Need some ideas on how to market your website on a limited budget?
I contacted the biggest names in web marketing, branding, and search engine optimization and I asked them all the same question.
“What would you do if you only had 100 dollars to market your website?”
It is very possible to get a healthy amount of traffic to your website even when your main asset is time, not money. Whether you are a single parent, a small business with a limited budget, or you are just a dreamer, there are a surprising amount of things you can do to make your website soar.
The first step is learning from the community who does this for a living.
I was overwhelmed by the great advice and humor offered for this article when I contacted “the big guns” of the search marketing world. Here are their answers to the following question.
“If you had to make a website soar but had only small chunks of money to spend on it what would you do? – (The “chunks” are 100 dollars, 250 dollars and 500 dollars.)
Patrick Sexton (me)
Co-founder of GetListed.org and author of Feedthebot.com which describes the Google webmaster guidelines in layman’s terms. He is widely regarded as the best looking man in SEO. [Editors note: The bio of Patrick Sexton may be slightly biased due to the fact that he is the author of this article.]
Here is what I would do:
100 dollars – First off, have valuable, useful content. You will have to learn, and learn, and then learn some more. Hopefully you can do your own content, which will save you the most.
In all honesty you should use the first 100 dollars for the basics, use this money to acquire a real web host. Use caution when you choose a web host, there are many possible pitfalls. I suggest my personal favorite, BlueHost. Do not go with Yahoo, although Yahoo provides excellence in the many things they do, their hosting packages are severely restrictive and have some very basic problems that will affect your efforts negatively.
A good webhost will provide stats, easy access, and other goodies that make it worthwhile. Your web hosting is an important decision, and should cost around 7 to 9 dollars a month. If a webhost costs 3.99 per month, there is a reason and the reason is that they do not offer the tools you need.
If you already have a website or blog and are satisfied with your host then I recommend using your 100 dollars as follows: Get a good logo that looks great, it is worth it.
250 dollars – If you have this to spend do what I mentioned above and then buy a professional theme (if you are using WordPress) for 50 dollars or less. Then use Stumbleupon paid discovery. This will allow you to get some quick exposure and also learn what people think of your website and doesn’t cost that much. I would use 100 dollars for this.
500 dollars – Do what I mentioned above and also try Facebook ads in addition to Stumbleupon.
Aaron Wall of SEObook.com is one of the most recognizable names in the field of search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing. His SEO Blog has essentially become the defacto game plan of profiting on the web through search engines. He is an aggressive and creative viral marketer who thinks of the Web in terms of how ideas spread and offers his consultation services for mid to enterprise level clients. Here is what he said:
If one has virtually no money then presumably they do not value their time highly in terms of money…thus a lack of funds can be seen as a resource that helps make you more efficient in the longrun.
If I had $500 or less to work on marketing and was starting a website today I would:
- find an income source that can help me pay my living costs while I furiously learned
- spend $20 to $200 on books about the topic I am interested in, and I would get a few background books on marketing and the web including Purple Cow, The Cluetrain Manifesto, and Don’t Make Me Think.
- create a new word/phrase and register (myword).com or buy a .net or .org that was available for $8 from GoDaddy
- buy $7 a month hosting from Dreamhost
- Start a WordPress blog on my domain covering whatever I am learning or am an expert at. Place no ads on the site and be actively involved in the community to help build up my authority.
- I would browse various theme browsers to find a theme that looked pretty good for the theme of my site.
- I would buy a logo for my site from a forum (for $10 to $100 dollars) or buy one from a logo design firm (for $100 to $300)
- Install a free analytics product to track progress.
- beg borrow steal barter etc to find at least a couple trusted link sources that are willing to link to my site.
- Use free keyword research tools and track the news to find subjects to write about.
- Create highly linkworthy noncommercial content and market the hell out of it, using email, social marketing, and perhaps adwords.
- Syndicate some of your content to well read channels. If I were starting today in SEO I would make sure my stuff was syndicated to WebProNews.
- Review related products and services and pitch their affiliate offers and / or place adsense ads on sites to test baseline income levels.
- As I started gaining authority I would look to reinvest into faster growth, doing things like buying quality links and building tools to garner more authority.
- As soon as I could afford to I would go to off line conferences for my industry.
- No matter how I was trying to make money or how I was making money I would also create at least one site about a topic I am passionate about even if it did not seem like it would be profitable…that will teach you more about the web than any guru can, plus that will eventually shield you from the feast or famine client services based lifestyle.
Andy Beal is a blogging and search engine marketing consultant and is considered one of the world’s most respected online marketing experts. He is the author of the popular Marketing Pilgram blog. Andy has worked with many top companies such as Motorola, CitiFinancial, Lowes, Quicken Loans, DeWALT, NBC and Smarter.com. Here is his advice:
$100 = Not a lot you can do with $100. I’d probably use it to upgrade my server so that it was on a dedicated IP address and the domain name was registered for at least 3 years.
$250 = I’d hire a copywriter to create a great “Top 100″ list that relates to my industry. By the time they do their research and put it together, you’ve probably got at least 5 hours of work out of them. I’d probably
create a press release that highlights the key points and submit on PR Web.
$500 = I’d get a $250 roundtrip ticket to my nearest SES, SMX or PubCon conference. Spend $100 for a hotel for one night. Then blow the remaining $150 buying drinks at the bar for all the SEO’s that hang out. It will be the best $500 you’ve ever spent!
Andy Hagans is known as the webs best “link baiter”. The ability to get links to your website is one of the most important factors of how well your website will do in the search engines, so his link baiting services are in high demand. He has been a consistent and professional source of information on improving your rank in the search engines for years. He is also the author of Tropical SEO. Here is his input:
good content & good links
good content & good links
> 500, and
good content & good links
good content & good links
Sorry if it sounds asinine, but it is honestly what I would do!
I also think it’s impossible to be that specific bc every project is
different, but if you want specific examples:
250: Add $50 and get a listing in dir.yahoo.com
500: you could do the above things, and have $200 to pay a good writer
to write you a good link bait
1000: maybe the above things, plus 2 more good link baits!
Kid Disco (aka CK Chung)
C.K. Chung is a professional, experienced force in the world of search engine optimization and marketing with an impressive history for a young man, but it is his alter-ego of “Kid Disco” that has caught the attention of the SEO world. The Kid Disco unique humor, over the top personality, and charisma is a welcome and humorous presence in the circles of the search engine elite. Here is his advice:
I think a better phrase for what you are describing is “budget SEO.”
To answer your question, I am assuming that I have the same knowledge I do now, am starting a site from scratch, and we’re staying white-hat (maybe a little gray)…
With $100… I think I would buy some cheap hosting, put up a WordPress CMS, find some good affiliate programs, and start writing and optimizing.
I’m not sure I’d do much different with $250 and $500 other than maybe putting it towards an SEOmoz Membership, and/or buy some links, and definitely buy some drinks.
I’m sure I would probably look at things a bit differently if this really happened to be the case, but it isn’t!
Lee Odden is the founder of Top Rank Results online marketing and is a sought after speaker on the subject of search engines, social media, and online marketing. His online marketing blog is a widely respected resource where he publishes articles regularly. His answers:
That’s an interesting question and when I think of it, the thought that money is only one form of currency when it comes to promoting web sites comes to mind.
I would certainly make sure the site hosting situation was well taken care of, along with site design and functionality, so chunks of money as necessary should be allocated there.
Otherwise, I would make sure the standard site promotion tactics are in place: Optimized content creation, link building and especially online and offline networking. Do a great job of telling the story the site has to tell and get the attention of journalists writing about that industry. Become a trusted resource without demands for reciprocation from the media and they will reward you with generous coverage, as will the search engines.
Also, attending a few conferences per year for education but particularly for networking can prove to be a very worthwhile investment. If you can’t afford the conference fee, try to get a press pass.
Regarding the currency comment above, I would also take a look at the industry the site is in to see if there are opportunities to give prominent individuals with significant spheres of influence something they want that doesn’t cost you anything to give. With a blog, this could be in the form of interviews, product reviews, aggregated resources and company profiles. Also, referring on leads (good ones) that are not a fit for you to others in the industry can serve as a sort of informal currency to open doors to business relationships that might not otherwise have been available. Doing this prompts those with influence to give back in the form of links, referrals, partnerships, participation in new networks and connections online/offline – the kinds of opportunities that can make a business soar.
Neil Patel is known as one of the most famous people on the web. His expertise is personal branding which he speaks of on his new site, Quicksprout.com. His clear and distinct advice on creating and expanding a brand is read and followed by the some of the most influential people on the web. His advice is widely sought out, here is what he would do:
If I only had a small amount of money and wanted to make a website soar I would leverage social media. You could potentially do it for free, but if I had $100 I would try and create 1 great piece of content and push it out on all of the social sites. If I had $250 I would try and create 2 great pieces of content and if I had $500 I would create 4 pieces. The overall goal would be to get these articles thousands of unique visitors and thousands of links so that the site could get some search love.
Todd Malicoat (aka Stuntdbl)
Todd is now and has been for a long time one of the most important voices of search engine marketing. His in depth knowledge of social media keeps him busy with clients seeking viral pushes for their online interests. Here are his thoughts:
Firstly, this is a really great topic. The awesome glory of the internet is the accessibility of people. It no longer takes thousands of dollars to “meet” your favorite authors or personalities. Many times, they’ll be polite enough to respond to your e-mails if they’re done so in the right fashion. This same accessibility comes into play with business people.
The pitch may not always be money, but the point is you have the accessibility when you come up with the pitch, and many people respect someone who is hungry with persistence (within reason) and a good work ethic.
One of the true beauties of SEO is hearing the success stories of bootstrappers (like your story with feedthebot). As a quick aside – one great use of $10, would be picking up the “bootstrapper’s bible” by
Seth Godin, it has some fantastic rules and ideas for when you are in bootstrapper mode. Personally, when I graduated from school, and knew I needed a job, I KNEW that I wanted to do SEO professionally because of the tremendous value I saw. I wrote up what I thought to be a fantastic and eloquent pitch, and systematically tailored the e-mail to every local marketing company I could find. I then followed up with phone calls.
A few gave me interviews, and most turned me down. The few that gave me interviews, I didn’t have a good enough pitch for to land a job. I ended up landing a job for an IT company that was a fantastic place to start. I parlayed the resources and knowledge I learned there to attend conferences and learn more. Setting goals of WHY you are doing something, and the metrics for that success are hugely important.
I don’t think there is one sure fire plan based on the amount of money you have, but the point is, that it shouldn’t take MUCH money to make more if you do so strategically using the tools that are available to you. The power of e-mail alone is amazing. The power of a great article and web publishing is astounding. The power of good links and great rankings is mind boggling. The power of your voice and your mind can help you to
up those chunks until you’re playing with much bigger pieces. It takes some cajones, lots of dedication, and a workaholic mentality, but a lot can certainly be done with a little. There is a lot of proof within this
industry that the “American dream” is alive and well.
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