If You Build It, They Will Come

by Tremaine Parsons, Anvil Magazine Internet Development

Published in the October 2000 Issue of Anvil Magazine

Six months ago, the Anvil Online Marketplace page was added to our popular www.anvilmag.com Internet Web site. We were surprised to find that this new Marketplace page has consistently been our second most-visited Web page after our Home page since its inception. Conclusion: people like to visit marketplaces. It occurred to us that it might be interesting and helpful to share some observations and insights regarding www.anvilmag.com with our readers and advertisers.

The Anvil Magazine Web site was launched in the spring of 1996. Initial goals included the following: Establish a presence on the Internet to further support and promote Anvil Magazine, provide additional support for current and potential subscribers and advertisers, and participate in this new medium of information technology. During the first two years, approximately 80 published articles were made available and our annual Industry Resource Guide was moved to the Web site. Our Calendar of Events was included, as well as subscriber and advertiser information, reader service requests by e- mail, and several other features.

In September of 1998, anvilmag.com launched a significant overhaul and redesign. All online content from the previous two years was maintained, but the look and feel of the Web site was reshaped in a style more akin to the Anvil Magazine publication. About 250 previously published articles are now available. There is a full content area with over a year of complete back issues available to our subscribers and advertisers. The Industry Resource Guide and Calendar are updated monthly. Our advertisers have been tastefully integrated within several areas of the site in a manner that does not compromise fast and efficient delivery of our educational and resource content.

In maintaining a Web site, the owner can have access to "Server Statistics." These statistics track the following types of information: How many visitors go to the site, which pages the visitors view, which pages are viewed the most (or least), the geographical location (country or state when available) of the visitor, as well as many additional reports detailing similar information.

Our dedicated visitor base has been steadily growing; it has more than doubled over the last 18 months. During the month of February, 1999, there were 6,269 user sessions requiring 36,786 server hits. During the month of August, 2000, there were 13,914 user sessions requiring 83,390 server hits. Note: A user session is defined as a visitor who requested at least one Web page from our site.

We attribute this growth to two fundamental factors: We have had a Web presence for almost five years now and we are a monthly publication, which enables us to post new articles and resources on a frequent basis. Something new every month will always encourage visitors to return and help us build a dedicated visitor following.

During the last six months, our most commonly accessed pages (in order of most requests) have been:

the Home page
the Marketplace page
the Articles Index page
the current month's Table of Contents
the Farrier Articles listing page
the Blacksmithing Articles listing page
the search engine for the anvilmag.com Web site
the Industry Resource guide
the Links page
the Calendar of Events page

Aside from our surprise that the Anvil Online Marketplace has taken second position only to the Home page, these results are what we like to see. While the Articles Index (previously our second most-visited page) has taken third position by a very slim margin, it is really the core of what Anvil Magazine is about: educational and resource information.

About 88.6% of our August visitors were from North America, 7% from Europe, 1.8% from Australia and New Zealand, 1.6% from Asia, .5% from South America, and .5% from Africa.

Contrary to general opinion, search engines do not determine a good Web site. The content of a Web site is the core issue and a valuable Web site will flourish regardless of search engines. Yes, submitting to search engines is very important. However, optimizing a Web site that will be helpful to current customers, clients, or subscribers is more important. They are the customer base and potential dedicated visitor following. We attribute a certain amount of our dedicated visitor following (quality of content aside) to the fact that we have been available online for almost five years. That's five years for various search engines to go to our site and "spider" through, indexing our Web site content, five years for our subscribers and advertisers to know that we are always there for them - and five years for anyone around the world to hear about www.anvilmag.com. Something like: "If you're there, they will find you."

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