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Small Business Websites That Work newsletter, April 2003

Making the headlines

Sean McManus explains how to promote your site through press coverage in magazines and newspapers

In February 2003 I launched Wild Mood Swings, a site where you tell it how you feel and it takes you off to a site to fit that mood.

The week after its launch, the website was 'site of the day' in the UK's Daily Mirror national newspaper and got a quarter of a page of coverage in Web User magazine. I got emails from lots of people who had seen it in these publications telling me they enjoyed it and got quite a few people linking to my site after reading about it. The best thing was that I was reaching out to people who could not possibly have known my site was out there to go looking for. Search engines aren't a great way to generate traffic for something gimmicky like this because people don't think to go looking for it.

Wouldn't it be great if newspapers and magazines would write about your website? It might happen if you write a press release to tell them about it.

Here are some tips:

Then, where to send it? Well, the best thing is to start compiling a list as early as possible and long before you'll need it. While you're still building the site or planning your promotion campaign, cut out contact details from magazines or newspapers that are relevant to what you do. Consider the local newspaper and trade press if appropriate. But don't waste time sending your press release to magazines that don't cater for your audience.

It's okay to send the press release by email (many editors prefer it because they can cut and paste your words into their story where appropriate). You could even try personalising your emails automatically by mail merging from your database to include their name and their publication's name.

Over the years I've had various websites featured in national newspapers and a whole range of music and computer magazines. The coverage tends to bring in a short burst of visitors and not the kind of quantity that you might expect from a major search engine. But it does bring in passionate people who already like the idea of what you do before they visit your site and they do tend to join in more by emailing feedback, setting up links and potentially buying your goods.

Press coverage isn't guaranteed. If you need certainty, buy an advert. But journalists are looking for good stories and your website launch might just qualify.