17 Creative Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
Every marketing idea below has worked for us.
They’re all free or inexpensive, creative (not the usual boring ideas), and things that pretty much any business can do.
Here’s the list:
- Write blog posts that rank and convert
- Get video views from Google
- Get included on “best x in y” lists
- Turn your customers into walking billboards
- Get interviewed on podcasts
- Tap into other brands’ audiences
- Use smart targeting to get more Quora views
- Convert unlinked mentions to backlinks
- Translate your site into other languages
- Piggyback on big sites to rank
- Repurpose existing content
- Create a “versus” page
- Send your product for reviews
- Share barebones posts on Reddit
- Capture featured snippets
- Nurture your fans in a Facebook group
- Do things differently
1. Write blog posts that rank and convert
The Ahrefs blog drives ~380,000 monthly organic visits and sends a ton of sign-ups for our tools.
This is a deliberate part of our content marketing strategy: to write about topics that people are searching for in Google and tie them back to our product.
How do you do this?
First, you need to find topics that people are searching for in Google. The easiest way to do this is to use a free keyword research tool like Keyword Generator.
Enter a relevant topic and it’ll show you up to 150 keyword ideas and their estimated monthly search volumes. For example, if you sell tea online, you might want to enter terms like “tea” or “tea leaves.”
Eyeball the list to see if any of them are a good match for your site. Generally speaking, the higher the search volume, the more organic traffic you can get from ranking high in Google.
You’ll then have to score each topic by ‘business value,’ which is essentially just how well you can pitch your product or service in the content.
Here’s the scoring criteria we use for our own blog posts:
|Score||What is means||Example|
|3||Our product is an irreplaceable solution to the problem.||“how to rank higher on google” — because it’s hard to do that without a toolset like Ahrefs.|
|2||Our product helps quite a bit, but it isn’t essential to solving the problem.||“SEO tips” — because some tips aren’t possible without our product, but others are.|
|1||Our product can only be mentioned fleetingly.||“marketing ideas” — because SEO is one of many marketing ideas, and Ahrefs helps with that.|
|0||There’s absolutely no way to mention our product.||“social media marketing” — because that isn’t something Ahrefs helps with.|
The goal here is to find topics with high search traffic potential and high ‘business value.’
Recommended reading: How to Do Keyword Research for SEO (Beginner’s Guide)
2. Get video views from Google
Not only do our YouTube videos get tons of views from YouTube, they also rank on Google and get traffic from Google search:
We achieved this by targeting topics that:
- Have search traffic potential. People are searching for them on YouTube and Google.
- Have video intent. Most people would prefer to watch a video instead of reading—even if they’re searching Google.
To find these topics, we’ll use Content Explorer, a mini search engine that lets you search through a database of over five billion pages for mentions of a particular word or phrase.
Start by running this search:
site:youtube.com inurl:watch title:topic
Then, sort the results by organic traffic. This should give you a list of relevant YouTube videos that currently get organic search traffic from Google.
For example, the apple turnover recipe video gets over 6,400 monthly visits from Google and has around 621,000 views on YouTube.
If you had a recipe channel, it might be worth creating a video about this topic to get traffic from both YouTube and Google.
Once you’ve collected a list of relevant topics, the next step is to create a video that’ll rank on both YouTube and Google.
How do you do that? Watch read this article or this video:
3. Get included on ‘best x in y’ lists
You can find “best X in Y” lists no matter which industry or region you’re in.
For example, if you live in the UK, you can find lists of the best cafes for London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and so on. You can even find articles about the best cafes for East, South, North, and West London.
Simply put: if it’s relevant to your business and you’re not on any of these lists, you’re missing out on potential traffic, brand awareness and customers.
To find these lists, simply search Google for them.
If you’re an Ahrefs user, you can install the Ahrefs SEO toolbar to see which pages in the search results get the most traffic so you can prioritize them.
Go through the lists to see if you’re featured. If you’re not, reach out and see if you can get them to include you.
4. Turn your customers into walking billboards
This is Matt.
Not only is he a well-respected SEO, he’s also an amazing TikTok dancer.
However, we’re not judging his dance ability here. What’s important is that he and his dance partners are wearing Ahrefs t‑shirts, which means he’s advertising and endorsing our brand.
At a production cost of $20 per T‑shirt, it’s quite possibly the cheapest billboard ever.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be a T‑shirt. Other low-cost items that have a similar effect include:
- Laptop stickers
5. Get interviewed on podcasts
We’ve had thousands of sign-ups from podcasts:
Yet, we don’t even produce one of our own. How did we do this?
Simple. There are thousands of podcasts out there looking for guests to share their knowledge. All you have to do is find them and pitch to be a guest.
The easiest way to find podcast opportunities is to search Google for “best [industry] podcasts.”
Alternatively, you can find a prolific podcaster in your industry and find podcasts where they’ve been a guest.
For example, Lindie Botes has appeared on a few podcasts in the language learning space. We can easily find pretty much every podcast she’s been on by pasting her website into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, heading to the Backlinks report, typing her name in the “Include” box, and setting the target to “Titles of referring pages.”
Looking through the report, we can see tons of podcasts she’s been on.
Once you’ve identified relevant podcasts, find the host’s email and reach out to see if they’re willing to have you as a guest.
Recommended reading: 12 lessons I learned from doing 20+ podcast interviews in 4 months
6. Work with other brands to tap into each others’ audiences
This is our CMO Tim delivering a webinar at 5am:
Here’s the twist: we didn’t host this webinar. Buffer hosted it. Buffer is a social media management tool used by digital marketers, who are also likely to need an SEO toolset.
Together, we did a joint webinar on driving website traffic. Both of us promoted heavily on social media leading up to the day of the webinar. Post-webinar, Buffer did a follow-up blog post. On our end, we posted a recording of the webinar on YouTube and put the presentation slides up on Slideshare.
This was a great way to tap into each other’s audiences, while splitting the work of content creation.
7. Use smart targeting to get more views on Quora
Quora is a Q&A site where anyone can ask or answer questions.
That means you can respond to existing questions in your industry, build some brand awareness and generate traffic to your website along the way.
In fact, I did this previously for Ahrefs, and got over one million views:
Now, this didn’t come about because I answered any and every question. Not only would that take too much time, but you’ll end up writing answers that nobody sees.
So, here’s a better way: answer questions that are already getting traffic. The easiest way to find these is to enter quora.com into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, and go to the Top pages report. This shows the pages on Quora that receive the most organic search traffic.
Narrow down the list by entering a relevant keyword in the “Include” box.
Look through the list and answer those that are relevant to your business.
Recommended reading: Quora Marketing: ~1 Million Views Generated. Here’s How to Replicate Our Success
8. Convert unlinked mentions to backlinks for more traffic
An unlinked mention is when someone mentions you online… but doesn’t link back to you.
Here’s what one looks like for Ahrefs:
This is a somewhat wasted opportunity because, according to our study of ~1 billion pages, backlinks correlate heavily with organic traffic.
Luckily, since the author is already talking about you, you’re already halfway towards earning a link. All you need to do is reach out and ask them to make the mention clickable.
But first, you’ll need to find your unlinked mentions. How?
The easiest way is to search for your brand name in Ahrefs’ Content Explorer.
Since you only want to reach out to each site once, check the “One page per domain” toggle. Then in the “Highlight unlinked domains” box, enter your domain.
This will highlight all the pages that mention your brand on websites that haven’t yet linked to you. In other words, pages with unlinked mentions.
If there are too many results, narrow the list down using the filters.
Finally, export this report, tick the “Only highlighted unlinked domains,” then reach out to any relevant sites and request that they make the mention clickable.
It’s worth noting that there is some nuance to this process. You won’t want to email everyone. Read the post below to learn more about the ins and outs of building links with unlinked mentions.
Recommended reading: A Simple Guide to Turning (Unlinked) Brand Mentions into Links
9. Translate your site into other languages
We’ve translated many of our blog posts into German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian.
Why? Because we realized that there were tons of people our content and product could benefit who don’t speak English as their first language.
If you’re worried about translation costs, here’s a tip: work with your customers. Offer your product for free in exchange for a certain number of translations per month. This was what we did in the beginning:
Now we’ve gone one step further and are also translating our videos:
10. Piggyback on big sites to rank for competitive keywords
It’s hard to compete for certain keywords as a small business. For example, the search results for the query “best coffee machines” are dominated by big websites.
Outranking these behemoths would be a huge undertaking. Most of us don’t have the resources to get there anytime soon.
But there’s another option: write a guest post for a big, relevant website and piggyback off their reputation and authority to rank. This allows you to occupy valuable SERP real estate, even if it’s not on the website you own.
For example, I wrote a guest post for SmartBlogger two years ago. Today, the page still ranks high in Google for over 231 keywords and generates an estimated ~600 monthly organic visits.
Recommended reading: Guest Blogging for SEO: How to Build High-quality Links at Scale
11. Repurpose existing content for maximum exposure
Every post we write on the Ahrefs Blog takes hours to write and tons of research.
It would be a complete waste if we just hit ‘publish’ and let it be. So, we extend its shelf life by turning it into multiple formats.
For example, we turned our article on common SEO myths into a video:
We also regularly turn our YouTube videos into articles. Not only does this make content creation easier, it also helps you reach a wider audience who hang out on different platforms and may prefer different content formats.
You can also turn articles and videos into Twitter threads, like what we did here:
If you’re doing client SEO, new clients will likely ask you this question:
“How long till my website/page ranks on top of Google?“
The standard response: it depends.
But is there a better answer?
We did a study in 2017 to find out.
— Ahrefs (@ahrefs) October 1, 2019
And don’t just stop with your brand account. You can also get your employees to turn their own content into threads:
One of the most misunderstood Google Analytics metrics.
9 things you might not have known.
— Michal Pecánek (@michalpecanek) December 2, 2020
12. Create a ‘versus’ page
A “versus” page helps your customers decide between you and your competitors. And we recently published one of our own… with a difference.
Most “versus” pages are simply a side-by-side comparison of features where the page creator wins. We didn’t like that idea. So, rather than doing the same ol’ thing, we decided to feature independent polls and reviews instead.
Looks like it was pretty well-received.
This is the best (and most ethical) software comparison page I’ve ever read: https://t.co/O70MTUR4w3 by @ahrefs
Unlike the majority of “vs” pages, this page comes off as genuine.
— Jake Sacino • SEO ️ (@bitofseo) November 25, 2020
Key takeaway: you can create ethical product comparison pages that prove the worth of your product and still cement your brand’s long-term reputation.
13. Send your product for reviews
We recently launched Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, our answer to the limitations of Google Search Console. Before our launch, we gave a preview of the tool to journalists, which resulted in mentions on Search Engine Journal and Tech Radar:
Press mention for Ahrefs Webmaster Tools on TechRadar.
Customers don’t just check product comparison pages before buying a product. They also frequently read reviews by other people. So getting your products independently reviewed is a good way to get more earned media, increase awareness, and build your brand.
At this point, you’re wondering: how do you know which publications you should reach out to?
The easiest way is to find out who has reviewed or featured products similar to yours, then reach out and offer them your product for testing.
To do this, search for reviews of competing brands in Content Explorer. For example, if you’re an up-and-coming email marketing app, then a competitor could be MailChimp, so you’d search for something along the lines of “mailchimp review.”
Next, hit the “one page per domain” toggle to limit results to one page per domain.
Look through the list and reach out to any websites you think would be interested in reviewing your product or service.
Reach out and see if you can get your brand mentioned alongside your competitors.
14. Share barebones posts on Reddit
Nothing happens on the Internet without Reddit knowing.
Every day, millions of people gather on this forum-like social network to discuss all sorts of topics, ranging from the popular cartoon Rick and Morty to serious topics like investing.
Now, Reddit is notorious for its intense loathing of anything remotely promotional. But its users love helpful, valuable content.
So, here’s what you can do.…
Take one of your blog posts, strip away all internal and external links, format it in markdown and share it on a relevant subreddit. Only at the end do you leave a link back to your original blog post.
Our CMO, Tim Soulo, recently did this with his guide to keyword research.
At 72 upvotes and 18 comments, it did pretty well.
Recommended reading: Reddit Marketing: How To Self Promote on Reddit And Get More Traffic
15. Capture featured snippets
Featured snippets are pieces of information that typically appear at the top of Google’s search results. They provide answers to the search query by pulling relevant content from top-ranking pages.
Generally speaking, capturing the featured snippet will lead to more organic traffic going to your site.
How do you find featured snippets?
Since Google generally pulls the featured snippet from a page that ranks on the first page, the easiest way is to find pages on your site that already rank in the top 10 for a particular term but don’t own the snippet.
To do this, enter your domain into Ahrefs’ Site Explorerand filter keywords that trigger featured snippets where your website is ranking in positions 2–10.
Then read this guide to learn how to optimize your content to try and capture the featured snippet.
16. Nurture your fanbase with a Facebook group
Ahrefs Insider is our exclusive customers-only Facebook group. As of January 2021, we have around 13.5k active members and average roughly 100 posts a month.
Besides our members helping each other out on SEO issues daily, we also run regular threads that benefit everyone:
We also frequently post product updates, answer members’ support-related questions, and give tips on leveraging our toolset better.
The result: an engaged community that’s always on hand and eager to share their knowledge, as well as give input on our tool.
Want to learn how we grew our Facebook group? Watch this video:
17. Do things differently
Three years ago, at the Digital Marketing Skill Share (DMSS) conference in Bali, we had an opportunity to create a banner for display at our booth.
Rather than produce the same-old corporate sales pitch, here’s what we did:
People loved it.
If you could sum up Ahrefs’ marketing philosophy in one sentence, it would be “do things differently.” The banner, our “versus” page, our home page—the tactics are familiar, but we’ve added a twist to how we’ve executed them.
We live in a world where everything’s been done before, and most people are blindly copying others. But if you want people to take notice of your brand, you’ll have to stand out. And that means being different.
Of course, there’s no surefire way to be different. I can’t give you an answer and say, “here, that’ll do the trick.” It doesn’t work that way. Marketing is ultimately a creative endeavor, and you have to experiment to figure things out.
But here’s an actionable takeaway you can use. Ask yourself this question, “What if I did the opposite?”
That may spark some new ideas for your business.
I hope you’ve walked away from this post with a handful of new, actionable ideas to test out for yourself.
Did I miss out on any cool marketing ideas? If you have any to share, let me know on Twitter.