4 Ways to Improve Your Digital Footprint on a Shoestring Budget

There's no reason to take an online back seat when it comes to marketing and advertising strategies, even if your wallet is thin.

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By Austin Rotter

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With U.S. consumer price inflation reaching its highest mark in decades, small businesses throughout the country are beginning to take notice. From office supplies to travel and everything in between, prices are on the rise. And given that, small businesses have less money to improve their digital footprint.

Fortunately, even with rising costs across the board, there are ways for owners to grow their online presence without breaking the bank. Through creative marketing and advertising strategies, a shoestring budget can go a long way in 2022. Of course, every small business has its own unique set of circumstances regarding its digital footprint and finances. Even so, there are ways that every organization can take a step forward.

1. Hire contractors, not employees

The freelance economy is real, and here to stay. According to Upwork's Freelance Forward Economist Report, "…freelancers contributed $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy in annual earnings [in 2021], up $100 million from 2020." As a small business owner on a budget, this should be music to your ears. Hiring contractors, not employees, allows you to save money in various ways. You have access to talent around the globe (not just in your local area), making it easier to find affordable talent. Furthermore, there's less overhead when you hire contractors, as you avoid fixed costs such as benefits, retirement contributions, office space and office supplies, to name a few.

Also, with freelancers, you can engage them either on a short- or long-term basis. For example, if you only need a web designer or copywriter for a few months, hire a freelancer according to a per-project agreement. When you don't have consistent and ongoing needs for a specific task, it's financially beneficial to do so.

Related: Understanding the Differences Between Hiring Freelancers, Contractors and Employees

2. Focus on organic growth

The term "organic growth" doesn't necessarily equate to free, but when done correctly, it's often more affordable than paid marketing and advertising strategies. Take for example search engine optimization (SEO). If your website reaches the top of page one for a highly searched and targeted keyword, you'll receive traffic for as long as it remains in that position. This is in comparison to pay-per-click advertising, in which you're charged every time someone clicks through to your website.

Of course, it takes time, money and knowledge to reach the top of page one, but once you're there, the traffic is free. If you're ready to take this approach, do so with point 1 above in mind: Hire an experienced, knowledgeable and reputable SEO professional to manage your organic growth.

Related: 3 Ways Covid-19 Has Changed the Marketing World

3. Network, network and network some more

To a certain degree, connecting with other professionals isn't what it used to be, due in large part to an increase in the number of people working from home. Additionally, the growth of online networking (led by LinkedIn) has many people focusing time and effort on the digital world. But this isn't a bad thing — it's just different from the way things were 10-plus years ago.

There's no shortage of ways online networking can help you improve your company's digital footprint. Consider the following:

• Connect with potential partners, clients, and suppliers.

• Find top talent.

• Uncover affordable and/or free marketing and advertising opportunities.

4. Guest post on industry-specific blogs

Guest posting is one of the best ways to improve your company's digital footprint without spending money — in which you publish content on industry-leading websites and blogs to bring attention to your business and establish yourself as a thought leader.

The keys to success here include creating high-quality content, choosing the right websites to post it on and taking a unique stance that engages an audience. Simply sharing generic content isn't good enough: It must be engaging and thought provoking. If it resonates with the audience, you benefit by way of more traffic, more email subscribers and more customers. With 76% of editors planning to publish between one and ten guest posts per week, the opportunity to reach an audience through this strategy is there for the taking.

Related: 17 Tips for Entrepreneurs Who Blog

If that's not enough to get you excited, consider this: It doesn't cost anything to network online. You can do all of the above without spending a single penny. All you need is a few social media accounts to get started.

Austin Rotter

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Media Relations Strategist

Austin Rotter is a strategic PR professional with over a decade of experience in the field. He has worked for a number of clients ranging from Fortune 100 brands to hypergrowth tech companies, impressing each one with his innovative strategies.

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