Losing my job for blowing the whistle on Bank of America felt like the entire world got turned upside down. Cut off from Corporate America and facing financial ruin, I dove headfirst into the internet, where I broke bread with Anonymous and studied the science of SEO. The transition from corporate cubicle-monkey to freelance consultant taught me a lot of valuable lessons about the internet I'd like to relay to you.
Here are 4 free websites and services that can assist in growing any brand:
1 -- Google
Just about everyone uses Google, and you'd be a fool not to pay attention. Google's Maps program is on every Android phone and a significant portion of iPhones -- updating your business profile with Google will ensure you're listed on GPS navigation systems in the hands of millions of potential customers, literally leading them straight to your business' front door.
Registering your website with Google provides better search engine results for your brand, while Google+ is essential for integrating and tracking your profile across all Google platforms. If you're interested in finding out more about the search engine benefits of Google+ and how it competes with Facebook, my colleague, Ryan Howard, recently wrote a great piece about it.
2 -- Wikipedia
If you want to be relevant, you need to be listed in the encyclopedia. These days the crowd-sourced, non-profit Wikipedia project has all but obliterated all other encyclopedic sites, becoming one of the most widely visited websites on the internet. By getting your brand listed on Wikipedia, you're not only establishing yourself as an industry leader, you're gaining a valuable web presence and SEO assistance, as links to your pages are indexed on the site.
Be wary when creating a page, however. Wikipedia is closely monitored by a slew of editors waiting to pick apart any PR fluff pieces, so ensure you familiarize yourself with their neutrality policies before you begin.
3 -- Craigslist
Craigslist is a great place to build a street team for growing your brand. Whether you need fliers, transportation, extra hands, or equipment, the classifieds are the place to look. On an SEO level, the links don't last long enough to help your SEO strategy, but any publicity is good publicity, and Craigslist is a valuable site to help you build brand awareness behind the scenes.
4 -- Amazon
If you have something to sell, Amazon and iTunes are great places to do it. Once you have a UPC code or product SKU, you can sell an ebook or mp3 on both of these sites. Where Amazon trumps iTunes is in the ability to ship physical merchandise. No matter what business you're in, there will always be a market segment that prefers a physical product over the digital equivalent. Amazon helps you bridge the gap, and the free shipping included in their Prime membership makes it a worthwhile business expense.
In addition, Amazon's mTurk program is a great way to outsource repetitive or mundane tasks, such as finding business contacts, data entry, and transcription. This crowdsourcing platform allows you to create tasks and pay pennies per task to have them completed by mTurk's worker pool.