How to promote effectively your ecommerce business (with zero budget!)
Your online shop is finished. You have built it – but are there any visitors coming? Well, this depends on how good a job you will do with promotion. By building a professional online shop, by offering the best products in it, and by optimizing it and starting to produce content, you have done only the first steps.
That is because you also need to let your target market know about all this. If nobody knows about how great blog posts you write, what kind of problems you solve with your products, you will not rank high on the hit lists of the search engines either (since you will lack user feedback, which is the most valued by Google).
Therefore, in the following, we will give you a complete guide to what techniques you can use to promote your brand, your products and your content: from social media to link building.
What we are going to talk about:
How to take advantage of social media?
- Tips for all channels
- Online store on Facebook
- LinkedIn: professional content on a professional channel
- YouTube: you can capture everyone’s attention with videos
- Youtube SEO
- What kind of video content is it worthwhile for you to make?
- Twitter: start a discussion!
- Pinterest: your interactive catalogue
- More images! ‒ Instagram
- How should you use Instagram?
- The unexploited Tumblr
- Choose a specific topic
- Tumblr and SEO
Ecommerce store and search engine marketing: how to rank high?
- Use the price comparison sites
- Place yourself on Google Places
- SEO for your online shop
- Monitor the analytics
- Optimize for mobile devices
- Get ratings
Link building: turbo charge SEO, be visible, attract organic traffic
- Ask for ratings of your site!
- Include your link in your signature
- Mention your brand wherever you can
- Bloggers and opinion leaders
Promotional ideas that need no budget
- Give something in exchange for shares
- Try viral content
- Affiliate marketing: take advantage of resale
- Make use of the power of content
Final conclusion: promotion is not expensive but it is hard work
How to take advantage of social media?
Tips for all channels
Before going through in detail how you can exploit each channel the most efficiently, there are some tips that you should keep in mind in all cases:
- Your introduction should be short and straightforward.
- Always include the link of your online shop in your bio.
- Use your logo and the image colours as your profile photo, thus you will provide a consistent experience for the consumers.
- Never spam.
Online store on Facebook
Let’s start at the beginning: your own, personal Facebook profile can also be used for the promotion of the ecommerce store, but if possible, you should not change your profile to one that simply shares all products from the shop. After a while your friends will scarcely look at them or click on them, most probably many of them will even block you.
The personal profile should be left personal: share posts that are really relevant there. Of course these can be a couple of relevant products that you think your friends would also like, or they will find interesting for some reason, or maybe testimonials of other friends – posts, tweets, etc. –, media articles you are proud of, and so on.
In addition, you should share photos, comment, make the impression that there is still a human being sitting behind the monitor and not a script that would like to shove off purchases its own friends’ throats.
However, you should not spam the official Facebook page of the online shop completely with products either.
A few years ago, if you followed a page on a social media site, you had a good chance of seeing the majority of its posts on your Timeline. These times are over, access of company pages are much lower now, pages try to show posts to the users that they will more likely get into interaction with, like them, comment them, and so forth. Links of products are seldom like that.
Consequently, if you have no money, you should share content on your page that your target audience might find interesting.
If for example, you are selling knitting thread, you have to ask yourself: what is relevant and what the audience is interested in? Not the products themselves but rather the various patterns for example. Guides that show how they should implement their hobby projects. Creative and original ideas. Personal stories about how some complicated pieces were made.
Indirect promotion can bring much better results. Of course, in the meantime you can share products or even sales deals as well. The goal is to have as many followers finding your pieces of content interesting as possible, because this way you will be present on more pages – so instead of having only a couple of people seeing the hundred products that you post daily, hundreds of people will see one, which has a greater chance of selling.
Facebook is also an indispensable tool even if you do not have money for advertising when it comes to B2C, in other words to communication deliberately aiming at the customers: according to the data of Hubspot, 70% of the companies are capable of acquiring clients from this channel.
LinkedIn: professional content on a professional channel
So forget about advertising your products with its help.
Try broadening your network instead. Use it to search for people who can help you with promotion (for example opinion leaders, at whom you can publish guest posts in a popular, relevant blog).
It is also worth joining different groups that are relevant: having discussions with those who do business in a similar field and collecting experience and looking for groups where your target audience discusses their problems – and offering solutions for them.
You can share status updates here as well, but we suggest that these are very relevant and valuable pieces of information: LinkedIn is not the ground of the memes, but rather an interface where the professionally irrelevant posts cannot become popular, therefore, you should choose a completely different strategy than in case of Facebook.
YouTube: you can capture everyone’s attention with videos
YouTube offers amazing potentials for any online shop even if there is no budget for advertising and if you do not want to promote your products directly.
This is because sales can be superbly boosted with various types of creative content that you can use later on the pages of the estore as well.
Also see our article: 11 product page improvement tips for more conversions
Such content may be product tests, guides (how to use a product), or even videos demonstrating tips and tricks (Did you know that you can do that with the product?).
The most popular video sharing website is operated by Google, so it is natural that you can take advantage of the opportunities lying within search engine optimization as well. For this you need to make sure to
- incorporate the most important expressions, keywords into the titles of the videos,
- to make unique and informative descriptions to the videos, in which long-tail and LSI keywords are preferably included as well,
- have a link in the description leading to the page of the product you are presenting, and mention it in the video as well that the link is there: click-through is useful in link building,
- use tags to lure the users browsing the videos to yourself,
- measure how long videos your audience like to watch and make yours accordingly, so that more people watch them,
- place links within the video as well.
The very relevant and popular YouTube videos may even appear on the first page of the search result list of Google, of course with photos – without having to pay even a dollar for this high rank that will instantly attract attention.
It depends primarily on the target audience of your online shop what kind of content they will be interested in. Educational: present visually how a given product is made, how it should be used, how eventual problems should be corrected – or what it’s good for in the first place. The point is to provide valuable information to those who might be interested in the product. Problem solving: Guides in which you show how the target audience can solve a problem, for instance by using your product. Expert interviews: videos that may reach the professional audience. Product demonstrations: Videos that show and sell the product in an entertaining and useful way, not like advertisements.
It depends primarily on the target audience of your online shop what kind of content they will be interested in.
Educational: present visually how a given product is made, how it should be used, how eventual problems should be corrected – or what it’s good for in the first place. The point is to provide valuable information to those who might be interested in the product.
Problem solving: Guides in which you show how the target audience can solve a problem, for instance by using your product.
Expert interviews: videos that may reach the professional audience.
Product demonstrations: Videos that show and sell the product in an entertaining and useful way, not like advertisements.
Twitter: start a discussion!
Twitter can wonderfully be used for increasing your visibility on the market and thus building your brand: initiate discussions that activate or shake up the audience, build them around different themes or topics.
You can address particular users (opinion leaders for instance) with a message. You can ask open-ended questions that your audience will enthusiastically answer. You can monitor the discussions relevant to you, thus collecting valuable information on what kind of problems your audience has, how they try to solve them, in what style they are communicating, and so on.
And you should possibly share interesting, creative and relevant content on your own channel, just like in case of Facebook: preferably something that encourages to interact in some way.
Pinterest: your interactive catalogue
Visual elements have the leading role here:
People share posts on Pinterest that primarily delight, that apply visual gags or that transmit information in the form of infographics for instance.
This is a great interface for the ecommerce store to even make a catalogue from its products – an interactive, aesthetic and shareable catalogue.
You can make full product pages here as well, with advantages, functions, prices in addition to the photos.
It is worth creating a separate board for the testimonials and user opinions as well, which may be popular among the sharers and can strengthen the trust for your company.
You can even organize competitions here: you can ask the users to share certain pieces of content, to use the appropriate tags and hashtags and thus make you and your products popular in exchange for some sort of a prize.
More images! ‒ Instagram
Instagram is the interface where you can transmit the feeling, how it feels using a particular product. Without your shares, looking like advertisements, you can promote your products by motivating people to buy them.
An estore selling clothes can brilliantly use this interface and simply put their models into ordinary real-life situations and shoot them together with the products, thus putting them discreetly in focus.
The popularity of Instagram is increasing, and that is for a reason, since it is a very simple tool for you to document your everyday life, to create the modern version of the photo album – and your online shop can also make use of that.
The aim is to publish photos that trigger positive reaction and that can easily become widespread – motivating, inspiring thoughts and visual elements are especially popular.
It is quite important that you use hashtags correctly, because this is the most effective way of increasing visibility on Instagram.
How should you use Instagram?
- Publish positive, inspiring messages and product images, even with watermarks (which preferably should not spoil the user experience), to make your brand visible like that as well.
- Run competitions, prize promotions if the users mark their photos with your hashtag or if they are shot with your products for instance.
- Test your audience: you can post a couple of times a day, but activity depends also on what kind of audience you want to communicate with.
The unexploited Tumblr
You cannot only increase visibility and share content easily on Tumblr, the interface is also remarkably suitable for link building. Marketing on Tumblr is similar to that on Instagram, the difference is that it builds on simple messages and mainly on visual content.
Choose a specific topic
Blogs on Tumblr are usually very specific, and you should also make your own content flow thematic.
It is recommended for you to make at least 10-20 posts in advance, so this way you can strengthen the topic, build the content base, just like in case of a blog where it is also advisable to upload some posts in the database in advance.
This way you can make the users who have found you for the first time follow you more easily, because they do not see only a vague sharing from you, but they will know that you publish regularly.
The microblogs that are run here are plain and simple, and content-dominated. Uploading works just as easily as in the case of Twitter.
Tumblr and SEO
The platform can assist you in ranking as well. If you use the search terms and the valuable content smartly, you can easily rank high on the search results pages.
You can also display links on your product pages and include them in your other pieces of content, thus – and with the shares – strengthening the link profile of your ecommerce store.
Ecommerce store and search engine marketing: how to rank high?
We have already mentioned some practices on how you can reinforce your position in the search engines with the help of social media sites. Now we are giving you some tips on what else in addition to those can help you to rank even higher on the search lists.
Use price comparison sites
Sites that help the users find the products they are looking for at a lower price are exceptionally popular nowadays everywhere around the globe. Products that appear on these sites will have a greater chance of ranking high, regarding that these sites generally rank extremely high.
Try which one works best for you, but once you find the good one, it will most definitely be a profitable investment since you can generate more purchases with more organic hits.
Place yourself on Google Places
Google Places offers an opportunity for every business to create their own pages that will also appear among the local hits on the search results pages of Google.
Of course it is a question what an ecommerce website should enter as location since in the majority of the cases there is no physical shop behind it.
This may be the location of the warehouse, of the PO box, or even that of the operator: the point is to have an existing page, because this way if somebody searches in an online store in, say, Manchester similar to yours, they will have a greater chance of landing at your site.
SEO for your online shop
Recently, we have thoroughly analysed search engine optimization of product pages of your online shop, for which reason, we will only shortly touch upon that topic now.
If you want Google and other search engines to give preference to you over your competitors, it is not enough for you to use the appropriate keywords.
- You have to fill your pages with original and relevant and unique content.
- You have to provide the metadata, while paying attention to long-tail keywords as well.
- You have to use multimedia content, too: as we have already mentioned it at the section on YouTube, videos tend to rank high.
- You have to pay attention to your link profile: who links to you and from where, and you also have to avoid black hat techniques, techniques that are banned by Google.
Monitor the analytics
By simply integrating Google Analytics you can monitor a great deal of indicators that will help you make your pages more effective.
You can read more about the indicators that you should monitor here: What to measure in ecommerce analytics and how to improve results?
Optimize for mobile devices
Only those pages have a chance to rank high among the search results that are mobile-friendly: they are displayed on the smart devices in a way so that their use, the navigation and the content view is comfortable, obvious and quick.
Additionally, you also need to make sure to mobile-optimize your content: if the users search on a given product type, your videos, posts and product pages should come up on the hit lists.
When describing product page SEO, we mentioned how important it is to use customer ratings. These appear as continuously updated content, but even Google may display them directly (for example in the form of stars or numbers) on the search results page right under the title, this way they can strengthen your position and increase the trust of your customers in you.
Link building: turbo charge SEO, be visible, attract organic traffic
Link building is a very important technique, even today: it has just become somewhat more complex, as it is content marketing that ensures its fuel nowadays. If you produce valuable content witch is shared, that will help you reinforce your link profile. If you force your links into link catalogues without placing unique, relevant content next to them, Google will punish you: it is that simple.
But how can you urge people to talk about you?
We have already talked about social platforms: Google has monitored social shares and its algorithm appreciates if loads of people publish your posts.
A piece of good advice:
Even though the number of active users of Google+ is much lower than that of the other similar social sites, Google values higher the shares appearing here (since it is their own service), and it even displays them on the search results pages.
Ask for ratings of your site!
This is not about testimonials this time: look for professional forums and ask the experts to rate your site, to provide an opinion about it.
On one hand, you can get a great deal of useful information about what else you should improve, how you can further optimize your site to be able to provide better user experience and realize higher conversion rates.
On the other hand, your link will also appear and if you are lucky, the respondents will refer to your site as well when they give advice.
And these references will be very powerful as they will appear among a great deal of unique and relevant pieces of content, on powerful sites.
Include your link in your signature
In case you are active on professional forums or on social media sites, where your signature is also displayed under your posts, your comments, you should by all means incorporate the link of your ecommerce store into it: every single appearance will be represented in your link profile and thus will make it more powerful. In addition, in such cases this will always happen with the involvement of individual content.
It is not only your main page that you can support like that: you may also link relevant content that the users will actually click on, like for example a hook-in product targeted at the given audience, for instance an e-book.
Mention your brand name wherever you can
This is not exactly a link building technique, still, it is useful for you in search engine optimization. Google will value it as well, if your brand name appears multiple times in relevant context, because of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) in the first place, which helps the algorithm of the search engine to build a synonym dictionary and to understand better what certain expressions, names imply in a given context.
If you are selling on Amazon or on eBay, you should definitely display your brand on your product pages, in the product descriptions! This way you can connect your brand with the products in the minds of the customers as well, and perhaps they will search on you directly the next time.
Always give your shops operated on such sites the same name that your own separate website has, and you should use your logo as well, and try to provide a consistent experience: preferably even with design elements and content as well.
And if your brand happens to be mentioned somewhere on the web without there being a reference to you, ask the owner of the publication to make that for you, give him a reference that you would like to see displayed on the page.
If he is reluctant to do so, you might as well offer him a mention yourself in exchange. (There are tons of tools available online for free that you can use to follow brand mentions, which will even notify you when a new mention appears, like for example Google Alerts.)
Bloggers and opinion leaders
Contact content providers with already established audiences and offer them your own content, or ask them to co-operate with you in some way that could be advantageous for both of you. Even a couple of hyperlinks on their highly visited blogs may be extremely precious for you, your link profile benefits a lot from it and it may also bring a lot of visitors for you at the same time.
You can make yourself more visible with guest blogging as well:
You can publish professional articles on relevant sites, where the link provided by you will also be displayed next to the author (by the way, you can reinforce your personal brand like that as well).
Promotional ideas that need no budget
In case of a newly launched online shop, it is very likely that there are no larger budgets available for advertisements, or for the running of campaigns – fortunately, however, thanks to online marketing you can promote your estore even completely free of charge.
No need to destroy piggy! You can use totally free marketing tools.
Use these few tricks below and you will not have to spend a single additional dollar to become visible for the users and to increase your conversion rate:
1) Give something in exchange for social shares
Even if you do not have a budget available for that, you can always offer a product for free (unless you are selling Ferraris – but in that case you would not get your ideas from this article).
Offer the users a free product in exchange for sharing content related to you on social channels, for spreading your links, for using hashtags that can be linked to you.
Prize promotions are certainly suspicious by default for many people, for which reason it is worthwhile reinforcing the call with testimonials and user opinions, and also, you should firmly communicate already after the first promotion that the winner actually received their prize.
2) Try viral content
Content production is not for free as you have to invest time and energy in it – this, however, may amply pay off if you manage to make some kind of a viral content that people will share even without compensation.
In such a case, you will provide the experience or the value in exchange for the share: a calculator, with the help of which people can calculate some things that are important to them (these are popular in case of financial products for example), or some sort of a funny, amusing, entertaining tool or message.
You have to be realistic about what may go viral. If your target market is narrow, you should not expect the number of shares to be several hundreds of thousands: it is enough if a lot of people will get to know your name in the professional community, within the relevant target group, or if you appear on the platforms and forums that are significant to you.
You can promote your ecommerce store with methods that don't cost a dime. Click To Tweet
3) Affiliate marketing: take advantage of resale
In case you do not have money for advertising, outsource dissemination. Create a distributor programme, within the framework of which you give a certain percentage of the turnover stemming from actual purchases to those who realised the sale.
From developer point-of-view, there are several different solutions for the implementation of such a programme: it is worthwhile for you to go over the guides of your ecommerce store to see what kind of ready-made solutions you can utilize.
Why is this useful for you? Mainly because no immediate expenses are involved: you may give up on part of your turnover though, but you generate traffic at the same time, and later, when you will already have a separate budget for advertising, you will need much less effort to make your previous customers convert again. Besides, more people will get to know your name and you can acquire valuable partners.
4) Make use of the power of content
Content marketing on a higher level may require a significant separated budget, however, at the beginning you can do it yourself, in which process the social media channels detailed above will assist you: that is because with their help you can spread your range of content for free.
What sort of content can you easily make even if you are a beginner?
- You can shoot videos that you upload to YouTube, in which you give tips, present your products etc.
- You can write blog posts in which you sell your products with storytelling, you write guides, detailed professional material, or analyse trends for instance.
- You can create infographics (there are free solutions available online for that, you can choose from a great deal of templates on the appropriate pages), and you can share them on Instagram or on Pinterest.
- You can publish a press release, in case you start some kind of a sale. If you formulate that interestingly enough, you can easily win a few important appearances for yourself.
- You can disseminate your content with influencer marketing: you can approach opinion leaders, industrial experts with some of your nicely elaborated materials and with a little luck you might as well get some shares – and a great deal of new visitors thanks to that.
You do not have to despair even if you have launched your online shop just now: you can shortly obtain followers, shares, visitors and finally customers without spending a single dollar on any sort of campaign.
But this does not mean that you do not have to think about launching a campaign. Online platforms and tools offer an inexhaustible amount of possibilities for promotion, but you have to use these consciously, and at the beginning, until you can outsource such work, you have to invest a great deal of working hours in the production and promotion.
This is not at all a problem because later you will know exactly which indicators you have to monitor, what makes a piece of content good and whether sharing and communication go well: in other words, you will have a better insight on the work processes.
In the meantime you should start making use of the two-way communication on the web, take part in the discourse and actively steer the discussions in your favour.
Digital Marketing Manager
Gábor started working for AionHill as a Magento eCommerce project manager. After 6 years, he joined the restructured Marketing Team. His main responsibilities are content strategy and communications partnership management. Gábor has two kids, likes cooking traditional Hungarian meals and playing strategy and online role playing games.