How to Promote a Site

This is not written as a tutorial. I have one in mind, but wanted to first lay out a quick analysis of our most recent effort. CotC visitors, welcome! – a site owned and managed by CaseySoftware – after being active for approximately 8 days is in the top 225k sites on Technorati and is steadily closing on CaseySoftware. In addition, we have a community which is growing quickly enough that discussion forums may be on the way to further encourage this.

I think there are three main reasons why the site is moving so swiftly.

First, I realized that there was a need. I see and know many developers – some respected former colleagues – who are completely disconnected with the community and are suffering as a result. I wanted to convince them to join in the discussion, establish themselves as professionals outside their immediate network, and we should all learn something from it. For a commercial endeavor, this would be called identifying your customers.

Next, to get off the ground, I reached out to the community. I posted here and on Joel On Software to actually communicate with the community and involve them directly. I figured that even as a worse case scenario, all of the contributors plus their immediate contacts would visit the site regularly. Best case scenario, we completely own a few search terms. For a commercial endeavor, this would be called going where your customers are.

Finally, I want the site to be successful, but I can't afford to post new content there and here 3-5 times/week without duplicating content or letting CaseySoftware's other efforts suffer. Therefore, I requested of each contribute to write once a week and created a simple weekly publishing schedule and requested everyone to chose one to fit their schedule. This allows new content to be published multiple times each day and gives me a clue when there are gaps to fill. More than anything, this is causing people to come to the site on a regular basis to check out the latest and greatest. For a commercial endeavor, this would be called giving the customer what they want.

What has this resulted in?
* We have been having some great discussions sharpening each others' wits and challenging some ideas.
* CodeSnipers is getting approximately 4-6 times the traffic of CaseySoftware.
* At any given time – even at 6am EST, we have 20-120 visitors online.
* People who visit the site are coming back regularly and frequently.
* The site is broad base enough that lots of people are blogrolling and linking to us.

Where are there areas for improvement?
* The site may be considered too broad base for some. Remembering the request put forth by the distinguished David St. Lawrence over at Ripples I allowed contributors to select any number of categories to apply to an entry and enabled user-based RSS feeds. While this allows users to more finely tune their content, I believe that eventually the site will have to be divided along interest areas and require a few dedicated contributors to each group along with editors for each group. If traffic continues to grow as it has, this will be necessary within 30 days.

* Forums. Currently although comments are enabled, they stay focused on the topic and don't branch into related areas which really should be discussed. Besides, we need to recruit Generations Two and Three.

* Site design. This is a default Drupal theme with a few modules thrown in. We need to change this asap. Don't worry, I intend for the ads to stay small and quiet off to the side.

All said and done, I get to give something back to the community, connect with some sharp people who work in completely different technical and geographical areas, and have a bit of fun playing with all the intricacies and oddities of Drupal. It could be worse. I could be out of a job like Michael Graham.