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FORTUNE Small Business:

My community website has no members!

An entrepreneur with an interactive site needs visitors. Here's how to get them.

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(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: A month ago I launched a Chinese/English language exchange, 247yak.com, for people to practice speaking English and Chinese. The target audience is people in China who want to learn English and Americans who want to learn Chinese. It has 250 members, but only a few log in everyday to chat. Activity is a bit better on weekends. How do I improve the website's usage? Facebook users log in almost everyday!

- Eelin See, New York

Dear Eelin: Your troubles may stem from the difficulty in finding your site through search engines like Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) or MSN. For instance, a search on Google with the words "English Chinese translation" or "learn Chinese" brought up many pages of results. But clicking through ten pages, we had still not come across 247yak.com. That's not good since the percentage of people who actually search through the tenth page of Google's results is miniscule.

Don't fret; there are ways to improve that ranking. Research the words your future members will search with on Yahoo, and then include those words in your title and on your website says Lee Odden, Chief Executive of TopRank, a search engine optimization company, and publisher of MarketingBlog.com.

For example, if you find the word "translation" is often used when searching for your website, then include the word in the title of your site. People should be able to find it more easily, and some will become members.

You could also hire a search engine optimization company to help you with this. There are many out there including Odden's TopRank, as well as submitexpress.com or inteliture.com.

Odden also felt a personal search engine on your site would help keep people there, once they have come across it. "By understanding what community members are looking for, a web site owner can make an effort to create more of that kind of content...and make it easier to find existing content," he said. Do this by downloading an external application or plugin. Even Google offers one at google.com/coop/cse.  To top of page

How do you draw visitors to your webpage? Are you able to keep members on your community site? Share advice here.

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