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The Fallacy of Free Advertising

by Angela Wu

The temptation to turn towards free marketing resources can
be an irresistable call, 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

  • 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!
    https://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,
    https://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
    https://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.

    (There is no such thing as a free lunch, you will wind up
    paying for it sooner or later.)

  • 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

    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!

Copyright © Angela Wu 2016.

About the Author:
Angela Wu 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!

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