Christian Coulson avatar
by Christian Coulson on 04 May, 2021 ~14 minutes read

Nowadays, it might seem impossible for small businesses to get their names out there without investing in paid ads. Marketing without advertising might sound unimaginable, right?

Luckily, that isn’t the case. In fact, I grew my fitness coaching business—7Sigma Physiques—without spending money on Facebook, Google, Instagram, or Pinterest ads.

In this article, I’ll show you what I did to promote my business without advertising.

1. Started a Blog

Starting a blog was the very first thing I did to increase my business’ visibility. Basically, the more content I wrote, the higher the chances of something showing up in search engines like Google.

Besides the increased traffic benefit, writing valuable content helped me establish authority and build trust with my audience, which led to an increase in conversions.

The good thing about blogging is that, over time, your blog can become known as the go-to resource for anyone looking for information in your industry.

Unsurprisingly, businesses with blogs produce an average of 67% more leads monthly than companies that don’t blog, according to data gathered by DemandMetric.

Building a website without knowing how to code has become extremely easy nowadays. So there’s no reason for your business not to have an online presence. In fact, I believe most of you reading this already have a website.

Now, when writing articles, you don’t want to make the same mistake I did—writing without a purpose.

Most of the blog posts you write should have at least one of these goals:

  • Getting subscribers
  • Making a sale
  • Getting social media followers
  • Growing your Facebook group
  • Getting visitors to sign up for a webinar
  • Promoting an affiliate product
  • Monetizing with ads
  • Gaining backlinks

2. Learned the Basics of Google SEO

Most people think ranking on Google is something unattainable—like having Baskin-Robbins name an ice cream flavor after you—but it isn’t.

Obviously, ranking on Google isn’t as easy as it was several years ago. But understanding at least the basics of Google search engine optimization (SEO) can set your business apart from the competition.

I always tell entrepreneurs that one of my biggest regrets is not learning anything about Google SEO when I started writing fitness blog posts.

I wrote over 100 articles that weren’t optimized for search engines and had to spend several weeks updating them.

Here are the most important things you should take into account when optimizing for Google:

a) Keyword research

Keyword research consists of finding and analyzing keywords your target market would use to search for a specific content, service, or product.

For example, if you had a business that sold roller derby gear, your target market could be typing the following keywords on Google:

  • How do I learn roller derby?
  • Best roller derby skates
  • Best helmet for roller derby

One of the most common ways to do keyword research is to brainstorm terms your audience would search for. Then, you can use a free tool like SearchVolume.io to find their search volume, or go for more advanced tools like Ahrefs or Semrush.

Personally, I like using keywords with more than 100 monthly searches if my plan is to monetize the article with affiliate marketing or my own products. If my plan is to monetize it with ads, I like going for keywords with more than 1,000 monthly searches.

Another way to find related keywords is to use Google Autocomplete or check the “Searches related to” section at the bottom of the search result pages.

google autocompletes roller derby

The suggestions that show up are based on what thousands of people have searched on Google.

It used to be that businesses had to use several different tools to find this information. Luckily, Google has gotten so good at telling us what people want to see that it has become easier to do keyword research.

b) On-page SEO

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing individual pages on your site to rank higher. So, once you’re done looking up cool keywords, you want to do the following:

  • Use your main keyword within the first 100 words of your article
  • Maintain a keyword density of 1-2%. This means that you should use your main keywords one or two times per 100 words. More than this could be considered keyword stuffing
  • Use your main keyword in your title (H1) and some headings (H2-H6)
  • Use related keywords throughout your article
  • Link to other relevant blog posts on your site (internal linking)
  • Give descriptive names to your images. Don’t upload them with names like DSC_1990
  • Add alternative text (Alt text) to your images

c) Search intent

Search intent is a term used to describe the purpose of an online search.

For example, when someone searches for “best roller derby skates,” most of the articles showing up on the first page of Google are lists of different skates.

googls search intent roller derby skates

They are not informational articles talking about what makes a pair of skates the best. Thus, if you want to rank for that keyword, you should write a list of skates.

Sometimes you might think you know what people want to see, but you might actually be way off. So I recommend always doing a quick search to check what type of content Google/people want to see.

d) Site speed

Another thing that affects Google rankings and conversions that businesses often ignore is site speed.

When I first started my business, I was experiencing over 90% bounce rate and only getting 1-3 email subscribers per day.

A couple of weeks after I finished optimizing my site, my bounce rate was hovering at around 66%, and I was getting about 15 signups per day.

Google has been using page experience signals like mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitials to rank websites.

But starting May 2021, Google will be adding three Core Web Vitals to the page experience signals:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – the time it takes for the largest image or text block in a user’s viewport to load. Ideally, it should be under 2.5 seconds
  • First Input Delay (FID) – the time it takes for the site to respond to a user interaction, such as a link click or button tap. This should be under 100 ms
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – measures how much the elements shift while the page is still loading. Ideally, it should be 0.1

You can use a free tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to test your website speed.

website speed

Here are a few of the steps I took to speed up my website:

  • Switched hosting providers – shared hosting providers cram as many users as they can into one server to keep their costs low, which means customers end up fighting each other for resources. This leads to higher downtimes and slower speeds. By switching to a managed WordPress host, I was able to take my loading times from over 3 seconds down to 600 ms.
  • Optimized my images – one of the most common reasons people experience high load times is due to large images. I started compressing my images before uploading them to WordPress using free tools like Optimizilla and TinyPNG. If you need to optimize images already on your WordPress library, you can use a plugin like ShortPixel or Imagify.
  • Switched Themes – I went from a bloated theme to a lightweight and well-coded one.
  • Deleted and replaced plugins – just like themes, plugins can also drag your speed down if they’re poorly coded or load unnecessary features. When choosing plugins, try avoiding those labeled as all-in-one and go for ones that have only the feature you’re looking for.
  • Installed a caching plugin – a caching plugin creates and stores copies of your pages on your server so that each time someone visits your site, it can serve the cached copy instead of having to load everything again.
  • Added a CDN – a content delivery network (CDN) distributes your data across different servers around the globe and delivers the content from the one that’s closest to the visitor requesting it. I started using the free version of Cloudflare.
  • Dropped Google Fonts - these fonts slow your site because the browser has to fetch external files from Google. To speed up my site, I started using system fonts instead. What makes system fonts great is that they are already built into the operating system, so there’s nothing to load. If you need to use Google Fonts to stay on brand, you can improve your speed by hosting locally using a free plugin like OMFG.

Needless to say, quality content and backlinks are still more important ranking factors. But if your site is taking too long to load and giving users a terrible experience, you definitely should work on speeding up your website.

e) Backlinks

Backlinks are links that point from one page on a website to another page on a different website.

They are important for SEO because they tell Google that other websites find your content valuable enough to link to it within their own content, which will then increase your search rankings.

The two main techniques I use to get backlinks are guest posting and creating infographics. Don’t worry, we’ll cover these two techniques later in this article.

3. Jumped on Pinterest

I know what you’re thinking. And the answer is no, Pinterest isn’t only for women to look up recipes and home décor ideas.

There are plenty of guy-focused businesses, such as Harley-Davidson, Dollar Shave Club, and Victorinox, using Pinterest as a traffic source.

In fact, about 60% of the traffic to my fitness site comes from Pinterest.

social media pinterest

Pinterest is also not a social media platform but a search engine. This is good news because it means your content will be found on the platform even years after it has been published.

Think of it as a visual version of Google.

Plus, since their algorithm isn’t as advanced as Google’s, it’s easier and faster to rank for popular keywords.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of Pinterest:

  • Create a business account – this will allow you to see advanced analytics so you can adjust your strategy accordingly and make improvements.
  • Optimize your board titles and descriptions – since Pinterest is a search engine, you want to make sure to add keywords in your board titles and descriptions.
  • Optimize your pin titles and descriptions – just like with boards, you want to make sure that you add keywords on your pin titles and descriptions.
  • Enable Rich Pins – Rich Pins are pins that automatically pull metadata from your website to your pins so users can see useful information before visiting your site.
  • Create curiosity – an excellent way to increase your click-through rate is to write pin headlines that make people want to click to learn more.
  • Design pins that stand out – choose colors, images, and texts that stand out from other pins designs in your niche.
  • Use a scheduler - one of my favorite things about Pinterest is that you can use a scheduler like Tailwind to automate the whole process so you don’t have to be on your phone publishing pins every day. I typically create and schedule 4 months’ worth of pins so I can completely disconnect from Pinterest and focus on other tasks.

4. Joined Facebook groups and forums

Joining Facebook groups and forums like Reddit and Quora are another effective way to promote your business without ads.

The trick here is to join Facebook groups in your niche and be actively answering people’s questions and providing free help.

At the end of your answer, you can add a link back to a related article of yours in case they want to learn more.

When writing your answer, make sure that you give a complete one, don’t make people click on your link to find it. Your site is only there in case they want to learn more.

Being active on Facebook groups will also allow you to create connections and establish yourself as an authority in your niche.

After you’ve built a reputation, people in the group will gladly share your articles with others.

One thing to keep in mind is that each Facebook group has its own rules, so make sure that the owner allows posting links. Otherwise, you can be reported as a spammer or self-promoter and get booted.

The same tricks apply to Reddit, Quora, and other niche-related forums. However, when it comes to forums, I would leave one or two extra links to other websites that aren’t mine just so they don’t think I’m only self-promoting.

5. Created branded images and graphics

People are constantly sharing visual content on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Adding things like your logo and website to your custom graphics is a great way to promote your business and increase brand awareness.

Using your brand’s colors is also a good way for people to quickly recognize your business when they see a graphic.

Not surprisingly, Twitter found that tweets with a photo got 35% more tweets than those that didn’t.

Infographics are a great way to present useful data that’s easy for visitors and other bloggers in your niche to share on their sites.

6. Wrote guest posts

Guest posting consists of writing blog posts for different websites to get backlinks, increase brand awareness, and get traffic back to your site.

This can be a time-consuming process, but it’s extremely beneficial for SEO and the long-term growth of your business.

When looking for guest posting opportunities, try finding websites with your same or higher domain authority (DA).

Domain authority is a measurement from 1 to 100 that predicts how likely your website is to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). The higher your domain authority, the more likely your website will rank.

You can check a website’s DA using a free tool like MozBar.

Here are a few tips to help you get started with guest posting:

  • Find websites in your niche with a DA higher than yours to post on
  • Do what you can to find the editor’s contact information instead of using a generic support email address
  • Write a catchy subject line (unless the guidelines say otherwise)
  • Pitch them 3 topics related to their websites
  • Link to 2 or 3 guest posts you’ve written
  • Keep your email under 150 words
  • Wait at least 10 days to send a follow-up email (wait at least 3 weeks if it’s a big website)
  • Unless it’s a big website, only send 1 follow-up email
  • Keep the follow-up email between 2-3 lines
  • Don’t include sales pitches on your guest post
  • Include internal links to their posts
  • Include 1 or 2 backlinks to relevant articles on your site
  • Send them a thank you email after being published

7. Embraced social media

I’m not a big fan of social media for personal use (I think it’s a waste of time), but there’s no denying that it is a valuable marketing tool for my business.

christian coulson instagram profile

One of the biggest benefits of social media is that it has allowed me to create a real human connection with my audience and clients.

People are done with big and greedy corporations; they want to buy from businesses and brands they trust.

Let your audience know that you’re not a faceless brand.

Create a good social media marketing strategy, take the time to reply to their comments whenever you post a new photo or video, reply to your private messages, and try to always be polite and understanding.

Increase conversion rate with LiveChat

Now that you’ve learned how to promote your business without ads, the next step is to convert that traffic into actual customers.

I mean, we don’t want all of our hard work to have been in vain, right?

That’s when LiveChat comes in.

LiveChat allows you to have conversations with your site visitors in real-time. Any questions they might have about your product or service can be answered quickly without them having to email you and wait days for a response.

Here’s the thing, there are probably hundreds of businesses offering the same products you’re offering.

If you take even a day to reply to an inquiry, you might be losing customers to your competitors with faster response times.

People want things as soon as possible—and they usually get it. So make sure that your business can give it to them.

Besides allowing you to connect with visitors in real-time, LiveChat also lets you:

  • Show visitors professional-looking product cards to make sales while chatting
  • Set chatbot automations
  • Track sales and goals automatically to see how chats increase your sales
  • Hide sensitive data
  • And more

Final thoughts

As you can see, there are several effective ways to promote your business without using paid ads.

And even if you eventually get a bigger budget that allows you to invest in ads, these methods should not be ignored, as they will benefit your business in the long term.

About the author:
Christian Coulson avatar

Christian Coulson

Christian is an industrial engineer with a background in programming who’s used his knowledge and experience to grow 7Sigma Physiques—his fitness coaching business and blog with thousands of monthly readers. He now teaches other entrepreneurs how to scale their businesses at Blogstalgia.