Once you've got the website up and running you need to let people know it exists. There are three main options to draw traffic to your site: search engines, banners and offline promotion. Search engines are the places where people type in "car insurance" and get a list of sites back. The problem for you is the list can be tens of pages long, and each page can have ten different sites on it. Obviously people don't go through the entire list, so getting in the top 10 is vital.

To get that high ranking you need to play with the code of your website—a skilled task in its own right. Some companies have added the cost of this work to the marketing budget, while others create specific "home pages" for each search engine.

Search engines work much like the Yellow Pages. The internet version of an ad in the "local paper" is banner advertising. These are the oblong graphics that appear at the top of some pages advertising various companies and services. Unlike search engines these are not free, and you will be expected to pay either a blanket cost to appear over a month, or a fee for each time the advert appears on a web page. Average costs for advertising are in the range of £30 to £50 for each 1,000 appearances of your banner, with minimum purchasing levels that can run in to several thousand pounds.

Banner adverts require a more disciplined approach than many people use in local advertising. The standard banner size—468 x 60 pixels—is not a lot of space to convey a message and call for the viewer to take action. "Traditional" intermediary advertising—telling the customer you can insure pretty much anything—largely won't work. Instead you need to focus on specific products and place them with specific sites that are likely to draw in visitors.

The final "big option" is to mount a traditional campaign. In essence you will use magazines, TV, radio and the sides of buses to draw traffic to your site. Whether these are successful is hard to judge as the website address has to be memorable—no opportunity to put www.garol.com/bus for ads on buses and /taxis for those on black cabs!

Traditional campaigns have the benefit of reaching an audience which is willing to buy online and offline. Furthermore, tactics for traditional campaigns are fairly well understood, while those for online campaigns are still something of a "black art".

Whatever approach you use you must make sure that when the visitor arrives at your site you have made it easy for them to use, easy for them to buy from and interesting enough to keep their attention. I have seen too many sites that sink money into promotion, but which then fail to provide me with the means to buy.

  • Ross Hall has prepared a free "beginners guide" to Internet Advertising. For more details please contact Garol at garol@garol.com .