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The Marketing Strategy for Bloggers with No Money

The Marketing Strategy for Bloggers with No Money

When I started as a blogger I had no spare cash to buy advertising or even for investing in a professional web design for my blog. In fact the credit card company had my number on speed dial!

All I had was passion, a hunger for learning and a domain name. The cost $10…. that was it! Oh yes..I also had time. I was unemployed but my laptop hadn’t been repossessed.

There was another advantage.  I was prepared to make mistakes. Sitting at the back of my mind  was also a lurking and fearful anxiety that those potential stuff ups would be fatal and make me look like a complete idiot.

Not only that, my domain name was my personal name. Ever heard of the naked blogger…that is how I felt to the world. Nowhere to hide.

But I started, wrote my first blog and hit the publish button.

Is there an easy fix?

We are wired as humans to seek a quick fix to our problems and challenges. It is often around pain points of wealth, fitness or looking attractive to the opposite sex. It is often about achieving goals that relieve pain or provide pleasure.

Finding that easy way to fame, fortune or fitness is very tempting. But there is always a price to pay.

You’ve seen the headlines screaming for that quick fix.

  • Lose 30 Pounds in 30 Days
  • Get Rich in Real Estate in 12 Months
  • 12 Tips to Finding the Job You Want in Just 3 Weeks

We all often wish it was just that simple. But the truth is we have to earn or pay our way. I couldn’t pay so I had to go out and earn my way.

What is earned media?

So how do you earn your way online and muscle yourself to the front of the awareness and the blogging traffic queue?

You need to do the work. It means investing in building an online presence that creates trust, drives traffic and builds brand awareness.

This can be broken into three media categories:

  1. Owned:  This includes website, blog, media channels and content that you have control over.
  2. Paid: This is the marketing tactics of buying advertising on Google, Facebook or any online channels that require you getting your credit card or cheque book out. Start paying and you receive varying degrees of traffic and attention. Stop the advertising and the music stops.
  3. Earned: Earned media cannot be bought or owned, it can only be gained organically, hence the term ‘earned’. This applies to “word of mouth” offline and online, building followers, connections and fans on social networks, building an email list and ranking high in Google organic search for the key words and phrases in your business niche.

The 2013 Nielsen “Trust in Advertising” report surveyed the consumers in 58 countries and discovered some interesting and insightful data about earning trust offline and online.

  • Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, often referred to as earned advertising, are still the most influential, as 84 percent of global respondents across 58 countries to the Nielsen online survey said this source was the most trustworthy. This “world of mouth” can also be online.
  • Trust in advertising on branded websites increased 9 percentage points to 69 percent in 2013 as the second most trusted format, a jump from fourth-place ranking in 2007.
  • Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents indicated that they trust consumer opinions posted online, which ranked third in 2013, up 7 percentage points from 2007.

This report highlights the power of earning trust that can be amplified online.

What is the foundation for “earned” blog traffic?

Earned media’s core element that underpins the building of earned trust and media in an online digital world is for the most part built on quality content.

A few months into my blogging journey I became convinced and committed to creating and sharing the best quality content I could muster. I curated content that I found compelling. There was the wrangling and wrestling of  headlines and blog posts into tempting readable morsels. Content was my secret sauce.

Content that resonates with your target audience is the start of building earned online trust. It is the beginning of the customer engagement and content is how you achieve that online. It can start with an image that attracts the online consumer. It can also extend to a free or even paid ebook that displays your knowledge and depth of expertise.

Content is working on your behalf as a brand while you sleep.  It is the beginning of the customer engagement cycle.

The tactics to earned media marketing success

Let’s take a look at some tactics to start “earning” online attention and trust that doesn’t require paid advertising. Many bloggers started this way with only a good idea and a willingness to “have a go”

Keep in mind that a parallel strategy of both “paid” and “earned can accelerate the marketing process. But for many small businesses there is no spare cash for advertising. What they do have is the the knowledge, experience and expertise that just needs to be created, packaged and published as content. That’s your real asset. You just need to make it visible online.

Here is the marketing strategy for bloggers that have time but maybe not much to spend on paid advertising.


Social networks are where content is both published and distributed. The more followers you have the greater the chance you have to amplify trust. Social media marketing power is “earned” as you attract fans and build an online tribe.

Facebook and Twitter are just one of two social networks where you can build a tribe of loyal fans and advocates.

Social proof Twitter


  • People follow you on Twitter through social proof (the number of followers you have which creates online credibility) and the quality of your content.
  • People “like” your Facebook pages because you have earned the right to be followed from content and adding value to their lives.

This is one of the core components for”world of mouth”.

Key tactics

Here are some tips for building followers on social media

  1. Make it easy to follow your brand on social media with “follow us” social buttons or “like” social plugins provided in obvious locations
  2. Keep sharing your content
  3. Share other people’s relevant content
  4. Respond to comments
  5. Use visual content often. You can use a tool such as ShuttleRock for accelerating this with “User Generated Content
  6. Make it easy for users to generate content. User generated content (or UGC)


Organic search is earned.

A new website has no online authority and will receive little or no traffic naturally from search engines on day one, week two or even month six. But you need to start building search engine authority. Make it a priority.

The better your content, including long form blog articles and guides with 1,000 plus words,  the more attractive you are as an industry resource. Your aim?… is to become a reference and “go to” portal for your industry or niche.

As other websites link to your content, over time you earn your page rank. Google measures this through many measurements (called algorithms). But the main way search engines start giving you some online authority is the quantity and quality of the websites linking to your owned online assets such as website, blogs and online stores.

Here is a tool I use to check how many domains and referring (inbound) back links are pointing to my site using the Ahrefs.com tool.

  • 214,000 backlinks
  • 7,000 referring domains

Checking inbound links for SEO

This is a continuous, patient  and persistent task that takes years. Sometimes you will feel that nothing is happening. You need to press on and keep producing content and growing your own distribution networks of email and social. That is how people discover and link to you. It’s called organic link building.

Key tactics

Some tips to earn organic search engine results.

  1. Build your website and blog with search engines in mind. This means key phrases are written in the code and headings of your blog. WordPress does this for you embedded in its design with a little help from plugins
  2. Add SEO plugins to your WordPress blog such as Yoast
  3. Create content that includes key phrases that you want to rank for in headlines and meta descriptions (what appears in the description Google search results).
  4. Do some guest blogging. This will help in building links back to your website or blog.


Building an email list is another key earned marketing strategy. The list is “earned” and built one subscriber at a time. So how do you build a list.

One very effective way to do this is to offer an incentive to subscribe.

Free ebook for email list building

Key tactics 

Some tips to building that large email list fast.

  1. Provide a free ebook in return for capturing an email address and name
  2. Make your homepage one big optin for email
  3. Place an email call to action at the bottom of each page and post
  4. Implement a popup that invites people to subscribe 10-20 seconds after they land on your site
  5. Provide a popup that invites people to subscribe when they are leaving
  6. Design, build and promote Facebook competitions and contests that capture email addresses. Heyo.com is one app that excels at this email list building on Facebook

Word of mouth

Word of mouth lives offline and online. A good review that is passed on by friends and family only occurs if you have provided a service or a product that is overwhelmingly positive. Being rated as 5 stars with a glowing recommendation is one of the most powerful earned marketing assets you can have.

Key tactics

There are some design and technology tactics that can help build up those online reviews

  • Design and build your ecommerce website on a platform that makes it easy for customers to leave a review.
  • Implement a tool such as Bazaar Voice for your online store. This software pulls reviews from social platforms onto your site.
  • Provide an incentive for people to leave a review on your site and third party sites (eg Trip Advisor if you are a hotel or restaurant)

Earned media is a journey that requires patience and a persistence. But  it has been shown to be the most effective and powerful marketing source for bloggers, business and brands?

What about you?

So how can you grow your earned media and blog traffic? What’s been your experience? Do you struggle for motivation sometimes?

Look forward to hearing your stories and insights in the comments below.


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  • Tricia Todd

    It’s very generous of you Jeff to educate young businesses that you know would only dream of being able to use your services. But, actually an awesome business move because you are teaching people to get themselves into a position to need you.

    • Thanks for the comment Tricia. Yes, education and also inspiring people to realize that they “can” do it, is what I love to share.

  • Hey Jeff,

    I’m actually following these steps now. When I first started, I also felt naked LOL… but as time progress, you learn more, do more, give more, and receive more. The best part of it are those “aha” moments you get. But yes this is right on key! I’ve seen a big difference this year compared to last year, and it would be great for those beginners that are just getting started! Thanks for the share!

    • Yes, there are steps along the way where the light bulb moment occurs!

  • Hi Jeff,

    Love it man. I too was being stalked by creditors….and actually went bankrupt when I started the blogging thing. Yet through earned marketing, by writing content, and tweaking, and connecting with successful folks, a few years later I’m writing these words from a beach front home in Savusavu, Fiji, through blogging.

    Crazy, when you think about it for a minute. If you’re willing to work, and learn, and trade your time in for something bigger than you, something truly special, you can start a successful blogging business by marketing on a shoestring budget.

    Your post is spot on, your earned traffic note, well I resonate so much with that. There’s where the success is, because when you pay in terms of time, mastering a craft, you’ll build your name up, and Google, nor any paid ad stream, nor any channel can take your name and knowledge and brand away from you, unless you stop being true to you.

    I’m a fan of using free marketing methods. 5 years after starting the blogging bit I still only pay for hosting, and a domain. All else is organic for me, and thank goodness it was because it forced me to learn my craft and hone my skills inside out to drive targeted traffic to my blog.

    Awesome insight Jeff. Thanks once again for the helpful, inspiring share.


  • This is great. I’m just starting a blog. I never really expected to do this. I began a homeschooling journey due to an illness that was going to require my daughter to miss a lot of school. It began with me posting info I thought others could use on Facebook. Those posts grew longer over time and I unintentionally built an audience of homeschool moms and teachers. They have encouraged me to move my longer posts to a blog. I have a lot of info to share, but no idea how to blog. I just continue to follow your advice and take it one step at a time. So thankful that Kim Garst suggested your ebooks to me.

  • I’m at the beginning stage. It’s not working for me yet, but hopefully, one day! Thank you for the insights, they are very helpful.

  • m_young

    Hi Jeff,

    As usual, I have found your blog post very informative and helpful. It is great to know that it is possible to make headway without the need of a huge investment of cash. Like others have posted, I am only really at the beginning of my blogging journey and find that motivation and the ability to set aside time to concentrate on writing is the biggest hurdles I face. I also should always carry a notebook, as I often have ideas when I am out and about but have forgotten them by the time I am in a position to capture them.

    Thanks again for sharing this information.



  • Herb Silverman

    As always, your article is both insightful and very useful. As a new blogger, I am taking it slow, yet simple with some of the steps you just laid out. Because this is a personal blog, (and especially talking about a cause of people that have aphasia, a language disorder,) I am very passionate to learn as much as I can about blogging. As always, your helpfulness is appreciated.

    (By the way, if you’d like to see what aphasia is, not only go to my blog but also the National Aphasia Association at http://www.aphasia.org.)

  • Thanks Jeff, I find this info very helpful thanks for sharing.

  • Wonderful blog post Jeff! Really informative with a ton of useful tips – especially around building up an email list, which is something I see many bloggers sadly overlooking.

    I’d add that in my experience, once you’ve built up some raving fans of your blog that you shouldn’t be afraid to occasionally share content with them directly. You’d hope that all your blog fans read all your new content, but in reality people are busy so it’s worth directly drawing their attention to articles they may find relevant and interesting and, in turn, share with others.

  • Nick Pasculli

    Hey Jeff,

    Thanks for sharing this very useful post on this blog. I am very impressed to read this. Hope you will provide good information about marketing strategy in your upcoming posts. Well Done!

  • Abu Nizar al-Hasan

    This post really provides great information.
    Such great marketing tips, I am suggesting another tip. We can add virtual tour at our web site to provide our customers with more detailed information. This can lead us in bringing more visitors and customers.

  • thanks for this information. Really nice

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  • Amazing value in this post. I like the different types of traffic that you spoke about – owned, paid and earned! Thanks for the connection on LinkedIN as well. 🙂