21 Effective Ways to Market Your Small Business Online for $500

There are some online marketing strategies that can be executed for free, but the campaigns that deliver the best results require money. While you have to spend money to make money, you don’t necessarily have to have a massive budget in order to start seeing results.

For some reason, $500 is the magic number when it comes to online marketing budgets. My agencies focus on performance-based ad buys and influencer marketing, working with larger brands that are spending six-figures and more monthly. We are inundated daily with requests from small business owners looking for low-cost online marketing options, so I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of several options that allow you to get the most out of every marketing dollar you have at your disposal.

Together, with help from twenty-one business owners and entrepreneurs, we compiled a list of online marketing options that can be done with a $500 budget. If you have additional suggestions, please leave them in the comments section below.

1. Use Micro-Influencers to Promote Your Small business on Social Media

“Influencer marketing is very effective, but most people assume you have to use celebrities and pay thousands of dollars for a single post. Look for micro-influencers who have smaller followings in your niche. Look at their engagement rates and if their content receives a high percentage of likes and comments you can reach out to them to see if they will entertain sponsored posts. Try to accumulate a handful of posts in the $50 to $100 range to get some solid traction.”
– Charles Gorra, Co-Founder of TrendLee

2. Use Paid Content Promotion

“If you publish a high-quality blog post, consider using paid promotion to help attract potential customers to your website. Services like Outbrain and Taboola will place your content as recommended reading alongside similar topics on top websites that receive a large volume of traffic. You are only charged when someone clicks-through and lands on your website, so if it provides value and contains an enticing call-to-action you can experience a very nice ROI.”
– Ken McDonald, Chief Growth Officer of TeamSnap

3. Start a Google AdWords PPC campaign

Google AdWords allows you to create ads that display at the very top of the search results for the specific keywords and search terms you decide to target. I would suggest starting small, creating separate ads for each keyword you are targeting in order to really see what results in the most conversions. Start small and improve your campaign’s results before you attempt to scale. It’s much better to scale a successful PPC campaign.”
– Marc Yonker, Partner and Founder of Winters & Yonker

4. Hire a Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Specialist

“Many businesses receive plenty of website traffic already, but they aren’t converting those visitors into leads or sales. Hiring a conversion rate optimization specialist can help you make on-site changes that result in an improved conversion rate. Sometimes the smallest adjustments, such as call-to-action locations and button colors, sizes and text can make a huge difference. It’s a small price to pay when you consider the long-term benefits of more traffic converting into revenue.”
– Tim Johnson, CEO of Ink Factory

Hiring a conversion rate optimization specialist can result in an improved conversion rate. Sometimes the smallest adjustments, such as call-to-action locations and button colors, sizes and text can make a huge difference.

5. Design an Infographic and Offer it to Other Relevant Websites

“An infographic provides you with two benefits. First, it gives you a nice piece of content for your website that you can promote across social media and to your email list. Consumers are much better visual learners, so take this opportunity to explain the benefits of your product or service in a fun manner. Second, you can use it as a way to acquire links and referral traffic from other relevant websites. When you offer your infographic for publication, you are presenting them with a piece of content that is ready to post and give their visitors something to engage with at no cost to them.”
– Michael Mariani, President of Commercial Fire & Communications

6. Run Pay-Per-Click Ads on Yahoo and Bing

“When most people start pay-per-click advertising they automatically turn to Google. While there is plenty of great traffic on Google, you can’t ignore Yahoo or Bing. There is plenty of traffic available, and in most cases, the cost-per-click on Yahoo and Bing is going to be much less expensive than on Google. It’s always a good idea to diversify your traffic sources, and this is an option that can get you traffic at a very affordable price, which is key, especially for those with a limited budget.”
– Ozer Taysun, Owner of Westchase Roofing Services

7. Hire a Freelance Writer for Your Blog

“Posting content on a regular basis tells the search engines that your website is a source they should consider for information related to your keywords. As you build your website authority, your content will begin to appear higher in the search results, especially if you are in a smaller niche or a small local market. Hiring a freelance writer will give you plenty of content on a regular basis, helping to increase your organic search traffic.”
– Steve Kappel, President of Coldwell Banker Kappel Gateway Realty

8. Rebrand Your Business with a New Logo

“If your business has been around a long time you might want to consider rebranding, starting with a new logo. There are plenty of freelancer designers to select from, as well as marketplaces that allow graphic designers to submit concepts for you to choose from. Today, logos need to be simple and flat to work well online and across social media. A rebrand can spark new interest in your business.”
– Ronis Gracie, CEO of LendGenius

9. Run Facebook Ads to Target Local Customers

“If you have a local business and you want to drive customers through your door, run Facebook ads and target a local radius, say 5 to 10 miles from your business. The right offer can push a lot of foot traffic, especially if you only target mobile devices. Someone out and about on his or her phone is more likely to make an impulse decision to visit your store than someone sitting at home in front of a desktop computer.”
– Gabe Scotti, Founder of Kaimana Divers

10. Create a Downloadable Content Asset

“If you create something valuable, like a guide or an eBook, make it available to download on your website, making sure to include click-to-share links at the end of it. This is a very easy way to drive traffic to your website and attract new customers. If your free downloadable asset is helpful and you ask the readers to click a link to share it on social media, they will feel obligated. It’s all about providing value. If the consumer feels he or she benefited from reading your content, they will gladly share it.”
– Matthew Willens, Managing Partner of Willens Law Offices

11. Produce an Animated Explainer Video

“Not only does an animated explainer video give you the opportunity to explain your product or service in a different way on your website, but it also gives you something to use as marketing collateral on social media and YouTube. Many aren’t aware of this, but YouTube is the second largest search engine, right behind Google. There is a lot of traffic available on YouTube, and creating a fun video can help your business attract a piece of that traffic.”
– Joe Bragg, CEO of Mulpix

12. Remarket and Retarget Your Past Website Visitors

“Most website visitors won’t make a purchase during their first visit, so to get your offer in front of them multiple times, you need to use remarketing and retargeting. Each platform has this available, or you can use a service like AdRoll to handle your retargeting. When your ad and offer ‘follows’ your website visitors throughout the internet, it increases the probability of them remembering your business when it comes time to make a purchase decision.”
– Marc Lewandowski, Chief Happiness Officer of Artisan Movers

Most website visitors won’t make a purchase during their first visit, so to get your offer in front of them multiple times, you need to use remarketing and retargeting.

13. Hire a Freelance Social Media Manager

“Social media can be a constant source of website traffic if you have a full-time employee to manage it. While it might not be in the budget to hire an in-house social media manager, it’s possible to outsource the job for less than $500 a month. There are plenty of websites that can connect you with overseas freelancers that can be trained to schedule social media posts, handle customer service issues that originate on social media and engage with your followers. Take your time to provide proper training for the best results.”
– Loren Taylor, President of Outdoor Fountain Pros

14. Start an Affiliate Program

“An affiliate program rewards other websites and publishers for driving traffic and sales on your website. Whether you sell physical products or services, it’s a great way to drive additional volume. Determine what you can offer for each sale, keeping in mind that affiliates will work much harder for an attractive payout. You can find affiliates on affiliate marketing websites, various marketing forums and Facebook groups.”
– Sheldon Chapman, Head of Marketing for Pepperstone

15. Buy SEO Training Material and Courses

“Search engine optimization is a skillset that can be learned by anyone. A lot of business owners are scared of SEO, but it’s basically just a bunch of technical components, both on-site and off-site that work together to help improve your online visibility in the search engines. There is a lot of educational material out there that you can read in order to learn how SEO works. Investing in SEO education is investing in the future of your business.”
– David Sessford, CEO of Ready Steady Sell

16. Convert Your Website to a Mobile-Responsive Design

“If your website doesn’t offer a smooth and pleasant experience on mobile screens you are missing opportunities. Run your website through Google’s mobile-friendly test. If you don’t receive a high score, consider hiring a freelance developer to fix any issues and ensure your website design is mobile-responsive. This is the quickest way to make sure you are taking full advantage of your current website traffic.”
– Aaron Haynes, Founder of Fenix Pro

17. Have a Custom Email Newsletter Template Designed

“Everyone is doing email marketing because it’s still one of the most effective forms of online marketing. With that being said, most email newsletters look the same, making them all blend together. In order to stand out, have a customer template designed that matches your branding. If your newsletter stands out and is responsive, allowing readers to engage with it on all devices, it will greatly increase the effectiveness of your email campaigns.”
– Catherine Jacobs, COO of McQuarrie, LLP

18. Advertise on Reddit

“One of the best kept secrets is Reddit ads. The prices you pay for traffic is some of the lowest I have ever experienced, and the targeting options allow you to place your ads in front of an audience that has a genuine interest in what you are offering. Reddit users are very educated and gimmicky ad copy will not be received well, so make sure your ads are very straight forward. $500 can go a long way on reddit when compared to other online advertising options.”
– Melissa Blake, CEO of Les Saisons

19. Hire a Freelance PR Expert

“A full-fledged PR campaign can help your business secure media mentions that lead to earning links to your website, which provides a tremendous SEO benefit, as well as solid branding exposure. The problem is that it takes a lot of time to search through queries and respond with a reply that is publication-worthy. Hire a freelancer to monitor Help a Reporter Out and identify media requests that fit your business. Then, have them email you the opportunities worth pursuing. You can carve out 15 or 20 minutes at the end of your day to respond. If you do this consistently it can really help your business grow.”
– Todd Tinker, Founder of The Tinker Law Firm PLLC

20. Run YouTube Video Ads

YouTube ads allow you to select from several different options, depending on what your goals are. You can pay per view for a more targeted campaign or impressions, if you are going for a branding approach. It’s important that your video captures attention immediately. Deliver your main point right away, and then use the rest of the video to highlight key points, eventually driving the viewer to click-through and visit your website and offer.”
– Matt Behnke, President of Orthotic Shop

21. Run a Solo Ads Campaign

“Solo ads are a way for business owners to place their message in front of targeted customers for a fairly low cost. You have to identify someone with a large list of email subscribers in the same niche, and then negotiate a price. Often times you can pay for performance: per-click, per-open or per-conversion.”
– James Bronson, CEO of Ultimate Stock Alerts

Final Thoughts on Online Marketing on a Budget

Don’t let a limited marketing budget discourage you. There are plenty of effective strategies that you can start with just $500. Remember, not every strategy will work the same for every business, so decide what makes the most sense for your particular situation and jump in head-first.

about the author

Freelance Contributor Jonathan Long is the founder of Uber Brands, an e-commerce brand-development agency.