The temptation to turn towards free marketing resources can be
an irresistable call, particularly to beginners on tight
budgets. However, 'free' isn't a good bargain if it doesn't give
you *results*! You still 'pay' for free advertising in terms of
wasted time and effort.
There are many effective ways to promote your business free.
However, let's start with a brief look at a few of the less-
effective methods. Although the rare person might get results
that justify their continued use, most people find them to be a
waste of time. These include:
* Free classifieds in newsletters. Some editors offer a free ad
to new subscribers in an effort to build their lists.
Unfortunately, if they're getting a lot of new subscribers,
they're probably also getting a lot of free ad requests -- which
means your ad is likely going to get crammed alongside several
others. As you can imagine, readers often ignore 'classified ad'
sections such as these.
* Free classifieds on websites, or 'Free-For-All' (FFA) sites
where you can post your link. Most people go to post ads, not
read them. How often do YOU go to these sites to read ads?
* Free banner or link exchanges. You know the type: you place a
snippet of HTML on your website, and the links or banners are
automatically rotated through everyone in the network. These are
not usually targeted enough to give good results.
* Traffic-generating programs. You join a 'network' and 'share'
traffic -- on your site, typically a popup or popunder window
(advertising another member's site) is displayed as your visitor
enters or leaves your site. Other members display your ad in a
similar way. A popular example are the 'start page' or 'exit
page' programs. Sure, this can give you traffic... but the most
important thing is, does it give you *results* -- subscriptions
to your newsletter, for example, or sales? The conversion rate
is typically negligible or low for these types of programs.
Now onto the good stuff... here are several excellent free
marketing methods that have the potential to yield great
__Targeted Link Exchanges.
Place a link to another related site on your own, and in return,
ask them to reciprocate. Do it consistently and you will
eventually have a wide-ranging network of targeted, relevant
sites on which you are linked.
Your 'link popularity', as it's called, is used by many of the
major search engines to help determine how well your site is
positioned in the results. Plus the more links you have, the
more places people can find you. You essentially 'share' another
__Build and Use Your Own Opt-In List.
There's nothing like your own newsletter to develop a
relationship with your visitors. Make it your goal to provide
quality content and you'll have loyal subscribers who trust you.
Granted, hosting the list isn't usually free (although there are
still a few free list hosts such as Yahoo! Groups,
http://groups.yahoo.com/ ). Still, once you have your own list
of targeted, interested readers, you also have your very own
marketing tool -- you can promote your products or services to
this list, plus use it as 'leverage' for potential joint
ventures (see below). It does take time to build a quality list,
but it can be extremely profitable in the long run.
__Search Engines and Major Indexes.
Web surfers regularly use search engines and indexes to pinpoint
exactly what they're looking for. Although more and more search
engines and major indexes are now charging for reviews and/or
listings, some of them (such as Google, http://www.google.com/ )
are still free.
It takes time and effort to learn how to properly optimize your
site for the search engines. It's no good to be #138475 out of
1437593 search results; no one will ever find you! Learn more
about search engine optimization at
It's well worth the time and trouble to get properly positioned
-- if you get a good listing, it could mean a steady stream of
Imagine getting a radio or TV interview, or a write-up in a
popular magazine whose readers are your target market. It's
great exposure, and best of all, it's free! Many small busineses
simply can't afford the advertising rates... and even if you
could, publicity is even better because the radio show, TV show,
or magazine provides credibility to your offer.
An excellent site to learn about free publicity is
Encourage happy customers to tell their friends about your
business. This is a great way to build your customer base, year
after year, through the power of the 'snowball' effect -- a
happy customer tells a friend, who tells a friend, who tells a
Referrals also tend to be easier to convert into paying
customers because your product has been 'endorsed' by someone
they know and trust.
You can offer incentives such as discounts or a free gift to
encourage referrals. Regardless of whether or not the referred
party makes a purchase, be sure to thank your customer for the
referral -- reward his behavior and he'll be more inclined to
__Write and Distribute Articles, Reports, eBooks...
Create useful free content and include a brief blurb about your
product along with a URL. Encourage people to pass it around.
Indicate that websites and newsletter editors are welcome to
offer it as a gift, bonus, or premium to their vistors, subject
to your publishing guidelines.
If you do this consistently, you can eventually have thousands
of links back to your business all over the web! And the more
people pass it around, the more exposure you'll get.
You can do this with practically anything: articles, columns,
lists, reports, eBooks, software, worksheets... use your
Approach complementary businesses with win-win proposals. A
simple and common 'JV' is an ad swap: you each publish one
another's solo ads to your respective lists. You both avoid
paying out-of-pocket expenses and have the opportunity to reach
a new group of targeted prospects.
Another 'twist' to this common JV is to send endorsed ads to one
another's lists. Review each other's products and, if it's
worthy, mail an endorsed message to your readers. Endorsements
usually outperform 'regular' ads because it comes from someone
the readers trust (the editor).
The beauty of the Internet is that it allows you to run a
business with very little money. The 'secret' is knowing which
of the available free resources are worth your time!
About the author:
Angela is the editor of Online Business Basics, a practical
guide to building an Internet business on a shoestring budget.
If you're tired of hype and just want solid, down-to-earth
information, then visit us now -- and in moments you can have
access to loads of instantly useable tips, specifically chosen
for beginners! http://onlinebusinessbasics.com/article.html