Since “how much would it take me to get started?” is a common question that potential clients ask me, I thought I’d expand a bit on my original answer to Debra Mastaler’s forum questions.
I love the idea of only having $100 to get started because many times, having less money means you have to get more creative. So, since I’ve spent my theoretical $100 already (in the post above), everything else I’d advise is free.
So far we’ve set up social media accounts, used a few free tools in order to find more Twitter followers, analyze our Twitter work, and keep abreast of all of our online mentions.
Advertise Your Business The Old-School Way
If you don’t already have business cards, use some software to print some out or call in a favor to your friend down the block who works in a printing shop. You don’t have to get fancy here, as my goal is simple: I want you to be able to show someone your URL.
Put these cards up on bulletin boards at the community center, drop them in fishbowls to win free meals at restaurants, and give them out to anyone who asks what you do for a living. The takeaway here? You’re getting free visibility.
General Online Branding
Add your URL to your email signature. Set up a Google profile page that lists your URL. Check Knowem to see if your blog/brand is available on a ton of social media sites. While they have a great package that secures these for you, since we’re going for free here, I would advise making use of the service in order to quickly see which ones you should grab. You’ll see what is available along with links to go sign up yourself. It’s time-consuming but, again, free.
Guest Post On Other Sites
Find other bloggers in your industry and ask them if you can write a guest post for their site. This is a great way to get a link back to your own site, build personal brand visibility, and start to become a part of the community.
Find 10 sites that have posts on them with which you don’t fully agree. Ask to have your on take on the subject posted. Find 10 sites that have posts that give you ideas to flesh out further, and do the same.
Find 10 sites that deal with your subject but aren’t regularly updated, and ask if you can become a regular contributor. You’d be surprised at the number of webmasters who will ask you to send them more content once they’ve seen your (quality) content.
For straight up guest post/article searches: (and thanks to Solo SEO’s Link Search Tool for the list. Why reinvent the wheel?)
- pet insurance guest writer
- pet insurance guest blog post writer
- pet insurance submit content
- pet insurance submit article
- pet insurance submit post
- pet insurance submit blog post
- pet insurance add article
- pet insurance add blog post
- pet insurance add content
- pet insurance guest blogger wanted
However, not everyone advertises that they accept guest posts, so make sure to contact bloggers in your area even if they don’t say they’re asking for guest posts. In addition, there are services such as My Blog Guest that can help put you in contact with sites that accept guest posts.
Interview someone in your industry. People love talking about themselves. You’ll raise exposure for your site through the interview and hopefully generate some favorable mentions/links from the person whom you interview.
Give out free advice. This helps build your personal brand, causing people to seek you out. Go to Yahoo Answers and search for questions in your area of expertise, and answer them. Do the same with Quora. Both of these services also tweet certain questions and answers, further raising visibility.
However, don’t stop there! There are indeed others that may suit you. Here are two more that I think have good visibility potential. (Please note that just like with almost anything, you’ll occasionally see spammy stuff and possibly offensive material on these sites.)
Sites like Answerbag lets you create a question in poll-format, should you choose to participate by asking and not just answering.
Answerly is a helpful site because it provides you with results from multiple FAQ platforms.
Find Your Audience
Use Icerocket in the same way that I previously advised you to use Followerwonk…to help find potential followers/fans. This service lets you search blogs, the web, Twitter, Facebook, news, and images. It also has a feature called Big Buzz which shows nicely grouped results from all of those areas.
Since I can’t find a Facebook-specific tool for this, I use this one. (Please let me know if you know of something though!) Another cool thing about using Icerocket to help you connect with people on Facebook is that you can both go to the person’s Facebook page and you can directly visit the links people post, which in my example are mainly YouTube videos of Bryan Ferry.
If I had a blog about Bryan Ferry (and I should) then I’d be able to use this to connect with other fans on YouTube, possibly subscribing to their channels and letting them know about my own channel (which of course I would have being a Bryan Ferry blogger.)
*Depending upon your niche, sites like Flickr and YouTube might be the right fit for you. Both these sites can help you draw people in with visuals, but skip both if your area of expertise isn’t something that lends itself to photography and video.
This application is definitely the one I’d choose if I could only pick one. I write blog posts in it, use it for travel, clip screenshots, recipes, etc. It’s invaluable to me and it’s available as a standalone app on your computer, on the web, and as a mobile app.
If you’re a blogger, I imagine you’re constantly having new ideas for posts and looking for cool things to write about. This app makes that so easy. It’s free but you can do a premium subscription. However since I’m in the free section here, let’s go with that for now. Free.
Be Real, Be Nice
Be nice. I cannot overstate the importance here. I know that it can be trendy to be snarky and argumentative, and that can certainly help you build links, but most of the time, if you’re a jerk to someone, that person isn’t going to ask to interview you on his or her site. People don’t tend to reach out to someone when they’re afraid of being a target or being ridiculed.
So what if we had $500 to spend? Still inexpensive, as far as marketing budgets go, but it’s not outrageous. Here’s how I’d spend my extra $400.
Research Potential Link Sources
Grab a $29 daypass for Link Research Tools and research the heck out of your competition. This gives you 3 link prospecting reports and 3 backlink reports (which you can use to see who links to other blogs in your niche.) Use this information to find webmasters who might be willing to link to you, and reach out to them.
Have 10 t-shirts printed from Cafe Press at a cost of around $140. You can create whatever design you like (I vote for squirrels.) Yes, do another contest…everyone who mentions your blog on Twitter/Facebook gets entered into a drawing to win a shirt.
Anyone who’s willing to add you to their blogroll gets entered twice. Also, offer a contest for the best blog post written about why said blogger should win your shirt. Winner gets a free shirt and one for a friend. $140
Sponsor A Local Event/Meetup
If you’re lucky enough to have a local community that shares your interest, this is a great way to get your name out there. Simply laying down a $100 bar tab will make at least 10 people very happy. If there’s an existing event that is in your niche, offer to sponsor it, at least partially. Since we’re dealing with a smaller budget here I’d say not to go above $100.
Meetup is a service that lets you enter your area of interest and a location so you can easily find something near you. If nothing is out there, you can start something here. You can also just look for meetups in your local area, as you don’t have to be tied to your exact niche. $100.
Do What Makes Sense For Your Niche
With the remainder of the budget ($131) I’d pick and choose from the following, depending upon my niche:
- Get nicer business cards. $100
- Sponsor one more $100 meetup. $100
- Wait a month or two, then repeat one of the $50 contests listed above. This gets fresh eyes on your site. $50 (or $100 if you repeat them both)
- Do the same thing with the t-shirts, with a new design, in a month or so. $140
- Be a community giver in your area. If a local fundraiser is happening and a group is requesting sponsors, spend what you can. You’ll get a mention and possibly a link. $10 and up
- Buy some Google Adwords ads for a month. A small budget can still bring you good visiblity. $50 and up
As you can see, there really is a lot that you can do for free or very little. Time is usually a major factor in the success of any marketing effort, and just because you have loads of cash to throw around does not at all mean that you’ll be successful.
Even if you do have a large budget, pretend you don’t, even if just for an hour, and think about what you would do if you didn’t. You’d be surprised at all the creative ideas that will fill your mind.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.