An effective advertising strategy can have a big impact on how fast a small business grows. But not everyone has thousands of dollars to throw at paid advertising channels, like Google Ads, billboards, or radio commercials. That’s why it’s important for small business owners to take advantage of all the free advertising options that are available to them.
You may think that the words “free” and “advertising” don’t belong together. But when you do a little digging, you’ll find there are lots of ways to promote your business without spending a dime.
Best Free Advertising for Small Businesses
Don’t let a limited budget hold you back. You can advertise with your small business without breaking the bank. Below, you’ll find 25 different free advertising options that you can start taking advantage of today.
1. Google My Business
Do a quick Google search for “best coffee shops near me” or “physical therapists near me” and you’ll find that Google “My Business” snippets now dominate the top of the search results pages.
That’s incredibly valuable computer (and phone) real estate. So getting your business included in these snippets could drive hundreds of customers your way. So how much does it cost to join Google My Business? Believe it or not, it’s completely free.
In today’s world, everyone wants to read reviews before they visit a store or use a company’s services. And Yelp is one of the most popular review sites online today. Yes, Yelp is probably best known as a restaurant review site, but all kinds of businesses advertise on Yelp. And while they do have a paid advertising option, it’s completely free to set up your business profile, add pictures, and start engaging with customers.
While Yelp is a great way to advertise local businesses, what about businesses that exist mostly online? Enter Trustpilot. Trustpilot is an incredibly popular online review platform, with over 71 million reviews of over 320,000 websites. If you have an eCommerce business, you probably need to be on Trustpilot.
With their free plan, you can invite customers to leave reviews and you can reply. But if you want to display the reviews on your site, you’ll need to upgrade to Trustpilot’s paid product.
4. Angie’s List
Angie’s list has become one of the most popular platforms for finding trusted home contractors, like plumbers, electricians, landscapers, and more. As people leave ratings, Angie’s list will assign you a grade from A to F. You’ll want to encourage your customers to leave you “A” grades, as that will help you build your credibility on the site.
You can become part of Angie’s list and start collecting customer reviews for free. However, your business listing will be below the “Certified Providers” that are paying Angie’s list for higher placement.
HomeAdvisor is another popular website and app for finding local home repair and improvement pros. It’s completely free to send your business information and set up your profile with HomeAdvisor. And you’ll be able to collect and respond to reviews as well.
If you’re in the home improvement business, claiming your HomeAdvisor profile should probably be one of your first free advertising moves. And if you decide later on that you’d like to pay HomeAdvisor for leads, you can join their Homeadvisor Pro program.
Porch is another home contractor review site. And it has a very similar business model to HomeAdvisor. Anyone can set up a business profile for free and begin building a rating on the platform. But you’ll need to pay if you want to take advantage of their referral business.
Does it seem like a waste of time to set up a free profile with Porch or HomeAdvisor if you won’t receive leads? Think again. If you’re able to develop a high rating on these platforms, you may still land on “best of” lists like this one.
So if you decide to take advantage of the free advertising versions of these platforms, make sure to encourage your customers to leave reviews and ratings. In that way, you could become one of the highest-rates providers on these platforms without spending a cent on advertising.
Never heard of NextDoor? It’s a private social network for neighborhoods. My wife and I personally belong to our neighborhood’s NextDoor community. We like that it helps us feel more connected to our neighbors. Plus, neighbors are able to alert each other of concerns in the area (like burglaries) or upcoming neighborhood events.
But NextDoor can also be a great way to advertise your business for free. Every day that I log into my app, there are community members who are letting everyone else know that they have a cleaning business, a landscaping business, or…you name it. And because these people are my neighbors, I honestly feel more inclined to hire them than someone else.
8. Yahoo! Small Business
Yahoo! Small Business is like the Yahoo search version of Google My Business. Yes, I know that it may seem like no one uses Yahoo! anymore. But, actually, it’s still one of the top 35 websites in the world according to Ahrefs. So it would definitely be foolish to completely ignore Yahoo! as a free advertising channel.
If you’re in the hospitality industry (mostly hotels and restaurants,) you really need to make sure that you give some love to your free TripAdvisor profile. Don’t stop with providing your business name and contact information. Add as many attractive photos as you can. And be sure to respond to all reviews, whether positive or negative, to build trust with the TripAdvisor community.
10. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
So far, we’ve focused solely on creating business listings with all of the top review sites online. But that’s not the only way to get free advertising for your business. One of the best things you can do is to optimize your site for search engines like Google.
Think about the types of keywords that your target audience is likely to search for. And then do your best to include those keywords in your site’s title, its meta description, and inside blog posts. Not sure where to start with optimizing your site for search?
11. Email Signature
If you added up all of your business and personal emails, how many do you typically send per day–10, 25, 50? Did you know that each and every one of those emails can be free advertising for business? Simply add an email signature that includes your business name and your role with the business (like Founder, CEO, or Marketing Director).
And if you have a business logo, it would be a great idea to add it to your email signature as well. For most of us, it would only take five minutes to create a professional email signature. This is literally a free advertising idea that anyone can take advantage of right now.
12. Email Newsletter
Speaking of email, why not create an email newsletter that you send to your subscribers on a weekly or monthly basis? Even in an era when social media gets a lot of love, old-fashioned email list building is still one of the most effective free advertising strategies on the planet.
As far as what to include in the emails, consider notifying your customers of new products or recent blog posts. Or you could share a personal story of how you used an affiliate’s product or service and then include a referral link to their site.
13. Social Media Business Profiles
As your business grows, social media can help you develop a strong brand and community online. In most cases, you won’t want to use your personal social media pages, but instead, create separate listings that are dedicated to your business. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram all allow businesses to create listings for free.
With each of these platforms, you can also pay to boost your posts. But if you create engaging content and regularly interact with your customers, you can get a lot of mileage out of free accounts.
14. Facebook Groups
No matter what business you’re in, there are probably dozens, if not hundreds of Facebook groups that are filled with likeminded people from your niche. By joining and interacting inside these groups, you can develop a strong reputation and may find clients too.
For example, as a freelance writer, most of my clients are people that I’ve “met” through personal finance and writing Facebook groups. To find groups that appeal to you, simply search for keywords on Facebook and filter by “Groups.”
15. Twitter Chats
Twitter chats are public Twitter conversations about a certain topic. By getting involved with these Twitter chats and answering questions, you can build a reputation as an “expert” in your field. Personally, I’ve participated in several Twitter chats dedicated to personal finance topics. And each time they help me grow my followers.
16. Blog Content
Starting a blog and creating a content marketing schedule is still one of the best free advertising options available to business owners. To decide what you should write about, start by trying to answer the most frequently asked questions in your industry.
When it comes to blogging, the key to success is consistency. Your articles aren’t going to blow up overnight. It may take several months of creating quality content before you start seeing any kind of SEO traction. But, if you’re willing to stick with it for the long haul, blogging could provide thousands of dollars of free advertising for your business.
17. Guest Posts
Guest posting is when you write a blog post for another website owner for free in exchange for getting to include a short bio and a link to your site. It can be a great way to create awareness for your brand, but it can also be pretty time-consuming. If you do decide to pursue guest posting as a free advertising strategy, you’ll want to target the most authoritative sites in your niche. That way you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is a service that connects journalists with individuals and businesses that are looking for media exposure. Each day, HARO sends out emails with questions that journalists need to be answered for their articles.
The journalists quickly collect a bunch of quotes and business owners get media exposure opportunities delivered right to their inbox. It’s really a win-win.
However, you do need to understand that HARO has a massive email list. So you’ll be dealing with a lot of competition. For that reason, you’ll only want to respond to queries that you truly believe you’re a perfect fit for.
In Ahref’s latest list of the most visited sites, YouTube came in at #1. And get this–their annual traffic nearly tripled Facebook who came in at #3 on the list. Yet, despite YouTube’s traffic volume, many businesses are still ignoring it as a free advertising channel. It doesn’t cost a penny to start a YouTube channel and they’ll even host your videos for free.
There are actually two ways to advertise your business through podcasts. One way is to start a podcast yourself and the other way is to be a guest on existing podcasts. Either way, podcasts are a great way to build your brand and get more exposure for your business.
You can record your podcasts and submit them to all the podcast directories (like Apple Podcasts, iHeartRadio, etc.) for free. Or you can pay a podcast hosting service (like Buzzsprout or Libsyn) a few bucks a month to handle all that for you.
Reddit is made up of more than a million communities (called subreddits) that are organized around different topics. By joining these subreddits, you can build a reputation as an expert in your field. Depending on the rules of the subreddit, you may even be able to periodically include links back to your site. If readers like your article, they’ll upvote it, which can help you get even more free advertising.
One of my close blogger friends says that he regularly increases his monthly traffic by 5,000 to 10,000 page views per month from Reddit referral traffic alone. That’s a lot of free advertising!
Quora is a popular question and answer site. Well-thought-out Quora answers can easily generate tens of thousands of views. Not only is that a lot of free exposure for you and your business, but you may be able to drop a link to your site as well.
But be careful. Quora’s moderators want links to be complementary, NOT your primary answer. But if you leave an insightful answer to a question, you shouldn’t run into any trouble including a link here and there to an article that includes more info.
If you’re looking for great ways to advertise your business for free, don’t overlook eBooks. You don’t have to write a 400-page manifesto to publish an eBook. Depending on the topic, a 15-page PDF can qualify as an eBook. That doesn’t sound so scary, right?
And here’s the great thing about eBooks. They can be a great way to encourage leads to give you their contact information or join your email list. Or if you want to sell your eBook online, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is a great option.
For a lot of people, the thought of public speaking frightens them. But it can be a great way to build your brand. Think through your target audience and then try to connect with groups and organizations that fit the bill. Let them know that you’d be willing to give a talk on a subject that relates to the group but also connects with your business.
If you want to practice your communication and public speaking skills, Toastmasters International is a great place to start. Toastmasters is a non-profit organization with more than 16,000 clubs. Chances are you will find a chapter close to you and the dues are a reasonable $45 every six months with a $20 new member fee.
Toastmasters helps you learn to write and present speeches and thereby build your confidence and leadership skills. It’s a win-win if you want to expand your reach as a small business owner by speaking in the community.
Many organizations struggle to fill their speaking calendars, so you may get more “Yeses” than you’d imagine as you look for places to speak. Make sure to bring along plenty of business cards to hand out after you finish your talk!
There are lots of ways that volunteering can help your business. For one, it can build camaraderie within your team. And, second, it can help you develop a great reputation within the organizations that you serve. And, finally, you may attract press coverage for the work that you do. This probably shouldn’t be your main reason for volunteering, but it could be a welcome side benefit!
No matter your budget or resources, there are lots of free advertising opportunities that you can begin leveraging today. Start working your way through this list and grow your business on the cheap!