5 ways your new business will pack a punch online – for free
With over 90% of shoppers now researching online before they buy, going digital is hands-down the best way to reach a vast audience. And because you don’t need a huge budget to get an online presence, you’ve a level playing field to compete with big companies for attention. Follow these tips to get your campaign off to a flying start – without the sky-high costs.
1) Get a website that beats the competition
You don’t need to spend a fortune on slick graphics to have an excellent website. Think of a site you love to use. Is it simple to navigate with informative content? Is the design flashy or clean? The free website builders like WordPress and Wix offer great options for a user-friendly, attractive site. And they keep upping their game to create flexible templates that are faster to load, and responsive across different screen sizes – a must for today’s smartphone-addicted world.
If, like me, you get carried away by a huge choice of snazzy designs, consider what’s the best fit for the type of product you provide. Bright colours and slideshows might look out of place on a website for a solicitors firm, for example.
For great content, write with your customer’s perspective in mind. What would they want to know? And what sets you apart from your competition? For more writing tips check out my post 3 key features of a compelling webpage. Finally, make sure your content contains search terms (keywords) for the Google robots. Which brings us to…
2) Claim a spot in the SEO race
While advertising your business on Google AdWords is a great way to get noticed in the short-term, the cost can quickly build up over time. Search Engine Optimisation or SEO, refers to the tactics you employ to reach the first page of Google. Get there, and without spending anything you’re in front of people already looking for your product or service.
The bad news is Google prefers websites that lots of people have visited and hung around on – which makes it hard for your baby site to rank. Also, SEO tactics can change with each new algorithm the Google Gods use to make their search bots ever more effective.
The good news? You can build your SEO over time, and there’s some universal tactics you can use straight away. Each page on your site is ranked individually, so apply these to every page for best results:
- Keywords are the phrases people type into Google to search for your product or service. Include these in your content, title and headings to show you’re a good match. Don’t use them too frequently, though – the Gods frown on cheating!
- Long tail keywords are longer, more specific search terms, for example, the keyword ‘Coffee beans’ could be extended to ‘Java coffee beans for UK delivery’. These make it easier to rank well when people are searching within your niche.
- On each page of your site, include links to your other pages, and to other relevant websites. Like doorways, links help Google (and your visitors) find their way to more helpful content. The Gods will nod in approval. Most useful of all are backlinks – links from reputable websites to your site – a vote of confidence that does wonders for your reputation.
- Google favours fresh content because it’s more relevant to searchers. Make sure your website’s up to date, then review and revise your content every few months.
There’s lots more science behind perfecting SEO. Check out the Moz guide for an intro to the in-depth stuff. If you’re clever and (a bit lucky) in time you’ll hit the first page. If you’re very clever, you might just displace a corporate giant.
3) start local
You need to get your new brand out there, fast! So, of course, you want to shout to the widest audience you can. But ignoring the local market can cost you leads. Even if you don’t have a bricks and mortar shop, you can boost your online presence by promoting yourself locally. It gives you a familiarity amongst your nearby prospects – meaning they’re more likely to trust you. And it boosts your SEO by creating more links to your website.
Google My Business is free and a great starting point, but there are lots of other directories that let you advertise your business to people already looking for the product or service you provide – all without costing you a penny. InvoiceBerry has compiled a nifty list of free directories.
4) Get personal on social media
Social media is more than a way to market your business, it’s your chance to gain insight into your potential customers and build a lasting relationship with them. It’s an opportunity for your small business to shine brighter than larger, faceless companies. Regular updates let people know you’re up and running, and keeps your brand foremost in their minds.
Get a little creative and let your brand’s personality shine by starting a conversation, Inviting likes, comments and reviews. Build enough of these and you’ve the all-powerful force of social proof on your side – that’s the compulsion we have to try a product or service because we know others have used and enjoyed it.
Not sure which platform to choose? Ask yourself where your target customers are. That’s where you want to be seen! And Facebook is a no-brainer for any business, because of the whopping number of people who use it – 2 Billion monthly active users in June 2017.
5) Be helpful with a blog
Well-written blog posts are a great way to establish yourself as an expert to your potential customers. Proving your credibility is important these days – potential buyers are keen, critical researchers who choose carefully which business will get their custom. Write helpful posts and you gain their trust, respect, and keep them interested in your brand.
In fact, a blog is something visitors to a website are starting to look for, so hosting one will give you an edge over your competition. Promote your post on your website and social media, and if it’s good enough, shares will extend your reach to a whole new audience.
And it gets better, because a regular blog gives Google fresh content to index and boosts your SEO. All this without having to pay an advertiser! I’ll shut up about blogging now, but for more info about the benefits, check out this article from Hubspot.
So there you have the 5 great ways to explode onto the online scene for free. Tie it all neatly together by keeping your content consistent. If your brand’s tone, style and personality stays the same across all your communication, people will recognise you, wherever you are. And, they’ll remember you, like you, trust you… and become customers.
What do think are the most effective methods? Have you found a different tactic that works for you? Share your wisdom in the comments!