By Bruce Townsend online marketing specialist for Actinic

You don’t need big bucks to get your business noticed on the web. With a little knowledge, a small budget, and a reasonable amount of effort, you can promote your web site very effectively.

1.Check out the competition

Learn from other people’s success. How do your main online competitors present themselves? What keywords are they using in their text and navigation?

Find out where their links come from by typing ‘link:’ followed by their URL, with no space between, into the Yahoo! search box (e.g. ‘link:www.actinic.co.uk’). Then canvas the same sites for links to yours. Links are the lifeblood of every website.

Alexa (www.alexa.com) and Compete (www.compete.com) contain invaluable information on visitor behaviour and metrics for the DIY online marketer.

2.Social networking and forums

Social networking sites, forums and newsgroups are valuable for online networking and raising awareness. Overt selling is inappropriate and can get you banned, but you can participate in discussion, ask and answer questions, get feedback on ideas, and follow trends. The ones that don’t use ‘nofollow’ tags in their links are useful for search engine optimisation as well.

3.Online PR

PR can be as effective online as offline. But you need an interesting, amusing or entertaining story, not just a boring commercial announcement.

Several free online PR sites, such as www.openpr.com, will accept free news releases, and can get you listed in Google News.

You can also post to social bookmarking sites such as Digg and delicio.us. Post a range of interesting stories, not just your own announcements. And you will need to build up a network of friends and followers.

4. Affiliate schemes

An affiliate scheme incentivises sites to link to you by sharing a small proportion of any profit you make from customers they refer. They differ from link farms, stuffed with random unrelated links. Their purpose is not to cheat search engines, but foster a mutually beneficial relationship. You can join an existing scheme such as Affiliate Window, or set up your own. Some sites get between 15 and 20% of their business this way.

5. Email

Email is quick and easy to respond to — all the recipient has to do is click a link. And it is very scalable, costing little more to contact 10,000 people than 100. Even a plain text email can be effective.

Personalising each email, using a program like GroupMail, increases the effectiveness.

As a rule, you can email anyone who has contacted you about your products and services unless they ask you not to. You can buy in lists and email them, provided they are ‘opt-in’ lists with permission for third party emailing.

6. Analytics

You should track the results of your efforts with good analytics package. Google Analytics is popular, and completely free.

Set up properly, it will not only tell you how many visitors came from each referring site or keyword, but how much money you made from them.

With a little research and a little practice you will find that promoting your web site is not so much limited by your budget as by the time you have available.