5 great ideas for shoestring online marketing

Online marketing is a vital tool for many businesses. An effective online marketing strategy can help you identify potential customers, and engage with them in an efficient and successful way.

Many small business owners presume that a successful online marketing campaign requires a big budget. In reality, this is not the case. We have compiled some simple ideas for effective online marketing on a shoestring.

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1. Learn the SEO basics

Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is amongst the most important elements of any successful online marketing effort. A properly optimised website should be the bedrock of your activities.

SEO is the art of improving your website’s performance in search engines, using unpaid techniques. You can achieve this using a variety of methods, including writing well optimised copy, building properly constructed META tags, and developing high-quality backlinks.

SEO is time-intensive, but if you are willing to learn the basics it can be the most effective way of improving both your visitor numbers and your conversion rates.

2. Make the most of what you’ve got

Your existing website might well be your most valuable online asset. With a bit of work it is often possible to dramatically increase the performance of that asset.

To begin with, you should make sure that you are measuring your website’s performance effectively. You should use analytics software to help you understand who your visitors are, where they are coming from, and how they are using your site.

You can then use techniques like A-B testing to help you improve your user experience and drive higher quality traffic to your site. Many of the tools you need to do this do not cost anything. Google Analytics, for example, offers top quality analytics and testing tools free of charge. Read some Google Analytics tips and tricks.

3. Think beyond social media

Social media is a hugely important tool for businesses of every size. It provides you with the opportunity to speak directly and personally with a huge number of potential customers, and increase awareness of your brand very quickly.

But it is vital to remember that social media is not the be all and end all of your marketing activities. You should consider ways that you can incorporate social media into your other activities, rather than relying on it solely. A well balanced strategy is the key to success.

4. Remember video

The power of video is often overlooked by small businesses starting out in online marketing. But video is becoming increasingly popular, and many firms now consider it to be a fundamental element of their marketing activities.

Web users are bombarded with copy and, as a result, many react better to a single, well thought out video than they do to text. Video can be produced cheaply and easily, and can be an enormously useful tool for driving traffic.

Remember that production values aren’t everything. Often a good, innovative idea executed cheaply will be far more effective than a dull corporate video with a huge budget. Look at what your competitors are doing – and then think of ways that you can produce something different.

5. Get your customers to market your business

The ‘social graph’ is one of the most powerful tools available to any business operating online. This term refers to the way that people interact and are connected online.

Businesses that can harness the power of the social graph can ultimately get their own customers to market their business for them. The widespread use of social networking means that ‘brand evangelists’ are more likely than ever to talk about your business to their friends, who will hopefully in turn talk about it to their friends.

Of course, this is not easy. You need to give customers a very good reason to talk about you. At heart, this is about providing a great service. But you must also think about innovative ways to encourage engagement online. Where do your customers ‘live’ online? How do they interact with their friends? What are they interested in? By understanding these factors you can maximise the benefit the social graph provides.