The Fallacy of Free Advertising

Feb 23 22:00 2003 Angela Wu Print This Article

The ... to turn towards free ... ... can be an ... call, ... to ... on tight budgets. However, 'free' isn't a good bargain if it doesn't give you ...

The temptation to turn towards free marketing resources can
be an irresistable call,Guest Posting particularly to beginners on tight
budgets. However, 'free' isn't a good bargain if it doesn't
give you *results*! You still 'pay' for free advertising in
terms of wasted time and effort.

There are many effective ways to promote your business free.
However, let's start with a brief look at a few of the less-
effective methods. Although the rare person might get
results that justify their continued use, most people find
them to be a waste of time. These include:

* Free classifieds in newsletters. Some editors offer a
free ad to new subscribers in an effort to build their
lists. Unfortunately, if they're getting a lot of new
subscribers, they're probably also getting a lot of
free ad requests -- which means your ad is likely going
to get crammed alongside several others. As you can
imagine, readers often ignore 'classified ad' sections
such as these.

* Free classifieds on websites, or 'Free-For-All' (FFA)
sites where you can post your link. Most people go to
post ads, not read them. How often do YOU go to these
sites to read ads? Enough said.

* Free banner or link exchanges. You know the type: you
place a snippet of HTML on your website, and the links
or banners are automatically rotated through everyone
in the network. These are not usually targeted enough
to give good results.

* Traffic-generating programs. You join a 'network' and
'share' traffic -- on your site, typically a popup or
popunder window (advertising another member's site) is
displayed as your visitor enters or leaves your site.
Other members display your ad in a similar way. A
popular example are the 'start page' or 'exit page'
programs. Sure, this can give you traffic... but the
most important thing is, does it give you *results* --
subscriptions to your newsletter, for example, or sales?
The conversion rate is typically negligible or low for
these types of programs.

Now onto the good stuff... here are several excellent free
marketing methods that have the potential to yield great
results:

__Targeted Link Exchanges.

Place a link to another related site on your own, and in
return, ask them to reciprocate. Do it consistently and
you will eventually have a wide-ranging network of
targeted, relevant sites on which you are linked.

Your 'link popularity', as it's called, is used by many
of the major search engines to help determine how well
your site is positioned in the results. Plus the more
links you have, the more places people can find you. You
essentially 'share' another site's traffic.

__Build and Use Your Own Opt-In List.

There's nothing like your own newsletter to develop a
relationship with your visitors. Make it your goal to
provide quality content and you'll have loyal subscribers
who trust you.

Granted, hosting the list isn't usually free (although
there are still a few free list hosts such as Yahoo!
Groups, http://groups.yahoo.com/ ). Still, once you have
your own list of targeted, interested readers, you also
have your very own marketing tool -- you can promote
your products or services to this list, plus use it as
'leverage' for potential joint ventures (see below).
It does take time to build a quality list, but it can
be extremely profitable in the long run.

__Search Engines and Major Indexes.

Web surfers regularly use search engines and indexes
to pinpoint exactly what they're looking for. Although
more and more search engines and major indexes are now
charging for reviews and/or listings, some of them
(such as Google, http://www.google.com/ ) are still free.

It takes time and effort to learn how to properly
optimize your site for the search engines. It's no good
to be #138475 out of 1437593 search results; no one will
ever find you! Learn more about search engine optimization
at http://www.searchenginewatch.com/ .

It's well worth the time and trouble to get properly
positioned -- if you get a good listing, it could mean
a steady stream of targeted traffic.

__Free Publicity.

Imagine getting a radio or TV interview, or a write-up
in a popular magazine whose readers are your target market.
It's great exposure, and best of all, it's free! Many small
busineses simply can't afford the advertising rates... and
even if you could, publicity is even better because the
radio show, TV show, or magazine provides credibility to
your offer.

An excellent site to learn about free publicity is
http://www.prprofits.com/ .

__Referral Marketing.

Encourage happy customers to tell their friends about
your business. This is a great way to build your customer
base, year after year, through the power of the 'snowball'
effect -- a happy customer tells a friend, who tells a
friend, who tells a friend...

Referrals also tend to be easier to convert into paying
customers because your product has been 'endorsed' by
someone they know and trust.

You can offer incentives such as discounts or a free gift
to encourage referrals. Regardless of whether or not the
referred party makes a purchase, be sure to thank your
customer for the referral -- reward his behavior and
he'll be more inclined to repeat it.

__Write and Distribute Articles, Reports, eBooks...

Create useful free content and include a brief blurb
about your product along with a URL. Encourage people
to pass it around. Indicate that websites and newsletter
editors are welcome to offer it as a gift, bonus, or
premium to their vistors, subject to your publishing
guidelines.

If you do this consistently, you can eventually have
thousands of links back to your business all over the
web! And the more people pass it around, the more
exposure you'll get.

You can do this with practically anything: articles,
columns, lists, reports, eBooks, software, worksheets...
use your imagination!

__Joint Ventures.

Approach complementary businesses with win-win proposals.
A simple and common 'JV' is an ad swap: you each publish
one another's solo ads to your respective lists. You both
avoid paying out-of-pocket expenses and have the
opportunity to reach a new group of targeted prospects.

Another 'twist' to this common JV is to send endorsed ads
to one another's lists. Review each other's products and,
if it's worthy, mail an endorsed message to your readers.
Endorsements usually outperform 'regular' ads because it
comes from someone the readers trust (the editor).

The beauty of the Internet is that it allows you to run a
business with very little money. The 'secret' is knowing
which of the available free resources are worth your time!

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About Article Author

Angela Wu
Angela Wu

_________
Angela is the editor of Online Business Basics, a practical
guide to building an Internet business on a shoestring
budget. If you're tired of hype and just want solid,
down-to-earth information, then visit us now -- and in
moments you can have access to loads of instantly useable
tips, specifically chosen for beginners!
http://onlinebusinessbasics.com/article.html

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