Make the most of free online marketing

Women on computer and phone

The internet offers a fantastic opportunity to get your brand out there, even if your budget doesn't run to a TV ad slot during Saturday primetime.

It's time to start thinking creatively. Remember, no one knows your business better than you. Think about your audience – what's going to make them sit up and take notice?
 

Content supplied by Barclays

Former advertising executive and founder of Style Chapel, Raphael Chapell gives her top six tips on how to broaden your reach, without spending a penny:

1. Socially speaking

Getting to grips with social media absolutely has to be the first step for any business, a Facebook page and a Twitter account are a good way to leverage online marketing. I use my Facebook page to tell customers about new products and new designers but where it works best is running competitions. Facebook users love a competition and they can help drive up your number of likes and the reach that you have.

We're looking at how you can get up and running on social media throughout the Online Business Fortnight, so don't miss out! 
 

2. Get blogging!

If you really want to drive traffic, consider writing a blog. For some businesses, getting noticed might be as simple as a listing on yell.com, but if you really want to set yourself apart, think about going the extra mile. Ultimately you want to position yourself as an expert in your field and a blog can set you apart.

Think carefully before you start though:

  • what will you write about
  • are you comfortable blogging
  • why will people want to read it

Most importantly, blog regularly otherwise you will never build up a following. Look at bloglovin.com and actively search for blogs that are relevant to your industry and start following those, it will give you a good idea of what's out there. As the saying goes… content is king, but blogging is queen!

 

3. Make sure people can find you

When you're putting content on your website, whether that's a new post about your industry or a product or service listing, ensure your search engine optimisation (SEO) is up to scratch. This means that you have everything in place to give search engines, such as Google, the markers they need to find you – this is known as improving your search ranking (where you appear in search engine results).

First, look at the language you use throughout your website, from your navigation and section headings, to the titles of your posts. Make sure they are clear, concise and precise, and include the keywords people use when talking about (or more importantly searching for) your product or service. Puns and clever word play might be great at a dinner party, but not great for search engines.

Once you have done this, look at categorising your posts, or tagging them. Whenever you upload a new piece of content, your CMS or blog should give you the option to add one of these tags – grouping themed content together gives search engines a hint that your content is reliable and credible.

When you add a picture or video, you should also be given the option to tag these into categories, and add a description of the content. This is another great place to add some keywords about your content, such as names or product types, which search engines will pick up – but beware of overstuffing your websites with keywords, search engines can sniff this out and will lower you down the search rankings.

Next think about linking out to other websites in your field. It may sound counterintuitive, but encouraging people to look at other similar sites helps search engines know that you are reliable and a credible source of information. This can work really well in return too, as sites you link to may link back to your site (you may see this referred to as 'reciprocal linking').
 

4. Get your name in print (and online!)

Focus on getting editorial coverage. Write a list of the publications, websites, and blogs that you want to target and start researching them. Who are their audiences, who are the key journalists, what are their interests, what do they like writing about and so on. It can be really hard to get through on the phone to these people and in my experience they don't like persistent phone calls, so emails or Twitter can be better. If you can, send them a sample or a really good overview of what makes your business unique – remember you need to give them a reason to shout about you.
 

5. Get competitive

Running offers and competitions on relevant blogs and websites can work really well. You have to give something free – whether that's your time, expertise or products – but the potential audience reach is the reward. Do your research and pick which websites or blogs have the relevant readership or user profile that you want to target. Then check out their stats – many blog competitions display the number of entrants – and look at what competitions they have run successfully in the past. Make sure the website or blog is a good fit for your brand and get in touch!
 

6. Become a PR whizz

PR should be constant, otherwise you will be forgotten. Journalists, editors and bloggers have so many PR agencies, entrepreneurs and business owners approaching them every day saying their product or service is unique. So you have to pop up regularly in their inbox or on their desk delivering something new that they need to know about. So my tip is prepare for that investment of time on your PR.

If you can afford it, using a PR agency could be very useful for helping you work out which aspects of your business are most newsworthy and creating a story to pitch to local and even national press, but in the early days you need to have a handle on your own PR. You know your business and you should be selling it. Telling people all day, every day what you are about is the best way to keep your business focused and sharp. It will also help you understand what your weaknesses are and what you need to improve.

Keep an eye out for more tips and expertise on how to create a visual identity for your business and how to use paid-for marketing to support your business online throughout the rest of the Online Business Fortnight. And don't miss our online Q&A webchat, when you can put your business questions to our expert.

Head to Barclays on Mumsnet for lots more:

 

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Last updated: 29-Jan-2014 at 10:44 AM