This article was updated on February 2, 2022
You're probably familiar with the idea of there's no such thing as a free lunch. Even something that looks free likely has a hidden cost.
But is there such a thing as free advertising? Yes! Now you are probably wondering, how can I advertise my business for free?
While you'll have to put some time and effort into promoting your business, it's possible to advertise your business without shelling out a single cent. However, not all free advertising for businesses is created equal.
At Nextdoor, we think all business owners should have the opportunity to promote their business and increase their brand awareness. That's why our experts have created this list of some of the top ways to promote a business through free advertising options. In this short guide, we'll go over the top 12 places to advertise for free with minimal effort and maximum return on your time and energy.
A quick note: This list draws from many different mediums with varied target audiences. The most important factor to remember when advertising is to meet your customers where they are.
If they're local shoppers, consider avenues that target your neighborhood (like Nextdoor). If your customers seek out your professional services through how-to videos or advice, consider video streaming channels (like YouTube).
By keeping your customers in mind, you can ensure your advertising efforts will be worth it.
How to advertise your business for free
As a local business owner, it's important to connect to new and current customers in your immediate area - your neighborhood. To that end, Nextdoor is the go-to digital space for engaging with your nearby community and a key platform for advertising your business for free.
Take advantage of Nextdoor's free advertising for local businesses leaders by creating a Business Page. Consider:
- Customize your Business Page with photos, information about your product and services, and your business's unique story. Don't forget to include a link to your website or digital storefront.
- Engaging with your community through free Business Posts. Keep your neighbors up to date about new initiatives and promotional discounts, or ask them about their changing needs.
- Running promotions in specific neighborhoods through Local Deals. With Local Deals, you can choose the neighborhoods where you want your deal to be seen and reach customers at a ZIP code level. Local Deals are displayed on Nextdoor's most visible areas including a neighbor's newsfeed.
After you have one recommendation, you'll also start showing up in neighbors' local search results. From there, how much you engage on Nextdoor is completely up to you.
#2 Google My Business
If you're a small business, you may think it's impossible to show up on the first page of Google search results. Want a marketing secret? Google actually wants people to find relevant, local search results when they look for terms like "Plumber Tampa" or "Boise Bakery" on Google Search or in Google Maps.
You don't have to invest in a big marketing campaign to improve your odds. Instead:
- Create a business profile with Google My Business
- Input your address, contact information, and hours of operation
- Add your company logo or an exterior photo
- Register your business with Google Places so it can be found on Google Maps and become an easier search for potential customers.
As you start to show up in results, you can also use Google's analytic tools to find out which keywords are driving traffic to your site. Google Analytics uses this information to make further changes to your description and website to improve your local search engine rankings.
#3 Bing Places
After Google, Bing is the second most popular search engine. It's free and easy to create a Bing Places Business Profile.
Just claim and verify your business listing, then start updating your information. Once you're set up, you'll be able to start capturing traffic from Bing, too.
#4 Yellow Pages
If you still receive a phone book from your municipality, you're probably more inclined to use it as a doorstop than a business directory. However, there are plenty of reasons to list your business in the Yellow Pages:
- The Yellow Pages now pairs its famous paper directory with an even more extensive online directory.
- Each month, 60 million people search the online Yellow Pages for a local listing.
- Some older community members still turn to the most recent Yellow Pages to find professional services.
It's free to list your business, update your hours, add a menu, and more.
#5 White Pages
Similar to the Yellow Pages, the White Pages has evolved to include an online directory of personal and business addresses, phone numbers, and websites.
Since 35 million people search the White Pages directory each month, keeping an up-to-date listing with your hours and contact information could potentially pay off for prospective customers.
Along with Yellow and White Pages, there's a whole world of new online business directories that target younger consumers on the lookout for the best local businesses.
Your business probably already has a "Yelp" listing (whether or not you want one). Claim your Business Page, and then take the following free steps:
- Add your hours and website
- Customize your page with your logo and photos
- Respond to customer online reviews, especially negative ones
This kind of engagement is another great marketing strategy that can gradually help you improve your rating and show up in local search results.
#7 Angie's List
Do you offer professional services like contracting, interior design, or house cleaning?
Angie's List is another great online directory that can help you connect with local customers. While Angie's List has some paid features that allow you to book jobs through the site, our focus here is on free tools.
So what can you do without entering your credit card information?
- Create a business listing
- Update your listing with your logo, work product photos, and contact information
- Request online reviews from happy customers
Curious customers can still follow the links to your external site to get a quote.
Foursquare isn't just a playground game. This website started out as a social networking tool that allowed users to "check-in" at popular locations and compete to become "mayor" of their favorite venue by visiting frequently.
Customers can still use the Foursquare app to search their geographic location for fun venues to visit. However, Foursquare's technology now powers location data for dozens of other companies including:
While Foursquare offers paid marketing solutions, it's free to claim your listing and is a great way to advertise your business. That way, you can ensure your hours, location, and contact information start showing up accurately on FourSquare and with its partners.
#9 Facebook Business Page
Facebook is known for its wide array of targeted advertising options and tools. But you don't have to have a big budget to take advantage of the social media platform's massive user base.
Creating a Facebook Page for your business is simple and free. As with other sites we've listed, you can:
- Add photos and video
- Update your hours and contact information
- Communicate with customers
When customers "like" and review your page, it can help to increase your credibility and drive web traffic.
You're probably familiar with several social media networks beyond Facebook. Perhaps you even post on a regular basis! The odds are quite high that a potential customer uses the same platforms, which is why it's imperative you are establishing an online presence as a business owner.
But if you own a retail business and have zero energy for videos, tweets, or other kinds of posts, there's a quick and easy way to connect with customers without creating new content.
- Pinterest allows you to create "Pins" of products from your eCommerce store. All you need are the photographs that are already on your website.
- The third-largest social network, Pinterest can potentially connect you to a new user base.
- For best results, add a description and product link to your pinned images.
We'll admit that making videos for YouTube takes time. But if you have a smartphone, you won't need to invest in any expensive videography or editing equipment!
It's free to create a YouTube channel for your business. From there, you can start adding video content that promotes your business:
- "How to" tutorials for your products
- Documentary footage of your professional services
- First-person, diary-style "vlogging" about your journey as a small business owner
If your videos go viral on YouTube, your efforts will pay off in spades!
But even if their viewership is more modest, videos can help improve your search engine rankings and serve as a fun, engaging way to answer customers' questions and engage more deeply with your audience.
#12 Your blog
Like creating videos, blogging takes time and effort but as long as you do it yourself rather than hiring a writer, it's completely free! But before you go and start blogging, we recommend getting your website set up and optimized. Once you've done that, blogging is like the cherry on top. A blog post is also a great way to boost SEO quality on your site. SEO, Search Engine Optimization, is an organic form of marketing that can drive more traffic to your page, increase brand awareness, and help grow your business.
Creating a business blog has several potential benefits.
- Blog posts explaining your services, telling your story, and highlighting new ways customers can engage with your products foster deeper engagement with your brand and business.
- Adding regular, high-quality content to your website can gradually increase your search engine rankings locally and nationally. Be sure to include keywords and phrases related to your industry to reach your target audience.
- You can reuse content from your blog on other marketing channels like Nextdoor and in your newsletter to drive interaction with customers across different platforms.
Don't feel like you have enough to say? A blog can also be a great space to post interviews with local leaders and influencers, which is a form of influencer marketing. As they promote the interview on their channels, you'll see more traffic to your site.
For best results, try to update your blog at least once a month.
#13 Social media as a networking tool
Social media is a powerful tool. Not only is it a way to share images and videos, but, it is also a great way to connect with your customers. You can build relationships with new and existing customers through both personal and professional platforms. LinkedIn, for example, can promote your business through a professional site.
- Use LinkedIn as a Networking Tool to connect with those who have similar interests
- Follow leads in the industry and engage with their posts
- Post relevant content that professionally showcases your company
How to Reinvest Your Advertising Savings
Now that you know where to advertise for free, make a list of the marketing channels that are most appropriate given your industry and budget:
- Use Nextdoor to engage with customers in your local community
- Create business listings on Google, Bing, the Yellow Pages, and other online directories to ensure you show up wherever users are searching
- Take the time to create videos or blog posts that can be reused across platforms to increase traffic and engagement
Remember that while it's free to create a listing on many platforms, what really pays off is finding ways to communicate with your target audience on a regular basis. When you take the time to update your online presence and consistently post, you'll generate meaningful interaction, and with it, new customers. Start connecting with near by neighbors and turn them into customers by claiming your free business page.
Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook.