Five (5) Ways YOU Can Increase Your Business for FREE Using the Web.

free ways to increase businessBusinesses are spending more on Internet Marketing now than ever before. Last year (2011), Google earned approximately $36.4 BILLION on advertising! If you are a business owner/manager like me, who is counting every penny, the challenge of keeping up with the big dogs when it comes to Internet Marketing can feel a little daunting. There are, however, several, very effective and FREE things you can do, yourself, to improve your business’s visibility – resulting in more pennies to count. Let look at a few of them…

1. Utilize your website.

Obviously, the first and foremost goal of every business’s website is to share information about the company with your customers or potential customers. Things like your phone number, location, hours, and products are all extremely important. Be sure that you are accurate and complete with the content you provide. Consider what information people ask for when they call your business. Are they asking for directions, prices, specials, instructions? Whatever it is, you may be able to save some of your (or your receptionist’s) valuable time by being sure these answers can be found on your website. For example, over the years I have had the privilege of developing websites for a few of our local doctor’s offices. On a patient’s first visit there are always mounds of forms they need to fill out prior to being seen. Having those forms available on the doctor’s website for the patient to download and fill out ahead of time saved everyone an enormous amount of time. How can you utilize your website to free up other resources?

2. Get Local.

Submit your business to the local business directories like Google Places, Yahoo Local, Yelp & City Search. Local directories like these are replacing the yellow pages. Enter as much info as you can and include your business’s keywords/categories. Then, ask your current/past customers to review you. If they need a little extra “encouragement” offer them a discount or a coupon in return. It is also helpful to give them a few “sample reviews” for reference.

3. Be Social.

Last month (Sept 2012), Facebook announced they had reached their 1 billion user mark. Yes, 1 BILLION users are accessing their Facebook accounts every month! Twitter also broadcasted that they had past their goal of 500 million users in June. Social media is as strong as ever and businesses have learned the importance of it. Don’t be left out! If you do not already have a Facebook page for your business then it’s time to set one up. Be sure you link to it from your website and vice versa. Next, start campaigning for likes! Start with the friends and family you already have on your personal Facebook page. Then, maybe run a contest or offer a discount for people willing to you give you their like! Finally, UPDATE IT!  Post your specials, share related articles & cool photos, offer discounts or coupons and, most importantly, ask for feedback. You need to know what is working/not working for your customers and adjust your social marketing plan accordingly.

4. Take the time to write about what you know.

You don’t have to be a doctor or a professor to write about what you know. You are an expert in YOUR OWN business and taking some time out to share some of that expertise will help you grow by developing a following. Make a commitment to write at least one article per week. Be sure to allow your readers to post their questions and comments about what you wrote… and then be sure to answer them. (Remember, these are supposed to be articles – not long-winded advertisements.) Try to generally relate your topics to the subject-area of what you are selling. For example, if you sell makeup, share a makeup tutorial on how to reshape the eyes. If you are a Painter, share some painting tips on a new style or the hottest new colors trending today. People (and the search engines) will appreciate your willingness to share and reward you by returning to your site, making a purchase, and/or recommending you to others.

5. Be willing to help others.

This one goes “hand-in-hand” with #4 by continuing to develop a following. People ask all kinds of questions all the time at websites like Ask.com and Yahoo Answers. Search these sites for questions related to your field of expertise. Perhaps, you have just written an article about “The best way to grow grapes in cold weather”. Search for questions about grape growing. Then, answer them as thoughtfully as you can and provide them with a link back to your article (only if it is truly relatable). Also, be sure you are answering the people who are commenting on your website and your social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). People truly appreciate that you have taken some time out of your busy day for them and they will remember it.

So, if you aren’t quite ready to crack open the piggy bank and invest in a professional Internet Marketing agent, all is NOT lost. With a little extra time and effort, you can do a lot to increase traffic to your website and exposure of your business.