Ads on TV are too expensive for small business owners. Radio and magazine ads are a little less but still require a bit of an advertising budget. Online advertising and Internet campaigns vary in price and can also get quite expensive unless you do it yourself.
Here are 20 tips on how you can advertise your business for free online:
- Increase your visibility on search engines: Insert keywords that describe your business into the HTML < META > tags on your Web site pages. Repeat these keywords in the text of your Web site’s homepage. Strategic use of keywords can put your business name at the top of customers’ search results.
- Put your URL on everything: Maximize your advertising efforts by listing your Web site address on everything you do. Print the URL on your company’s letterhead, on your business cards, on the front of your building or the door to your office suite.
- Submit your site to every directory, specialty listing, industry organization, and yellow pages you can find: No matter what industry your business is in, there are online directories, such as Yahoo! Yellow Pages, that you should register with. Many business and industry associations allow you to list your business on their Web site.
- Utilize evangelists: Channel the energy of your most enthusiastic staff and encourage them to promote your company’s product as they surf the Web.
- Blogs: A Weblog, or blog, is a collection of short articles, essays, or loosely-formatted thoughts, usually written by one individual. Since the 2004 U.S. presidential election, blogs have become extremely popular as both a medium to get your message out and a vehicle for paid advertising. Blogs also encourage reader comments, making them a valuable tool for gathering customer feedback.
- Podcasting: Podcasts are audio files recorded in a radio talk show format. By posting podcasts on your Web site and other sites like Apple’s iTunes (www.itunes.com), customers can subscribe to your podcasts, download them as soon as they are available, and then listen to them on their computers or portable MP3 devices.
- Join online communities: No matter what the topic, there are thousands of people discussing it passionately on the Internet. By contributing to these discussion groups, you can inform your customers and advertise your business.
- E-mail lists: Cultivate a list of your customers’ e-mail addresses and send them new product announcements, coupons, special offers, and useful information.
- Get the attention of the press: Pitch news ideas about your industry to local newspapers, radio stations, and television stations. Pitch ideas to Web news sites.
- Win awards: Research organizations that give awards for the products or services you provide. Apply for these awards and take the process seriously. When you win, make the most of the publicity.
- Donate time or resources to a charity: Encourage charitable organizations to promote your business’ donations and involvement. Try to get media coverage for the organizations and community causes you champion.
- Publish information and reports about your industry: Provide consumers with free information about your business’ industry. Invest in potential customers and they will invest in you.
- Reciprocal links: Companies such as LinkLeads (www.linkleads.com) help businesses by facilitating an exchange of hyperlinks. By allowing a company to insert links to their products on your site, a company will allow you to insert links to your products on its site.
- Reciprocal banner ads: Companies such as 123Banners (www.123banners.com) help businesses by facilitating free banner advertisement swaps. By allowing a company to advertise on your site, they allow you to advertise on theirs.
- Coupons: Make coupons available on your Web site and e-mail them to your customers. Encourage them to give the coupons to friends and family.
- Free samples of your product or service: Offer free samples of your product or service. Distribute these samples as widely as possible. Register your giveaways with Web sites such as A+ Free Stuff (www.aplusfreestuff.com) that act as a clearinghouse for free products. Before giving something away for free, ask customers to provide their e-mail address or fill out a short survey.
- Free classified ads: Use services like Yahoo! Classifieds (http://classieds.yahoo.com) to post free ads for your products and services. Also consider posting offers for free samples of your products, sweepstakes, and other giveaways.
- Excellent customer service: There’s no advertising like personal recommendations made between friends and family. The best way to encourage this type of “viral marketing” is to provide excellent customer service. Take the time to properly train and motivate your sales people and do what is necessary to satisfy your customers’ needs.
- Business alliances and partnerships: Build partnerships with businesses that offer complementary products and services, and then promote each other. Make joint press statements about your industry, your partnership, and your products and services. Make sure your partners provide links from their Web sites to yours.
- Ezine: Write an e-mail newsletter, called an ezine, with articles about your industry, your products and services, and related news of interest to your customers. Check out sources such as goarticles.com and ezinearticles.com, which provide free articles you can use in your ezine. Advertise your ezine for free with directory sites such as www.ezine-dir.com.
Not all these ideas may be appropriate for your business. The important thing is to think creatively and experiment. The Internet is an extremely flexible tool that gives your business many avenues for advertisement and enables you to react quickly to customer feedback.
With the Internet the possibilities are endless for online advertising and while not all of these avenues may be the best ones for your company it at least broadens your ideas of what you can do. Don't forget, make sure your URL is in every email signature you send out and on every single print advertisement you invest in.
Did we leave anything out as an important resource for advertising your site online for free?