If you want to market your business online but don't have much left in the kitty, don't despair - there are plenty of tricks out there to ensure you get bang for your buck
HERE ARE 10 online marketing tips I'd recommend that have saved money for businesses and generated leads at the same time.
• STAY AWAY FROM ‘POSITION' AND ‘BRAND' MARKETING STRATEGIES - These are designed for big businesses and are often too diffuse to have a positive effect for small ones.
• DON'T HIRE AN EXPENSIVE WEB DESIGNER - You can have an interactive, professional looking and well designed website created from a template rather than coded from scratch. A template saves time and money, and is simpler to create than you might think - try using a site like squarespace.com. Constructing your site this way has the added benefit of allowing you to edit and update it yourself, without having to rely on a pricey designer.
• USE ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKS TO DEVELOP AND BUILD YOUR BUSINESS NETWORK - LinkedIn is the social network for business professionals - and it's free to join.
• FIND YOUR KEYWORDS FOR FREE - Your keywords are the words people in your niche market most commonly type into search engines to find services like yours. You should be using these throughout your website so the search engines know the site is relevant to the searcher. You can find your keywords without paying a dime by using the free Google Adwords Keywords Tool. Make sure you put Australia as your region and look at the local traffic figures. Use specific ‘long tail' keywords - e.g. ‘advertising small business' rather than ‘advertising', or ‘Sydney financial planning' rather than ‘financial planning'.
• BLOG AND TWEET - These free ways to broadcast allow you to reach large numbers of people - if you go about it effectively. When blogging or tweeting, don't just make it all about you; offer something of value to readers and be generous with your expertise and your knowledge. This begins building a relationship of trust between you and readers (potential clients) and also demonstrates you are the expert in your field.
• SEND OUT A REGULAR NEWSLETTER - Keeping in contact with your network - friends, clients and potential clients - keeps your business front of mind. A regular newsletter is another opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, and it's a great space in which to inform your network of upcoming events you might be organising or attending.
• USE MAILCHIMP TO SEND OUT MASS EMAILS - We're not talking spam, we're talking about your regular newsletter or an educational or promotional email. Mailchimp is a fantastic online auto-responder system that can store lists, distribute to large numbers, track opens and clicks, and manage bounces. Signing up to Mailchimp is free and for a small amount each month you can get extra features.
• CLIMB THE GOOGLE AND OTHER SEARCH ENGINE RANKINGS FOR ZERO DOLLARS - Got some time to edit your website? Using the following tips won't cost you a cent and will see your site moving up to page one of your keyword search results.
• META TITLE - Each page of your website needs a title (which appears as blue text when you get the results of a web search). The meta title can only be 65 characters long, including spaces; any longer and it won't be displayed in full. Try to use the entire 65 characters or as close to 65 as possible. The first word is the most important to the search engines and should be a keyword; the second word is the second most important and so on. Don't make ‘The' the first word or leave your homepage titled ‘Home' - it's not relevant to anyone! You don't need to use your company name in the page titles - concentrate on using your keywords and making it readable.
• META DESCRIPTION - You also need to edit the description of each page. This shows up in black under the page title in the Google search results. This can only be 155 characters long, including spaces. The same rules apply: use the full character limit, remember the first word is a keyword, and make sure it's readable. The description needs to be relevant to the page - if people click through hoping to see one thing and end up with something else, they'll click back. The search engines will see it and drop your page rank because you aren't relevant.
• URL - Each page on your site has a URL. You can use keywords in your URL extensions to increase the relevance of your page to that term. For example, ‘small business marketing' is one of my company's keywords, so on the copywriting page of our website, the URL extension is ‘small-business-copywriting', rather than just ‘copywriting'.
• NETWORKING - First rule of networking: you have to give people a reason to want you in their network. You need to be able to help those with whom you want to network in a way that is valuable to them - give before you receive. People remember generosity, and are far more likely to show it in return. You're far more likely to receive referrals from people you've helped out. This rule applies not only to online networking, such as on LinkedIn, but also in face-to-face situations.
• DON'T HIRE A $1,000 PER MONTH PAY-PER-CLICK ADVERTISING ‘SPECIALIST' - This is what AdWords companies typically charge, but it is a huge markup. AdWords campaigns can be run in-house at a much lower cost and with a much higher rate of return.
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