A quick glance at the ways in which your brand can appear online will demonstrate that many of them actually appear to be available for free. With a quick Google search, you could easily find many services available supposedly free of charge: hosting, advertising, optimising and designing, and who knows what else.

It might make one wonder: why bother paying for online marketing at all?

Of course, nothing in this world really comes for free, and we should all know that you can’t really get an effective marketing strategy at zero cost. Quality costs money (or effort), and when you put in nothing, you will get very little of value in return. Anyone who’s ever hired a cheap builder or tattoo artist can attest to this.

Let’s take a closer look at exactly why some of these free services might not be as good a deal as they’d want you to think.

Free advertising sounds great. But looking at it the other way, would you allow just anyone to advertise on your turf without asking anything in return? Platforms such as websites or search engines require money to survive, so it doesn’t make much sense that they would really accept ads for free.

The exception is directories, review sites and the like (such as Yell or TripAdvisor) where publicising companies forms part of their business model. While it’s definitely a good idea to make sure your information on there is correct and current, it can’t form the whole of your online advertising strategy as it is quite limited in terms of reach, and with every other business listed on there too, it’s going to cost you to make your profile stand out.

The promise of effective free hosting is similarly just a pipe dream. Web hosting is not cheap to provide, and any service you can find that offers it for free is bound to have strings attached. The host may:

• place adverts on your page, which normally would not be found on websites offering paid goods and services

• restrict the amount of traffic you can receive, meaning a lot of would-be customers will be locked out

• offer no option to use custom code, rather requiring you to use a site builder – offer no custom URL, so your site will be at something like www.freesites.com/patscafe

Essentially, almost any free hosting option will make your site, and by extension your brand, look bad – inexcusable for a company that operates for profit

Something that really can be offered for free is social media posting. Facebook, Twitter and the like don’t charge for accounts, so you can post to your heart’s content through these platforms. However as always, you won’t be getting all you can out of these networks for free, as paid advertising is a good way to market to those who would not otherwise stumble across your page. Additionally, social media marketing pays off best when done by paid professionals, either in-house or agency-based, rather than solely by business owners directly.

As we can see, there are plenty of reasons to shell out for professional online marketing services – despite the apparent availability of free deals. Unpaid packages aren’t really useful once your business reaches the point of needing to be taken seriously among competitors who certainly are willing to pay for promotion. Luckily, great marketing doesn’t have to cost the earth, and should pay off many times over in the form of new business!

AUTHOR

Charles Sellers

With a background in development and marketing, Charles has grown the business over the past four years to a small but agile team.