Jul 262010
 
the web is new neon sign

The web has become the shopping strip of the modern economy, where potential customers see what every business has to offer without leaving their home or office. According to the the Sensis e-business report over 90% of businesses and 70% of consumers now do an online search before buying a product or service.

So every opportunity to promote your business online has to be grabbed, even if you don’t have a website. Luckily there’s a range of free and easy to use services to help your business be seen online.

Five of the easiest and most important free services are listed here and it’s best to use all five to help you get the most online visibility for your business.

Google Places

The first and most essential service every business needs is Google Places. Having a Places listing puts a business in the Google search results directly below the paid spots at the top of the page.

It’s a pretty powerful location on the web real estate map and, being free, it’s hard to refuse. Given how Google is by far the most used search engine, a Places listing is essential even if you already have an extensive web site.

Google Places  allows you to upload logos, pictures, descriptions, and other details which makes it an even greater opportunity to get the message out to your customers. For many smaller business, particularly those in the trades, a Google Places page may be all the web presence they need.

Facebook Pages

The marketer’s social media tool of choice, Facebook recently celebrated reaching 500 million users. For businesses, Facebook offers the Pages service which allows you to set up a page for your business.

Facebook’s greatest advantage is it lets your customers talk directly to you and to each other. It’s an excellent way to bring your fans together and keep track of what’s happening in the marketplace.

While setting up the page is simple, there are some sophisticated ways you can improve your Facebook presence. Facebook themselves have good tutorials and sites like SEO Moz have good examples of how to get the most from Facebook pages.

Blogging platforms

Until recently blogs were used as online diaries, today they have become a flexible, free and easy way to set up a web presence.

The two biggest free blogging platforms are WordPress and Blogger. WordPress is the more flexible of the two while Blogger is quicker and easier to setup.

An advantage with using a blogging platform is they are very easy to update and offer far more flexibility and customisation than the other free tools. Keep in mind you can use WordPress on your own website or take up the paid option to use your own domain.

True Local

News Limited’s online listing tool is important for Australian businesses not just because it connects with News’ online and offline publishing networks but also for their content sharing agreements with Google, Navman, Yahoo!7 and some of the mobile phone companies. This means a listing on True Local goes onto all of these services.

True Local offers a number of listing levels ranging from free to $220 a year. Interestingly, News’ Premium service charges for much of what Google Places offers for free, which is one reason why Google is the preferred free site. True Local’s reach in both search, partner sites and offline channels makes it important for business to be listed on the service.

Sensis Listings

Telstra’s directory service, Sensis, offers a free Yellow Pages listing which appears in both their online and printed versions as well as Telstra’s online and mobile services. While listing here will mean you’ll get a polite but anxious call from a Sensis sales representative offering you a deal on a Yellow Pages paid ad, it’s still a very important channel given Telstra’s market share.

As Ken in the comments has noted, Sensis don’t allow you to add a website address to the free listing. While this reduces the effectiveness of a Sensis online listing, it still means your business will appear in Telstra’s online and mobile searches, so it is an important channel to be listed on.

These five tools are a great help for all businesses, regardless of their size or web presence, and each can be set up within in a hour. You could have all five working for you within a day.

Get these free tools working for your business so customers can find you on the web.

  6 Responses to “Five free, easy and essential online business marketing tools”

  1. Thanks for the list – I checked the Yellow Pages listing but it doesn’t include space for a URL. They just don’t get it!

    Not sure that I agree with your enthusiasm for TrueLocal. I find many businesses without well-optimised websites that list with TL then appear in a google search after the TL listing of their business. In other words, TL hijacks the better position, and takes you to their listing page that also includes other business offers and distractions.

    • Hi Ken,

      I’ve revised the Yellow Pages mention to reflect your observation about Sensis’ listings.

      Your point about True Local’s search rankings is very good and something business owners should keep in mind and watch out for.

      Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Paul,
    I spoke to you on ABC one Friday night and you referred me to this page. I asked about setting up a web page not marketing. Can you give me any advice on ways to set up a web site that if free or minimal cost? I am trying to establish an information site that will hopefully lead to a lobby group in the future. Thanks.

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