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How to Stretch a Small Online Marketing Budget

If you’re a start-up, small business or both, there’s a good chance your marketing budget—if you even have one—isn’t very big. Getting the word out about your product or service may seem like a daunting task when you have limited financial resources. Well, it doesn’t have to be. We rounded up some ways you can successfully advertise your business without spending a bundle. Some of them won’t cost you anything more than time!

Improve Your Website’s SEO

When you Google your product, service or industry, where does your website come up in search results? If you want to be higher, it’s time to invest some energy into SEO so you can start bringing in organic traffic. Search engine algorithms grow and change over time, but these are the basics to improving your ranking:

  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. How is your website’s mobile experience? If it’s not great, you might be getting penalized by search engines, especially Google. If your website is on a blog platform, switch to a theme or template that is responsive for mobile.
  • Make sure your pages are keyword-rich. Use a tool like Google AdWord Keyword Planner to see which terms are the most popular for your product, service or industry. Make a list and then tweak your website copy to hit those keywords.
  • Make sure your content is updated frequently. Search engines reward websites with fresh content, so having a blog, new products or even company news will help to increase your visibility.

If you can’t get your website ranked for the search terms that are important to you organically, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), allows you to target ads based on search terms. With budget caps and real-time analytics, you can control how much you spend and change campaigns on the fly to improve results.

Harness the Power of Social Media

Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are an effective tool for distributing content, whether through organic or—if you have the budget for it—paid reach. Learning which platforms will be most effective for connecting with potential customers may take some trial and error, but it’s worth it to invest the time. You’ll be rewarded with a highly targeted, engaged audience, which leads to more conversions. Here’s how to do it:

  • Create company pages on social networks: Incorporate your marketing messaging, logos, strong visual elements, and most importantly, make it easy for people to find you. AddThis Follow Buttons make it easy for users to connect with you on social networks in one click.
  • Make it easy for users to share your content: Every piece of content on your website should be shareable—content, products, services, and even press releases. With AddThis Share Buttons, users can share content on all of the large social networks and tons of niche ones, too. With analytics, you’ll be able to find out where you’re getting the most engagement so you can focus more of your marketing efforts there.
  • Run social media ads: You won’t get the reach you’ll get with SEM, but you’ll have access to a highly targeted list of users. You can boost engagements with ads you create, or you can boost visibility on already popular posts. Like SEM, you control the budget and can easily change the campaign in real-time based on analytics.

Embrace Content Marketing

Bringing new visitors to your website by offering shareable content is a way to offer value outside of your products or services. You’ll have to invest time into it—and probably a bit of money—but not as much as you think. Here are some easy ways to create content that brings people in and most importantly, drives conversions.

  • Repurpose content: There’s a good chance your business is already creating content. White papers, press releases, research—all of what you spend money to create can be repurposed into content, with a much smaller time investment than original pieces. Turn a white paper into a slideshare for LinkedIn; tweak a press release for use as a blog post; turn your research into a downloadable ebook. If you attend an industry event, post a photo gallery.
  • Optimize content pages for conversion: Whether you want visitors to your website to buy a product, sign up to receive your newsletter, or subscribe to a service, they should be able to do it easily no matter what page they land on. Include strong calls to action on all content pages. AddThis Audience Targeting Tools allow you to target specific messages to users based on their interests and activity.
  • Create original content that addresses users’ needs: Look at the searches that bring visitors to your website. What are they looking for? Visit forums dedicated to your industry, and see what questions users have. Create content that addresses those issues. The more evergreen, the better for using again and again.

Test, Test, Test, and Then Test Some More

The only way to discover what works is to try different things and compare. It will help you to get smart about which messages resonate with your audience, where you get the best bang for your marketing buck, and where you need to improve. And when you feel like you have the winning formula, keep testing. Seasons change, and so do audiences. Here are just a few things that you can test, but really, the list is endless:

  • Email subject lines
  • Headlines
  • Calls to action
  • Images
  • Offers and discounts

When it comes to testing, analytics will be your best friend. You’ll likely be getting data from several different sources, though, so choose the metrics that are most important to you and streamline your streams.

Be Flexible

Because you don’t always know what’s going to work, marketing-wise, you have to make sure you have the flexibility to respond to opportunities. Those opportunities may come in the form of a blog post going viral on social media, a current event or news item that lines up with your company’s mission, or an influential blogger discovering your product and discussing it on social media. Having some wiggle room in your budget will allow you to take advantage of situations like these.

It’s important to be flexible on timelines when it comes to advertising campaigns, too. If you’re planning on a 30-day SEM campaign and after 10 days, you’re not seeing a return, kill it. If it’s performing better than expected, extend it, or divert budget from less successful campaigns to it. If it’s performing well but has a hard deadline due to promotions or events, see if you can create a similar campaign quickly. Stay on top of your campaigns, and you’ll be able to make them better.

DIY Instead of Buy

If you run a business, you’ve likely had a parade of expensive digital agencies offering their services. If you adopt a DIY mentality, you can often do what they’re pitching for a much lower cost with software, online services, and a small team of employees or freelancers. Here are just a few things to consider bringing in-house if you’re trying to cut costs:

  • Email marketing: If you sign up for a newsletter service like MailChimp, AWeber or Constant Contact, you can use their templates and sign-up forms to create your emails. You may want to hire a designer to help you set up your templates to match your brand, but you’ll do it at a fraction of the cost.
  • Photos and video: If you use a lot of images or video on your website, it might be worth it to hire a photographer or videographer to shoot some of those for you.
  • Data: There are several free or low-cost services available to you for measuring your website data, like Google Analytics. Many have premium options, but the free version will likely give you enough to work with.

AddThis Website Marketing Tools can help you to grow your audience with smart, personalized social media tools, audience targeting and related posts. The basic plan is free, and pro plans start at just $10/month.

How to Stretch a Small Online Marketing Budget
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