Spring 2012
Money for Nothing! By Melissa Kellogg

No such thing as a free lunch? Think again! Here are five ways to market your store online for free.

You can effectively market your business online for free and increase traffic to your store whether you sell products online or not. The no-cost tools assembled here are relatively easy-to-use, tailored for small businesses and worth the investment of time. Use them in addition to social media marketing like Facebook and Twitter, which are also free. You have nothing to lose and only new customers to gain!

Stake your claim. One of the best places to get your business noticed online is to make sure you have claimed and fully populated your free listing available with the top search engines, namely Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Besides being free, these listings will give your business added legitimacy.

Google Places

According to Google, 97 percent of consumers search for local business information using its search engine. Yet only about 60 percent of local businesses have claimed their Places page. Are you one of the 40 percent who has not? Claiming your “Places” page means registering your business for free on the Google website. The website walks you through the registration process and confirms that you are your business’s authorized representative. Using Google Places you can add information about your store and products—photos, videos, hours, location information as well as any additional information. A fantastic added bonus is that your business will come out near the top for Google searches of local businesses.

Google.com/places

Yahoo!

Claiming and populating your Yahoo! Local listing will render you near the top of Yahoo! listings. Visit listings.local.yahoo.com to set up. Just as with your Google Places page, once you have your listings page set up you can re-visit it at anytime to change and freshen content. Keeping the content, such as photos and videos updated, will help keep your business higher in search rankings.

Listings.local.yahoo.com

Bing

Microsoft’s search engine, Bing.com, has continued to grow in usage and has recently added the option for local businesses to claim and update their listing on its site. You can find and claim your listing in one of two ways. You can either visit bing.com/businessportal and click the button to “Get Started Now” or you can search for your business at bing.com by entering the type of your business along with city and state, such as “Gift Shops, Hanover, MA.” You will see a group of listings come up with a map alongside. Click on your business if you see it there. At the bottom of the page you’ll see a link that says, “Change your business listing” and you can click there to get started

Bing.com/businessportal

Yelp

Yelp’s popularity has increased exponentially after it became the search engine of choice for local businesses and customer reviews on the Apple iPhone. Yelp’s main focus is helping people find the local businesses they are looking for and providing customer reviews of those same businesses. Visit yelp.com to see if your store has any customer reviews and what customers have been saying about your store. Shoppers can write reviews of your business even if you have not set up a Yelp page.

Set up your free Yelp page at biz.yelp.com/support. The website will walk you through the process of finding your business, creating an account and then verifying that you are the business’s authorized representative. Having a listing on consumer review sites like Yelp will also help you come up higher in search engines.

biz.yelp.com/support

YouTube

Most of us think of YouTube as a place to watch videos of cute kids and skateboarding dogs but it is also one of the web’s top search engines and a great place to market your business for free. Consider using YouTube to market your business by posting a few videos that you can also use on your store’s website.

How to get started? How about an informational video? A Middleton, MA gift shop filmed a tour of its store and product line presented by the owners of the family-owned shop. Or perhaps consider an educational video that shows holiday decorating techniques or provides instruction on using or setting up a popular product you sell. If you have a flair for being entertaining, consider shooting a video or two for entertainment value. As requested by his viewers, a small-town blender manufacturer filmed wacky items being put in a blender. The silly series of videos garnered over five million views. Once you have a video to upload, visit YouTube.com and click on the “Upload” link to set up a free account and get started.

In order to get greater viewership, website traffic and ultimately sales, make sure your videos direct viewers back to your website. Make sure you embed your videos on the store website using the link provided by YouTube. Do not install the video directly on your site as it will likely be a drag on your bandwidth and just annoy website visitors. When uploading a video, choose your keywords carefully; consider business name, specialties, and any terms that would be used by your niche market or community. Remember to share your videos on your social media pages such as Facebook and add them to your Google Places, Yahoo! and Bing pages. Now that Google owns YouTube, having YouTube content on your website will help you come up higher and more frequently in search engine rankings.

youtube.com

Melissa Kellogg

Kellogg is a freelance writer specializing in mountain home and living trends, marketing, real estate and business. She is based in Edwards, CO, and is a regular contributor to Mountain House & Home magazine. Her work has also been published in various newspapers and magazines, such as Beaver Creek Magazine and the Vail Daily.




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