In ecommerce, making money is easier than earning a profit. Profitability can be an uphill battle because the challenge is largely in the overhead. How do you earn enough to stay in the green without compromising your quality? The answer is all in the marketing. How you promote your online business is vital for your success.
If you’re trying to build an online business from scratch, you may not have the capital to invest in dedicated marketing services right away. At least, not without sacrificing profit. The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to generate traffic and sales on a limited budget. Sometimes it won’t cost you a penny.
1. Grow Your Search Presence with DIY
Yes, search engine optimization is a complex enterprise that’s best left to the pros. But if you’re on a budget or just starting out, you may not have thousands of dollars per month to fork over. That doesn’t mean your
There are simple things you can do for free that will have a substantial impact. For instance:
Get your keywords in order
In 2019, this may sound a bit boilerplate, but it’s surprising how many businesses still don’t invest the time to do in-depth keyword research. Tools like the Google Ads Keyword Planner are free to use—you just need to sign up for a free Google Ads account. The important thing to remember is this: You’re not going to rank for broad, competitive keywords (e.g. men’s socks) right away. You need to think long-tail. What are the longer-tail variations that are generating traffic (e.g. men’s black knee-high socks).
Whether you’re using a CMS like WordPress or a shopping cart platform like BigCommerce, your built-in app/plugin store probably has a ton of free
SEOtools. There are tools that assess your on-page ranking factors and tools that auto-generate optimized sitemaps. Take advantage of them!
Building inbound links to your site is essential for
SEO. Fortunately, it doesn’t require a lot of money or time. Post useful information on Quora; write guest blog articles; become an active part of the Reddit community. Even if some of the links are “no-follow,” you’re still increasing awareness. So every link matters.
We’ve already established the importance of building links. Consider that companies with blogs tend to have 97% more inbound links. A blog benefits your
SEOefforts on multiple fronts: It affords you more indexed pages to work with, more keyword opportunities, and more opportunities for user engagement and loyalty.
Social media will, directly and indirectly, impact your search engine rankings. Directly, it affords you linking opportunities and demonstrates that you have an active brand. Indirectly, it expands your audience and potentially encourages other people to link to your site.
Improve your website
Have you checked your page speed recently? Have you reviewed your site for broken links? Also, is your site mobile-friendly? It should be since over 75 million consumers make purchases using their mobile devices. You want to constantly review your site and remedy any issues that can impact the user experience. Even seemingly minor site issues can alienate potential customers, increase your bounce rate, and negatively impact your rankings. Make sure your site is something that people want to return to again and again.
2. Use Social Media to Promote Your Brand
We already touched upon social media in the previous section, but it deserves a section of its own because its marketing value goes far beyond
Social networking platforms give you free access to millions of potential customers. And yes, while most social algorithms do limit the number of people who see your content for free, it’s still possible to reach massive audiences without paid advertising. Some of the popular platforms you can use to promote your online business include:
- Most popular among 18-to-49-year-olds
- Leans female (used by 75% of women and 63% of men)
- Facebook is the worst offender when it comes to limiting your organic reach. However, there are ways to increase the number of people who see your posts. Facebook’s algorithm favors content with high engagement (likes and comments). So post the types of content that people want to like and share, including relevant memes, giveaways, and newsworthy content. To ensure maximum exposure, get people excited about your posts—not just your products.
- Most popular among 18-to-29-year-olds
- Leans female (used by 43% of women and 31% of men)
- Did you know that Instagram allows you to include up to 30 hashtags in a single post? This is extremely valuable because millions of people follow their favorite hashtags. Use relevant popular hashtags with each post to reach large numbers of people who would otherwise never find you. You can use a hashtag search engine like Hashtagify to find the top hashtags in your industry.
- Most popular among 18-to-29-year-olds
- Leans male (used by 24% of men and 21% of women)
- While the “more hashtags” approach works well for Instagram, the opposite is true for Twitter. Twitter limits you to just 280 characters, and excess hashtags will make your posts hard to read. Opt for only the best hashtags, engage with thought leaders in your industry, and engage directly with your audience. Make it a conversation.
- Most popular among 30-to-49-year-olds
- Leans male (used by 29% of men and 24% of women
- LinkedIn is a great resource for businesses that offer professional services. Think online marketers, web developers, consultancy firms, accountants. The key to success on LinkedIn is establishing yourself as a thought leader. Publish useful content that educates readers and reinforces your expertise.
*Above data taken from Pew Internet statistics, 2019.
3. Paid Ads to Promote Your Online Business
Newer businesses will shy away from paid online advertising because it can be difficult to achieve a healthy ROI. Pay-per-click platforms like Google Ads use an auction format, which means that profitable keywords can cost a lot of money to access—and there’s no guarantee that those clicks will translate to sales.
Thankfully, there are ways to benefit from paid advertising platforms without breaking the bank. Google may have higher cost-per-click and requires greater general expertise, but some ad platforms enable you to promote your business at affordable rates. Here are some of the best options to check out:
With millions of searches a day, Bing is the top search engine behind Google. But since advertisers rely far less on this search engine, bids tend to be low. As a result, you pay less for the same type of advertising you’d get from Google.
If your customers are on Pinterest, this platform can be a powerful ad partner. Pinterest not only lets you share promoted pins for pennies on the dollar, but it has excellent targeting features and behavior metrics to ensure that you reach the most likely buyers.
This up-and-coming platform has a network of more than 150,000 premium publishers. Again, because it’s lesser-known, it allows for lower-cost advertising. You’ll still reach an impressive audience, though, as the platform serves more than 3 billion impressions each month.
Bidvertiser is another low-cost PPC platform. It allows anyone to post ads on their site and earn money using a revenue share model. While payouts are typically low for the publishers, advertisers have seen some great results with little investment.
4. Use Email to Promote Your Online Business
Building a sizable subscriber base is essential to the success of any online business. Email subscribers mean repeat business. Your subscriber list is your ever-growing well of already-engaged customers. Best of all, it’s possible to organically generate thousands of subscribers in very little time and at little to no cost. The process is pretty straightforward:
- Encourage your website visitors to subscribe. You can do this using:
- Popup notifications on the homepage
- Sidebar widgets
- Calls to action
- Offer an enticing freebie to potential subscribers. Possible enticements include:
- A Coupon or discount code
- Access to members-only deals
- An ebook or other instructional material
- Occasionally solicit subscriptions on your social media profiles. Mention the perks/freebies, and gain new subscribers outside of your website. Just make sure to follow basic social media etiquette to avoid alienating potential subscribers:
- Don’t overdo it. Once a month is plenty.
- Don’t over-promise or mislead your audience. Be upfront about any perks you’re offering, but manage your followers’ expectations. If you oversell it, you may end up with more unsubscribers than new subscribers.
- Don’t get argumentative in the comments. Yes, you’ll occasionally have naysayers who complain about your “self-promotion,” but slapping back can cause irreversible harm to your brand. Keep your interactions positive.
- Send regular—but not constant—emails to your subscribers. Emails should be highly relevant, well-written, and genuinely enticing. This will ensure that you keep the subscribers you have and also encourage new subscribers. The trick is finding the right email marketing platform. Industry leaders like MailChimp can be costly, but there are cheaper alternatives. Check out options like:
- EasySendy Drip – Send up to 50,000 emails for just $14 per month.
- SendinBlue – Send up to 40,000 emails for just $25 per month.
- Mailerlite – Send up to 15,000 emails for just $30 per month (compared to $150 for MailChimp).
The Main Investment You Need to Make Is Time
It is possible to promote your online business successfully with little to no capital. The most valuable investment you have is your time. The more time you’re willing to spend on the initiatives highlighted above, the faster you’ll see your customer base grow. Once the revenue starts pouring in, you can reassess costlier marketing campaigns.
What has been your most efficient way to promote your brand online while maintaining a positive ROI?