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Free online marketing: The ultimate DIY guide - part 1 of 4

Generating leads for your website doesn't have to cost money. That's right: "free online marketing" exists. But make no mistake, while it may not cost you money, it will cost you time.

Online marketing consists of 3 steps; traffic acquisition, traffic conversion and leads.

Traffic acquisition is the process of directing people from various platforms onto your website. Traffic conversion is the process of turning the traffic on your website into leads. Finally, leads are the interested parties or the potential sales. At the leads phase the process is no longer online and it is up to your sales team to land the job! With the exception of online sales, of course.

Acquisition and conversion can be outsourced to the experts, at a cost. Digital agencies offer services like SEO, Google Ads and social media management as online marketing solutions. However, for many businesses the financial resources are simply not available. That's why we've created this DIY guide - to give you access to free digital marketing.

Following this DIY guide to free online marketing will empower you to manage your own online marketing solution by spending time and not money. In this four-part guide, we will cover how to generate online leads through Google (Part 1), social media (Part 2), Mail-Chimp (Part 3) and finally how to convert these leads into inquiries with your website (Part 4).

In this guide we do not cover paid advertising or PPC (Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc.) as we are focusing on what you can do yourself - without spending money. We've focused on introducing you to the concepts and providing introductory tips and tricks. To help you get started practically, we've also included some links to step-by-step "how to" videos.

Let's get started.

Traffic acquisition

We're going to address three areas of traffic acquisition; Google, social media and e-mails. For now, we're going to zone in on Google. Part 2 will address social media and part 3 will address e-mails.


The average person doesn't look at the 2nd page of the Google search results. The majority of leads go to the websites that appear in the first 5 positions, on the first page of Google's search results. Clearly, there is substantial value in ranking high up in Google search results. The process of ranking your website in these results is called SEO (search engine optimization). In other words, optimizing your website to rank in search engines like Google. SEO is a complex and long process that takes many years to master. For the purposes of "DIY-ing" it as a beginner, there are a few things you can do to help your website rank higher without needing to be an SEO expert.

1. Using Google My Business

Using Google My Business provides potential customers with easy access to your operating hours, contact details, website and even directions to your physical location through Google Maps. Additionally they gain insight to what your busiest business hours are and can read or leave reviews.

Google My Business also provides you with an opportunity to rank in one of the three top spots on the first page of the search results. With very little effort required and no cost involved, Google My Business is must for any business who wants to take online marketing seriously.

Read the Google My Business set up tutorial for a step-by-step guide.

2. Linking to directories

SEO works on the premise that high quality websites will rank well. But what does Google consider a high quality website? The answer to this is highly debated by industry experts and truth be told, at this point, no one can provide a 100% proven and comprehensive answer.
For the purposes of "DIY-ing", what you need to know is this: websites that link-back to other high quality websites generally see improvement in terms of ranking.

The easiest way to get started with this is to link-back to online directories. Keep in mind that you want quality links more than you quantity, so don't just add a ton of links for the sake of collecting them all. Add links that are relevant to your site and to your audience.

Here is a list of 10 directories you can consider signing up with for link-backs, to get you started:

1. Hotfrog
2. Entrepo
3. Active Web
4. Cylex Business Directories
5. YelloSA
6. Brabys
7. saYellow
8. Best Directory
9. MyCityInfo
10. Ananzi

Once you've signed up with these directories, add a link to your listing on your website. It is important that you have a link on the directory going to your site and a link on your site going to the directory. This is the difference between a link and a link-back.

When you add the links to your website, don't be tempted to "hide" the links away by making them too small to see or any similar tactic. This is called black-hat SEO and is considered unethical. Black-hat SEO will very likely decrease your website ranking, so steer clear! If you're concerned about black-hat SEO, read our Black Hat SEO blog to understand more.

Finally, be sure to add your links to a page on your site that you consider particularly important. The increase in traffic will be most significant on the particular page that you have added the links to. Watch this video to learn how to add a link to your WordPress website. (If you're not using WordPress, you'll need to research the relevant platform)

3. Write SEO friendly copy

Another important factor to ranking your website on Google is copy writing. SEO friendly copy can drastically increase your ranking.

When you're writing copy for your website, begin by targeting one keyword per page. But first, and very importantly, keyword research!
We recommend using Google trends as your keyword research tool to start. Google Trends allows you to gather information about the comparative amount of a traffic a keyword has.

If you have a look at the image below, you will see the results for the search terms "washing machine", "stove", "tumble dryer" and "dish washer". There results do not indicate that there are 75 searches on the terms stove or washing machine. Think of the graph as a popularity score. If the highest possible score is 100, the terms stove and washing machine score around 75 compared to tumble dryer and dish washer which score less than 10.

When interpreting these results its important to think critically. These results show that the terms washing machine and stove are more popular, meaning that ranking for these terms would likely result in more organic traffic. They are also more likely to be competitive keywords and tricky to rank for. But ask yourself why these two terms are more popular. In terms of appliances, tumble dryers and dish washer are luxury items whilst stoves and washing machines are more of a necessity. This provides you with clues as to who you are likely to attract with which keyword.

A quick Google search will find you tons of other keyword research tools to add to your research.
Once you have decided on your keyword you can begin writing. If you're using WordPress, we highly recommend installing the Yoast plugin. Yoast is fantastic SEO tool and will guide you in writing for search engines.

Check out this tutorial on Yoast to learn more.

If you're using Yoast, don't get green dot fever! Turning those dots green can be addictive and satisfying but make sure it doesn't come at the cost of the natural readability of your copy. You do not want to rank well for bad copy!

Try to follow this check list when editing your copy:

1. Use headings and subheadings.
2. Make sure your keyword is in your headings and subheadings (preferably at the beginning)
3. Make sure keywords density is roughly 3%. (Keyword density is equal to the number of time your keyword appears divided by total word count of your copy, multiplied by 100).

4. Do not overuse keywords! Keep your copy natural and easy to read.
5. Do not start two consecutive keywords with the same word.
6. Keep sentences short.
7. Use active voice, not passive voice. Watch this video to learn more about active and passive voice.
8. Use transition words in at least 20% of your sentences (roughly every 5th sentence). Watch this video to learn more about transition words.
9. Avoid jargon and technical/complicated terms.
10. If possible, include an internal link (to your own website) and an external) link (to someone else's website).

When you write SEO copy you need to keep the spiders in mind. Not the eight-legged kind. Spiders are little bots that crawl through your website looking for 'signals' like transition words, keywords or links. Good quality copy sends the right signals to spiders. If the spiders find enough good signals, you'll rank well on Googles search page.

Remember: you are still writing for people. If people cannot easily read your copy, your ranking won't matter. You're not trying to trick Google - you're trying to work with Google to deliver the best quality content to the user.

That's all for part 1 of our 4-part guide!

Subcribe to our mailing list below to make sure you don't miss parts 2-4 of this guide!

If you'd like to sit down with a digital marketing expert to run through this guide and more, feel free to e-mail to find out more about consulting and training.

Alternatively, you can visit The Web Shack website.

About Jenaré Hardcastle

A linguaphile with a passion for people and communications. Currently spearheading the Online Communications Department at The Web Shack, a Sandton based digital agency.