Free Website promotion — sounds great, doesn’t it? And yet we all know that nothing is really free. When people talk about promoting their Websites for free they really mean:
- I want to promote my Website without buying advertising
- I want to promote my Website without buying links or software
- I want to promote my Website without paying anyone
In short, you want to promote your Website without spending money, but it’s really not free because you’re still spending your valuable time.
It only makes sense to invest your own time in Website promotion if — as a small business owner — you simply don’t have the cash flow to support growing your income through an investment in paid advertising and promotional campaigns. But limited cash flow is a detriment to online marketing, not a neutral fact. Sooner or later you need to invest some money in online marketing.
So the goal of promoting a Website through unpaid options is to build up enough converting traffic to generate the revenue you need to launch paid promotions. Here are a few suggestions to help you spend less time doing just that, but they are not enough to carry every business forward to full-time success.
Publish Blog Articles
If you don’t have a blog and you don’t have an advertising budget, it costs you nothing to start a blog. Even if you’re on the cheapest hosting service around (free) you can usually find a host that allows you to publish a blog. Lacking that, you can sign up with Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, Weebly, or a similar blogging service and start your own subdomain. You may not be able to get that free blog to look exactly like your Website but you can still incorporate your business logo and other important graphics into its design; you can also modify the navigation on each site so they interlink with each other.
It’s okay to interlink two Websites. You’re not going to get a penalty just because you do this.
Still, if you set up the blog and don’t publish anything on it you’re wasting your time. Furthermore, the less frequently you publish content on the blog the longer it will take for the blog to build up significant amounts of traffic. Simple stated, traffic growth on blogs is highly correlated with publication rates. For example, we don’t publish articles on this Plumbing SEO blog nearly as often as we do on our other blogs, and we see less traffic come through here than on those blogs. But this is a fact that has been mentioned in research published by other companies.
So if you are telling yourself, “I am not a writer”, you need to remind yourself that you ARE a business owner and that your passion is what builds your business. Writing this blog is part of your business plan. That means you WILL set aside time each week to write 3-15 blog posts. They don’t have to be long or short. There is no formula. Just write an article about something you deal with in the course of your business. Show people you know what you are doing and that you know how to help them.
Promote Your Blog for Free
UPDATE 2014-08-28: Sadly, Repost.Us went out of business.
Did you click on that link in the previous section? If not then you don’t know that it will take you to the blog for a service called Repost.Us. They help bloggers connect with each other for free by creating an information marketplace where bloggers can embed search-acceptable widgets on their Websites — widgets that republish articles from other blogs. The search engines don’t see the duplicate content thanks to the clever way Repost.Us designs their software.
Hence, if you write helpful, interesting articles and share them via the Repost.Us exchange you don’t have to worry about some future search engine algorithm coming down on you. It’s important that you interact with other Websites because this is the World Wide Web. The fact you’re running a business and not just doing this for a hobby doesn’t mean you get a free ride on the Web. You still have to be part of the community of Websites to reap the full benefit of being on the Web.
We can’t promise that Repost.Us won’t change the way they do things, or that search engines won’t change the way they do things, but Repost.Us is deliberately trying to keep its users on the search engines’ good side. That’s a big, major plus for your online marketing efforts.
Become Active in Social Media
You know, a lot of businesses are reaching out to clients and prospective customers through social media — simply by being there for them with news updates, to answer questions, and to confirm that the customers are doing well. Plumbers and contractors may not have much time for social media but you can at least check a couple of social media accounts once a day to see if someone tried to contact you.
When you have a social media presence you should point people to it from your Website. Ask people to follow you on Twitter, to LIKE your Facebook page, to share your pins, etc.
In fact, plumbers may be one of the few businesses who can naturally reach out to the strongly female demographic on Pinterest simply by sharing “how to do this” pictures and “this is what the problem looks like” pictures. Be helpful and instructive. And brand your images with a little corner logo that teaches them how to search for your company.
Ask for Support, Not Links
You have friends with Websites, right? Mommy bloggers, hobby bloggers, fishing buddies, etc.
If you have ten friends who have Websites you should ask for ten different, unique statements of support. Some of them might just add a link to your site in their margins/blogrolls. Some of them might write a special article about your company. This is a limited form of free online promotion. Don’t say to yourself, “Hey, if I can do this with my friends I can also do it with THEIR friends”. That won’t look natural.
If your friends have social media accounts, ask them to mention your business once in while. It’s usually not against the rules.
Be Supportive of Other Small Businesses
Maybe you’re still looking for more traffic to your Website but you still have the power to help other people. Although you don’t want to swap links with the 24 small businesses you patronize, you could do something on your site to help promote new businesses and charitable causes. People will remember your generosity. It costs you nothing to point your visitors to a non-competitive Website.
However, one thing you can swap with other businesses is discount codes. You don’t have to embed a link on your Website to tell your visitors that if they use the discount code “1234RXZY” with “HAPPY ABE’S SWEET CANDY STORE” that they’ll save a little money. You and Abe can share discount codes — and you can link to each other if you wish but if swap a lot of discount code links it would probably be best to add a “rel=’nofollow’” attribute to them. Search engines will appreciate that.
Simply mentioning the name of another business on your Website confers immense credibility upon that business; and the same principle applies in reverse. Just because you talk about someone on your Website doesn’t mean you have to link to them.
Sure, some day some smart-and-fancy SEO may come looking for links just because you mentioned someone — but you don’t have to play that game if you don’t want to. People learn to search for companies very quickly, once they see references to those companies. The mentions are more valuable than most marketers realize and they don’t need to be perverted into link schemes.
Use SEO Advice Carefully
Most people offering SEO services are well-intentioned. They are trying to make a living just like you. They are trying to position themselves between their clients and all the work that needs to be done to promote a Website. To promote themselves they often share SEO advice on blogs (just like this blog does). But there is so much advice out there it’s impossible to know which advice to follow and which advice to ignore.
That’s where your innate sense of “what I can do today” comes in. The limits you place on your exploration of online marketing methods will also protect you; they are not just holding you back. The fact you are visiting online marketing blogs, looking for advice and ideas, is good — it speaks volumes about your determination to make your business succeed — but you don’t need to try everything you see.
If the advice is not offered with a discussion of the risks involved (as far as search engine guidelines are concerned) it may be so ubiquitous that everyone is doing it, or it may be advice best left unused. Aggressive strategies used under the label “Search Engine Optimization” are not a free ride to riches. Oft-times they are a one-way ticket to search penalties.
Never attempt to market a Website in a way you cannot undo, and always be ready to apologize to your visitors and customers if you market yourself in a way they object to. At the end of the day you’re looking to build more relationships with the people who keep you in business. That means being a responsible self-marketer.
- How to Promote Your Website for Free on Reflective Dynamics
- How to Promote Your Website for Free on SEO Theory
- How to Promote Your Website for Free on the SEO Theorist
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