25 free local advertising ideas for small business

Let’s face it: advertising can be prohibitively expensive, especially for small businesses. Experts recommend that most small businesses spend about 7-8% of gross receipts on marketing efforts, but that may sound like a lot, especially if you’re just starting out and saving every penny so much that you leave a bas- picture on. Lincoln head relief on thumb. So without further ado, here are 25 free ways to advertise your local business.

1. claim all your free business profiles

The following tips are listed in no particular order, but this one is at the top for a reason: the importance of claiming your business pages on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and any relevant industry-specific sites. (like opentable for restaurants for example) can’t be overstated.

A staggering 56% of businesses have not claimed their Google Business Profiles. this is crazy. There is nothing more important to small businesses today than a strong online presence (yes, even for small local stores), and without taking this step, any advertising dollars you decide to spend will simply drive your potential customers to other businesses.


People check online review sites for “social proof” before visiting local stores. 97% of customers read online reviews of local businesses. and 88% of people trust those reviews as a personal recommendation from family or friends.

Therefore, it is absolutely essential that your business appears well in local online searches, and this is not possible until you officially claim all of your business pages. Plus, research shows that businesses that claim their listings on multiple online business review sites earn 58% more money.

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2. read and respond to all your reviews

once you’ve claimed your business profiles, you can respond to reviews online. this is not only courteous, it is essential…and it is indeed free advertising. When you respond appropriately to reviews, you show customers and prospects that you are fully committed to the process of taking care of your customers.

and since 97% of people read online reviews of local businesses, your reviews (and the resulting “star rating”) are the first introduction almost all of your potential customers will have to your business.


Smarter businesses also see online reviews not as a nuisance, but as valuable information about their customers. Big companies pay millions to find out what their customers think about them, but if you pay attention to your reviews, you can get that information for absolutely free.

Reviewers can point out issues with your employees, products, or facilities that need to be resolved, and when you respond and demonstrate that you’ve addressed any issues, you build credibility and advertise the fact that you’re constantly working to deliver the best. possible service.

dig deeper: how to respond to negative reviews

the most important reason? As we discuss in our article on how to respond to Google reviews, studies show that when businesses start responding to reviews, both the total number of reviews received and their overall rating increase. And a better rating means more free advertising, more customers, and more revenue in your pocket.

In addition, research shows that businesses that regularly respond to their online business reviews earn more revenue.

according to an article on chatmeter.com, google has confirmed that “responding to reviews improves your local seo”. And Cornell reported that a one-star increase in your rating can increase your income by up to 39%.

You May Also Like: The Simple (and Free) Method Small Businesses Use to Climb Up Local Search Rankings

3. post your business on free business listing websites

The more people know about your business, the more people will decide to buy from you. The internet has dozens of free business listing sites to help local businesses get more exposure, and listing your business on these sites not only helps you get in front of customers, but also improves local seo.

To help small business owners, we’ve compiled a list of free online communities, directories, and free business listing sites where you should create a profile.

Check it out here: 25 Free Business Listing Websites Every Small or Local Business Should Be On

4. create a website for your business

Full disclosure: While it’s free to create a website (if you know how to use html or other code, and free tutorials are available), you’ll have to pay a bit to host your site. however, every business needs a website, so we consider the relatively low cost of web hosting a necessary expense, akin to keeping the lights on at your physical location. it’s just part of the cost of doing business.

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There are several great resources like Squarespace or Wix that provide easy, free website-building templates that anyone can use to create surprisingly professional-looking websites (and they naturally provide hosting at reasonable prices).

don’t think you need a website? Listen: At the very least, a website makes your business look legitimate and improves SEO, which means it improves “free advertising” for your business.

Even if you don’t actually use your website for business, and all you have is a simple page that lists your exact business hours, location, contact information, and a model of your business, it will be valuable to many customers. and it gives search engines one more reason to rank you higher.

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bonus tip: remember to keep your website up to date and ideally post new content regularly.

Dive Deeper: The Best DIY Websites for Small Businesses

read more: why every small business still needs a website

5. run a user generated content campaign

User-generated content is all the rage these days, and for good reason. Your customers should be your biggest marketers (word of mouth may have moved online, but it’s as important as ever). User-generated content shows potential new customers that current customers are happy with your product or service, giving them more confidence to spend money on your business.

And while online reviews are a type of user-generated content, try to go the extra mile to get customers to create (and share) content about your business.

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For example, you could run a “photo contest” on instagram, where the best picture of your product or customer at your place of business can win a prize.

6. participate in forums applicable to the industry

Nearly every industry has 2 or more prominent online forums where business owners, customers, and experts can ask questions, give advice, buy and sell products, post how-to threads, and inevitably rave with each other about unrelated political issues. .

If you’re courteous and have real information and advice to give, posting on relevant internet forums and chat groups can be an effective way to spark interest in your business and establish yourself as an expert in your field.

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Make sure to conform to the forum admin/moderators’ rules about any promotional material, and don’t just spam the forum with unrelated marketing posts or you’ll quickly get banned and actually hurt interest in your business.

dive deeper: best practices for participating in industry forums

7. comment or answer questions on blogs, articles, news, quora, etc.

In the same way as forums, you can address industry-related blogs, news articles, quora questions, etc. as free ways to get your business seen by more people.

if you regularly respond to online questions, blog posts, news, etc. related to your business and include a link or information about your business on your profile, search engines will begin to see your business as a valuable resource that it needs to rank higher in search results.

For this approach to be effective, it must be consistent and regular, and it must provide quality answers that others find valuable (and then interact and share/upvote). you can’t just post a random answer on quora and expect the referral traffic to flow in. so spend some time on this task regularly to see the best results.

dive deeper: best practices for participating in general forums like quora

8. write a blog

If you have strong writing skills, know someone who does, or think you’ve created an interesting “niche” in the market that people might find appealing, consider starting a blog.

It can be easy to get caught up in the ego of being a “published author” of a blog, but it’s more helpful to view your blog as an advertising and seo boosting tool, rather than the digital equivalent of the great American novel. . (one of our favorite sarcastic t-shirts proclaims: “more people have read this t-shirt than your blog”)

Search engines consider all types of content related to your business from multiple sources, so the more sources “talking” about your business in more locations and platforms, the better.

Remember, though, that you need to create fresh, regular content to reap the benefits of a blog.

Drill Down: The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing an Effective Small Business Blog

9. write articles for other blogs, industry publications or media outlets

if you have writing skills, you might consider writing content for an online industry publication, guest posts for blogs you feel are relevant, articles for the opinion/ed pages of your local media outlets, etc.

This type of content almost always includes valuable backlinks to your business website or business pages, and increases the seo value of your business. The more “valid” sites that link to your content, the higher your search engine ranking and the more free advertising benefits you receive.

Dive Deeper: How to Maximize Local SEO for Your Small Business

10. develop a strong social media presence

You may notice that in addition to the standard website (which your business should have too – see #4 above), almost every prominent business today has a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn account. this is not by accident. Many customers avoid review sites and choose to post reviews and comments about your business through social media.

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In addition to the value you derive from knowing what’s being said about your business online, when you engage current and potential customers on social media (and, more importantly, when people engage with you and share/re-share your posts and content), search engines view you as more important and you show up better online search results… which means, you guessed it, free advertising.

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so sign up for accounts on as many of these platforms as you can manage. be real, be interesting (funny content helps), and definitely don’t turn every post into an ad. Repost your blog content and/or website content updates to all of your social media accounts.

You can also take advantage of the “live” streaming features offered by some social media platforms, such as instagram live, facebook live, etc. to host a live event or webinar. (see #17 below)

Dive Deeper: The Best Social Media Post Types for Small Businesses

11. complete your listings online – add “next level” photos and info

Claiming your business listings online is the first step in any effective business marketing plan, but we’re listing this one separately because it’s so important, and many businesses don’t bother to do it – make sure you fill out all the optional ones. field of your business listings on google, yelp, tripadvisor, etc., add all the relevant information (menus for restaurants, for example) and include good photos.

High-quality images of your location, staff, or products can act as free advertising when you add them to your online business profiles. think about the results that catch your eye when you search mobile. they will almost always have eye-catching photos added.

A benefit to most review sites is that they allow customers to upload photos for you, and some of them can be quite good.

However, if you’re not a photographer and your clients aren’t uploading good images, it might be a good time to hire a talented friend or a teenage niece who’s going through her “photography” phase.

Request sharp, high-resolution images optimized for online thumbnail viewing.

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Most people respond well to bright, appealing visuals and an abundance of relevant information. A little effort here can pay off in more online engagement, better search rankings, and more free advertising for your business.

Dive Deeper: 3 Ways to Get (and Use) Professional Photos for Your Business

12. organize local events

When you host local events, you attract a lot of potential customers to your store. So consider hosting a poetry reading, pub crawl, town show, political fundraiser, or a performance by your favorite string quartet, bluegrass group, or death metal band. (Pro tip… ditch the plastic. Those bluegrass weirdos can get pretty wild.)

13. volunteer and get involved locally

Just like you host local events, you can get your business noticed by your local customers by volunteering and supporting local events.

Make sure you get a mention in the publicity materials of any event you volunteer for. Assuming you already have some brand name swag or clothing, be sure to exploit it. wear hats, t-shirts, etc. with the company brand. If you don’t have any, consider spending some of your marketing budget on these types of items to reap the benefits of showing your business name to more potential customers.

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14. Send an email newsletter

I wish you had a method to collect your customers’ email addresses. if you don’t, start right now. Email may not have the sexy sheen of the newer tools that social media has to offer, but it’s still the most profitable marketing tool in the small business owner’s toolbox, with a whopping 42% ROI. :1.

Sending a weekly or monthly email to your list is a great way to promote sales and stay top of mind. Plus, despite what you may think, most customers really do want promotional emails from businesses they like.

Read More: Why Small Business Email Marketing Should Be Your Top Priority This Year

15. start a youtube channel

this may sound silly, but you’d be surprised how effective and reach a youtube video can be, even if you think your business isn’t interesting enough.

for example, some simple instructional videos by professional plumbers, lawn care specialists, or appliance repair technicians get several million views and often appear as the number one result in related search engine queries .

If nothing else, this is a way to add another source of links and traffic to your business, which search engines will see as something that makes you more legitimate and worthy of a higher position in search results.

read our helpful post:

16. hold a workshop or class (even online)

Even if you don’t consider yourself an expert in your field, host an expert or just someone you know who is informative and fascinating. you’ll be great by association.

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One advantage of this tip is it brings people who otherwise might not visit your physical store to your location (if you have one), and obviously you get the word out about your business.

however, this can also work even in an online/zoom-type workshop, and you can actually expand your reach this way.

To further extend the benefits, arrange with any “experts” to get free mentions/marketing/promotion of your business on their social media channels as well.

17. host a webinar

Just like a class or workshop, you can host a webinar to reach people who can’t or won’t attend an in-store event. there are several free webinar websites (zoom currently offers free meeting/webinar hosting for up to 100 participants), and most popular pay-as-you-go sites like join.me and gotomeeting/gotowebinar will give you a trial period free during which you can host your webinar. (If you like how it turns out, you may want to consider paying for the service in the future.)

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You can host your webinar live, record it for later viewing, and/or post it on your social media channels and youtube.

18. ask customers for feedback

If you understand how much advertising value online reviews can provide, you should still do so as part of your standard business practice. if you are not, start now.

Don’t be embarrassed about asking for reviews, but make sure you do it the right way. don’t offer free products, discounts, or giveaways in exchange for a good review, and never try to “buy” good reviews from a company online.

Just let your customers know you appreciate their feedback online, and be sure to engage with them there when they do. (see #2 above)

learn how to get more reviews.

19. take advantage of local chambers of commerce and small business development centers

Almost every reasonably sized community has a local chamber of commerce and/or small business development center. These resources can provide free listings and promotional material for local businesses, as well as valuable marketing advice and assistance from successful entrepreneurs in your area.

read: chamber of commerce basics, what they do and why you should join

20. partner with local businesses and promote each other

Small businesses that stick together and help each other spread the word can reap great value. no need to spend money…just find something you have that other businesses want, and trade it in kind.

You can co-host events, workshops or webinars and if you decide to spend some money on advertising, split the costs and double the exposure.

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21. Celebrate ‘weird’ holidays or events with special treats or offers

Just as an example, National Donut Day can be used to promote just about any business with a physical location…whether they normally sell donuts or not. Everyone loves donuts, and offering a free cake with purchase or even a visit can bring a lot of new faces to your door. (Think of the number of people who visit “free hot dog and soda” events at car dealerships.) extra-super bonus points for offering a gluten-free option.

Combine these promotions with your social media posts and email sends to get more feedback. this technique can work for any holiday; just be creative with the gifts or prizes you want to give potential customers. Now, we understand that treats and prizes aren’t technically free, but if you make or sell food or products, you can use the inventory and write it off as a promotional expense. If you don’t make or sell anything you can use as a prize, consider offering your services for free to winners.

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Or, if you want to give something tangible away, this is one way you can benefit from partnering, bartering, and trading goods and services with other businesses in your area (see #20 above). Trade your tax preparation services to the owner of the local pastry shop in exchange for a weekly or monthly goodie bag, for example.

22. print physical flyers and post them on community bulletin boards, college bulletin boards, etc.

Well, technically ink and printing paper aren’t free, but we bet you already have these resources available at home or in your business.

Obviously you’ll want to comply with local ordinances regarding posting invoices or distributing applications. (The law prohibits filling mailboxes, for example). consider handing out flyers in person… you’ll get to know your community better and people will be more likely to read marketing materials if they meet you in person.

You can also ask any local students you know to post their flyers on local college bulletin boards.

23. make a free promotional video for your business

make a free promotional video with a resource like biteable. they have several easy-to-use templates for you to use in creating a fun, informative, and high-quality promotional video for your business. you’d be surprised how professional it can look with a little work.

then you can post your video on youtube, vimeo or other free video hosting sites and/or use it as content for your facebook/social media, blog, website and email campaigns.

24. post to craigslist

A funny or engaging craigslist post about your business can go viral and give you lots of free exposure. You should also consider posting free local online classifieds… some areas have “the” locally accepted online classifieds, perhaps hosted on the local TV network’s website.

25. let people use your space

Sci-fi nerds, book clubs, coffee parties, pta meetings, mother support organizations, car enthusiast groups, you name it, everyone needs a place to hold meetings and no one wants to pay.

If you offer your available space once a week, you could get a lot of free word of mouth and generate goodwill with local consumers.

there… we show you 25 ways you can advertise your local business for free!

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