Free Advertising Ideas For Online Business

In today's economy it is important for every small business to utilize as many free advertising services as they can get their hands on. These ideas should make the advertising process a little easier.

Host a Contest or Event

This will open up new avenues for free advertising. There are many websites out there dedicated to informing people about contests and events that its members might be interested in. Charge a small entry fee to cover the cost of the prizes and you will get traffic from a group of people who might not otherwise find you.

Local Free Advertising

Call up a local newspaper to do a human interest story or business story for your company. Also, submit your own articles to local papers and magazines for consideration. This method of free advertising works best for non-metropolitan areas but it never hurts to try. The worst thing a person can tell you is no!

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Learning SEO techniques is one of the best free advertising techniques. A few tips include using only a couple keyword terms per page, maintaining a .5% -5% keyword density rate, utilizing your meta tags and image tags, creating and submitting XML sitemaps, as well as using keywords in your URL.

Personal Touches

Adding personal touches to your business is a great way to get repeat clientele or a good way to close a sale. Send personalized emails, newsletters about not only your services but also your family or friends, insert gifts with every purchase or even jot a quick thank you note and mail it to tell your customer that they really matter to you.

Free Article Submission

Submitting SEO rich articles to article submission sites can be a great way to advertise your website or services. Do not, however, submit the same articles that are on your website. Search engines penalize duplicate content. Instead you should rewrite a few of your articles first.

Link Building

The more inbound, one-way links your website has the higher it will rank in search engines. These inbound links work best if the websites linking to you are relevant to your main focus. These links are the only ones that search giant Google recognizes. To build links you can post blogs or guest blog for someone, submit articles and press releases for syndication, email webmasters, post in forums and comment on blogs. Remember that these links are not only for the search engines, they can also drive legitimate traffic.

Free Classified Advertising

Submitting a well worded link into a free classified can return decent traffic. Describe your website in an intriguing way and curious people will click your link.

Social Networking

Websites like MySpace and Facebook can be great sites to advertise through. You can build a website just for your business and advertise directly to your "friends". My personal technique for acquiring friends involves seeking out groups with an interest in my topic and requesting friend adds from those members. If you only request 20 -40 friends a day you will not likely be marked as spam. The key to getting friends is to type up a seemingly personal message without any links;

"Hi, I noticed you are a chef. My website is running a recipe contest. You should check it out!"

I've found that notes like this in a friend request results in about 1 of every 3 people I approach adding me as a friend. Once your friend list is established you can blog, email or post announcements about your business.

Social Bookmarking

A new trend in online advertising involves social bookmarking sites like Digg and StumbleUpon. See www.AddThis.com for your own social bookmarking button. It is now (practically) mandatory for all websites to allow for social bookmarking. If you have viral content on your website it can really pay off.

Viral Videos

Diet coke and mentos, exploding bathtubs, and bikes playing Guitar hero videos made for close to nothing. If you have a video camera it is worth a shot to try to post a viral video on YouTube. Of course this is no easy task. It is impossible to tell what will become viral. Other video options involve posting information relevant to your site. You can make a simple slideshow with music and text with Microsoft MovieMaker. Place a link to your site on your videos and in your profile. Over time you should reap results.

Free Alternate Directory Submissions

There are many online directories aimed at specific interests. These directories look to help consumers find the best websites and information available. To find these directories simply search a relevant term and "directory".

Engagement Photography Tips, Article 2

Are You Serious?

If you are — don’t be! When you go out to have your engagement photos taken by a friend, you need to have a good time. Focus solely on your fiancé and your love for them. Enjoy spending time with them! Too many people focus on the camera and get nervous and uptight: and it shows in the photos.

Hopefully your fiancé is the only person in the world that can help you forget about everything else – which would include the camera…

Do Your Homework

Planning for an engagement session will usually improve the quality of the results. Here are a few steps I would suggest you take as you begin planning:

Run Google searches for “engagement photography” and “engagement photos.” Look for images that you think you and fiancé could imitate. Print off about 20 of your favorite images. Go over them with your fiancé and narrow the list down to the ones that both of you really like and think will be possible. Then, show those to your friend who will be taking your pictures. Whittle the samples down even further based upon their thoughts and feedback. Try to end up with 5 or 10 sample images that everyone is excited about.

Look closely at those sample photos to see what types of location are being used and what the lighting looks like. A lot of engagement photos are taken in either a park or city location. I would suggest driving around and scouting possible photo locations for the session. But don’t just do a “drive-by scouting”! Get out of your car with your camera and take actual photos inside each park of the locations you think would work best. Compare your snapshots with the sample photos you printed off.

You can also do internet research by looking at the web sites of local wedding photographers. While your previous search for engagement photography would have returned nation-wide results, the goal of this research is to see where the local wedding pros are shooting their engagement sessions. You’ll likely recognize some of the parks and buildings that they are working in and near.

Lots of Photos

Hopefully your friend will be using a digital camera. That way they can take lots of images without worry about film expense. Sometimes the difference between an average photo and a great photo is simply changing the angle and perspective of the camera!

This point was really driven home to me with some recent engagement photo sessions I have done. I am in the process of creating an eBook to help couples take top-notch engagement photos. I had another photographer help me out with several engagement sessions. Together, we shot about 600 photos during each two-hour engagement session. During the session, I would often setup and take photos of the couple. While I was doing so my assistant would be moving around and photographing the same scene at different angles. Afterwards, I would look at the photos I took and also some of the side-angles my assistant shot at those same times–and there is often a night and day difference between the two. The couple didn’t move or change their pose; the only difference was the angle at which the image was taken!

So, once you have found a good location for your photo session and you and your fiancé are in position — let your photographer snap away! Don’t limit the shots they’re taking!

And again: have fun with the session. Smile a ton. Laugh a lot. Make the photo session a special memory that you and your fiancé will share for a lifetime.

Personal Budgeting: An Imperative

Budgeting is a basic part of accountancy.

Nations, states, cities, towns and every incorporated company have budgets. Every private company, or other commercial entity, worth its salt has a formal budget. So why is it that the vast majority of people do not use a formal budget in their private lives? They do budget of course. We all do in one way or another. But very, very few people have a good enough memory to successfully budget informally – that is, without writing it down. And it's when we forget to allow for some expense that we get into trouble. We get into debt. Is not that just about the worst feeling in the world – to be in unplanned debt?

To be poor is a sad experience – it's a state of mind. To be broke is an uncomfortable experience – but it's a temporary condition. To be in unplanned debt can be gut wrenching. And generally speaking, unplanned debt is just plain carelessness.

Why then does it happen? Simply because in the days before computers and calculators budgeting was a boring and time-consuming task. There was an awful lot of adding up to do and the darned thing had to be continuously adjusted as time went by, usually every month at least. So it was not surprising that most people just did not bother and as the generations passed by, so did the practice of ordinary people not preparing budgets for their personal finances. They just did not think that the value derived from maintaining a personal budget was worth the time consumed.

So what's changed? One very important factor: personal computers – they've just made it so easy that if you do not budget, you're making life unnecessarily difficult for yourself. It is now well and truly worth the very small investment of time to input a few lines of data every week. Because from that the computer can give you more financial reports than one person is ever likely to need. It will produce reports on tax payments; about what you've sent; about where you've spent it, about what you've spent it on and it will do that for any given period of your choosing. It'll find transactions that you've forgotten about but that suddenly you really need to know about. It will tell you how much money you will have in the bank next Christmas (or what you've got to stop spending money on so that you will have the amount of money you need in the bank next Christmas.)

The really big thing is that you will be in charge of your finances. It makes it so easy to explain to your dependents – be it spouse, partner or children; just exactly what the household can afford to spend, on what and when. Ninety-five percent of the arguments about money will go out the window because people will be able to see clearly what can and can not be done. If we buy you that cell phone, we will not be able to buy that game. You get the idea.

What software is best? Well there's no shortage of it. It's not expensive. The best is less than a hundred dollars and you'll save that in no time flat. Check out the choices available, and choose the one which best suits your personal needs. It will be well worth whatever you decide to invest in it. And it will most definitely save you lots of headaches and heartaches in the long run, if used properly.

Your Business Mission – What the Heck Do You Do, Anyway?

Do you really need a business mission statement? Is it just some fancy words to put in that business plan that collections dust on your shelf, or is there really more to it?

One of the key attributes of successful businesses is that they clearly know what they do. Defining the goal or the "mission" of your business can be the key to your success.

A good mission statement does three things:

"States what business you are in." Defines your target market. "Provides inspiration for your business.

One of the best examples of a mission statement comes from Levi Strauss & Co. [http://www.levistrauss.com/Company/ValuesAndVision.aspx]

"We will market and distribute the most appealing and widely worn apparel brands. Our products define quality, style and function. We will clothe the world."

Clothing the world is a pretty lofty goal, but Levi Strauss has the ability to do this for one reason — Their founder, Levi Strauss, started the business with a mission and focus.

Levi started his wholesale dry goods business in San Francisco February, 1853. Rather than hoping to make his fortune in the Gold Rush, he created a fortune by wholesaling clothing and fabric to the small stores supplying the thousands of miners and later, families of the West.

In 1872, he was contacted by Jacob Davis, a tailor who had developed a method to rivet the stress points of the pants he made from fabric he bought from-you guessed it — Levi Strauss. Jacob did not have the funds to patent the process, so he teamed up with Levi Strauss to patent the original blue jean in 1873. The rest is history.

Now, if Levi Strauss was your typical small business, he would probably have spun off in ten different directions in their early years, but the company remained focused on supplying quality clothing and fabrics to the working men and women of the West, and later the world. Rather than focusing on their core market, they would have fallen into the AFAB method … Anything for a Buck.

Most small businesses suffer from this lack of focus.

When we work with struggling business owners, the first thing we ask them is "What is your bread and butter?" What one product or service provides you with the majority of your business profit?

Unfortunately, most business owners can not answer that question. They did not define their core product or service and target market when they started, and end up doing a little bit of everything, and nothing well.

Or, they focus most of their time on a product or service line that they like, without knowing whether it actually is their most profitable.

Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this problem.

You have to determine your gross profit margin from each of your product lines or services. Get together with your accountant, and figure out what you need to do to separate your revenue and expenses by the major product lines of your business. Then, you can find out your gross profit margin, or the percentage of gross profit you receive from each activity.

The product or service with the highest gross profit margin is your core business activity. It is the bread and butter of your business, and the key to your company profits.

Now, you must focus as much of your company resources as possible on this core activity. Market it, systemize it, and turn your business into a machine for duplicating this product or service over and over again.

What happens?

Well, rather than running around like a chicken with your head cut off, putting out fires all over your business, you suddenly have the focus to know where to spend your time and energy. You know your core, and you can work to make a good thing even better.

This focus will transform your business and your life.

Remember the term "Jack of All Trades, but Master of None"? You can not really really good at something without focus, and focusing on your most profitable core product or service will make your business even more efficient.

Does this mean that you should never expand beyond your core? Of course not, but you must make sure you are really good at your core product or service before you venture into different directions. Creating a strong bread and butter business will give you the base necessary to expand.

Your core product or service is the foundation for your business. Build it well.