Online marketing may be low-cost but it often isn’t no-cost, and for a number of charity and hobbyist websites this is a problem.

The advice provided through sources like Econsultancy, or my own
SEOptimise blog, offers help in maximising budgets and doing more for
less. But what about organisations that don’t have any budget to start
with, what can they do?

Whether you’ve built a website for your World of Warcraft guild or to help showcase the needy dogs at your local rescue centre, the chances are you are doing it for love.

You want the site to work and work well, but you can’t really invest anything other than time in its success.

So, what are your options? Well, here are a few ideas, but if you have a hobby site or work in marketing and want to share any tips then please feel free to add them below.

Socialise your site

Attracting people to your website can be difficult, the web is a competitive world. So it is important to be active, and not just through your website.

Spend some time on other relevant websites, particularly in forums or commenting on other blogs. If you can link to your own page then do and make sure you constantly highlight your connection to your own website.

Whatever you do, though, don’t spam these sites. That will probably get you barred from forums and certainly damage your reputation. Instead, join in conversations, interact and establish a reputation that will make people want to visit.

Consider keywords

You may not have any budget, meaning pay-per-click advertising on search results is right out, but you can still make use of effective search engine optimisation (SEO) tactics.

Choose keywords and phrases that fellow fans, hobbyists or volunteers might search for within engines like Google, and then use those terms naturally as often as possible in your site. As often as possible without damaging your website, that is.

If the subject of your website is a really competitive one, maybe dedicated to a big-name computer game or band, then think twice before optimising your language for the more obvious terms.

So, while untold thousands of people may search for ‘knitting’ (it’s possible, I’m told it’s popular…), it will be difficult to rank highly in the search results when there are so many competing pages.

However, although fewer people may search for ‘creative knitting’, or ‘knitting for children’, it will be easier for you to rank highly for those terms, meaning the resulting traffic will be greater.

Build links

When you’re out visiting forums and making connections, don’t forget that building inbound links to your website is another excellent SEO tactic.

The more links you have, the better. These show search engines that other websites dealing with the same subject matter find you relevant, meaning you rank more highly.

So, once you’ve made connections with other webmasters, why not ask if you can guest post on their blog? You can offer to swap opportunities and invite them to leave a few articles on your own blog.

Don’t forget to link with relevant keywords – rather than invite people to ‘click here to visit my website’, use your chosen keywords as the link. This shows the search engines just how relevant your page is to those words.

Make money and build a budget

There may be no budget for your website but there are ways of making small amounts of money, which can then be ploughed back into raising the profile of your pages, for example, by buying advertising space yourself.

Options like Google’s Adsense programme display relevant adverts on your site. Then, when visitors to your pages click the ads, you receive a small amount of cash.

Because Google has so many, many advertising customers, you can ensure that highly relevant marketing messages appear on your site, making it less intrusive to your visitors and more likely to make money.

Of course, few people are making large amounts of cash out of Adsense and some people really dislike the addition of adverts to their lovingly-crafted pages, so you should really consider this idea carefully, as it may not be right for you.