Successful Internet Marketing Without A Budget


The following excerpts were taken from an interview held with successful web marketer Darren Cronian in June 2005.

LM:You are successfully promoting Worldwide Holiday Homes, without a marketing budget. Is this a decision you took out of necessity or choice?

DC:Certainly out of necessity - I dream of the day when I can spend thousands of pounds on marketing my business.

When I first had the idea of the business I had no business plan, I hadn't designed a website before, and I'd certainly never heard of the term SEO, never mind what is stood for. All I did know was that I would submit this website to Google, and within days thousands of visitors would be visiting my site.. (I'm being serious!) that's how innocent I was.

LM:It could be argued that someone who looks to promote a site without any kind of budget is either ill-prepared or lacks faith in the product or service they are offering. What are your feelings about this?

DC:I would agree with you - the idea came to me when my parents bought a holiday home in Spain, and I had never thought about building a business before, I was ill prepared and to some degree, I lacked belief that the website and services were going to be successful, and if it wasn't for my own dedication to succeed the business wouldn't be in the position that it is in today.

Trying to promote your site without spending any money must be extremely difficult. What do you consider to be your biggest challenge in terms of marketing?

I cannot explain how difficult it is - I see my competitors spending thousands (if not millions) on PPC campaigns, television and radio advertisements, etc and sometimes that can be soul destroying, and you do think 'What am I doing wrong?' but these companies have a work force that are dedicated on building and running the company - whilst I'm running the business by myself, in my living room.

The biggest challenge with marketing is persuading clients (villa owners) that I can offer them a service, which is good value for money, has great support and customer care - unfortunately, the sector I am working within, the travel industry, has thousands of companies, and many of them have let owners down, and in my opinion made life very difficult for genuine businesses.

The other challenge I face is making sure that the website is regularly visited by holidaymakers - without the traffic from the likes of Google, Yahoo and MSN the business would not exist - fair enough you could say that about 99% of online companies, but the owners who advertise their villas, etc. rely on enquiries from holidaymakers, and if I'm not providing owners with enquiries, I'm failing them and the business.

LM:Do you feel that having no marketing budget restrains your site from moving forward and competing with the leaders in your industry?

DC:It certainly does - I want to be respected by the travel industry, and I want everyone to know who Worldwide Holiday Homes are - when someone is looking to rent a villa I want them to say "oh let's go to Worldwide Holiday Homes". Without a marketing budget, I don't have the funds to pay for a PR company to raise the profile of the business and I think long term this will affect the business unless I increase the revenue to the business.

LM:To be able to compete with those webmasters who have large sums of money available for promotion do you feel you need to think smarter or work harder?

DC:Both think smarter and work harder. My working week is working around 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, it doesn't give me much time for a social life, but if I put the hard work in now, in years to come that hard work will come to fruition. The great thing about webmaster forums like Digitalpoint.com is that you can learn from other webmasters, and all of the experience and knowledge I have gained running this business has been from more experienced webmasters and search engine specialists.

LM:If you are not spending money then presumably you are relying on SEO skills to promote your site. What areas of Search Engine Optimisation have you spent time on and which have generated the most successful results?

DC:I certainly am relying on SEO skills to promote the website and have focused more on researching keywords which holidaymakers are using to find the type of holiday accommodation the portfolio has available, as well as working on various linking strategies to get the website and it's pages ranking well.

Initially I thought specific keywords would bring in thousands of holidaymakers every week - the keyword 'holiday rentals' I thought would be an excellent keyword to get ranked on the first page - I found after spending a good few months optimising the website for this keyword that it brings in a few referrals a day... lesson learned there.

LM:What proportion of your internet traffic is direct referral from search engine queries?

DC:I would say 90% of the traffic is from search queries from search engines and directories - with the other 10% from links, and forum posts. I feel I'm in a position now to attempt to bring in more visitors by spending revenue on marketing the website through other means - I do have sleepless nights thinking what I would do if Google was to stop sending me holidaymakers.

LM:What would you consider to be your best, zero cost, marketing success?

DC:Good question - search engine optimisation on a number of pages with some very competitive keywords - obviously I don't want to give my competitors the opportunity of outranking me, so I'd prefer not to divulge the keyword terms. Also, I submitted a few press releases to www.prweb.com and found myself speaking to two editors of a regional newspaper, and an online travel magazine, both these articles brought in a good level of traffic for a few weeks after... and it was free.

LM:Your site has featured in UK papers (The Yorkshire Evening Post). How did you manage to gain such press coverage?

DC:The business was featured in the Yorkshire Evening Post under the business section, simply because one of the editors had heard about me setting up this business and thought it would be a really good story for other small business owners (or people thinking about setting up a business). Word of mouth is and will always be the best form of marketing - I spoke to a guy in the pub, who knew an editor at the newspaper and the rest is history.

LM:Now that you are obviously experiencing some success are you tempted to invest your profits into marketing in order to move your site up to the next level?

DC:Yes, in the past couple of weeks I have started to look for quality websites to promote my business and website on, the problem with advertising is that you don't know how effective it is going to be, and with a tight marketing budget you can't afford to make any mistakes.

LM:Finally, do you have any other areas of free promotion that you are looking to exploit in the near future?

DC:Yes, I'm actually writing my first e-book, and will obviously continue on optimising the website and writing press releases and travel articles. I believe that networking (word of mouth) is a big part of promoting your business, and you won't believe how many new clients I have received by simply taking a taxi ride and telling the driver all about my business (without boring him!) and handing them my business card. I'm also a member of www.ecademy.com which is paid or free membership, and enables you to meet and network with people of the same interests, this has been a great place to pick up ideas and again promote my business.

Lee Munson runs the site http://www.info-sales.co.uk which offers free webmaster resources, including a huge list of free directories to submit your site to.

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