"Build it and they will come" - you wish. Unless someone tells them that a web site is there, no one will visit it. It doesn't have to be a real person who tells them though, it could also be a link on a search engine results page or some other site that tells them your site exists.
There are specific names for some of the activities that are carried out on the web in order to help people find a specific web site but the general term for the entire process is the same as for trying to promote any other product - Marketing.
For a great many people their web site is one of the very few things that they have ever tied to promote. Often the only other thing tat they have ever tried to promote is themselves and they didn't think of that as marketing either and so only used marketing techniques specific to that area such as a Curriculum Vitae. Similarly in trying to promote their web site as a suitable destination for visitors they think only of web specific marketing such as optimising the page content for the search engines (otherwise known as SEO). It is mainly because a lot of people think of SEO rather than marketing for trying to promote their site that there are so many people offering SEO services to web site ownere and few offering marketing services.
Of course those offering SEO to the web site owners often do more than just SEO on the site itself and do include some off site activities as well but often those off site activities are still limited to activities directly related to the web such as trying to build back links to the site so that it can be found from more places (and so that the search engines will consider it to be more important). The whole area of off-web marketing is one that often gets overlooked.
The most significant thing that people overlook is that there is nothing relating to marketing a web site that the web site owner cannot do for themselves and so the only reason for employing someone to do the work for you is so you can use the time for something else.
So what are some of the activites that need to be carried out to promote a web site.
The first and most important thing is to have web pages that are clear and easy to read and where each page has a clearly defined subject that it covers. Dividing your content up into pages on individual topics and making sure that the content of each is written in a clear easy to follow manner is what is known as Search Engine Optimisation since carrying out those steps (which can be easily done when creating the content in the first place or done as a separate step if you already have the content) is what enables the search engines to determine what the individual pages are about and hence determine which search terms those pages should be listed for.
The other aspect that search engines use in determining the order in which pages should be listed in the results (apart from how close a match that they are to the search term) is the authority of the page. Search engines usually determine this by looking at the links to the web page from elsewhere on the web. The main factors taken into account are the relevance of the links and the authority of the pages the links are on. Once you have your web pages properly written the main thing you are therefore after on the web are links to your page from other related web pages. These links will not only serve the purpose of giving your page greater authority for the search engines but will also be useful promotions in themselves since there will be plenty of people who follow those links in order to find out more about a subject that interests them. The site that provides the link also gains since by linking to other related sites you make your site more useful to those interested in that subject since the other sites on the subject can be found directly from your site without your visitor having to return to the search results to look for them. That can result in people bookmarking your site as their starting point on your subject and can also lead to other with sites on related subjects linking to yours without asking since that link will help to make their site more useful.
The off web promotion of your web site can be as important in getting people to visit your site as anything that is done on the web. Is your web address on your business cards so that anyone you give a card to can find your site? Some people display their web address on their car so that they advertise their site to anyone who sees them driving around. There are all sorts of different ways of telling people about your site and all of them will help to bring more visitors to your site. As you get more visitors to a properly constructed and useful site then some of those visitors will assist you in helping to market your site to people that they know and then your marketing efforts will really start to give results.
This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.