. How did your readers find your site? Which country are they from? What kind of information are they looking for? For effective online marketing, understand your visitors' needs. Monitoring your web site's statistics teaches you more about your audience. Surveys also can be useful.
    Monitoring and analysing our site statistics regularly shapes our online marketing plan. The statistics showed, for example, that readers appreciate our thematic e-mail alerts. So we used this market information to develop e-mails to groups that may be interested in specific topics - services exporting associations, for example, may be looking for articles on services for their readers. Our current online survey is designed to help us understand more than we see in the site statistics, and better serve our readers.

    Using Trade Forum online

    You can be an active reader and use Trade Forum online for your own purpose. If you have a web site, create a link to one of our web pages. For example, several sites dealing with "gender" issues linked their sites to our thematic collection on "Women in the Economy". Some companies link to our RSS feed - and use our homepage articles as part of their trade news. Forwarding our e-mail alerts to your colleagues and networks, because the articles support your work, is also a good way to take advantage of our site. 

    Sung-Ah Lee is a marketing consultant in ITC's public information office.