Publicity through Better Web Site Design

Article excerpt

Kim Guenther holds a masters in library science from the University of Maryland and has over 7 years of experience developing and managing large-scale Web sites for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. As the Internet/clinical services coordinator for the University of Virginia Health Sciences Library, she oversees the development of the University Health System Web site, leading an interdisciplinary team providing support to over 150 Health System departmental Web subsites. She also manages the development of the library's Internet and intranet Web sites and related clinically based Web projects serving users throughout the UVA Health System. Her e-mail address is guenther@virginia.edu.

Publicizing a Web site is the final stage, albeit an ongoing stage, of the Web development process. In this phase, content and design of the Web site are complete, at least for the initial launch, and the user audience you initially identified prior to developing the site should again become the focus. The question you should be asking now is, "How will users find my site?"

Publicity Is the Key

As easy as publicizing a Web site sounds, it is in fact probably one of the most confusing aspects of Web development. Unfortunately it is an area where many Web developers spend the least amount of time and thought, choosing instead to integrate the latest Web development bells and whistles rather than incorporate well-structured content and behind-the-scenes metadata. Although much of this confusion is due to lack of indexing standards among search sites, Web developers can adopt their own Web page development standards and strategies to ensure that their sites are properly indexed across different search sites. This strategy takes into account proper content organization, e.g., the pyramid writing principle; an understanding of search site indexing; use of metatag information; and appropriate subject area knowledge to properly assess how and where publicity efforts have the most impact.

The word "publicize" is defined as "to draw public attention to." In a library setting, publicity occurs at different levels depending on the type of library--special, academic, or public. Special libraries often receive publicity as part of the larger organization's marketing efforts; public libraries receive publicity from local schools and community-related publications and groups; and academic libraries are publicized by virtue of the schools, departments, and students they support. Although they benefit from the publicity wave generated by the overall marketing efforts occurring on their behalf, libraries and their respective departments can and should market their individual Web sites to their specific audiences. With this in mind, there are many ways, both traditional and nontraditional, to successfully publicize a library Web site and announce to the world, "We are here!"

Web Search Engine Sites

One of the most effective ways to publicize a Web site is to list it with the most popular search engines, Web directories, and guides. Collectively, these information locators are referred to as "search sites," and each indexes and categorizes information differently. If you've ever tried locating information on the Web you've probably used one of these search sites. Although searching the Web can be frustrating given its sheer volume, a search site helps make the task of hunting for information manageable. Over the past 5 years several search sites have risen to the top as the most comprehensive and user friendly within this highly competitive market. Yahoo!, Britannica Internet Guide, Galaxy, Lycos, Alta Vista, HotBot, Excite, and Infoseek each provide a huge database of indexed Web sites updated daily and available to users for free.

Most search sites and their back-end databases work in similar fashion: A user submits a query, usually a keyword or word phrase, through the site's search page interface; the keyword or word string is checked against the site's keyword indexes; and the most relevant documents are returned as "hits" or hyperlinked entries. …