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heard the old saying. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” However,
when it comes to advertising for a small business that saying is not
true. In fact, there are some good ways to get free advertising. You
just have to know where to look.
Free advertising methods have three advantages:
Cost. Obviously, free options can stretch a tight marketing budget making it go farther.
Creativity. Free options inspire you to be creative. They are perfect for shaking up a tired marketing strategy with fresh ideas.
Word of Mouth.
Many “no cost” solutions involve community engagement, spurring others
to amplify positive word-of-mouth. This not only drives new sales, it
can powerfully counteract reputation management issues such as bad
Of course, there are trade-offs. For example, free
options to advertise your business often require a larger time
investment. However, that downside may appeal to you more than blowing
thousands of dollars on paid ads.
40 Ways to Advertise for Free
Here are the 40 best ways to get advertising for free:
1. Google My Business
My Business offers free local advertising. Google My Business is an
actual listing that appears in Google search results and in Google Maps.
Your location, phone number, website, hours and directions are listed.
Savvy businesses add additional content. Google says: “Businesses that
add photos to their Business Profiles receive 42% more requests for
directions on Google Maps, and 35% more clicks through to their websites
….” Complete your profile to get started.
2. Bing Places
Bing Places for Business
is the Bing version of Google’s local business offering. Set up a
profile and verify your company. Or you can import your Google My
Business verified listing into Bing. How’s that for easy?
from listings, the regular results in engines like Google are a source
of potential buyers. Called “organic results”, don’t confuse them with
search ads. There is no fee for organic search results. But you should
optimize your website pages to be found prominently in searches. This
practice is called search engine optimization (SEO). SEO requires skill,
but by learning it you can increase your website traffic and lead flow.
Tip: if you have a WordPress site, install the Yoast SEO plugin for guidance on how to optimize.
offers a way to promote your organization with a Facebook page. Make
frequent updates to your Page. Also, use your Facebook cover image to
promote something special. Experiment with Facebook Call to Action
buttons, and participate in Facebook Groups related to your industry.
offers a way for people to share images from your company website.
Pinterest is great for brands with a strong visual element and for blog
owners. Make sure you have one good shareable image on each key page of
your website. Tip: Set up Pinterest boards by topic or category and
“pin” your own content. People often search Pinterest for images on a
particular topic and may find your website.
is one of the most popular social media channels for brand awareness.
You can share photos and video with followers. Instagram is ideal for a
“visual” company: food, fashion, furniture. Instagram is not great for
driving traffic to a website. Typically you can only include one link in
the profile field. But we have seen businesses link to an index page on
their website established just for the products they highlight on
Twitter is one of those social media platforms
ideal for establishing someone as a thought leader. It is especially
good for consultants, freelance journalists and subject matter experts.
half of all searches on YouTube start with “how to”. Build a sales
funnel by setting up a YouTube channel. Then create how-to videos on
topics related to your products and services. Add your website or email
address in each show description so interested parties can contact you.
is one of the best social media channels for B2B (i.e., any business
that sells to other businesses). People and companies should both have
profiles on LinkedIn for brand recognition. Flesh out profiles with
content to get better found in LinkedIn search results. Tip: If you are a
freelance professional, try LinkedIn Profinder. Set up a no-cost
profile to get leads from companies looking to hire an independent
contractor. Also, Slideshare, another LinkedIn property, can be used to
has discussions on just about any topic. Entrepreneurs can post content
but overt self-promotion could get you banned. Reddit is a good source
of website traffic if you are part of the Reddit culture.
BizSugar is a social media bookmarking site that lets you share blog content. There is also a mastermind section.
is a question and answer site. Simply find questions — and reply with
answers in a way that informs and gives advice. Occasionally link to a
blog post or articles on your site with more information.
is a database ideal for high growth startups and tech companies seeking
funding. However, it’s open to any business. Founders can also set up a
free profile. Read how to use Crunchbase for marketing.
15. Starter Story
This is a neat site where entrepreneurs get to tell their startup stories. There is no cost. Share your story here.
Medium lets you post long form, thought leadership content. A business is permitted to promote its own products and services – see the rules.
17. Guest Blogging
quality content on well-established blogs is a great way to widen your
exposure to another blog’s audience. Some people do guest posts to get
backlinks on sites with high domain authority. But smart marketers focus
more on sharing insight for marketing exposure. Find blogs at Best of the Web or Blogarama.
Choose a blog that attracts an audience of your potential customers.
Locate the site’s contact information (name, email) and send a brief
note asking if the blogger is interested in guest blog posts.
18. Conferences, Podcasts and Webinars
engagements are a way for small business owners to draw attention to
their companies — and build a personal brand. Don’t think “hard sell”.
Instead, be a thought leader who shares insights and expertise. Speaking
can include industry conferences, virtual events, podcasts or YouTube
channels with target audiences the same as yours. Compose a compelling
title and topic, and send an email offering an executive for interviews
or as a speaker. Or partner with another business to produce and
cross-promote a webinar.
an advertising budget of zero? Fiverr is a popular place to sell
professional services such as web site design and podcast editing. A
business profile is free. You pay nothing out of pocket. You keep 80% of
each sale; Fiverr gets the rest.
20. Local Listings and Review Sites
you own a local business — restaurant, motel or store — review sites
can help you collect positive customer reviews and attract potential
customers. Claim and add your business information to the following:
is an important consumer review site for local firms. Businesses can
manage a listing at no charge. Yelp also powers Amazon Alexa voice
search and supplies reviews for Apple Maps and Bing Places, according to the Local Marketing Institute.
TripAdvisor is similar to Yelp but focuses on travel businesses like hotels and vacation rentals.
pages sites like YP.com, Yellowbook, Superpages, CitySearch, Whitepages
and Yahoo Local used to offer free listings. Most are no longer free to
advertise in, or have partnerships with listing management tools like
Yext and Thryve. Listing tools are great for managing local listings
across the internet efficiently, but a business must pay to use the
Graphic designers, photographers and others in the design world should check out Behance, now owned by Adobe. Think of Behance as a huge and amazing online portfolio to display your capabilities and creativity.
22. Amazon Handmade
Handmade is a place where artisans can set up a business profile and
feature their crafts at no cost. Amazon deducts a 15% referral fee when
something sells. See the rules.
23. Kindle Publishing
Amazon Kindle Publishing
is the name of the game for authors. But other businesses also can use
it for free advertising. We have seen entrepreneurs and businesses
generate customer interest by publishing ebooks sharing niche business
Etsy is an amazingly popular ecommerce place where consumers buy handmade items. As a seller, setting up a shop on Etsy costs nothing. But it costs 20 cents to list each item and you pay transaction fees when something sells.
25. Consumer Service Hubs
you operate a consumer service business such as carpenter or house
cleaner? There’s been an explosion in sites where consumers search to
find services. On many sites a business can set up a business profile at
no charge. However, users wanting more benefits would need to upgrade,
buy advertisements, or pay for consumer leads. Pricing packages vary.
Alignable and Alice
are B2B sites with small business members who share referrals. Think of
each site as an online chamber of commerce. Industry forums may also be
valuable to build relationships.
29. Viral Contest Giveaways
a contest online to give away products, services or a cash prize. Some
businesses use a giveaway to promote a sale or special event, or grow an
email list. Gleam.io is a tool with a complimentary plan letting you organize contests and competitions and turn them viral through social media.
30. Email Marketing
newsletters and marketing emails are great free advertising for sales
and promotions. Think of an email newsletter as your own in-house
advertising vehicle. The way to get started is to build an email list
(i.e., people who subscribe through a signup form on your website).
Select good email marketing software to manage subscribers, design
messages and broadcast the emails. Mailchimp is an excellent starter
tool with a free plan for up to 2,000 subscribers — plenty for most
HARO, originally founded as
Help A Reporter Out, is now part of Cision. Business professionals can
enroll to become a source for journalists who need to interview someone
for a story. You and your business receive free public relations. Get
started by signing up to be a HARO source.
32. Newspapers and TV News
local press directly. Newspapers, TV news and trade publications cover
business news daily. They particularly love “local company makes good”
stories. The trick for success is to do something remarkable or
interesting, and then contact reporters on the business pages. Also,
take advantage of almost-free classifieds in Craigslist and hyperlocal
sites. See also: PR Tools for Small Businesses.
33. Referral Cards
this old-school technique. Distribute business cards with your contact
information, email address and perhaps a printed discount. Give several
cards to customers after each job. Satisfied customers often share word
of mouth by passing along a card. This way is super for a maid service,
home contractor, etc.
34. Nonprofit Donations
nonprofit event can be pricey. Luckily there are cheaper ways to do
good. You and your staff can volunteer time to organize a charity walk,
with everyone wearing company-branded T-shirts. You could also donate
excess swag left over from your last trade show. A local farm could
donate to a food bank, donating excess produce that will just go to
waste in the fields. Often the nonprofit will highlight on its website
the companies that volunteer or give in-kind donations. Local news
outlets may cover the event and your company. American businesses may be
able to get a tax write-off for mileage and the value of goods donated
(check with your tax advisor).
35. Yard Signs
are like free advertising on real estate. Ask satisfied customers if you
can leave a sign in their yard following a recent job. This is perfect
for roofers, landscapers, etc. Similarly, retail businesses can place
yard signs on the tree strip when holding a sale. Always check the city
or HOA rules about signage.
36. Bulletin Boards and Pin-Up Cards
venues have bulletin boards where you leave a business card or tear-off
strips. Look for these at retail stores, factories and community
organizations. Ask friends and family if they know of boards, such as in
the lunchroom at work. Give them a stack of cards to post if they would
like to help.
Cafes, restaurants and coffee
shops in your town may offer a spot to leave paper brochures and print
promotions. Ask management for permission. Or you can canvass a
neighborhood and leave a flyer at each house wedged in the door or
mailbox flag (never in the mailbox).
38. Merchandise Displays
items to another establishment on consignment. For instance, an art
gallery might provide framed pictures to a local restaurant to decorate
the walls. A crafts person might offer jewelry for beauty salons to
display. Items should have a tag with your brand name and prices. The
establishment may sell the art, clothing, etc. to consumers or simply
refer interested parties to you.
complimentary workshop at a local community center, club, library or
homeowners association. This option is great for consumer service
providers like financial planners, fashion stylists — even plumbers. The
organization will promote your workshop to its constituency.
40. Vehicle Parking
don’t forget the technique of businesses on tight budgets everywhere:
park your branded vehicle in a visible spot! You often see company cars
and trucks parked in a shopping center parking lot next to the street.
The signage on visible vehicles is free advertising.
Tips to Maximize Free Advertising
We hope we have answered the question, “how can I advertise my business for free?” Use the following four practical tips as best practices.
Tip 1: Combine paid with free for bigger impact.
organic results on social media sites by occasionally promoting
content. Some sites throttle back visibility to your fans. When you pay
to boost an update or video, it appears more often in other people’s
feeds, increasing the potential for engagement (likes, comments,
shares). With increased engagement, you often experience an overall
boost in your organic (unpaid) social media presence.
Budget $200 per month to boost Facebook updates. Take advantage of the
platform’s metrics and use data to experiment for best results.
Tip 2: Balance short term speed with long term impact.
of the best things about paid advertising is the near immediate
results. Free options, on the other hand, can take months. The mistake
businesses make is to buy paid ads for instant impact, yet never take
the time to build a longer term strategy. These businesses don’t take
advantage of free options like social media because “they take too
long.” Through lack of planning, companies get locked into forever
paying for traffic and leads.
Example: If you need new
customers immediately, place pay-per-click ads on Google or buy
visibility on other ad sites. However, concurrently invest time in free
ads to build for the future and gradually reduce your paid ad spend. One
free way to advertise a business offering is including it in your email
signature. If you and your team use email signatures, you will generate
hundreds of “ads” each week to potential customers.
Tip 3: Barter for cross promotion.
partnerships with other businesses where it makes sense to cross
promote. Look for partners who offer complementary products and services
and are willing to give you visibility. No money changes hands – it’s
Example: Imagine you are an SEO professional. You
provide keyword research services to a Web design agency to make its
website appear higher in search results online. In exchange, the agency
recommends your services to its clients, giving you credibility. It’s
like an advertisement with no out-of-pocket costs.
Tip 4: Cut costs with marketing tools.
free techniques are labor intensive. Your team’s time is worth money.
The good news is, it usually costs less to use marketing automation or a
marketing tool instead of labor. Not everything can or should be
automated, but a smart marketer identifies what can and gets technology
to reduce labor costs.
Example: Calculate how much each
marketing activity costs. For instance, how long does it take employees
to update your Google My Business profile and other local listings?
Multiply the monthly hours by the average hourly rate you pay. Then find
a tool that costs less to do the activity.
remember that free ad sites go in and out of style. Last year’s hot
traffic driver may be gone (like Stumbleupon). Some sites start out
offering free marketing, then evolve into paid platforms. Always be on
the lookout for new advertising opportunities to try.
Shawn Hessinger is the Executive Editor for Small Business Trends. A
professional journalist with more than a decade of experience in the
traditional newspaper business, he has another 10 years of experience in
digital media for trade publications and news sites. Shawn has served
as a beat reporter, columnist, editorial writer, bureau chief and
eventually managing editor with responsibility for nine weekly
newspapers, the Berks Mont Newspapers. He is also a member of the
Society of Professional Journalists.
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