Networking for the small business owner – free advertising

I have loved messing with computers since I was a kid with a TRS-80 Color Computer hooked up to my TV with a tape recorder drive. Prior to becoming a lawyer, I was a web programmer and database developer. I embrace technology. This has its limits, of course. I barely understand twitter and am certainly not taking advantage of it – my wife is the iphone and digital music person, not me.

There may be a purpose for search optimization companies, and for adwords with google, and for any of the many other web marketing schemes out there. But for the business owner with a tight or non-existent marketing budget, these are moot questions.

Here is my free web marketing plan that can be implemented in an afternoon, and if you are reading this, you have the skills to implement it.

  • Have a website – it can be a free single page with your address and phone number on it, free from yahoo or google or hopefully, something a little more polished.
  • get a commercial page on facebook (cost: free). These are separate from personal profiles, but you can encourage everyone you know who uses facebook to become a fan of your page. You can link a blog, website and publicize events on this page.
  • go to local.google.com and make sure your business is included as a basic listing (cost:free) be sure to include business hours, if appropriate, and as much information as possible. yahoo local has an almost identical free business directory.
  • now think like a client for a second, and do a google web search for your business. notice that the google local listings show up first. Is your business there (there may be a lag as google validates the business)? If you are not but your competitor is, click on his link, see what he has done, and incorporate it into your profile.
  • look at the next listings. While they may be titled the name of a competitor, if you click on the link or just examine it, most of these links will be for other directory services, either general or industry specific. Click on the link and see what it takes to join that network – many will offer free basic listings.
  • at this point I diverge from free advertising. You may discover a well-placed directory that requires payment. I use lawyers.com. Other business people I know swear by angie’s list. However, if you could not see this directory very quickly in the first result page of google and/or yahoo, it is not worth being paid for.

Repeat this process for both google and yahoo, exploring every link you find in the first results page (maybe into the second) for different appropriate search terms. In no more than an hour or 2, you should find at least half a dozen free places to put the word out about your business. If you know of industry specific search pages, look at those too. Each link to your site improves your original website’s natural placement in google and yahoo searches.

I’ve used this process for my own business, The Law Office of Eric J. Smith in Arlington, Texas. I also used it to help market Atomic Subs & Wings in Arlington, Texas. A quick Arlington search for probate lawyer in Arlington or buffalo wings will show the results.

E.