Small Business Marketing During Tough Times: 5 No Cost Things You Can Do

you got this written on streetIn times of crisis, such as a global pandemic, one of the first costs that companies cut is often their marketing budget. They may turn their focus and dollars to customer retention, and unpaid and organic avenues of marketing. This is an especially hard decision if you’re a small business owner and you need to save money when business has slowed way down.

As the old adage says: you have to spend money to make money, so you may feel stuck if you suddenly cut off your typical paid-marketing activities or tools. But there’s plenty you can do on your own that will help the overall findability of your website, increase your brand awareness–while offering long-term value. Following are marketing ideas for small businesses.

1. Improve SEO on Your Website with Small Tweaks

Tuning up your website with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices is always a good idea. Especially if it was never performed in the first place. It’s well worth it to hire a professional to conduct an SEO audit of your site, and then put a strategy and implementation plan in place, but that’s not what we’re talking about in this post. It’s good to know that there are several easy things you can do on your own, for free, to help your website’s SEO.

In general, here are some things you can do:

  • Review the meta data on every page of your site. Ensure there are unique title tags, meta description tags, and image alt tags.
  • Check your site for broken internal links and relink, redirect, or remove them. Broken links downgrade you in Google’s eyes. There are many tools out there that will crawl your site for broken links and give you the list.
  • Look for old pages with duplicate or incomplete content that are no longer linked in the site, but are still published. Often, these old pages make their way into Google’s index. Update, or unpublish, old pages to make sure Google is getting the best and most accurate information.
  • Ensure your site is mobile-responsive. If your theme is not mobile-responsive, update it to one that is.

There’s more detail on making SEO tweaks in our post: 3 Ways to Boost Your Website Traffic Without Breaking a Sweat

2. Write Blog Posts During Your Downtime: it’s Part of Business Marketing! 

You know how you always say you don’t have time to write blog posts even though you know they would help with your organic (unpaid traffic from search) website traffic? Well, many of us are finding ourselves with more time, thanks to the pandemic. And unfortunately the reason for that extra time is often due to a loss of clients, projects, or sales. So, if you are in this situation, instead of letting the down time drag your spirits south, try using the time to catch up on writing great content for your website.

Blog posts are one of the best ways to drive organic traffic to your website because it’s a way you can continually add fresh content for search engines to crawl. And search engines like to see an active website that is consistently adding content. And not just any content. Long-form content (longer blog posts in the 1,200-2,000 word range) that is search engine optimized is best. That’s the stuff search engines like to see, and they will reward you by increasing your page rank and thus you get more traffic to your website.

So, writing new content is a free way to improve your website. And if you get in the writing zone, bang out as many different posts as you can, saving some for later, and dole them out weekly or bi-weekly. Then, when you don’t have extra time, or don’t feel the writing muse, you still have something ready to post.

3. Expand Upon Your Main Page Content to Help with Organic Search

If you launched your site years ago, and haven’t changed or updated your main pages since then, it’s a good idea to do a site audit. You might find more out of date than you think, and you might find that now that you know your business and customers better, you can better speak to your value proposition. Take the time to review your webpages such as services, products, about and contact. See if there’s more that can be added to explain what you are offering, or if anything needs to be changed.

Or, there may have been recent important changes in your industry that will necessitate modifying your content. Conducting research could help you make your content more comprehensive than it was in the past. Similar to blog content, it’s helpful to have rich content on all of your pages. Therefore, doing a content refresh on your main pages will be helpful for organic search as well.

4. Set Up e-Commerce on Your Website to Expand Upon Your Sales

If you haven’t previously sold your product on your website but need a way to boost sales, adding a simple e-Commerce solution can be of help. Full, integrated e-Commerce tools are costly, but if you don’t have the budget for that there is still a good option available. If you sell a few simple products (simple meaning not in a wide variety of sizes/colors) you can add a PayPal payment button to your existing website and this can be a quick and easy solution (requires a PayPal business account).

Learn more about adding e-Commerce to your website

5. Refine Your Social Media Presence: Develop a Business Marketing Strategy

social media on phoneIf you are not fully using social media to market your business, . . , um, why on earth not?! Or, if you have only been giving your social media a lackluster effort, and your post frequency is inconsistent, you are missing out on good opportunities to market yourself. Yes, you can see some good traction from running paid social media ads, but if you don’t have that in the budget, it’s still valuable to work on improving your channels.

Start by reassessing your channels and look at the following:

  • Is your brand consistent across all of your channel profiles?
  • What kind of engagement are you getting with each channel? What does your audience find relevant?
  • Is your content largely aimed at your buyer personas, ie target audience?
  • How could you improve the quality and value-add your content?
  • How often do you post? Is it often enough?

After you answer these questions you might consider creating a content calendar to help you focus your content and keep you on track. Sample social media content calendars can be found online and you will want to populate them with everything from the actual content, days and times of posts, hashtags to use with particular posts, other accounts to tag, and links to photos to use.

Getting Creative Pays off Long-term for Your Small Business

Taking the time to re-assess your small business marketing efforts is never a bad thing, even if you are forced to do it in times of crisis. In fact, cutting your marketing budget will force you to get very creative with your spending and what you can do to help your business. While you hang on tight to weather the storm that a global pandemic creates, looking at things from a fresh angle, developing new content, and ensuring your are targeting the right audience, are all exercises that will pay off in the long run.

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