Next Generation Trade Intelligence Portal

Your online guide

Step 9: Promotion

Learning points:

  • Key success factors for effective promotion of your portal.
  • The secrets of Search Engine Optimisation.
  • The benefits of blogging and other social media for promotion.
  • Customized alerts and e-newsletters.
  • Cross-media integration and linking of your services.

“Our new portal has been launched. What’s next?”

Developing, populating and launching your Trade Intelligence Portal is one thing. Making it well known to the right visitors in order to achieve your objectives is another thing. This Step proposes you some angles for effective promotion for your Trade Intelligence Portal. A critical step, since too often promotion turns out to be neglected.


Etienne Vauchez, President - Export Enterprises“Promotion is a crucial part and almost everyone forgets to include it in their budget planning. We recommend a different team altogether to take over when it is time for Marketing”.

- Etienne Vauchez, President - Export Enterprises

Critical success factors

Below you find a number of critical success factors for effective promotion. In line with the nature of the service, the focus is on on-line promotion and cross-media linkages.

1. Promotion follows your strategy

Earlier in the process, you have defined your objectives and target groups. This gives perfect guidance for developing and implementing a promotion plan. Your focus and scope are already set. Then, you set your objectives as specific and measurable as possible. They are related to your performance indicators as discussed in Step 8.

2. Portal complete? Promotion starts!

A common mistake is to consider the portal development a project that is finished the moment you launch it. Well, to be honest: it only starts here! Now is the time to attract the right visitors, from the right target market to you portal. Today, tomorrow, next week, next month, on the long run. This is where promotion kicks in. The on-going process of communication and referring to the portal. Promotional tools to use include search engine optimisation and search engine advertisement, social media channels, email marketing and cross media integrated traditional offline tools. And, make sure you allocate sufficient resources. Read about it below!

3. Your portal as the backbone

It is critical to connect your portal to every service that you offer to your clients and that you interlink trade information with trade support services. The portal as the backbone and the virtual one-stop-shop of your organization. Some tips on how to do it:

  • Connect your trade information services to trainings, seminars or strategy sessions with exporters or other clients. Create the bridge from information (market opportunities) to action (market entry strategies).
  • If you offer export coaching services, offer an assessment or export audit toolkit online. Offer your clients a log-in to see the results and to monitor their progress, and link the export readiness status to useful trade information corresponding to that status.
  • Apply cross media integration and refer your clients from other (printed) media to find more information on the portal, to download, or register for online for training or events.
  • Use the portal as a lead generator, consider asking visitors to leave their names and email addresses before downloading documents. This allows you to contact potential buyers or investors.

4. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Advertising (SEA)

One of the most important and logical tools to use is search engine marketing. In particular with search engine Google. Nowadays, Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second or over 3.5 billion searches per day (Google, June 2014).

Critical for success is to be listed high in the search engine result pages. More than 90% of the clicks in the search engine result pages goes to the top 10 results in Google, of which the overwhelming majority to the top 3 results. Hence, it is important to be there. On the first page, amongst the top 3. Below, we provide you tips to get there.

#1 Domain name and search engine friendly URLs

Domain names

In most cases, your portal’s domain name will be similar to your organization’s name. For example:

However, you may want to consider a domain name that communicates what you do instead of who you are. A domain name that reflects your service and includes the most relevant keywords your target group uses to search. Example:


Search engine friendly URLs

Search engines prefer easy to access domain names and URLs, including relevant keywords for each page of your portal. Most Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Joomla, Drupal or WordPress, allow for automation of this and will automatically link the title of the page to the URLs. Tip: use hyphens to separate keywords, instead of under_scores as they will be treated as a ‘space’. The length of the URL should be less than 115 characters.

Example of search engine friendly URL – Matrade Malaysia
example SEF URL - Matrade Malaysia


#2 Title tag – for each individual page

This is one of the primary factors that helps to improve your search engine result ranking. Every page of your portal should contain its own unique title tag. Including your organization’s name and the most important keywords related to the page. The maximum amount of characters in a title tag is 70.

Example of Title and Description Tag – ITC Standards Map
Example of Title and Description Tag – ITC Standards Map


#3 Description tag – the trigger to click

The meta description tag is  written for each individual page of your portal. It contains a few sentences and appears below your title tag in search engine results. Your potential visitors read the meta description tag to judge the relevance of search results and is a ‘trigger to click’. Therefore, your meta description tag should be written to encourage visitors to click on your listing. Therefore make it relevant, but also attractive e.g. with a benefit for the user. The number of characters for the meta description tag should not exceed 170 characters.

Tip: When your Trade Intelligence Portal is available in multiple languages, make sure title and description tags for all pages are written in those languages too.

Example of unique title tags and description tags (metatags) for each individual page – Austrade
Example of unique title tags and description tags (metatags) for each individual page - Austrade

#4 Headers and keyword rich content

The ideal page is structured and formatted with recognisable headers and consistent use of keywords. The main header of the page should be formatted in bolded H1 (html) code, allowing Google to give it a higher ranking. Format all subheaders subsequently in h2, h3 format, etc. Also, include relevant keywords that apply to each page. Make sure you do this in a consistent way, so use the same keywords or combinations that you apply in the Title and Description Tag. For example, consistently use ‘export advice’ and repeat the words ‘export’ and ‘advice’ also individually throughout the content.

Example of use of Headers – Enterprise Ireland

Example of use of Headers – Enterprise Ireland

Which keywords are my clients using….?

The one million dollar question that you may want to ask yourselves is: How do you know whether your clients prefer for instance ‘export advice’ when using Google, or ‘export coaching’? Useful tools include:

  • Google Analytics (historical use of keywords for your own portal)
  • Google Keyword planner (historical search behaviour, worldwide or per location)
  • Qualitative feedback of users (through focus group discussions, questionnaires)
  • Competitor research (which keywords do other trade promotion organizations use)

#5 Avoid duplicate content

Duplicate content

Search engines do not like to find the same content on different URLs as they will not know what the original content is and therefore cannot decide what URL should appear in search engine results. For instance, duplicate content can occur in the case;

  • A domain name or page url has changed.
  • Multiple domain names are in place for one website.
  • The non-www version of your portal is not redirected to the www version.
  • Print friendly urls.

What to do in case of duplicated content?

Solutions include:

  • Employ a so-called ‘301 redirect’ from the non-www-version to the www-version.
  • Employ the canonical link tag to prevent duplicate content.

This may sound rather technical. You may want to consult your IT department or web developer for more information. Some useful sources include:

#6 ALT tags

Search engines cannot understand images. Therefore, most Content Management Systems allow you to add so called ALT tags to an image. They are visible when a visitor moves his cursor above an image. Include relevant keywords in ALT tags of every image, so that search engines know what the image is about. Also include these keywords in the file names of the picture.

#7 Sitemap

An XML (or dynamic) sitemap helps search engines find and index your portal’s pages easily. It should contain less than 75-100 links, otherwise it may be considered as spam. You can submit your XML sitemap to Google via Google Webmaster Tools.

#8 Register your portal with other sites

Inbound links from popular (high pagerank) websites such as business directories are quite helpful to increase your visibility and search engine ranking. These could be links from local business directories, trade associations, chambers of commerce, marketplaces or open directory projects like DMOZ.

#9 Keyword advertisements

You can also decide to advertise your portal, through targeted advertisements in the search engines. Meaning such advertisements will be shown to only those persons that actually look for a keyword that you indicate to be relevant. For instance, if someone in Germany searches for ‘sourcing chocolate Ecuador’ then your ad can be displayed to this user. Google names this service Adwords.


The benefits of search engine advertisement:

  • Geo targeting to focus on a specific geographical target market, like a country, city or even as focused as an area within a city
  • Pay per click, so you only pay if a visit to the website is realized
  • Complete campaign control, with the ability to set and adjust the banner ad text, the maximum budget, the keyword appearance etc. any time through a self management module
  • Excellent monitoring and evaluation, with insights and possibility to compare popularity of your ads, number of displays, number and percentage of clicks, user background etc.
  • Compared to advertisement in printed press or promotion at trade shows, it is a relatively cheap lead generator, and easy to measure

Points of attention

In all fairness, notwithstanding the benefits of search engine advertisement, it is fair to say that, organic search, the non-paid listings, are more popular than the paid listings through Adwords. The non-paid listings attract more clicks.

Also, the effectiveness of banner ads depend a lot on the creation of good landing pages where the visitor will be directed to when he clicks on the banner. For example, in case of the banner for ‘sourcing chocolate from Ecuador’, the visitor should not be directed to the homepage of the trade promotion organisation, but directly to the page with the information about sourcing opportunities for chocolate.

More info

#10 Use web analytics

Make sure you apply a monitoring and evaluation plan (Step 8). You will read here that Google Analytics is one of the most effective solutions to analyse visitor traffic, their behaviour as well as to monitor advertising campaigns.

5. Alerts and email marketing

Customised e-mail newsletters 

E-mail newsletters allow for personalised and customised communication with your stakeholders. In practice, good newsletters are a major driver of (returning) traffic to your portal.

Some success factors include:

  • Use an html newsletter format, in line with your corporate style. Open source solutions like MailChimp or ALO EasyMail can be helpful tools for that matter.
  • Apply a regular frequency.
  • Customise the newsletter profile based, offer different categories or subjects of interest (by sector, type of publications, news categories, etc).
  • Have a self-management module on your portal (with a log-in), allowing your users to administer their settings and preferences themselves.
  • Connect the newsletter to a database with e-mail addresses and preferences.

IBCE in Bolivia offers an effective e-newsletter service to its users, with customised options and self-management of user settings.

Example e-newsletter subscription IBCE, Boliva

Example e-newsletter subscription IBCE, Boliva


Signature line

When sending emails, always refer to your portal. You can automate this by applying a standardized tagline and add it to each outgoing email of you and all your staff.


Example email signature line Vietcraft, Vietnam
Example email signature line Vietcraft, Vietnam


6. Blogging

The importance of blogging to a high search engine ranking has increased significantly lately. Some examples of trade promotion organizations with effective blogs include UKTI, NZTE and USDA.

Example NZTE blog
example NTZE blogging

Reasons to blog

Why should you blog?

  • To drive traffic to your website.
  • To create authority, be seen as the expert, the knowledge resource in your area.
  • To trigger interaction and generate user feedback and discussion.
  • To contribute to high search engine ranking.

Determine objective and target group first

When blogging, first of all take into the account the objective. What is your objective, which client, what is the call to action that you aim to achieve? Objectives may be e.g. to increase number of trade information downloads, more enquiries for business matching submitted, increase online subscription to events, etc.

Blogging success factors

Some success factors include:

  • Focus on one topic only.
  • Attractive title (create curiosity, use words such as tips, checklist, secrets, reasons for success, forecasts, and promise a story)
  • 400-800 words.
  • Include images, or even video.
  • Include at least one call to action.
  • Use subheadings and bolding.
  • Use bullets or numberings.
  • Promote new blog entries through your social media channels by offering direct links to the blog post.
  • Blog on your own domain (create ‘blog’ section in your navigation menu).

Blog calendar

For effective blogging and consistency reasons, it is advised to develop an editorial calendar. It is basically the blog plan for the next weeks or months ahead. A sample is provided below.

Example editorial calendar for blogging

Author Topic Content Focus keywords Call to action

Mrs Jane
Date: Nov 21

5 secrets of the ultimate trade fair booth Importance of a well designed and impactful trade fair booth. Careful preparation, stand behaviour, effective follow-up Booth design, booth lay-out, promotion, trade fair behaviour Do the online self-assessment Download guide for trade fair preparation. Ask for custom support.
Mr Spencer
Date: Nov 28
Ms More
Date: Dec 5


7. Social media

Social media have become a great ally for each trade promotion organization. Certainly for marketing purposes, they offer a wealth of opportunities. Please read more about social media integration in Step 5.

8. Offline and other channels

Make sure you combine online and offline instruments in a so-called cross-media promotion of your portal. Offline, traditional, instruments include a reference to the portal through inclusion in official letters, printed promotion materials, business cards, trade fair booth, etc.

Also you could make use of advertising agencies or other promotion partners, as well your country’s network of Foreign Trade Representatives.

Highlights Step 9 Promotion

  • Your promotion follows your strategy and supports achieving your objectives.
  • Your promotion is a continuous process and starts when the development finishes.
  • The portal is the backbone of the services that you offer, it is never an isolated tool.
  • Integrate offline and online promotion efforts through a cross-media concept.
  • Online promotion instruments like Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Advertisement, email newsletters and social media are very powerful.
  • Blogging offers major opportunities.

Make use of ITC expertise

Want to know more about this step or how ITC can support you with your trade intelligence portal?

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