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The Best Free Ways to Promote and Market Your Website or Business

How to Generate Interest in Your Website Through Marketing Techniques

If you own a small business, you’ll likely be looking into every sort of free advertising method that’s out there that can be cost effective and deliver results. While TV commercials aren’t going to come your way for free unless you are doing business with Saul Goodman, there are still plenty of ways to spread the word and promote your website… and that would be through marketing. Marketing is, for the most part, free, or almost free. It’s about as low budget as you can get, and it can often work just as well as paid advertisements. People also tend to trust them over traditional paid advertisements (though paid ads have their place as well).

Does Advertising Work??

We’ve all been exposed to advertising. TV, radio, billboards, pop ups, banners, video ads, and social media paid promotions…it’s everywhere, and you can’t escape it. Now stop and think for a second…how many times have you clicked on an advertisement online, or heard a commercial on the radio that has made you run out and buy something?

Chances are you haven’t all that often. Is this a cost-effective way for businesses to promote themselves? Free advertising (aka marketing) can be a better way to promote your business. It can be more effective, costs much less, won’t ruin your reputation if done correctly, and won’t siphon money from your savings like high cost ads can. Here, you’ll learn some of the techniques you can use to market your website for free.

Does Paid Advertising Work? – Advertisement Myths

advertising mythsWhen consumers make purchases, they most often are influenced by something someone said to them much more than any advertisement. Many people ask around about a product before they purchase to see if their friends or family have purchased the item, and to get their recommendations on who to buy it from. Why don’t people listen to advertising?

Because they don’t trust advertising.

Why not? Advertisements are everywhere. They’re constant. They may promise one thing, and deliver another. We’ve all become so numb to advertising, people for the most part ignore it! The advertising world is changing constantly, and new advertising methods are becoming more effective, cost-efficient, and sometimes, free. Viral videos, while not new, are something even big brands have gotten behind. And they work! A well planned out social media strategy can also yield big results. The best news here of all might be that YOU are on an even playing field with all of the big shots. You, more than ever, have the opportunity to be seen if you create something truly great. And, while the big guys might have the money to spend on Super Bowl ads, it really is an equal playing field in the marketing world.

In other words, with the right marketing tactics and delivery, you may never have to spend a dime on advertising.

Pepsi commercial

Billions of dollars are spent on advertising by large corporations, small businesses, not for profits and sole proprietors.

From the biggest of corporations to the smallest of mom and pop shops, word of mouth has the biggest affect on a business. Businesses are relying on different advertising methods that are much more economical and fresh. What are some of the new, effective ways businesses advertise?

  • Social Bookmarking
  • Blogging
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Forums
  • Email Marketing
  • Email Signatures
  • Classified Ads (Craigslist)
  • YouTube
  • Blog Commenting

Methods That No Longer Work in Marketing Your Website or Business

What worked before isn’t going to necessarily work today. In fact, engaging in some of these formerly accepted “best practices” may even make your business worse off. Social bookmarking, for example, is not what it used to be. Even low quality links used to be viewed by search engines as links, but not any longer. If you have dozens or hundreds of links from social bookmarking sites, it won’t help your chances with organic search traffic. While del.icio.us may have been your go-to years ago, Reddit has taken its place. The “new” social bookmarking era thrives off of interesting content and commentary from the community, not just upvoted links.

Is social bookmarking even a necessary part of your marketing strategy? No, it definitely does not need to be. However, becoming active at a couple of these and very occasionally dropping your own link seems to be acceptable.

Here is a list of ideas that were acceptable in 2009 for promoting your website. These used to work! Now, not only are some of these methods defunct, but they can hurt you. Again, this is a list of what was acceptable in 2009, not today:

  • Social Bookmarking (think de.lici.ous, Reddit, StumbleUpon)
  • Article Marketing (sites like EzineArticles which allowed a link at the bottom of the article to your content)
  • Online Directories – These were once a place to leave your link and run. Essentially they were spam mills, or they turned into that anyway.
  • Blogging – Adding a blog to your website can enhance your website in ways only limited by your creativity. When they say “content is king,” they really mean blogs, because that’s where most of the content is.
  • Squidoo – Now defunct, a multi author blog site which was rolled into another site called Hubpages, no longer allows promotion of your own website through linking. If you used to use a site like Squidoo or Hubpages, consider starting up your own blog by repurposing your old content to start.
  • MySpace – Low traffic levels and interest today, but back then it was the top of the social media heap. How quickly things can change!
  • Facebook – Grown considerably since 2009 and a must for promotion. Keep in mind Facebook is often an EQUAL source of traffic as Google. That’s crazy to think about if you have been writing online for a long time and can remember when Google accounted for 90% of most traffic.
  • Forums – Not much has changed with forums. This is great news, because it’s reliable, and won’t be going anywhere in the foreseeable future.
  • Email Marketing – Grow a subscriber list and stay in touch. Like forums, emails are also not going anywhere soon.
  • Email Signatures – Make sure it’s a good one. Effective email signatures should link to all of your major points of interest.
  • eBay – No longer a valid traffic source, but Ebay used to allow links from your About Me page. Not anymore.
  • Classified Online Ads – Can still be effective for traffic, but not for SEO value.
  • YouTube – Even better than it was in 2009, YouTube has grown as more people consume video content. Text links can appear in videos and underneath in the description.

StumbleUpon

For a minute, let’s talk about StumbleUpon. While this site will not make or break your site, it still delivers traffic consistently after all these years. StumbleUpon works as a simple thumbs up/ thumbs down voting system on every webpage. Install the app or use the toolbar to thumbs up/down any content that you come across. StumbleUpon will deliver fresh links based on what you have liked (thumbs up). By continuously using StumbleUpon, you can occasionally add your own content into the mix (try to do this very sparingly). This will increase the likelihood of your content being seen by other stumblers.

Reddit

As the most popular social bookmarking site today, Reddit has risen above the rest, with over 164 million visitors . While Digg, de.licio.us, and Diigo have fallen in recent years, Reddit thrives off of unique content that you can’t find anywhere else. Reddit thrives off of its “subreddits,” which are smaller communities within the larger Reddit site. And by smaller, that may mean big. For example, the Game of Thrones subreddit has over 1 million members, while the “funny” subreddit has 17 million members, and gaming has 16 million.
So where does Reddit fall into your content marketing efforts? You can post your own content, but Reddit users are going to be very wary of you if you overdo it. The wise rule of thumb when posting your own content here and elsewhere on similar bookmarking sites is keep it to less than 1 in 10.

Blogging

Blogging can also be a very effective marketing tool. It’s also free, and you can earn money from your blog by including AdSense ads, recommended Amazon products, digital products, or your own products for sale on your site. Provide fresh, relevant content on your blog, and be sure to link it to your personal site or what you’d like your reader to do most (sign up for a newsletter, visit your Ebay store, buy an ebook, or whatever it is you’d most like your visitors to do).  Search engines also value blogs that are updated with high quality content. While quantity doesn’t trump quality, the intersection of both is where you’ll reap the biggest benefits.

How exactly do you market your website or business with a blog?

That’s a good question, and it’s easy to get caught up with writing content that won’t benefit your site in any way. Always have your end goal in site when you write a post, but keep in mind what types of content your readers will find helpful. Start by writing out a dozen questions that your readers might have, and center your first posts around those. Flesh out more posts as you think of more questions, and field questions from communities. You might even find some in your blog comments, Facebook page, or forums. Google search suggest is also a good tool for finding popular searches in your niche.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you sell designer brands on Ebay, and you want to market your store through blogging. Setting up a blog where you talk about each designer brand, focus on new product lines and individual products, and highlight ways to match products together can be an interesting way for readers to get to your content. Link to individual items within your Ebay store to accomplish certain styles to direct potential buyers to your store, and you’ll see an increase in traffic and conversions. Not only that, but you could see a boost in social media and search engine traffic.

Facebook

Facebook, which offers paid and organic posts, is a complex beast. While anyone can succeed with persistent posting and engagement, Facebook is a commitment that can pay off. The reach of Facebook is undeniable today, as it shares almost an equal share of referrals to popular websites as Google. While you may not be in control of how Google perceives your website, you can entirely be in control of how your website is promoted and seen on Facebook.

“To create an audience for a book I wrote, I mailed out free copies to beauty and nail salons across the United States. My reasoning was to try to get the product into the hands of the people most likely to use it. It didn’t lead to any direct sales as they already had the book but it has allowed me build an audience and over time sell books. This has worked far better than Facebook ads or Digg(completely filled with spam now), although StumbleUpon is pretty decent. No short cuts, it takes time and then even more time.”

Email Marketing/Subscriber List

Capture a list of interested potential clients

Email Marketing is one of the best proven ways to retain customers that have already purchased from you, and to to keep a visitor interested in your content once they’ve visited just once. Instead of having the majority of your visitors to bounce from your website never to be heard from again, building an email newsletter campaign that they can subscribe to will help retain some of those initial hard-earned visitors.

Former customers also will likely want to hear from you again. If they were interested in enough to make a purchase, they could be interested enough to become a repeat customer.

When composing your campaign, This is where most email marketing campaigns fail.

Email marketing is not just a spammy email with some simple links to products or pitch to “come buy my stuff!” People want to be information, and they want to see your expertise. Provide good content to your email, some interaction, some graphics, even a giveaway, along with a punchy, effective headline, and you’ll see traffic flowing from your sent emails.

Set up an opt-in subscriber email list. If you’re using a third party website to sell products, those sites may have email marketing campaigns built in for you (think Ebay, CafePress or Etsy). If you have your own site, try using MailChimp or any one of the top recommended email marketing companies. They should provide a good email service that’s easy to customize and appears very professional. Often times, they’ll allow you to send a certain number of emails per month for free, so that should get you going for a little while.

Some ideas of things to add to your emails:

  • Seasonal recipes (think of how your target audience may react and add accordingly)
  • Coupons for your items
  • Live event, if applicable
  • Giveaways or contests, announcing the previous winner in each email (this will build buyer trust that this content is legitimate)
  • Graphics that relate to your products, especially sharable ones
  • Seasonal graphics, slogans and sayings
  • An interactive poll
  • Feedback from readers and buyers
  • News of any special that you may be running
  • Related articles, links or stories included in your email
  • Suggestions, product reviews, monthly tips, anything that your readers may find useful, entertaining or relevant
  • A limited time offer that expires within a certain timeframe, so readers will feel they need to act sooner than later

Fill Out All of Your Online Profiles

Your online profiles are a landing page for your business in Google, and that’s whether you set it up or someone else does. If you have a brick and mortar business, you will quickly find that Yelp, Google Reviews, and Facebook will all play a part in your success. If you don’t set up a presence on these sites, you will be partially out of control of how your business is perceived. On Yelp, you can add business information, and reply to complaints and compliments. Facebook gives you even more flexibility by allowing you to curate the content on your page. Google Reviews will give searchers much more information about your business, and even pin it to a Google Map for people to find.

Press Releases

Believe it or not, some people swear press releases have big pull, even today. While this sounds like an old fashioned way to market your business, it’s free, and it still has enormous reach. Think about this: the people that see press releases are the press. Media promotion can pick up on your website or business in unexpected ways. For example, a college student with access to a college university blog may interview a local business owner, and include a link back to the website. It happens more times than you may think, so don’t rule this strategy out!

Anonymous Blog Comment:

“After starting my own businesses, I began to appreciate the field of marketing and promotion. If you take on the task of marketing your business for yourself as opposed to hiring an agency, they you pick up so many skills from what’s effective to what’s not effective. What may be helping an individual in one industry may not help in your particular industry. Marketing helps you advertise your “why am I in business” speech as well. Crafting an elevator speech is effective as well. I am finding that creating a printable newsletter and getting in the public’s face to distribute them may be what I have needed. Now, to keep my potential clients from tossing the newsletters like junk mail, I included interactive activities and well as other helpful information that may cause them to post onto the fridge or cabinet for the future.”

Marketing Without Advertising – One of the best books on advertising I’ve found

I can’t recommend this book enough to anyone that owns a business, or if you’re thinking of owning one. Online marketers should listen to this advice as well. This book points out the faults of traditional advertising, but more importantly, gives specific real life examples to jumpstart your word of mouth advertising (the most important kind of advertising!).

Marketing Without Advertising: Easy Ways to Build a Business Your Customers Will Love and Recommend

YouTube Marketing – Get hundreds or thousands (or millions!) of interested people on YouTube

 Almost 5 billion views per day. Per day! That’s incredible. YouTube is really the only major purveyor of video content on the web. While creating a great video is a much different craft than written content marketing, it is still incredibly effective, as people prefer to digest their content in all different ways — videos being one of them.

YouTube can drive traffic to your website, but more importantly, you can establish a presence on one of the biggest websites in the world. Depending on your niche, YouTube may be the perfect fit for your marketing strategy. As a nice side bonus, you can also monetize your YouTube content, so you can earn while also marketing your brand.

“Some of the best free advertising will come from others. Generate some buzz, and see if any local newspaper would like to write a story on your start-up. It just takes one publication to establish a reputation, making the next much easier. My business was covered by a university news site and local newspaper. Someone from Entrepreneur Magazine saw the online article and ended up writing a full-page feature on the idea. Start small, but always keep the bigger picture in mind.”

Lure in Traffic with Forums

The great news about forums is that they are much the way they were in the 1990’s. There’s not much new to learn, and the etiquette remains the same. However old school as they may be, you may be underestimating how much traffic you can get from forums. Participating in forums requires some time and involvement. A random spam-by in a forum thread won’t bring any traffic (and could get you banned), especially in comparison to how much you can gain by genuinely contributing. Before posting, if the forum allows, create an avatar (a small picture that will appear next to your forum posts) along with a small, unobtrusive signature line featuring a link to your site. Again, make sure the forum rules allow signature links.

Start by entering the forum and answering posts about something that you might know something about. Adding something worthwhile to the conversation will be much more appreciated than a “thanks for the info” post. After becoming a regular in the forums, users new and old alike may start to follow your link out of natural curiosity…so make your tag line tempting for them to click!

“I created my first e-commerce business in 1999. In 2000 I created a forum around the topic of the business. Five years later I had 50,000 members, many of them customers. I also created a blog and an ebook about the business topic to drive even more traffic. After six years in business I was shipping 1,200 to 1,800 orders per month, and I never paid for advertising.”

Craigslist Ads – Post About Your Business and Services

Craigslist

Guest Blogging

Blogging is a vital way to market your business, but your blog is only one small place in the vast world wide web. Leveraging other people’s blogs can work with guest blogging, which can send new visitors to your website and social media pages. To get a guest post, you’ll need to offer something that the author of the blog will really want: an outstanding post the their readers will love. That’s it. If you can provide that for the author, they should allow an in-content link to your website, and usually to your social media platforms of choice.

Which Methods Should You Implement?

Realistically, you won’t be able to tackle all of these methods, not by yourself at least. If your time spent on marketing is limited, then you should focus on the methods that you will do best with. If you write well, blogging may be best suited for you. If your a social person, Facebook can work wonders. The point is, do what you can, and chip away at the stone slowly but surely. Massive traffic gains won’t happen overnight, but built slowly over time. Persistence will pay off, so choose a few different methods and keep at it. Good luck!

  • Introduction photo of Times Square, New York, woman looking away from an out of focus, blurry background of ads. Kind of symbolic of how most people treat advertising around them! Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 by vonSchnauzer on flickr.

A pat on the back:

“This is the most useful information I have found to help me and my little website and I just wanted to say THANK YOU. I am just a beginner and this really has given me some excellent pointers (it is now starred as a favorite on my ‘puter as I will definitely be re-reading this)thank you, thank you, thank you. oh and Merry Christmas.” Cathi

**The quoted excerpts listed here are from the former home of this post, but we lost all of the blog comments. These were some of the best that we have decided to feature on this page. If you have a question, idea, or something you’d like to add, please feel free to do so in the comments below!

Also be sure to visit our page featuring more ideas on marketing your small business

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The Ebay Loss Leader Sales Strategy

The loss leader method has been around Ebay for a few years at this point, and has been working remarkably well for some sellers. For others, it doesn’t work so well. The loss leader method is, in a nutshell, auctioning off a high worth or high interest product at a very low starting bid to encourage traffic, excitement, bidding, and linkovers to your Ebay store. These have their pros and cons…

Pros of the Loss Leader Method:

  • More traffic to your other auctions and your store.
  • More bids on that specific item.
  • Inventory moves fast as you gain more traffic and sales
  • Sales go up
  • Interest is piqued in your store and brand
  • More email newsletter signups
  • Low listing fees for the loss leader item

Cons of the Loss Leader Method:

  • Possible loss of income if the auction is unsuccessful
  • Additional fees for the item listed on auction
  • Smaller or negative profit from individual item

Can you think of any more cons to this method? I can.

  1. Buyers might hold out until they find this item at a low cost. If you start the bidding low, it could drive the overall value on Ebay for that item lower.
  2. People who would have normally bought the item at full price will wait for the auction to end, and possibly not buy the item at all.

On the opposite side of things, the buyer could:

  1. Not feel like waiting for the auction to end, and buy the item right now.
  2. Bookmark your store. This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t offered the low starting bid on the item.

Ebay is getting pickier about items that are displayed prominently in the search results. Often times those items that are cheapest and have the lowest shipping (along with best seller feedback rating) will be given an advantage due to the “best match” search option.

Utilizing the Loss Leader Method Correctly

Done correctly, the loss leader method can yield some great results. As you can see above, the pros really do outweight the cons. With your loss leader auctions, you’ll want to follow some simple guidelines:

  1. Make the item something interesting, and something that’s in demand. Selling off a cheap item isn’t going to work. People want higher priced items at a bargain. Try slashing the price down to $9.99 or less.
  2. Link to your store in your loss leader auction several times. Better yet, link to an identical item in your store that they can purchase right now with free shipping. Or, link to a category of your store selling the same type of item.
  3. Create some enticing anchor text links that makes them really want to click it. Something like “Can’t wait for the auction to end? Click here to buy it now in our store with free shipping.” This works.
  4. Create some suggested items within the auction for them to click on. If you can add some thumbnails of suggested items at the bottom of your auction, this is likely to receive some hits. The Auctiva gallery store window also works well.
  5. Budget in your loss leader item as part of your advertising costs. That’s what it is, isn’t it?
  6. Don’t pull out all of the stops, but pull out a few. A small upgrade like the border feature, subtitle, and/or highlight might make your loss leader stand out.

So what do you do once the auction is over? Now, fulfill that order and make the buyer love it. The item will likely be receiving traffic even after the listing is over in the completed listing results. If they scroll back and see that the buyer left glowing feedback, there’s a good chance they’ll look at your current listings. Having links in your completed auctions to your store is an excellent idea, and might bring in some additional traffic.

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