How do I spend a limited Internet marketing budget?

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My small business has a few hundred dollars that I would like to spend to promote and market ourselves online.

However, there are so many options when it comes to Internet marketing that it is really hard to decide whether to go with PPC ads, pay a marketing consultant, publish a press release, etc.

Obviously, with such a limited budget, we would love to see some return - even if it is small. Mainly, I don't want to throw that money down the drain on advertising or marketing that only works with larger budgets.

What is the best Internet marketing strategy for a small business on a very limited budget?

The best way to spend a small Internet marketing budget

With a really tight marketing budget, you are going to have to be prepared to do some market research yourself. In particular, the goal of any great Internet marketing campaign is to get the right message in front of the right target audience, at the right time.

I believe that the fastest, easiest, and most effective way to do this is with...

1. Blogger & influencer outreach

It doesn't cost much to meet someone, right? If you can do it online it costs virtually nothing. If you have to drive across town to attend a meetup or convention, it's not that bad either. But the value you can derive from knowing someone who can put your brand/business in front of thousands, if not millions of people, is priceless.

Spend as much time and effort as possible reaching out to influential people in your niche - think about popular bloggers, journalists who write for sites you'd like to appear in, other business leaders who might find or offer new opportunities. The more people you know, the more likely you are to find opportunity for growth.

Unfortunately, building genuine relationships with influencers isn't as easy as it sounds. Any influencer who has value to you probably has value to thousands of other people like you - and they've been bombarding them with tweets, emails, offers, and anything else they can. I strongly recommend that you learn the basics of influencer marketing and then implement step 2 here.

2. Create & promote great content

Blogging is not only a great way to build up a strong content profile that ranks well in Google and generates plenty of juicy organic search traffic. It's also a fantastic way to go about building relationships with influencers (step 1).

With great content, written about influencers you want to make friends with, goes a long way to grabbing their attention. If someone contacts me with an email like this:

Hi David,

I loved your free beginner guides for small business entrepreneurs so much that I decided to include them in my best resources for entrepreneurs roundup, posted at XXXXXX.

I'd love it if you took a look and let me know what you think. If there are any changes required, let me know.

Regards,
...

I am almost certainly going to read their article (that's already much more than I do for the average piece of spam email asking me to link to them), and if I like it I will most likely share it socially and follow that person. If I really like it I will keep it in mind to link to when there's an appropriate time to do it.

In other words, by doing something for an influencer before (or without) asking anything in return, you are far more likely to succeed in building quality backlinks to your content - which is the ultimate goal of promoting content.

3. Paid content on high quality sites

Post a great article or press release to a high quality, niche site. The site you choose to publish on should be one that has the right niche audience for your business - don't approach a gardening blog if you are selling plane tickets.

Many quality websites offer facilities to sponsor content, or pay to publish a press release or article on their site. The benefit of this is that your article leverages their SEO pulling power and may climb the page rankings to drive lots of valuable organic search traffic.

In addition, a well targeted article on a influential site will continue to drive targeted search traffic for weeks, months, and possibly years to come, giving it a potentially fantastic ROI (Return On Investment).

Why avoid PPC ads

PPC (Pay Per Click) ads, via Google AdWords, are good at getting a focused message in front of a focused target audience.

But, PPC ads have no residual benefits, and often take a bit of time and skill to optimize properly. Before you have learned what really works well for your business, the budget will be spent with nothing to show for it.

SEO & content marketing takes time

You could invest that money into generating high quality content. I would always recommend this as a primary Internet marketing strategy for any business.

High quality content forms the basis of virtually all other aspects of online marketing, including social media marketing and email marketing. But, learning how to create great content also takes time, skill and patience - it takes a while before Google starts returning your content higher in the page ranks.

If you are looking for more immediate returns, then the compromise between PPC ads and blogging/SEO is high quality paid content on influential niche blogs. It's also important to make the content relevant to the readership of the site publishing your content.

Create entirely original articles for different sites to target their specific readership. This will ensure the best returns across the board. You might also find that the blog/site can also write content for you for an additional fee - if you are not confident in creating great SEO content using keyword research, etc.

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