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How to Publicize Your E-Zine

Once you've created an e-zine, how do you get the word out? This guide offers strategies to let a world of readers know about your work. You also should check out these eight great tips from Christopher Pirillo. For more guidance on which promotion techniques are most effective, consider the Poor Richard's Internet Marketing and Promotions.


Step One: Create

We'll assume you have created your webzine, or have the basic know-how to do so (if not, two books to accomplish this are Web Sites That Suck and Poor Richard's Website Creation). You'll receive much of your traffic from search engines, which index your pages based on a variety of criteria. Although most of the major engines no longer consider them, it can't hurt to add meta keywords to your pages before submitting your pages. If you haven't already, establish a secondary email account at a free site such as hotmail.com or yahoo.com and use that address when you register to avoid getting crushed with spam. Also, your webzine will rank better with the engines if you have your own domain name, rather than an address at a service provider (e.g. members.aol.com or geocities.com). You can register your zine's name for $6.99 per year at 1&1 Internet, which might be a good idea even if you don't have immediate plans for it. It also offers a bare-bones web hosting package starting at $3.95 per month.


Step Two: Submit

Once you have your webzine in place, visit yahoo.com and google.com and submit your URLs (if you have a lot of pages, submit no more than five URLs per day). You also can use a free service such as EZSubmit to submit to some of the smaller engines. Don't pay for services that promise to submit your site to hundreds of engines. It won't affect your traffic as much as just hitting the larger ones. For a primer on how the various engines work, visit Search Engine Watch. It offers a free newsletter that gets into tons of details about how engines work. Anytime you make a major change to your site or add new pages, submit or resubmit the URLs.
The next step is to enter your URL at the major online directories. You'll save yourself a lot of time if you prepare enticing 25-word, 50-word and 100-word descriptions first. "If you can explain your zine in a sentence you have a fighting chance," says George Myers Jr. of LitKit. A one-sentence description can help you focus on the audience you're after, and it helps when you're deciding where to place your e-zine in directories. Yahoo! is the largest directory, followed by Open Directory. Yahoo seems to prefer sites that have their own domain name; even then you may have to submit several times before you're listed. Don't do it more than once every two weeks, and chose your category carefully (suggest a second category if it applies, but don't get greedy). Submit your e-zine under specific topics, such as Travel or Humor or whatever best describe its content. Once you have submitted your ezine three times, two weeks apart, and it's still not listed, send a polite note to URL Support giving them the dates you submitted and the information. This only works for ezines listed in non-business categories. Yahoo! no longer accepts free submissions to Business categories; instead, it charges a $299 annual fee.
Finally, promote your e-zine by sending announcements to various services that alert surfers to new sites. Post a notice to the Usenet group alt.ezines. If you do a non-commercial paper or electronic zine, post a notice on alt.zines.
You also can add your zine to the many ezine directories, but most don't produce much traffic. If you have the time and patience, start with our list of zine directories.


Step Three: C'mon Back Now

Getting visitors is great, but the real challenge is getting them to return. It's important to have interesting and unique content, but you also want to remind people that it's there. Many editors offer an email version of their work that goes out when each new issue of the Webzine is posted, or whenever he or she adds new content. It invites readers to return to the site for another look. You can add a simple mailto: link to your page to compile a list manually, or you can use a free service such as Yahoo Groups, which handles all the subscribe and unsubscribe details for you. Doing an e-mail newsletter also allows you to reach people who don't have Web access. For more information, you won't find a better manual than Chris Pirillo's Poor Richard's E-Mail Publishing.


Step Four: Advertise

Most zines have zero ad budget. That's fine. There are numerous ways to get the word out without spending a lot of money, such as inexpensive postcards or banner exchanges. Contact like-minded e-zine editors (chose your friends carefully) or join banner exchanges such as Exchange Ad. The services offering banner ad exchanges are getting more sophisticated with targeting where your ads are placed.
Chris Pirillo notes that ad exchanges work best for e-zines distributed only by e-mail because you can be more descriptive with a text ad. In addition, "people who subscribe to one e-mail pub are more than likely to subscribe to another."
Pirillo recommends creating a logo that other sites can display to link back to your e-zine. "I made mine 88x31, which I love because it's small enough that it's not a hassle for someone to drop it on their sites. When you review a product or page, let the Webmaster know and give them the URL of your logo. Can't hurt. And offer a brief accolade — it changes your logo from 'hey, give me a link!' to 'I love your site, and here's why.' "
In some cases, the editor of a Webzine may only agree to display your link if you display his or hers, what is known as a reciprocal link. In my view, this can muddy your reputation in the sense that a visitor can't tell if you liked the site or just want some of its traffic. Some editors get around this by creating a special page devoted to these type of links.
A quick word on Webrings, which are systems in which you place a banner on your page that includes links to other sites within the group. Visit the WebRing directory to search for a group that covers a specific topic of your Webzine. Finally, take a look at syndication services such as Zinos, which reprints e-zine articles with a link back to the submitter's site.


Step Five: Stay on Top of It

Remember, you have competition. Attention spans are short. Updating your site is key. Jim Romenesko of the Obscure Reading Room notes that his visitor count was flat when he let cobwebs grow on his site. "When I add to it at least once a week, I've noticed that at least some visitors return for the possibility of new content," he says. (He's right: I'm one of them.) Other "reader-friendly" advice: Go through your publication with a fine-tooth comb and fix all typos (if you can't read your e-zine twice, why should a reader read it once?) and eliminate any link rot by checking your links regularly.
Another tip: Answer your mail promptly. "How does this relate to publicizing?" asks Christopher Pirillo. "It crafts your image." As content goes, check out what's being done and do something original. With all the new e-zines nowadays, fresh content is vital. If you have a great e-zine, word will spread. Don't work long hours to promote your e-zine only to have readers write you off because they never see anything new.
For more guidance with promoting your online publication, visit sites such as VirtualPromote. I have also compiled a resource guide that includes links to dozens of e-zine resources. The section of links and reviews will be of special interest. Good luck!


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