When it comes to marketing your business online there are countless tools and services you can use. If you’re a start-up chances are you have a tight budget. Luckily, many of them are either completely free or offer introductory features for free! Let’s look at some of easy ways to get started with establishing a presence online without spending a dollar.
1. Establish your site
Before you can market your products and services online you first have to establish your site. I always emphasise these basics as they are very important:
- use a host with a good reputation and excellent uptime
- design your site with a mobile-first strategy in mind and include fresh, informative content that matches user intent and is updated regularly
- follow best-practice search engine optimisation techniques and ensure fast page loading times
- make sure your pages are responsive and easily navigated from all devices and screen sizes
Businesses that want to set up a basic website for free or nearly free can use Google Sites or WordPress.
2. Register with online directories
One of the first things to do is to determine which online directories are relevant for your content. Because online directories are updated regularly with new additions, they tend to be crawled regularly so its one of the fastest ways to establish a presence online.
- Google My Business gets you registered gets with Google Search and Google Maps so is a good place to start. Google Posts is new and tied in with Google My Business so check it out too.
- Yahoo! Local (Yahoo!’s small business directory) and Bing Places could also be useful as Yahoo and Bing are two of the most popular search engines other than Google.
- Register in other industry- or region-specific directories for example True Local (for Australian businesses) or TripAdvisor for tourism-related businesses.
3. Establish a social media presence
These days social networks are everywhere. If your audience frequents social media networks regularly then you would be well-advised to embrace them. This doesn’t mean you need to register for all of them; you’re better to commit to one or two and post regularly to them than to embrace ten different social media networks and spread yourself too thin and end up neglecting them. Some basic market research will help you identify which ones are relevant to your customers. You’ve probably heard of the main ones:
- Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest
- Instagram, Flickr, and Tumblr
- Google+ and LinkedIn
However, new ones are cropping up all the time, for instance Ello (a social network for people who create).
4. Engage with your audiences
One of the best ways to get noticed online is to establish a good reputation for helping your customers. This is just as important on social media. Reply to comments promptly and if there is a problem sort it out quickly. Make sure you include social media share buttons on your blog and webpages too to make it easy for your current audience to share your content with friends and family. It’ll help new people find you and increase backlinks help establish authority and trust for your content.
You can also participate in online forums and help services by sharing your knowledge and expertise. Some of the most popular sites include:
5. Establish a blog
If you’ve already got a good website, consider adding a blog to it. This is a great way to post regular updates. You can include a link to your blog or website in your email signature so that everyone you correspond with knows about it. If you post quality, relevant articles people will notice and start linking to your content. Again, these backlinks will help your reputation grow organically.
6. Create and share video content
Video content is huge and has one of the highest engagement rates of any content type. You can establish a channel on YouTube and use it as a way to promote:
- product and service guides
- other informational guides, such as purchasing guides
- your brand and increase awareness and exposure
7. Monitor progress
It’s important to keep track of the effectiveness of your efforts. If you’ve done all of the above, you should see an increase in traffic to your site. Remember, if your presence is very new online it could take a month or more before you appear in search results and it could take a year or two to become really well established.
To help speed things along:
- register your site on Google Search Console and submit a sitemap to encourage Google to crawl your site
- register with Bing Webmaster Tools
- ensure your pages are always accessible and without errors (e.g. deadlink 404s) so that your users never have the quality of their visit compromised.
Finally, be patient. Your rewards will pay off long term if you persist. Establishing good habits such as posting new content consistently, offering good social media customer service and keeping abreast of new online marketing developments will win out long-term.