Not everyone has thousands of dollars to put into growing an online business. In reality, you can do a lot without spending any money at all. All it really takes is effort and imagination.
Today, I’m going to go over how to grow an online business for free. You can start right now and begin boosting the future of your presence on the Internet.
Here are seven of my tips to grow an online business without money. Although you may want to invest something into these methods at a later date, you can start now for free.
1. Deliver High-Quality Content
Creating high-quality content is important whether it’s a company blog or a product description. It’s all about engaging the audience and giving them what they need: information.
This information needs to be delivered in a way that keeps readers connected. Avoiding text blocks, separating points with headers and keeping the language easy to absorb is only the beginning.
Another important aspect of content to keep in mind is remaining factual. Always base your material on evidence you can collaborate with other sources. As we live in an age where “fake news” is tossed around frequently, you want to make sure your business is seen as a legitimate source.
In other words, you want your company to be viewed as an authoritative figure. Authority works to improve brand reputation as well as search engine ranking.
High-quality content also involves other elements outside of text as well. While content is and always will be king, the delivery of that information is greatly important.
As many as 53% of people on mobile devices give up on a site that takes more than three seconds to load. This means the site as a whole needs to be optimized for speed. If you use platforms like WordPress, you have access to a variety of tools to improve the performance of your website.
More than one-third of visitors will leave a site if the layout is poor. Color choices, graphics and even the overall layout of the site’s functions can cause issues for certain users. You need to deliver a good visual and functional experience for everyone visiting the website.
Don’t try too hard to achieve a certain word count. This often leads to what’s known as, “fluff.” It’s content within an article that doesn’t seem to have a purpose other than stretching out how many words are on a webpage. It can confuse your readers as well as search engine bots for optimization.
2. Be Mobile-Friendly
Everyone needs to have a mobile-friendly website today. More than 54% of people browsing the Internet are doing so from smartphones and tablets. If your site isn’t responsive or has a mobile variant, you may alienate more than half of your consumers.
Being mobile-friendly includes a variety of adjustments to the website.
- No Flash video: Most mobile devices do not work well with Flash.
- Optimized images: Rendering graphics takes bandwidth and time. Always use the correct sizes for your site.
- Tappable elements: Text links are often too small for thumbs. Use larger buttons that are easy to touch or click.
- Easy navigation: Don’t overfill the navigation menu. If it fills the screen of a smartphone, it often appears overwhelming.
- Easy Functionality: Visitors should be able to easily manage the site from a 3-inch screen.
Some aspects of being mobile-friendly do not require a monetary investment. Things such as modifying images to fit, redesigning the menu bar and more can be done easily by yourself.
In fact, using systems like WordPress hosting already does most of that for you. It’s already mobile responsive without making adjustments.
An easy way to get an idea of what your site looks like on a mobile device is to shrink your computer’s web browser. By adjusting its height and width on your screen, you can get an idea of what people see when looking at your webpages.
3. Integrate Social Media
One of the beautiful things about social media is how effective it is without actually spending money. It’s free to create a profile on most platforms and can easily put the business in front of thousands of potential consumers.
However, it’s not enough to simply have a Facebook or Twitter profile. You can’t just put up a business page and hope people flock to it. You have to be a part of the premise behind the idea: being social.
Adding Daily Posts
The number of times you should post content on social media varies for businesses. While some find it successful to do five or more, others do well with just one. The point is you need to be active if you want attention from your target audience.
When posting content to social media, use images or video. Graphics engage users far more than simple text. For instance, posts with images on LinkedIn receive 200% more of an engagement rate than regular text. On Twitter, videos are 6 times more likely to be retweeted than simple photos.
Share Meaningful Content
Don’t simply share random pieces of information. Post content your audience will want to read. This includes sharing any websites you find online, retweeting relevant accounts in Twitter or perhaps even commenting on someone’s post. Keep it all centered around your industry and niche.
Adding Social Buttons
Nearly every website has social sharing buttons on its content. Don’t forget to add it to your store items or service offerings as well. You never know who is looking at your pages, and he or she might share your goods with their own followers.
4. Focus On Your Target Audience
Focus the business on your particular audience. The more you streamline content, products and services, the higher the quality of your visitors. This means you’ll target those who are most likely to spend money with your business.
For example, you wouldn’t want to create guest blog posts on a website that centers around lawn care products if you sell kitchen appliances. Any marketing you do needs to stay relevant to what you offer.
The target audience will influence everything from the type of content you create to the brands of products you stock. This is a key element you’ll need to discover if you want the best chances of success.
One mistake a lot of new businesses make is trying to target “everyone.” This often leads to a haphazard marketing strategy and winds up being overly expensive in the long run. Keep your focus on those who are going to directly benefit from the business.
Later on, when you’re ready to pump money into ads, knowing your audience is going to save you a lot of money. Instead of showing ads to anyone, you can fine-tune them to show only to those people who will most likely make a purchase.
If you’re unsure who your target market is, take a look at free tools like Google Analytics. By going over the activity data of your website, you can get an idea of who likes what when it comes to your business. Many eCommerce platforms come with a variant of this tools as well.
Another good way to scope your potential buyers is to take a look at your direct competition. How do they have their content set up? What seems to be working well for them? Answer these questions and make your site better.
5. Diversify Your Operation
Growing a business often involves diversifying the operation. There’s nothing wrong with including elements that will help you draw in a larger crowd or benefit from existing traffic.
Being diverse with your business grows income while keeping the company protected from market shifts. Like the adage goes, “Never put all of your eggs in one basket.” Keep the business flexible and easy to adapt to trends and changes.
Here are a few points of what I’m talking about.
- Expanding Inventory
A lot of eCommerce owners will expand the inventory to include complementary items. For instance, many computer and gaming shops will also stock caffeinated drinks or snacks for those who want prolonged game play.
- Ad Revenue
Adding things like Google Adsense to your site helps generate a bit of additional revenue. Some don’t like this as it has a chance to take potential buyers to competing websites. However, some business models may excel with things like Adsense.
- Promote a YouTube Channel
Many companies will develop a YouTube channel to accentuate their businesses. Not only does it engage your audience, but you can earn ad revenue from the experience as well. What about creating a channel showing people how to use your products or services?
In some instances, it may take a bit of imagination to figure out how to be diverse. In reality, it’s worth the time if you find something that fits your business and niche perfectly.
Take a look at Microsoft, for example. The company has its hand in computers, gaming, phones and more. The company’s portfolio is incredibly diverse, which means a failure in one aspect will have less of an impact on the company as a whole.
6. Take Advantage of Free Marketing Tools
The Internet is full of free marketing tools from email marketing campaigns to designing perfect social media graphics. While it may take a bit of effort to find tools that work best for you, the end result is a far more streamlined system.
Let’s say you want to publish a post on your Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts for the business. Instead of going to each one of these, which is time-consuming, you can use free tools like Buffer and simultaneously share the post with all three.
In fact, there are a number of social media marketing tools you can start using right now to boost your business. While some may have a monthly subscription fee, many will have free or trial versions you can test out immediately.
If you don’t have your business listed in Google, you’re missing out. Because of how local searches operate on the search engine today, people in your area may never see your business listed in the results page.
One of the first things you should do right now is use Google My Business. It’s a free platform rich with data while making sure your local customers know where your store is located.
While you may receive more benefits from certain marketing tools by paying for premium service, sometimes the free versions are all you need. The point is you need to push the limits of these free tools to benefit.
7. Network with Complementary Businesses
A great use of your time and effort is to network. Forming a symbiotic relationship with another business can offer excellent rewards. One of which is getting your brand in front of consumers who may not know it exists yet.
Networking takes nothing but effort on your behalf. This involves reaching out to other businesses or individuals who are in your industry but not exactly competing for the same buyers. In fact, a lot of large corporations join forces simply to expand their reach.
For example, look at most non-proprietary smartphone manufacturers. Samsung partners with Google to create Android phones. This gives Samsung an operating system while letting Google run the software. Both companies benefit from each sale.
Google reaches Samsung fans and Samsung reaches Google fans. It’s a win-win for both brands.
Even the smallest of businesses can network together to expand their reach. It doesn’t have to be as involved or vast as Samsung and Google. If two companies can benefit one another, then offering a network is ideal for all parties involved.
Networking properly requires some kind of common niche or logical connection. After all, you don’t see the laundry detergent brand Tide network with Hillshire Farm, a business well-known for its smoked meat and cheeses.
Invest in Yourself
Perhaps the most prominent way to boost your business for free is to put in the effort. Whether it’s creating content that engages the audience or messaging fans on Facebook, it takes work to become a success. In today’s market, your online persona is just as vital as the brick-and-mortar storefront.