Pay For Advertising, Or Market On My Own: I'm Confused

Hello all,

I have started a social network for the mental health community. It is niche based, so I know exactly who my market is, just not sure how to reach them. Here are some things I have done so far:

-Press Release
-Twitter: Helped a little, but not a lot
-Bookmarking Sites: Don’t think this has done much
-Emails: I sent out some emails to people within the field. Some of the mail got filtered as spam, but some got through and generated some subscriptions.
-Blog: I just started a blog a few weeks ago, still getting it going

I have been working on improving the site, and now I am focusing on SEO and marketing, which I really don’t understand. I had the title of my site far too vague for a few months, and it was hurting me badly in the search engines. Once I put a descriptive title, I moved up 15- 20 pages in certain keyword searches, and I’m on the second page of one keyword search. So, who knows what else I am doing that is hurting my traffic.

I have been told by many that this is a great idea. I know who my market is, I just don’t know how to reach them. And, not only do I need them to find my site, I need them to sign up and then stay. It’s tricky.

I’m not sure whether I should pay for advertising or not, as I don’t really know how effective it will be. I don’t want to pay for it and have it do nothing. I will be using my mental health blog to push traffic to the social network through multiple methods such as bookmarking sites, SEO, blog directories, etc, but not sure if I should couple some paid advertising with it.

Should I put some money into advertising? If so, should I advertise through Google or pay for ads on a special interest site? Right now my budget is really tight. I probably only have about $500 I could spend on ads, I should have more later in the year though. Or, should I skip paid advertising and focus on marketing my blog and social network myself? Or should I save my money and hire an SEO person?

Sorry, I know this is a full question. Any advice you can give me would be great. Thanks!

Hey there,

First - don’t worry about posting a detailed question like this. It’s a legit concern of yours and trust me, the detail you provided is appreciated. :slight_smile:

That right there is KEY when it comes to choosing a niche to market to, and something I encourage everyone considering a business to put a lot of thought into beforehand.

One of the questions I always like to ask is “who else do you know that already does business with the people you’re trying to reach”? Is this a group that reads certain magazines or visits certain websites - and if so - can you submit an article or press release to them, or advertise directly on their website or in maybe an email newsletter they offer?

Another option I like is putting a free whitepaper or report together and advertising that with adwords to get people to your site, and ideally get them to signup for your email newsletter. Can’t find it right now, but mailchimp posted about this on their blog a little while ago and I think it’s a great method to get prospects to your site.

Hope this helps some - oh and welcome to Sitepoint!


I think Steve already provided some great advice so I’ll keep this simple and address a few of your concerns about niche advertising.

Since you have a small, defined audience you need to look at what they do and where they go. It’s going to be hard to find cheaper or more traditional ads like search because most people are not searching for themselves (i.e. ‘mental health counselor’) but they are likely to be connected through networks, associations and possibly journals or newsletters. If you can identify those opportunities you may have a winner.

Knowing people in this field I personally I would suggest you work on your value to influencers rather than ads. If you can get a few dozen core users to come on board and share you will grow.

SEO, PPC and the likes are probably not going to be the driver that content, word of mouth and even involvement in events and programs will be.

My target market is mental health consumers, as opposed to mental health professionals. They would certainly be welcome, but the consumer level is what I am going for. There really is only one consumer level group I am focusing on, because they are the largest outside of govt. but they are not-for-profit. If I can get in with them, I am golden. I don’t have a chance of gaining their support at a corporate level because they have too much to worry about, and much of the same can be said about them at the state level as well. However, they have regionals which are peer run, these are the people I am going for.

I have reached a couple of people, I emailed a flyer to them, but they may not do a thing with it, it’s out of my hands. They publish newsletters, which are done at a regional and state level. I am working on getting a write up into one of them, but it needs to be written as though it’s a story and not an ad. They are not-for-profit, and I am “for profit”, so I have to do it right if they are going to play ball. My two new tactics will be to try and get a write-up in a few newletters, as well as create a new press feed detailing my blog and other new additions. So, I have been working on the marketing at a grassroots level, but wasn’t sure if I should combine online advertising with this to be more effective.

If you can find that blog post, I’d like to read it. Thanks!


Ah…that can be kinda tough with a market like that. Going after people who may need mental health services (if I understand what you’re going for here) is kind of like a mechanic trying to reach prospects who may or may not need car repair services in the future. You have to throw out a wide net in that case and try to (I hate to say it) “brand yourself” and get your name out over and over again so that when people do need help, you’re the one they think of to call.

This is where it’s helpful to send out a regular email newsletter so you can hopefully get people on your list who may need your services in the future - they when they’re ready - they know who to call because you’ve kept in touch with them regularly.

Heres that mailchimp post I mentioned and if you’re considering email marketing, they’ve got a nice free account for up to 500 subscribers on your list.


Well, the concept of the site is merely to provide a portal (kind of like facebook) for people with mental illness to interact, as well as to deliver other mental health related content. So, the money would be made on advertising primarily. They wouldn’t seek any services from me outside of what the site is there for, I am merely the administrator of the network. The sign ups would be free, but it will be difficult to get people to stay around when not many have signed up yet. I am getting more and more content together, but I need more users in order to get more users. I hope this clarifies.

The bottom line is that you are just going to have to advertise.

We are talking an entirely different field here, trying to bring in folks with mental health issues.

Create a line of appealing ads, and first place them in sites they go to…

I would talk to hospitals, clinics, and whatnot for ideas on the kind of sites.

The staff, if they like your idea, may be able to offer some tips.

Of course the folks with this mental illness also go to sites you and I go to, duh, but you have to start out this way, to get this going quicker.

Also, do keyword searches on the subject.

Send e-mails to hospitals, clinics, special sites that cater to them to announce your site.

Of course that will need work, so you will not come across as just a spammer.

I would form the e-mail in a way as to ask for advice instead.

Try to think outside the box in this manner.

But, you are going to have to advertise. There is no way around it.

Have you thought about narrowing down your niche some to maybe a particular kind of illness? That’s really a HUGE market to go after and it’s tough to get a foot in the door when you consider almost anyone an ideal prospect and you can quickly blow your marketing budget trying to be everything to everyone.

I’d say first create good content, do guest posting on related blogs, post in related forums, do article marketing (all is free or you can outsource it if you have $$).

Then focus on SEO and linkbuilding to get ranking, you can even do some PPC (but dont if you are a total newb).