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For many small business owners, shelling out thousands of dollars a month for online marketing just isn't in their budget. Thankfully, the internet and many of the best channels to reach prospective new clients are absolutely free. When it comes to niche businesses, you're in an even better position. Today I'm going to be sharing how you can use SEO, content marketing, and social media to connect with your niche audience online, for FREE!

In this episode, I answer a question from Travis Allison of http://camphacker.tv

Here's Travis's question.

If I have more time than money to invest in growing my business what would you recommend I do to focus on growing a small, niche business?

When the finical resources aren't there, you can make up a ton of ground with time. In the video below I share the same three tactics I've invested in since the beginning to turn my small side project into my full-time career.

Video Transcript

Let's get started. In this episode I'm going to answer a question from Travis Allison from camphacker.tv. He asked, "If I had more time than money to invest in my business, what type of channels or marketing would I use to really help grow and promote my niche business online?"

The great thing about the internet is a majority of it is free. Whether we're talking about blogging platforms or social media or having access to the search engines, we can do that without spending really any money at all. What I want to talk about in this episode is how can you use the internet - how can you use SEO, content marketing, and social media - to really maximize your brand's exposure without spending one single dollar. Let's get into it.

First, we're going to talk about SEO. The great thing about niche businesses is you have a very targeted audience. People are looking for specific things and there may only be a couple of options out there. When you're doing keyword research, when you're trying to understand what your audience is looking for, you don't have to really go very far and really dive deep into these obscure terms to try to grab more traffic because your target is already smaller. What you want to do, especially when it comes to SEO is create really good content that asks those very specific questions that your audience is already asking.

You really want to start with content. You need to have a blog or you need to be on a platform that you can write a lot and answer those questions. People, that's what they're doing when they go to the search engines. They're looking for answers to their problems. Then you also need to get backlinks. We know that backlinks are a huge indicator and a huge factor when it comes to ranking. The worst thing you can do is go to Fiverr and buy links or really outsource your links to somebody who doesn't know what they're doing.

Again, the great thing about niche industries is that you have community. One of the best ways to build or create or earn backlinks is to do it through building community. That's what the internet is all about. It's about creating connections. Use your connections to guest blog maybe on somebody else in your industry's blog. Maybe it's a co-related industry that kind of serves some of the similar problems. Maybe you guys can work on some content together, cross promote each other. Find specific messaging boards or smaller internet communities that you can get on, begin to provide value and usually you also have an ability to have a link on those communities as well.

Having that more niche focus, that very specific driven industry, you're going to have a much better chance of getting these really high quality, really contextually related links to that content that you're developing and that could really help drive up your search ranking. That's completely free traffic. It does take time. It takes time investing in the content but it also takes time investing in the relationships so that you continue to build those and nurture those online so that you can start to earn those quality links. That's really going to help you grow more traffic, more visibility and in the long run actually help you convert better because we already know that search leads, SEO leads convert at about 14 to 15%. That's a lot more than you would through traditional advertising which is right around 1.5 to 2%.

Now we're going to talk about content marketing. We hit on this a little bit in the first section when we talked about SEO, but content marketing really goes a little bit beyond that. Yes, you want to have good content that's going to rank but you also want to have your good content that's natively going to do well whether that be on your blog or also in a content community or social media. You want to write quality content. That's a really, really hard term to define because quality isn't really dictated by you as much as it is by your users.

The best way to create good content is to answer questions that people actually have. Provide value. Educate them. I feel like a lot of people are still afraid to share their secrets online, share their secret sauce or whatever makes them tick. The reality is, people, want to know more about you and how you do what you do. When you share that with them, more times than not they're going to come to you and ask for advice or even hire you because of your expertise. They're not just going to take what they have and run with it. If they do, so be it. You've got one more person promoting your ideas and sharing what you've done online.

When you blog and when you do content marketing I recommend that you have your own blog housed on your own site. That's going to really build the equity of your website and prove to Google that you've got a lot of great content, but you also want to use some of the other channels available to you.

You want to reach out in other communities and write on Medium which is a great platform right now and is very popular but there's also a lot of really focused and niche groups on Medium where you can really drive your thought leadership there. Think about using LinkedIn Pulse or some of the other platforms that are out there. Some of them are really niched to a specific industry. For me, yes it helps my search ranking but I also write for Search Engine Land which is a blog. It helps get my name out there. It helps me to share a little bit of my background, a little bit of my knowledge in this industry to a larger group of people. I don't just do that for search engine ranks, I do that for brand equity and I also do that because it pushes me and helps me learn and helps me continually stay in this learning standpoint because if I stay stagnant I'm not going to have anything to say. I get deeper and I try to read and see what other people are doing and challenge myself.

Content marketing really doesn't just help you boost your image, it actually helps you formulate why you do what you do better. It helps you communicate that better. Start feeling out and using the different channels available to you.

You can do video content like the one you're watching right now on YouTube. You can do images. You can do slide shares. There's so many ways you can use content to educate people to help them better understand what you do especially when you're in a niche community because not a lot of people are taking the time to build these really, really great pieces of helpful content out there. If you're the one that's doing it, you're the one that's putting the extra time and effort into it, you're the one that's going to see the benefit in the long run.

We talked about SEO, we've talked about content marketing. Let's get into social media. Social media is a pretty big deal. We literally have a billion people on Facebook now. There are hundreds of millions of people on all the other platforms. The world is saturated with social media, with getting connected. There's also a problem with it. We're doing this while we're also watching a movie and then we also have our laptop open and maybe we have our tablet open while we're also scrolling through our favorite social channel on our phone.

People are distracted. If you want to get people's attention, you have to give them a reason to connect with you. A lot of businesses don't really take the time to invest in good content or to invest in a good social program to where they actually draw people in. What happens is people just start to ignore you or gloss over you or unfollow you. Then social media doesn't really work so well and they think, well this is just a fad, it's not going to work.

Social media is around and it's going to be around for a while. Yes, people get sucked into it. Yes, people probably spend too much time on it but it can also be a great place for you to promote your business. What you have to do, what businesses in every level have to remember is, you need to be social. If you start interacting with people and treating people like people and you have conversations with them on social media, you post good content but then you also engage with them, that's going to give them a reason to engage back. That's going to let them know that this business is actually caring. This business is actually taking some time to get to know me.

All the different channels are different. I would recommend spending a little bit of time on each one and finding out which works best for your industry. The great thing about social media, it's 100% free and there are tons and tons of people using it.

When it comes to marketing your business online, you don't have to have a huge budget to succeed but you do have to have time. If you've got that time where you can learn a little bit about SEO, you can learn a little bit about how to build a content strategy that really attracts your niche audience or have some time to really test out the different social platforms you can see a lot of success.

What I recommend is you just get in there and start doing it and start testing it because you're not going to know what's going to work for your audience until you start trying. That's where it starts, that's where it stops. You've got to start moving, you've got to start going and you've got to start testing your ideas. I just want to encourage you to get out there, start testing it, start seeing what works and if you've got any questions along the way, please feel free to hit me up or check out our blog at blog.smamarketing.net. We've got tons of great resources on there for you. Until next time, happy marketing.

Busy Business Owner

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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