The hidden costs of “free” digital marketing instruments

It seems that in 2017, digital marketers have plenty of tools to make their activities cheaper if not completely free. Is it truly possible to save your marketing budget and increase campaign efficiency or you may spend even more at the end of the day? Let’s figure this out.

Search Engine Optimization

This is something that our experts are very careful about because by trying to save costs in SEO, you risk getting under search engine filters. For example, cheap links are usually spammed and, therefore, hated by Google. It can activate the Google Penguin filter and decrease your website search engine ranking. So, remember that trusted connections are not built overnight. If you save money and hire a junior-level specialist or ask your copywriter to do SEO, you may end up with a low-quality link-building profile.

If you consider purchasing content for your website, avoid cheap texts and stock photos which do not provide a clear value to your customers. In other words, do not save on hiring a well-qualified copywriter and designer. Google Panda algorithm does not like keyword-stuffed texts, low-quality and duplicate content. Your website may be penalized and, therefore, be lowered in search results. You never want your customers and potentials to have difficulties finding your website, right?

Content Marketing

You have probably heard that content marketing is a cheap marketing technique. Of course, if you market a small online store that serves the locals, you can write a blog yourself and share news on social media. With some reservations, such activities can be considered free for your business.

Your colleague may be a great writer and would like to contribute to your corporate blog or even post on external platforms. The tricky part is whether he or she writes during the working hours or volunteer during the weekends. It may seem a good idea to give your staff a task to write articles or provide human-friendly product descriptions. However, you need to understand how much time it takes. Maybe, it is economically sound to hire a professional writer.

Some digital marketers opt for user-generated content. This seems a great strategy that costs you nothing. As it turns out, you or an assigned person should start an action to motivate your website or social media visitors to generate content. It is also necessary to participate in discussions, moderate comments and reviews, and so on. This takes time and efforts, so at the end of the day, you may decide to simply hire an SMM manager to communicate with the target audience.

Email Marketing

For a small ecommerce, it may be tempting to use a shared email inbox to handle customer requests and send updates about your products. However, this is a temporary solution. When a business grows, you will need to hire a specialist to strengthen your marketing team and/or apply automated solutions.

If you have a long list of emails, write an email to inform your subscribers about a new product and enjoy more sales. It seems that such an ‘activation’ is free for you. In truth, you may need to pay a copywriter to write the text and designer to create a remarkable email outline.

In case you have to collect those emails, your campaign becomes more and more expensive, as some email collection methods are paid like Facebook Ads Lead.

Social Media Marketing

While a social media channel seems free, a specialist spends time building connections, creating viral content, answering comments, and addressing complaints. And you can hardly imagine how much time and expertise a specialist requires to develop a strategy and increase your brand awareness.

Experts indicate that “a social media campaign may have 10% of a TV campaign’s budget but still requires 75% of the resource-hours.” This is where you may consider hiring a ‘cheaper’ specialist. Don’t put your reputation at risk. It is easy to worsen your brand image with a bad social media manager.

Crowd marketing is another form of content marketing that works similar to posts on social media. The idea is mainly to post information about your brand and products on relevant forums, competent websites, and also social media. This is a way to help your customers and potentials solve their problems by using your product or service by providing pieces of advice, answering questions, and sharing tips.

Partnership Options

Developed partnerships can help ecommerce grow and increase sales through gaining exposure. This marketing channel is often considered when marketers are on budget and search for inexpensive options to attract new customers. The important part here is to select the right partners whose brand values are close to yours and with whom you share the same target audience. You may also want to check what distribution instruments can be used to share your message. For example, your partner may not use an email marketing channel but have a great community on Facebook.

Either way, you or a partnership manager should work hard trying to find potential partners, build and develop relationships. There are many great partnership marketing programs to consider to

  • Create joint sales,
  • Broaden distribution channels,
  • Create more compelling packaging,
  • Compose appealing marketing materials,
  • Stronger your and your partner’s brand.

User Experience

Surprisingly, many big ecommerce websites are full of pop-ups, contact forms, and other elements poorly designed. As it appears, the problem is that developers often use ready-made solutions. For example, they try a free or very cheap contact widget without making it look appealing and as a part of the website. Pre-written solutions may work fine at the beginning but later on, they usually cause errors, lower conversion rates, and worsen user experience.

Your website is your chance to meet potentials online, so make the first impression impressive. Free solutions and popular templates are good for amateurs and small projects. Either way, if you plan to scale your project, you can hardly use free options in the first place.

Another thing that you may consider trying is following free tips that promise impressive growth of your conversion rate. As from our experience, this can help one projects and lower the performance of the others. It is necessary to analyze the whole sales funnel and follow the customer’s path to see what works out and what doesn’t. If you don’t what to hire a professional, search for free audit options offered by digital marketing agencies.


Free digital marketing is a set of activities that allow digital marketers to get results much more valuable than the expenses they have to bear. However, you will inevitably face some kind of expenses. As it appears ‘free’ digital marketing options are all about manpower.

We would not recommend you to try cheap options in SEO and UX. Whereas, partnership marketing is a tried and true strategy to gain new customers, including those in new market segments, and save your budget. But make sure to select brands that are somehow related to your company and your clients.

Encouraging your clients to create and share content for your brand is also a proven method. You can add a pair of socks to each set of winter clothing you ship in winter, so your customers will be pleased and are likely to share information about your brand on social media.

Whatever digital marketing tools you choose, be careful and remember that the first mouse does not get the cheese. This is quite true about ‘free’ marketing instruments.

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The hidden costs of “free” digital marketing instruments

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