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Building Web Site Traffic Through Partnering
Carole Pivarnik, Copyright (c) 2000

You###ve created a great Web site. It###s got content, functionality, purpose, and an audience. Problem is, your hit counter isn###t spinning as fast as you wish it was. How do you shift your site traffic into high gear? One way is to partner with other sites that complement
yours. By partnering, both you and your partners can diversify your sites### offerings and send traffic to each other. But what partnering options should you consider? How do you find the right sites to partner with? How do you approach potential partners? What pitfalls should
you avoid?

Explore Partnering Options. Before seeking out a partner, take inventory of what you can offer. Do you have expertise, original content, a service, a product, or something else to offer? What do you want in exchange? Do you simply want to exchange links? Want new content? Want to feature a guest expert or columnist? Want to add functionality? Or maybe just want increased market exposure on other sites? It###s important to be clear with yourself about what you can offer and what you want in return, because these facts will help you identify the most effective partnering candidates.

Find the Right Partners. When scouting for partners, be both realistic and practical. The best candidates are not necessarily the most high profile, glitzy sites. The best candidates are the ones that will help you build a larger audience. For this reason, focus on candidates whose
sites serve the same audience as yours, who aren###t direct competitors, and to whose audience you can provide something of value. In general, small to medium sized sites are probably your best bet. Why? Because they probably have needs similar to yours and thus are more likely to respond to the benefits of partnering.

Approach Potential Partners. Once you###ve identified a few strong candidates, figure out who to contact about partnering. In some cases, it might be the Webmaster; in others, a business development manager or marketing director. Prepare a personalized email message that
clearly conveys your familiarity with their site and its audience, the value you###d be willing to offer, the key benefits to them, and what you would like for your site in return. Be sure to stress the benefits that partnering with you will bring to them and their audience. This will help you get their attention and be taken seriously. Your first communication is also the time to ask your
potential partner some gentle questions that will help you more clearly determine their suitability. Traffic trends, audience, anticipated growth, site longevity, technical and other qualifications of owners, and many other topics might be of interest to you. Be careful,
though, to avoid "interrogation" mode. Consider your first outreach the start of an ongoing conversation. Putting together a successful partnership between Web sites is likely to require many such exchanges. Take all the time you need to fact-find, understand each others### needs, and negotiate your relationship.

Avoid Partnering Pitfalls. Unless they###re clearly defined, partnerships can go south faster than a
hummingbird in September. Put your expectations and obligations in a written agreement that both of you sign. If a partnering candidate is unwilling to sign such an agreement, reconsider their suitability. Among other things, a partnering agreement should define what services or products each partner will provide, who owns content or products created to benefit the partnership, what rights each partner has to material created by the other, what site demographics or other information must be shared, what representation each must give the other on their Web sites or other media, any financial obligations, how the partnership may be
terminated, and what obligations or rights remain in force upon termination. Seek the advice of a legal professional for specific wording and content for your partnership agreements.

Conclusion. Partnerships with other Web sites are a great way to build traffic for your own site, get market exposure, and enhance your professional credibility. Research potential candidates thoroughly, and be sure to put the details in writing. Following these steps will help ensure a healthy partnership that will benefit both of you.

About the author: Carole Pivarnik manages audience development and affiliate
programs for SureCode Technologies, Inc., which offers full-featured, customizable Web databases that plug right into any site with no programming. Email her:
carole@surecode.com.
Sign up for her free newsletter, Working Web Sites, or learn more about SureCode at
http://www.surecode.com.