One of the most disruptive aspects of the internet is that it doesn't respect the traditional economics of business. Almost everything is now cheaper and faster because of computers and the internet. Some things that used to be quite expensive are now free, or are they?
Free is a powerful word. People want something for nothing and the allure of free online advertising can be powerful. But, remember that when it comes to free advertising, free does not always mean what you think it means. Free advertising on the internet is often free in terms of money, but it can be quite expensive in terms of time.
For example, creating articles like this one is one way that we market and promote the Growlight Network. It does not cost us any money to publish an article on our website, so it's free right? Nope, this method of promotion is not free at all. It costs us time. Each article takes an hour or two to produce depending on how long we spend researching, writing, and formatting the article. We could be doing billable hourly work or working on other parts of our business. Thus, each article has a real cost.
There is no such thing as free advertising.
But, if you are willing to spend time instead of money, there are a lot of opportunities to promote your website online without spending any money to do it. What you need to think about when you are doing "free" advertising online is how much time you are spending and what the ROI on that time is.
Below is a list of just a few free online advertising opportunities. Not all are worth pursuing, but depending on your busines, one or two might work for you.
SEO and Content Marketing
SEO and Content Marketing are both big topics, so I'm not going to try to explain them here. The basic idea is creating content on your website that will rank well on Google searches and will get people to your website. So, you are advertising on Google without paying Google to do it.
The easiest way to get started is to answer the top 25 customer questions about your business, industry, or product. Make each question/answer a separate page on your website. If your website is running Wordpress, you can use Yoast Wordpress SEO plugin to do basic on-page SEO for each article. Once you got the green dot on the article, you are ready to publish.
After you publish those articles, you will likely have to wait a month or two before you start seeing a lot of traffic coming to your site. It is a bit like farming. You plant the seeds, you water them, then you watch them grow over time. If you want a little traffic sooner, you could publish links to those articles on Facebook or Twitter.
Twitter and Facebook Marketing
Promoting your business on social media is fraught with peril. Simply put, people are on social media sites to hang out more than they are to do business. It's not the best way to close a sale, but it is a great way to connect with customers, answer questions, and grow awareness about your business.
The easiest way to get started is to setup your Twitter and Facebook accounts and use them to communicate interesting things about your business. Don't spend all your time promoting your products. Instead, focus on being helpful. Tell people about coupons and sales. Answer their questions. Educate and inform. Have fun.
The biggest danger in social media is that is can be a huge time sink with almost no return on investment if you don't know what you are doing. So, while it might be free in terms of money, it gets expensive in terms of time. Most businesses aren't going to get a great ROI out of their social media efforts.
If there is one site that can be great to generate local business leads it is Craigslist. People use Craigslist all the time to find local products and services all the time. If you have a local business, you owe it to yourself to use Craigslist to promote your business.
For example, I was recently in need of a fence contractor to help renovate my backyard. It needed a bunch of demolition work and grating as well as a fence installation. So, it was a decent sized project. I called the fence companies that I found in Google Maps, and half of them didn't even return my phone calls. I called a guy on Craigslist who could do both the concrete removal, grating, and fence install. He won the job and I woudln't have found him without Craigslist.
I've done the same thing with handyman services and lots of other things. Over and over again Craigslist has been a great place for me to go to find service providers.
If you are selling a product or service in a local market, Craigslist can generate you leads and sales if you spend the time to do it.
The tricky part of using Craigslist is that you will need to periodically repost your ads or post many ads. Sometimes getting a response on your ad is more of an art than a science, but it's only free in terms of money, not in terms of time. You will need to post multiple ads multiple times to get a great response. But, even a small effort is likely going to generate business opportunity.
Create YouTube Videos
YouTube is one of the largest and most untapped opportunities to advertise your business for free on the internet. There are so many videos that have thousands or millions of views. There are tons of success stories, but there is also a real cost to shooting and editing video, so in many ways it is not free at all. There are some cheap ways to to produce video for YouTube.
Here is a great example of a business using YouTube to get a lot of free advertising.
First, HD video recording is getting cheap now. You can buy a camcorder like this Samsung F90 on Amazon for as low as $130. Also, most smartphones record decent video. So you can always use your iPhone or Galaxy S phone to capture pretty high quality video without spending a bunch on video equipment.
Also, whether on a Mac or PC, you can get good video editing software for free or cheap. You don't need to spend more than $50 on editing software when iMove is good enough for publising to YouTube. Also, YouTube comes with a rudimentary video editing tool if you want to spend the time to use it.
Now, what should your videos be about? Again, you can answer the top 25 questions related to your business, product, service or industry. If you want decent lighting, you can always shoot in a room with bright light or even outdoors if it isn't too windy. You will want to experiment to find the best place to shoot your videos.
But, here's a secret... video quality doesn't always get you more views.
An example unboxing video with over 19 million views
There are thousands of "unboxing" videos done on cheap handheld cameras with terrible audio on YouTube. Those videos get tons more views than expensive videos with higher production values. Again, the name of the game is to manage your return on investment. Don't invest a ton of time or money if the videos aren't working to advertise your business.
Also, YouTube videos can help support the SEO and Content Marketing efforts of your website. A YouTube video often ranks high in Google, so having a video about a keyword relevant to your business might get a lot more traffic than writing an article.
More Free Online Advertising Opportunties
There will always be more free online advertising opportunities. Almost every year a new product like Craigslist, YouTube, Pintrest, and Instagram comes along and provides another way to connect with customers. Often times it doesn't cost money to create content on those sites. But it does cost you time, and you might end up purchasing equipment. Whether it is a good investment for your business is going to come down to how much opportunity this advertising creates for your business.
At Growlight Network we are always looking to provide you with more opportunities to make money from your website. If you have any questions you can always fill out our contact form and ask us. We try to respond as soon as possible.
Article posted on February 24, 2014
Top image by: 9422878@N08