Thursday, July 9, 2009

Backlinks 3 - Signature Files

The biggest thing you can do to promote a web page is to put the URL in the signature file of your email or newsreader program.

Some of you may not know what a "sig" file is. You've probably seen them, though. At the bottom of an email, many people have an address or a quote. It usually appears after a line with pair of dashes on it like "-- ". The great thing about it is that it is always there, and as long as you adhere to the rules of sig file etiquette, it doesn't bother anybody. It's just there, so anybody who gets email from you has a reference to your URL.

It's like a business card, in that way. Very handy and yet unobtrusive.

And like a business card, it can be surprisingly effective. I remember once when a couple of people got into an email battle at work. It was one of those things where people keep adding more and more people to the cc line. I wasn't working that day, but I happened to be the one person who could give the one bit of information that could settle the dispute, so I emailed the whole group from home. My home computer automatically puts my private website in the sig of anything I send from there.

When I checked my web stats that night, I saw that within an hour of that email, every single person on the distribution list had hit my website.

Now, normally sigs are not that effective. You don't get hits on every email you send. Sometimes you don't get hits for months on any email you send. But that story illustrates the magic of sig files. AND it illustrates the magic of how to use them.

See, I didn't tell people to go visit my website. What I did was resolve a problem they were all having. Many of those people were really annoyed at being a witness to this series of emails, and then I put an end to the argument. That got their attention. And then, because my web address was so handy, and they were curious, they all clicked.

The thing about a signature is that people are going to respond to you most when you aren't trying to get them to respond. You may even get their attention at one time, but they don't click until they see another more boring message from you. But whenever they do get around to being curious about you, a signature is always there. The magic of the sig is that it's handy.

Nearly all the best methods of getting backlinks are in some way based on the signature principle. I'll talk later about commenting on other people's blogs, or using Yahoo Answers. While you don't use email to do either of these, there is an unobtrusive place to link in both cases that works much like a sig.

In the meantime, learn how to add a sig to your email. (And if you read any old fashioned newsgroups with a news reader, these often have sig files built in too.) There are many eHow articles, not written by me, that tell you about how to add a sig in your particular email program. You can search on "email signature" at eHow.

I will just end with a little bit about signature etiquette. The shorter the better. Never use more than three lines. People don't like a sales pitch, but a one-liner and link is fine. Better yet is just the link - all by itself. Think of this as a business card. For eHow, I would suggest linking to your profile page, or if you've created your own directory of your articles on a blog or website, connect to that.

(Those of you who have written articles about how to add a sig to specific email programs are welcome to post a link in the comments section of this posting.)

The Backlinks Series:
What is a Backlink?
Backlinks - blogging
Backlinks - signature files
Backlinks - commenting

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