For many people and businesses, the word ‘marketing’ conjures up visions of pricey marketing strategies and excessive expenditure.
With a high number of businesses all vying for exposure among the vast digital landscape, it can sometimes feel like fighting a losing battle, especially for those just starting out.
However, it doesn’t have to be expensive: there are plenty of free ways to market a business. In this post, we share our top tips for how to market your online business for free – 30 different ways in fact. Here goes…
1. Capture email data
Ensure that you have a method of capturing email data from website visitors. Integrate an email sign up option onto your site and begin building a database of customer data.
You can then use this data for a range of marketing incentives, such as email marketing or creating custom audiences on Facebook for targeted advertising. (Just make sure you’re GDPR compliant…)
You’ve got the data, now you need to do something useful with it. Start by setting up a free account with Mailchimp, and start distributing those emails.
Avoid being overly promotional and always offer something genuinely useful to the recipients. Keep the emails regular but never bombard, otherwise people will hit unsubscribe quicker than you can say ‘digital marketing’.
3. Video marketing
You’d be mad to ignore the proliferation of video over the past few years. Jump on the bandwagon and start engaging in some video marketing.
Begin by setting up a YouTube channel. You don’t have to create Hollywood-esque movies – just a simple video blog will do. If you’ve got something useful to say, then say it on video. It also makes for highly shareable, marketable content – plonk it on your website, push it out on social, and include in your emails.
4. Post to Facebook
It goes without saying that social media is one of the most valuable marketing tools out there. And it’s free. FREE. It’s best not to go signing up for every social media platform under the sun, just focus on those most suitable to your business.
Facebook is a viable option for almost all businesses. Unfortunately, the latest algorithm updates have made it harder than ever for businesses to gain visibility in the news feed without paying. But, you’ve got nothing to lose. Post regular updates – be engaging and exciting, don’t be too promotional, and be genuinely interesting.
5. Interact with industry experts on Twitter
Twitter isn’t for everyone, but it does carry a whole array of benefits. It’s a great platform for engaging with industry experts and customers, as it’s a place where anyone can talk to anyone.
Respond to customer feedback, retweet the best user-generated content, and offer genuine input to industry discussions.
6. Create an Instagram
A popular contender among social media platforms, Instagram has an ever-increasing user base.
If your business would benefit from a visual presence, then make sure you are dedicating time to building a strong Instagram account. Remember that it’s a visual platform, so carefully curated content that looks amazing is key.
7. Generate website traffic with Pinterest
Pinterest isn’t suitable for a lot of businesses, but can work really well for some. The platform has one of the highest conversion rates in terms of converting browsers into buyers.
You can also generate significant website traffic and find out more about what your target users love.
8. Build your network on LinkedIn
If your business is a B2B company, be sure to have a strong presence on LinkedIn. It’s also a great place for building your network. The same rules apply to LinkedIn as other social platforms – engage with relevant people and offer genuine insight.
9. Publish to Google Plus – yes, really!
Google Plus, that strange little platform that never quite hit the big time. Yet it’s still plodding along hoping that one day, something, anything will happen that propels it into social media stardom (not likely).
Still, despite the failings of Google Plus, it is still worth getting into the habit of pushing out any new content via Google Plus. After all, it’s a product of Google and if you want to climb those rankings, we suggest keeping Google sweet.
10. Start using Google Posts
Aim to publish regular updates via Google Posts for greater visibility in the search engine results pages. Posting to Google allows businesses to share content with people that is relevant to the search queries being inputted. It’s a great way of gaining a little extra exposure.
11. Encourage UGC
User-generated content (UGC) is content that has been created and published by unpaid fans of your business. It’s when someone loves your product or service so much that they take it upon themselves to share their experience with friends and family, usually via social media.
UGC typically occurs naturally, but there is no harm in encouraging it – if you don’t ask you don’t get! You can highlight the best posts every week on your social media channels, and even offer prizes to customers who get featured.
And speaking of prizes…
12. Run social media giveaways
Running social media giveaways is a sure-fire way of increasing engagement and generating new followers. Not only can it be a nice way of saying thank you to existing customers and fans, it’s also a handy way of reaching potential new customers.
Okay, so it’s not entirely cost free, as you’ll need to give away a product, but there’s no need to spend any money on top of that. Just be sure to follow all the best practices of running a giveaway.
13. Engage with social influencers
Influencer marketing is a huge industry. For those unfamiliar with how it all works, a business pays or offers free products to a blogger or influencer who has a high following on social media. In return, the influencer shares your product on their social media channels. It’s extremely effective.
The more popular influencers can charge astronomical rates, but those with smaller followings (sometimes called “micro-influencers”) have high engagement rates and are often willing to post something in return for a free product or trial.
14. Set up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
If you haven’t already, then make sure you set up Google Search Console (and also Bing Webmaster Tools). Using these tools, you can view valuable information about the search terms people are using to find your website.
You can also index new pages, meaning they will show up in the search engine results pages quicker. Plus, be sure to submit an XML sitemap – it helps the search engines crawl your site.
15. Update your Google My Business listing
Update your Google My Business listing and check that all information is accurate. Reorganize the images to ensure that only your best side is showing.
Do the same with your local listings for Bing and Yahoo. It’s also worth working on building your Google reviews, as they will help boost your rankings.
16. Ask your customers for testimonials
On the topic of reviews, be sure to generate as many testimonials and (positive) reviews as possible.
Whether it’s via Google, TrustPilot or for a dedicated testimonials section on your website, people trust other people. You’ll have to ask your customers for these, as people don’t very often give them naturally. Just a gentle prompt will do the trick.
17. Google Analytics
Make sure that you have Google Analytics linked up to your site. It’s a treasure trove of handy data and be sure to spend some time getting your head around it all.
See how people interact with your site, identify the pain points and discover the most popular pages. With this information you can make considered and informed changes and improvements to your site.
18. Review Google AdWords
Google AdWords is not free. In fact, it’s incredibly expensive. But if you are already running a PPC campaign then it’s worth taking some time to review your strategy. Try rewriting some of the ads and improving your quality score to generate better results.
Sparing a little time reviewing your campaign could save you lots of money. For most of us AdWords will cost, but if you are a charity you can apply for a Google Grant of up to £10,000 to spend on AdWords!
19. Use PR
PR is still a very powerful weapon in a marketer’s arsenal. Without hiring a dedicated PR agency, there are some steps you can take to implement a bit of PR. Following any substantial news or updates, it’s worth distributing a press release as you never know who may pick it up.
Sign up to platforms like HARO (help a reporter out) and look out for hashtags like #journorequest on Twitter, as you may be able to wrangle a mention. PR, of course, goes hand-in-hand with link-building for SEO.
20. Contribute to forums, blogs and discussions
Part of marketing your business online is to establish yourself as a reliable industry expert and a voice of authority. In order to build this authority, take the time to contribute to relevant forums, blogs and social media discussions.
Offer genuinely helpful insight and answer questions that are being asked. People will appreciate your input and, with any luck, will convert into a customer.
21. Speak at industry conferences
Another excellent way of building your authority and reputation as an expert within your industry, is to volunteer to speak at relevant industry conferences. It’s a great way of getting your personal and business name out there. If you’re trusted to speak at conferences, then you’ll be trusted to offer a good product or service.
22. Content creation
It goes without saying that content creation should be central to any digital marketing strategy. If you haven’t already got a blog on your website then don’t wait a second longer. Do it. Right now.
You’ll probably have noticed that there are a disconcerting amount of blogs on the web. So don’t do what everyone else is doing; be different, be helpful and be relevant.
23. Guest post
As well as creating content for your own site, be sure to integrate guest blogging into your marketing strategy. Only aim for relevant and high quality sites, preferably with a high domain authority and nonexistent spam score.
It’s a great way of ramping up brand exposure, but also securing links back to your website (hello better SEO rankings).
24. Use blogging platforms
As beautiful as your website’s blog might be, it can be frustrating if your lovingly crafted content is not getting the exposure you think it deserves. Especially if you are only just starting out, it can be crushing to spend hours working on a stellar article, only for two people to read it (probably your mum and your best mate).
25. Carry out keyword research
If you are undertaking a full blown SEO campaign, the chances are that you are paying someone to do it, or you are already an SEO whiz, in which case you’ll (hopefully) know what you’re doing.
For the newbies, keyword research is the initial stage of any SEO campaign and can help you identify user intent and figure out what your target audience is searching for. It would take several blog posts to cover this in enough detail, but a good place to start is with this complete guide to keyword research for SEO.
26. Optimize your metadata
Get into the habit of writing an SEO title and meta description for every page and post you publish. This is the information that will be displayed in the search engine results pages, so you need to make it as enticing and relevant as possible.
27. Mark up your website with Schema.org structured data
In a nutshell, schema markup allows you to label the content on your site for the benefit of the search engine. It helps the search engines provide more detailed search engine results pages.
Although there is no evidence that schema markup directly improves your rankings, it will make your listing more attractive, therefore encouraging more click-throughs. And that can only be a good thing!
28. List your business in online directories
Ensure that your business is listed in relevant online directories. There are the most popular ones, such as Yell, Yelp and Thomson Local, but there are a whole host of other industry or location-specific directories.
Make sure you add your business listing to only the directories which are relevant to your business, and ensure they aren’t spammy.
29. Make sure your NAP are consistent
That sounds complicated but it’s really very simple. NAP stands for name, address and phone number. NAP consistency refers to the process of ensuring that all mentions of your business feature the correct information.
Do a quick search and make sure that the name, address, phone number, and any other information about your business listed online are all completely accurate and formatted consistently.
30. Test your website with Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Mobile-Friendly Test
Finally, if you want your website to rank well and offer a fantastic user experience then it needs to be fast and mobile-friendly. Utilize Google’s free tools to check the speed of your website and whether or not it is mobile-friendly. Any red flags should be resolved as quickly as possible.
So there you have it. There’s definitely enough information here to keep you occupied for quite some time. It always helps to have a marketing budget, but these free steps are the best place to start. Good luck!