Ask Al: How do I publicize my new site?

Patrick Writes,

Hi. I like your blog! I run a doctor search engine, a new business looking to run a legit email campaign to get the word out to doctors. I don't know where to turn or who is legit, etc. Can you recommend anyone? Thanks for any help or referrals, etc.

Hi Patrick,

Thanks, glad you like the blog! I know it's tough starting a new site or business and trying to get the word out. I've helped others do this before, and there are actually quite a few things you can do.

As far as doing email campaigns, let's start with what you shouldn't do. Don't harvest email addresses. Harvesting addresses involves using software to find email addresses out on the internet and add them to your email list. Those people didn't opt-in to get mail from you, so if you send mail to lists like that, you're going to end up blocked fast and far and wide. It's spam, plain and simple, regardless of how well targeted it is. Don't buy lists either. There's no such thing as a guaranteed opt-in list for sale. The people on those lists don't know you, don't recognize you, and aren't keen to hear from you – they're already getting tons of unwanted spam from every other fool that bought that list. I can guarantee that such a list is going to garner more spam complaints than new visitors to your site.

If you want to get the word out via email, the way to do it is by partnering. Find sites that cater to doctors and find out what advertising opportunities they offer. I don't know a ton about this space, but a quick search says that WebMD, OneHealth, and Medscape might be places to start. Will they send an email to their list on your behalf? This type of third-party emailing is legal and common, though it can get spendy. Ask them if it's okay to send them press releases – maybe you can generate some buzz that will cause them to write articles about you, and get you free traffic and interest.

You could also partner with a list rental firm. I've guided clients toward Return Path's Postmaster Network in the past, with good results. I find them to be very reputable. Beware, though. For every good Postmaster Network, there a thousand fly-by-night firms whose lists aren't truly opt-in and who turn out to be run by people whose ethics are questionable. I'm technical enough that I've caught list rental brokers trying to deceive my clients with falsified proof of opt-in details (No, this Michigan RoadRunner user did not opt-in from an IP in London), or proof of delivery (no, an SMTP transaction handoff does not mean the recipient received it and therefore opted-in). Etc. The space is filled with bad guys changing company names every few months, selling opt-out access to lists compiled from questionable methodology. My recommendation would be to get references from anybody you're going to go with, and force the vendor to use an opt-in process, instead of opt-out, if the process involves the people being able to sign up to get emails from you later. With opt-out, the match rate is higher, and you will pay the list rental vendor more money. But, the complaints will be higher and you'll end up angering some important ISP like AOL and having to opt-in those names later. (Throwing away 90% of them in the process.)

Besides email campaigns, organic search is very important. If your field is unique enough, or you can find a unique enough angle, this actually can work pretty well. Start a blog or a content site. Write and post intelligent and relevant articles on the topic in question. Link to it legitimately by participating in blog and online forum discussions on the topic. Link back to appropriate content on your sites, but only in the context of the discussion. (Don't just post and say things like, “Hi! Great discussion. Visit my site at for more info! That's pretty close to blog spamming, and if it happens enough, Google will end up removing your site from their index. When that happens, the results are devastating and it can take months to clean up. )

Hope that helps! And thanks for your question.

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