As a small business, there’s nothing better than free online advertising. In the digital age, there are a variety of platforms to help you spread the word about your business, but you have to start by getting yourself online. Search engines are a common starting point for consumers, and as a business owner, being knowledgeable about free ways to help your business appear more often in local searches will bring you more visibility and business.
We’ve compiled a list of seven free online advertising opportunities that any small business can take advantage of. Each of these free online advertising tricks will get you in front of potential customers and help you to be more relevant in local search.
1. Claim and complete your business listings
In addition to ensuring that all of your business information is accurate on your own website, be sure all of your online business listings are claimed and complete. A Yelp Business Page is free to set up and is a great way to spread the word about your business. Not only do many consumers use the Yelp app to search for great local businesses, but the business information that you add to your Yelp Page—such as hours, website, etc.—is typically pushed through to Yelp partners.
You can also sign up for Yelp Ads, which prominently places your business listing throughout the Yelp site. This no-contract, no-commitment advertising campaign allows you to choose your own budget and pause/cancel whenever you like. Many businesses are eligible for a free Yelp Ads credit if they haven’t tried ads before. Just sign in to your Yelp for Business account and click the Yelp Ads tab, or contact a representative to determine your eligibility.
2. Search engine optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization, or SEO, can sound like a complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be. With knowledge of a few basic tools you can begin to move the needle and increase the virtual presence of your business. This guide to small business SEO is a great place to start.
Once you begin to understand the basics of keywords and search engines, you can apply that SEO knowledge to other sites, like your online listings. Having complete profiles is important, and ensuring that those profiles are rich with keywords and phrases that describe what you do will help to increase your visibility.
3. Get into blogging
Blogging is a great way to spread the word about your business and establish you as an expert in whatever vertical you operate. Consider a few topics that are relevant to your offerings, and produce a few informative articles to show others that you have diverse experience and expertise in your field. If you’re not sure where to start, do a few searches and see what content already exists.
Consider common issues or challenges that your customers are faced with. What insights can you provide to help them in their time of need? Just because you provide knowledge and information online doesn’t mean that you’re going to be giving the secret sauce away to your customers for free, but it establishes you as a credible source at the exact time they need it.
If creating your own blog content seems like an overwhelming task, consider doing a guest post on someone else’s blog. You can search for blogs relevant to your industry, and look up trade publications to see if they accept contributed content. Most magazines, industry publications, and websites look for contributors, so reach out and see if they’d be interested. And remember to always create a backlink that takes people to your work.
4. Email marketing
Email marketing is a great way to promote content, share business-related news, reengage your customers, and build deeper relationships. Your email list is a captive audience, and connecting with them to provide updates and information is a great way to create transactions and even reach out to new, potential customers. Get creative and have some fun with your messaging. Include vibrant images of your business and your goods or services. You can provide offers or deals and encourage that network to spread the word to their family and friends.
Creating frequency with your emails can help keep you top of mind. A scheduled email newsletter is a great way to stay connected with your customers over time and allows you to capture their attention at a specific time with a specific message. This also helps your goods or services stay top of mind between actual customer contact points. Just be aware of overcommunicating; you don’t want to come off as spammy. If your business provides services that most customers take advantage of annually, a monthly newsletter may be too frequent and you should perhaps consider sending every six months. Adjust your cadence based on your customers and the things they need from your business.
5. Develop a social media presence
Social media is free advertising, and it provides an opportunity for you to develop your brand in an engaging way. Having a consistent message of who you are across all of your social platforms helps create connections with consumers looking for the goods or services you provide.
Whether it’s a Facebook business page, an Instagram, or a Snapchat account, you want to visually express who you are as a small business. Include images with engaging and descriptive captions to highlight what you’re showing. Be authentic, and show what’s going on behind the scenes. Video footage is very engaging and will often get increased visibility. What sets you apart from your competitors? How can you show that visually? Having a social media strategy can be valuable in growing your community and increasing new customers.
6. Creative YouTube videos
YouTube has more than two billion active users, and video content is a great way to entertain and engage potential customers. People are much more likely to watch a short video than read a long-form article, and they’re also most likely to share videos. Creating engaging and informative content is a great way to sell your brand and spread awareness for what you do.
Creating YouTube content is similar to blogging in that you’ll want to continue to publish things over time. Consider creating a YouTube channel where you can cover everything from who you are and why you got into business to expert advice for your industry.
7. Partnerships with other businesses
Digital partnerships are a great way to expand your network and spread the word about a good or service you provide. Consider other business owners or brands who would make good collaboration partners—people with strong social media followings, businesses in similar or cross-functional areas, and industry experts who you admire or respect.
Partnerships and collaborations allow small businesses to spread the word about who they are and what they do beyond their immediate and existing customer base. Simply tagging another local business in a social media post, or asking them to join you on a Youtube episode can help increase the number of eyeballs who are seeing what you have to offer.