How to market a small business online (without spending lots of money)

If you are interested in marketing small businesses, here we outline several options that you can follow to market any business online without spending a fortune. Interestingly there are also offline strategies that we have used previously, for both clients and our own business, offering a good return on a modest investment but today we are focusing on pure online techniques.

Step 1 – get your website right!

Before telling the world how great you are first its worth checking that everything online is a good as it could be. The easiest approach is to review your own website, trying to put yourself in a third parties head, so that you can decide if any work needs to be undertaken on your website first. Think about your website in terms of:

  • Content: the words and images on your site. Does it read well? Does it explain immediately what you offer? Are the images conveying the feeling your want your audience to feel?
  • Design: As a creative agency we understand the value of good design but if design is not your area of strength perhaps ask your network what they think about your website or perform some simple benchmarking against several other companies in your space.
  • The build: Our favourite! A well-built website will perform well without any additional offsite work in terms of search engine optimization. Try and avoid including files that are not needed, using more code than required or having a website that is hosted where there will be an impact on site speed.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is the most cost-effective marketing tool that any business can use. Unfortunately, it is also an area where many companies offer a service that substandard. It’s actually very easy to understand so let’s start with the basics.

SEO is simply trying to attract more traffic from people searching Google (other search engines do exist) for specific phrases. The aim is to get your website to rank as high up in Google as possible for the phrases which are important to you although these days the results will vary for users based on location, search history, etc.

Search engine optimization should be viewed in terms of onsite SEO and offsite SEO:

  • Onsite is the things on your website itself that will benefit you. For example, how it is coded, what the pages names and URLs are, how quickly it loads, the actual words, etc.
  • Offsite is the key to SEO. By this think about Google as a voting system where websites vote for each other and Google counts the website votes based on how important that site is. So, if you can attract more links from quality websites your website will then rank better than it would without that link.

Social media

A modern extension of arguably the most effective marketing tool: “words of mouth”. Social media can be incredibly effective if used well but we would urge caution to anyone that is looking to outsource the social media marketing of their small business.

To get the most of out social media you really need to engage with your target market, but this can only be done if you are knowledgeable and passionate about your subject and by paying a marketing agency to do this it is very unlikely to generate results. This is the main reason why we have never offered social media marketing as the cost of doing this properly will be considerable away from a business owners time.

When our clients ask about social media our answer is always the same: if you are interested in using it for your business why not spend an hour a day building an audience and starting conversations and see where it takes you. If you see something, then you can do more and equally you can always reduce the time after an initial campaign.


Most businesses, especially in certain sectors for example web design or bar and restaurant websites, have well known websites that offer customer reviews. Whilst reviews should only be explored ethically, so avoid the dodgy companies offering paid for reviews, you can certainly encourage your customers to leave reviews about your service. In our experience most people are happy to share their experience if you have done a good job (the opposite is also true!) so don’t be afraid to ask people to share their experience.
Would you like any advice?

If you are interested in marketing a small business and potentially engaging with an online marketing agency with experience in working with small businesses, then please get in touch. One of our team will be happy to listen to your aims, the marketing campaigns that you have done so far and then, hopefully, we can offer some ideas on how we can help you.

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