One of the questions I hear most often these days goes something like, "How the heck am I supposed to keep my small business going in this economy? I don't have a lot of money for advertising."

A valid lament for sure.

Unlike big businesses that are doing well (think Exxon Mobil ( XOM)) or even big companies that are not (airlines, Starbucks ( SBUX), etc.) one of the first things to be cut when tough times hit small businesses is the advertising and marketing budget.

The good news is that there is in fact a great way to market your business that is not expensive and is very effective. However, it is quite time-consuming.

It's called search engine optimization. SEO gets you noticed, is practically free marketing and increases sales. SEO is the magic bullet.

Oh, I can hear your collective cries now: "Come on Steve, it's too hard; it doesn't work; it's for businesses far bigger than mine; I don't know how to do it, I don't have time to learn it."

I say, remember the immortal words of Paul Harvey: "In times like these it is good to know there have always been times like these." The point is, good times and bad times are part of this gig; you signed up for them when you decided to go into business for yourself.

And if that is true, then it is also true that in times like these, hearty entrepreneurs learn new skills. That is both the joy and sorrow of self employment.

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