Want to know a secret?
It’s possible to have an impressive, value-driven business and still fail.
Because one of the biggest things that separates a successful business from one that fails is effective marketing.
If nobody knows you exist, or that you have the solutions people are looking for, your business profit won’t grow and your impact will be short-lived.
Fortunately, the internet offers vast amounts of opportunities for you to get your business in front of a huge audience in a short amount of time.
In fact, the internet makes it possible for you to cast a wide net without breaking the bank.
All you have to do is put in the effort.
You see, online marketing stands above the rest because it’s budget-friendly (and sometimes even free!), convenient, easy to learn, affords a massive reach, and is completely customizable.
With internet marketing, you have the chance to put your business exactly in the position it needs to be – before your present and future customers.
So, if you’re ready to boost your sales, check out this list of 5 ways to effectively market your business online without straining your wallet.
5 Effective Ways to Market Your Business Online
1. Optimize Your Website
SEO (search engine optimization) is one of your best friends when it comes to marketing your business online.
Making your site search-engine friendly means it’s easier for search engines to crawl your site and understand your content. By having strong SEO, your business will be able to rank higher within search engine results, which will bring in more traffic to your website.
While it’s highly recommended that you hire an SEO specialist, since they will know all the technical intricacies of both on-page and off-page SEO, there are some things you can do on your own:
- Have a preferred domain URL - Most people don’t take the time to type in ‘www’ anymore. Instead, they are far more likely to just type ‘website.com’ rather than ‘www.website.com’. You should be using a web host that lets you choose your preferred version.
- Incorporate keywords into your content – Your website content should include keywords and key phrases that are relevant to your business, but they should be used in a natural way. Avoid repeating the same keywords too often, and be sure to not stuff your content with them. Doing this will make your site appear spammy (and it won’t read very well!) and will tip off the search engines. It’s best to use semantic-based keywords that are relevant to your business industry.
- Submit a sitemap to Google – Submitting a sitemap makes it easier for the search engines to understand your website content, which helps ensure your pages are included in the search engine results.
- Use ALT tags on your images – ALT tags (alternative tag) are descriptive words or phrases added to your image. These tags improve the accessibility of your website and make it easier for search engine spiders to crawl your site.
- Use internal and external links – Linking to authority sites and your own content will help improve your SEO. Adding external links boosts your website’s authority and relevance, which increases your search engine rankings. Internal links lead users to your older content and help search engine spiders crawl your content.
- Add a blog to your site – Not only does blogging improve your sales and customer-brand relationships, but it also helps with SEO. Blogging means your website is routinely updated with fresh, relevant content. It also provides value to your customers by offering useful content and solutions to their questions.
2. List Your Business
Listing your business in an online directory is a budget-friendly way to gain exposure. The vast majority of your prospective customers are (probably) not going to be flipping through ha phone book to find the type of business they’re looking for. It’s time-consuming, not always updated, and pretty darn inconvenient.
Most people just carry out quick online searches, since they can have access to numerous online business directories in just a few seconds. If you want to market your business online, you’re going to want to make sure your business is listed in as many online directories as possible.
To get you started, check out these top five online business directories:
- Google Places is one of the best directories and, as such, should be at the very top of your must-use list. Google outshines all the other search engines by a long shot. In fact, Google gets roughly 2.3 million searches per second, which comes to over 100 billion searches per month. Listing your business on Google Places is super easy and free, it allows your business to show up in Google Maps, and makes it easy for customers to leave reviews on your Google+ page.
- Bing is the 2nd most popular search engine, and its directory is one of the best places to list your business in order to gain some free exposure. It’s free and fast to register, it lets you add multiple locations at once, and it lets you add content like photos and videos. Check it out here.
- Yahoo! Local Listings is another great option, since Yahoo is the internet’s 3rd most popular search engine. The basic version of Yahoo! Local Listings is free and easy to use. Check it out here.
- Yelp is an extremely popular online review site for businesses, with over 102 million reviews added since it launched. If you’re looking for a great word-of-mouth marketing option, Yelp is the solution you’re looking for. Check it out here.
- Manta is a large online business directory that offers a great way to boost your website traffic with optimized business packages for only a small fee. It’s easy to set up, and highlights your brand and products. Check it out here.
3. Use Social Media
Social media is more than just a way to gain exposure and share pictures of your adorable cat – it’s a pretty vital investment for every business throughout all industries to make. Determine which social media channels your target audience tends to use the most and, from there, choose the top three channels on which you will focus your attention. Create a social media strategy and experiment a bit to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Remember to stay authentic, human, and personable.
- Share relevant posts, and share consistently. Offer information that provides solutions to your customers’ problems, answer their questions, encourage them; whatever your brand represents, offer that through your content.
- Get people to share your content. Add visible (this is important!) social sharing buttons to your website content in order to make it easier for people to share your posts. People like convenience, so make sure your buttons are sitting in plain sight.
- Maintain consistent branding. Make sure your profile pictures or avatars, color schemes, and fonts remain the same throughout all of your social media accounts. This will make your brand stand out, and it keeps your brand consistent. Use as high-quality images as you possibly can, and make sure the voice and personality of your brand shines through.
- Offer discounts, run contests, and host giveaways. Social media is a great way to create a solid customer-brand relationship. Offering these fun promotions is a great way to get people talking about your brand, and will help build your following.
- Connect with your customers. When your customers comment, reply, share, or like your content, connect with them! Return their comments, answer their questions, thank them, and offer valuable content. This will foster trust and facilitate customer-brand loyalty. Remember, people fall in love with the people behind the brand, not the brand itself. Be human, not just some faceless company.
4. Send Out Press Releases
When your business does something major, make sure everyone knows about it by sending off a press release. Press releases are powerful media tools that have the potential to generate a large amount of publicity. While there are some places that require a fee (most of them don’t require massive amounts of money), there are places that offer free distribution. There are dozens of these free websites, such as PRLog, Pr-inside, and 24-7 Press Release.
Your press release is representing your business and, as such, should be as well written and professional as possible. Avoid industry jargon and buzzwords, and make sure the value of both your product and brand are easily understood. While you can certainly write your own press release, it’s often better to hire an experienced freelance writer.
Your press release should include your business’ contact information, as well as a link to your website.
5. Create Craigslist Ads
There are plenty of great classified ads resources available for budget-friendly online marketing, but Craigslist is definitely one of the most popular. Creating your own ad helps you connect your business and brand with your target audience, and helps you spread the word about your services or products.
Just like any other advertising platform, Craigslist requires a bit of strategy.
- Figure out which cities you wish to target, and keep in mind regions can sometimes overlap. If your service area spans several cities, it’s best to create ads and a posting schedule for each of those individual regions. This is one of the best ways to expand your exposure, rather than just staying limited to your city. If you are able to offer your services nationwide, your audience reach is even larger.
- Make sure you post a unique ad for each city, focus on different products or services, and switch up your posting schedule.
- Do not post the same ad within a 48-hour time-frame.
- Always delete your old ad.
- Use keywords, but be careful to not come across as spammy. Craigslist users will be quick to flag your ads.
This list is by no means comprehensive, as there is an endless amount of potential within the world of online marketing.
This is a great starting point. These methods all require a bit of work, but they are super effective and budget-friendly. All you have to do is start!