Marketing a Low-Budget Service Site
You have a Web site for your service business.
You have a max of $1,000 a month to spend on marketing.
What do you do?
The objective of your advertising efforts will be to get a direct, measurable response -- to attract visitors to your site to use your services. You'll probably want to take a do-it-yourself approach to save costs. Here are some suggestions:
Directories and Search Engines
Suggested allocation: 30 percent of budget
The best way to bring targeted traffic to your site is to submit it to the major search engines and directories so potential customers can find it.
Prepare your site first by optimizing your pages for search engines' indexing procedures. Advice on how to do this can be found at the SearchEngineWatch site.
While many search engines offer free submission, there's no guarantee your page will get a good ranking even if you make every effort to optimize it. The only way to guarantee good placement for your chosen keywords is to pay for it.
PFP search engines allow you to bid for placement of your chosen keywords. Workz.com offers an explanation and some examples of how to calculate how much you should spend on PFP search engines, based on your budget.
Directories: The major directories, such as Yahoo!, are usually run by human editors, not the spiders search engines use. Prepare your Web site by putting valuable information on its pages; this is what editors look for.
Most major directories now require payment. The cost is well worth it as many of them distribute their listings to large directories, search engines and portals.
- LookSmart.com: $199 one-time fee.
- Open Directory: free.
- NBCi LiveDirectory: free.
- Yahoo!: $199. (The fee is for review of your site and doesn't guarantee your site will be listed.)
Suggested allocation: 25 percent of budget
A recent List Universe survey suggests that if you advertise in an e-zine at current rates, it would cost you $5 to reach 1,000 people. Of those 1,000, 1.25 percent will click through to your site, for a cost of 40 cents per click.
In comparison, if you advertise using banner ads, you'd pay $30.52 to reach 1,000 people. Of those 1,000, 0.4 percent will click through to your site, for an average cost $7.63 per click.
Banner ads do have their place on the Web -- as a branding exercise. But if you're on a low budget and want direct, measurable responses, you're better off advertising in e-zines.
Finding a place to advertise: Check out the free directories of e-zines, such as Topica.com, Ezine-Universe.com and Yahoo!Groups. Invest $40 in the Directory of E-Zines, a list of e-publishers that's published with the needs of e-zine advertisers in mind.
Or, try an ad placement service. Life Style Publishing's Ad Broadcast Campaign charges from $49 to $299, and E-Zine AdSource charges approximately $6 cost per thousand (CPM) impressions.
Suggested allocation: 25 percent of budget
Publishing your own e-zine for people who opt in, or sign up, to receive it is an excellent way for a small, unknown business to build customer loyalty and position you as an expert. For example, if you're running a legal advice service, you could write an e-zine that gives legal tips.
The main cost here will be the time you spend. Keep this time commitment in mind when calculating how much you can afford to invest in writing your e-zine. If it takes five hours to write your e-zine, and your hourly rate is $50 per hour, your effective cost is $250 per issue. If you've budgeted $500 per month to e-zine publishing, you'll want to publish two per month at most.
If you run an e-zine of more than 100 subscribers or so, you'll need a list manager -- software that adds and removes subscribers to and from you mailing lists. Free list management services on the Web include Topica and Yahoo!Groups.
If you want more control over your e-zine, you can rent or purchase an off-the-shelf package. For a smaller list (5,000 recipients or fewer), there's Mailloop ($399), which you install on your PC, or Mail-list.com, which allows you to run your list online for $100 per year for up to 50,000 subscribers.
E-Zine and Print Articles
Suggested allocation: 15 percent of budget
Many e-zine publishers will publish articles that include a few lines at the end describing the author's site and linking to it. This provides an opportunity to both display your expertise and promote your site. You'll need to take into account the time spent writing the article, as it's an expense.
To locate places to publish your articles, use the NewsDirectory site. Or submit your article to a "free content" Web site or an announcement list that connects publishers and writers of articles, such as EzineArticles.com or IdeaMarketers.
Suggested allocation: up to 5 percent of budget
If you have something newsworthy to say, send out a press release. The main expense will be your time.
Tips on how to write a good press release can be found at Press-Release-Writing.com.
Or you can use a paid press release distribution service, such as InternetNewsBureau.com ($250 and up), which distributes press releases to an international subscriber base of approximately 5,000 journalists who opt to receive press releases on selected topics.
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