21 Free or Low-cost ways to Promote your On-line business

By: Heather Diodati

After developing my product, having not much in my cookie jar to spend on promotion, I researched and found a lot of very effective promotional ideas that brought me success with my personalized cartoon business.

1) In the beginning...

Create your website. If you don’t know how, there are many free templates offered on the Internet. Search on "free website templates" to find one that appeals to you.

If you’d like to learn how to design your own website using HTML there are several tutorials out there:

Boogie Jack’s Dennis Gaskill has an excellent website with tutorials to get you started, along with many "tricks of the trade". An excellent resource! http://www.boogiejack.com/html_tutorials.html

Also, Joe Burns has a very informative and helpful website for all new and seasoned website designers; with HTML tutorials, primers and loads of "goodies" to add to your web pages http://www.htmlgoodies.com

2) 1000-Calorie Content

Fill your website with keyword-rich content. Write a description of your product or service and create your keywords to match the content in your description. For example, if you sell stuffed animals the keywords by which you’d want to be found in the search engines could be "stuffed toys, stuffed animals, plush animals, stuffed dogs, plush pets", etc.

3) Search Engine Buffet

Submit your site to search engines and directories, whether manually submitting through each or using a free multiple submission service that will submit your site automatically to search engines and directories of your choosing or theirs, depending upon the submission site you use. One such site is http://www.submitexpress.com

4) Chain Links

Exchange links with similar and complementary websites, but not your competitors - I don’t think you’ll hear from them! Email the site’s owner and ask for a reciprocal link. If they agree to add your link, return the favor and add their link on your site. You can create a special page for your favorite links or if you have only a few, simply add them to your main page or any other page on your site.

5) Snappy Sig-File

Create an interesting signature file to be automatically included at the end of your emails. A small, descriptive "blurb" about what you do along with your website address will do it!

6) Newsworthy

Write an ezine, or online newsletter. You can find interesting articles on any subject on the Internet that you can publish in your ezine (search on "free content") or even write some of your own (see #12). Decide whether your ezine will be produced monthly, biweekly, weekly or even daily if you have enough time and info to share! Always be sure to give the author proper credit! Include his byline at the end of his article and email him a copy of your ezine when it’s ready.

This site has a good article on how to write an ezine: http://www.thewritemarket.com/ezine.shtml

7) Extra! Extra!

Offer a gift for new subscribers. It can be a report that you wrote on a subject of interest that the new reader can download; or a small sample of your product, or even a coupon for 10% off your products or service.

8) What’s Behind Door #2?

Run a contest to name your ezine.

Create a special page with a subscription form on your site. Explain the details and prizes. List your contest on as many contest announcement sites that you can find or publish your contest on discussion groups and forums (see #10 and #11) and other newsletters.

Some contest announcement sites are:



The prizes you offer should be related to your business. You should have a deadline, say a month or so, and be sure to indicate the date on your contest page.

Example ad for contest:

** We need you! **

Get creative...Win prizes!

Our newsletter needs a name;

If we use yours, you win!


Publish the winners on your website and in your next ezine - newly-named, of course!

9) All in the Family

Submit your ezine to ezine lists such as http://www.list-a-day.com. They may even feature your ezine as their daily pick!

Other lists are:



10) Group Therapy

Join Yahoo groups and other similar newsgroups/discussion lists. Subscribe to similar ezines and then exchange ads with ezine owners. List your contest with group owners. Submit your articles too!



11) The Gift of Gab

Participate in discussions on various online forums and message boards, of course using your signature file! (search Online Forums) One such forum is http://www.ivillage.com/boards

12) Bank on this!

Write articles and submit them to article banks such as http://www.goarticles.com (search on Free Content) and groups (see #10). You can basically write about anything you know, write short stories about experiences you’ve had, helpful articles, your view on a subject you’re comfortable with, for example. Make sure you include your byline or writer’s resource box at the end of your article or story. This can be a short description of your business, a link to your website and a link to your subscription page.

How to write an article: http://www.freesticky.com/stickyweb/articles/write_article_profit_strategy.asp

And: http://www.accordmarketing.com/tid/archive/write.html

13) Please release me!

Write a press release about your business, your contest, an organization you’re sponsoring or anything you think is newsworthy. Send it to your local newspapers, to magazines and online press release services (see http://www.whimsies-online.com/newsrelease2.htm for an example)

Here’s an excellent article on how to write a press release: http://www.lunareclipse.net/pressrelease.htm

You can post your press release at http://www.prweb.com/

14) The Paper chase

If you get featured in your local paper or in a magazine, mention the story in ALL of your promotional materials. Scan it and add to your website or link to the original article if it’s available online.

15) Pick a card - any card!

Distribute your business cards EVERYWHERE. Print a money-saving coupon on the back. Voila! A double-duty card!

16) Fashion Plate

Wear your ads! No, put away that spray paint - it’ll clog your pores! I have t-shirts that I printed on using my color printer and t-shirt transfer paper. Print your logo and/or business name and website address, and wear your creation everywhere (but I’d rethink that black tie event, if I were you!)

For a low-cost logo, visit these guys: http://www.GotLogos.com.

They designed my logo for their flat rate of $25 and it is top- notch. I’d recommend them to anyone. Check out the logo they designed for me here:

http://www.whimsies-online.com - it’s at the very top of the page.

17) Nifty Gifty

Send an inexpensive but useful gift with each order. Helps your customer remember you and they might re-order from you at a later date. It can even be a coupon for 10% off their next purchase. One of my gifts is a laminated bookmark personalized with the customer’s name. It also shows a miniature edition of the cartoon they just ordered! Everyone loves personalized items. Another idea would be a personalized coaster using CD’s you no longer need, or the freebies you get in your mailbox (the metal mailbox outside your house, not the virtual kind!). See how to here: http://www.whimsies-online.com/cdcoasters.htm

Mention "gift with purchase" on your website and include the approximate value if they were to purchase it separately.

18) Mug Shot

Another idea would be to use your logo or a catchy phrase and your website address to print on mugs, mouse pads, and other items. Cafe Press prints the design you upload onto any articles you choose from their vast selection. They do the production, shipping, collecting the funds, and will send you your commission cheque. When you create your online store with them (they have a free version as well as an upgrade to a Premium Shop) be sure to include a link to your own website. Here’s an example: http://www.cafeshops.com/animal_house which links to http://www.whimsies-online.com/whimsieswear.htm

The Cafe Press website is http://www.cafepress.com

19) Happy Campers

Always ask for testimonials. Ask your customers and subscribers for a word or two about your product. If a customer has emailed you to thank you for the handy widget/thing-a- magig/whatchamacallit you sent them, ask if you can use their comments in your next ezine and your "testimonials" web page

20) Analyze this!

Send samples of your product to influential people for a testimonial or for a small write-up in their publication or website.

21) Ad-Vantage

There are many ezines and online companies that offer free ad submissions. Check out Bob Osgoodby’s website. He offers a free ad service (he also has three very informative ezines!). You can check out his site at http://www.adv-marketing.com/business/

These are just a bunch of creative ways to promote your online presence. Try some or all, and when you get the hang of it you’ll probably dream up some more. Have fun with them and see what works for you!

(c) 2004 DDesign Reprints of this article are free of charge as long as you include the author portion of the text

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