UKOLN Good Practice Guide for Developers of Cultural Heritage Web Services

PR and marketing for digitisation projects


This section was first published as part of the NOF-digi Technical Advisory Service Programme Manual.


Marketing a cultural heritage Web site is vital if you want to increase the number of users accessing it. To carry out successful marketing you need to have some sort of marketing plan which may involve determining the needs of your users and a strategy to execute your plan.

Within the context of digital cultural heritage development work which takes place as part of a funded programme, the objective sof the PR and marketing plan should be to:

All of this can be done using traditional methods, but given these are Web sites that are being promoted, electronic marketing is very important.

In any publicity materials it is important to add your URL to all slides, handouts. In fact, make sure your Web address is on everything your organisation produces, including headed notepaper, email signatures, paper bags.

Target Audiences

You will need to clarify the target audienes for your project. For the NOF-diigitise programme, for example, the material was targeted particularly at users of public libraries through the Peoples Network (PN) [1] and schools through the National Grid for Learning (NGfL) [2].

However, you should also remember that the Internet knows no geographical boundaries and access to Web sites is not restricted.

The object of the marketing exercise is to identify target audiences and then best means of promoting the projects deleverable and component parts to these audiences, using traditional and electronic strategies. The product is the resources and services created in this programme.

Target audiences will include (not exhaustive):

Brand Identity

It is important that a brand identify is created for funding programmes. For projects funded by the NOF-digise programme, for example, it was required that the NOF funded mark appeared on news releases relating to all projects being supported under the programme. The funded mark also appeared on appropriate Web pages, enabling sites to be readily identifiable as part of an overall project.

Publicity Photos

If publicity photos are created that include children the consensus is that consent forms are needed. An example consent form is given at [3] and [4].

Some brief but relevant advice from NGfL on using children's images on Web sites is given at [5].

Methodology: the Tools

You should aim to use traditional marketing tools along side electronic marketing. Traditional marketing would include:

You should establish what your selling points are and build up a database of good examples. Web address should be on everything you produce.

You may want to write articles about your project or interesting aspects of the project for relevant publications, either printed or online. You are always entitled to include a URL in your author details for pieces about your NOF-project or any other areas of work you are involved in.

One of the most positive ways your Web site URL will get distributed is by 'viral' marketing, or word of mouth. This will happen if your resources are accessible, interesting and user friendly and your site well designed.

Electronic Marketing would include:

Web Marketing

There are a number of ways that you can use the Web itself as a marketing tool. Firstly, by encouraging other sites to link to you. This can be done by approaching relevant sites, swapping links and encouraging others to bookmark your site. During this process the value of a short and persistent URL becomes clear. It may also be useful to have a logo with a small piece of HTML available for people to copy and paste onto their site. After your site is released you should try to join industry/subject related hub sites, you may also be able to register it with a number of portals, such as the NGfL [2]. Towards the end of the programme a portal may be developed which will further enhance access to your resources.

Another way of disseminating information about your Web site's arrival is through use of electronic mailing lists. JISCMail [6] host a number of different mailing lists in various subject areas. When writing to mailing lists you should try to tailor your message for the target audience. Don't forget to advertise internally too, such as within your department, University or organisation.

Search Engines

One of the most important ways of increasing awareness of your site is through submission to search engines and directories. The best strategy is to manually submit your key pages to the major search engines (Google, Excite, HotBot, Lycos etc.). It is possible to use a submission application or Web service but these can be fairly unreliable. Finding a link from a search engine home page to the page where you add your URL can often be quite difficult. Search engines page designers frequently move the location of the link, possibly in order to make paying for submission an easier and more appealing prospect. The link may be listed as 'Add URL', 'Add your Web site', 'List with us' or another. When you find the page for free URL submission you may need to give extra details, such as your email and a category for the page you are submitting. For further information on the use of search engines have a look at the Search Engine Watch Web site [7]. This form of promotion should really take place before your launch and may take some time (over a month).

In order to be successfully indexed by the search engine software there are certain areas of Web site that need to be considered.

You should give some thought to the keywords on your Web page. Search engine indexers pick up on two different types of keywords: the meta tags held in the HTML markup of your page and the keywords mentioned in the content of your page.

Metadata in the form of meta tags (information about a Web resource, such as the author, keywords, brief description, etc.) is often used by search engines when indexing and is sometimes provided as a description on a search results page. An example of a few of the meta tags available for use on a Web site is given below:

<meta name="keywords" content="SCRAN, scotland, scottish, scot, gael, scran, alba, past, history, image, identity, scran, ethnography, archaeology, scran, education, school, college, university, museum, gallery">
<meta name="date" content="May, 2001">
<meta name="dc.title" content="SCRAN Web Site">

As you can see from the examples above basic meta tags can be used or information can provided in Dublin Core. It may also be useful to provide alternative spellings and language versions of keywords if relevant.

You should make sure that you include a well-worded title in the <head> block. This will definitely be indexed and is weighted heavily in the results, in general: title words are ranked more relevant than free-text words.

However keywords used in your content are also important. If your site provides access to resources on the River Avon is this mentioned on your page? Are other keywords, such as the counties the river is in, mentioned? How are your keywords positioned? Is there a lists of links, tables or frames that move the valuable keywords further down the page? Make sure that all your graphics have alt tags as some search engines can use image alt tags for indexing. Note that most search engines have technologies that look for spamming so avoid excessive usage of a particular word.

Much relevancy ranking (where your site appears on a search results page) is done by the location and frequency (of keywords) method. Other search engines use the popularity method. This looks at the number of links to a site and the importance of those links, certain links to sites will be weighted. For example if the BBC links to your site this will count for more than a friend's home page. Reviewed sites that are found to be of good quality by directories will also appear higher up a search results page. Unfortunately more recently the most consistent way that you can guarantee that your Web site appears at the top of the search results is by paying.

After marketing your Web site you could check the popularity of your page using which measures how many other sites link to yours. It is also possible to find out if you have been referenced by a search engine. For further information see the article on "Promoting Your Project Web Site" in Exploit Interactive [8]. To check that search engine indexers are visiting your site you can also check the server logs files to see if any robots (like googlebot) have visited your site yet.

Some search engines will have difficulties indexing your page if you use frames, splash screens, javascript, databases or have strange characters (~,*,?) in your URL. Try not to use frames and always offer an HTML alternative to proprietary file formats, such as Flash.


Marketing your project Web site should be an ongoing process. If your site is well designed and functional people will add it to their bookmarks; but reminders about your useful site will not go amiss. Keep people informed of interesting additions to the site, possibly by creating a database of interested users and emailing them whenever substantial changes are made.

Make sure that your Web site gets noticed by combining online and real world marketing and continually mentioning your resources. You need to consistently get more people to your site because 'magnetic marketing' is the best marketing there is. The more people who use your site, the more useful it will become.

Monitor your Web site's usage both qualitatively and quantitatively and adapt your site in line with this feedback. Monitor, evaluate, elevate.

What Next?

What The Funding Body May Offer

The funding body for your cultural hritage project may be able to provide various support services for your project. This can include the following:

Press advice and support on:

Web and publications support such as:

What projects can do


  1. People's Network
  2. National Grid for Learning
  3. Using images of people: photographs, videos and webcams, Hantsweb
  4. Consent form for County Council non-school staff commissioning photography, Hantsweb
  5. Superhighway Safety
  6. JISCMail
  7. Search Engine Watch
  8. Promoting Your Project Web Site, Exploit Interactive, Issue 4, Brian Kelly

Comments On This Document

This section will be used to provide notes on the section, including details of any changes.

2 Dec 2004
Document made available to MLA staff for comments