Free advertising: 8 listing options for your business

If you’re looking for cheap ways to market your new venture, you’re in luck: Free advertising has helped many businesses find their first customers and attract new ones long after launch. With 305 million small businesses in the world, you need to stand out in every way you possibly can. If you can do so without spending a penny, that’s even better!

Free advertising tactics can include business social media pages, no-cost networking events, promotional giveaways, classified ads, and more. All these options expose your company to new audiences in hopes of persuading them to buy your product or use your services. Wondering how this all works? Below, check out eight free advertising techniques that can help put your company on the map.

8 free advertising methods

Learn more about some of the best ways that small businesses like yours advertise themselves without spending.

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1. Business listing websites

When you’re looking for a good new restaurant in your area, where do you go first? Chances are you start with Google Maps, Yelp, or another business listing website. If you post your own company on these websites, your customers can see your business when they look for relevant services in your area. In many cases, creating a business listing on these sites is completely free. You should start with a Google My Business listing, given that Google has one billion active users.

Websites like Manta, Angi, and Insider Pages let you list your company in their databases for no cost. You’ll just need to submit your website and some basic details such as your location, hours of operation, and what you offer. These platforms will then take this information and automatically create a searchable listing for your company.

Listing your business on popular and industry-relevant listing websites can be a big boost to your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts as well. Linking back to your website through these listings can help signal to search engines that your company is trustworthy and valuable. We’ll talk more about SEO a little later in this guide.

2. Business social media pages

In 2020, 3.6 billion people used social media. That’s almost half the global population! Theoretically, you can reach any of these billions of people when you establish a social media presence. Of course, creating a profile and posting content on these networks is free. 

Although the steps to get started vary slightly by platform, the overall gist is the same. Head to the platform’s website, sign up for an account, then fill out your profile. Some platforms will ask you to indicate whether you’re a business or an individual, whereas others don’t require this distinction. 

Either way, your profile should include all the information that a customer might seek from you. Be sure to highlight your website address as social media is an excellent (and free) way to direct more traffic to your site. Include other important information such as your business hours, address, phone number, and a listing of your services. If you sell products, several social media platforms now include free ways to list them and make them easy to buy.

Given social media’s prevalence, every business has lots to gain and nothing to lose by trying it out. Think of your posts as free ads for your business. Your followers will see them, and they say something meaningful about why your business is worth buying from. That happens to be the exact goal of ads. Of course, there is also paid social media advertisement, but in many cases, free marketing can work just as well.

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3. No-cost networking events

Picture this: You’re in a room full of other small business owners, reveling in the fact that you’re with other folks who know the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Eventually, the camaraderie gets so good that one of you asks the question: “How can we work together?” That’s the joy of networking events — and in some cases, there’s no fee to enter them.

If you see something like an entrepreneur happy hour advertised near you, go to it and (tactfully) talk up a storm. Be prepared with business cards, which can come in handy at more formal events where conversations are supposed to be brief and business-like. (The Namecheap card maker can help you put your best foot forward.) They’ll also help you make sure that, after going really in-depth with someone, they have an easy way to get in touch with you.

Now, perhaps you’re thinking: How does meeting other small business owners lead to free advertising? The answer is an approach called cross-marketing. You see cross-marketing every time a fast-food chain is giving away toys with its kids’ meals. The pop-culture franchise behind the toy gets marketing from the fast-food chain and vice versa. Any small business owner you meet could provide an opportunity for cross-marketing.

The cross-marketing that results from networking events can be great for brick-and-mortar stores looking to appeal to their communities. It can also benefit e-commerce companies looking to expand their customer bases. After all, when you partner with another business to advertise your company, you both get new and efficient access to each other’s customers.

4. Promotional giveaways

Dropping your price tags down to zero requires no spending from you. Sure, you could say it does cost money in that you won’t recoup your production costs, but that neglects the bigger picture. Giveaways today earn you more customers tomorrow, meaning you do eventually recoup your production costs and you don’t pay for advertising.

It’s up to you to decide what to give away and how you’ll promote it. Start by looking at your inventory and identifying surpluses. These extras are ideal for giveaways. Alternatively, if you sell services instead of products, identify your most popular service and promote a free trial.

If you’re truly going for a zero-budget approach, consider teaming up with another business — maybe someone you met at a networking event — to give away one of your items to their audience and vice versa. Not only can that attract some attention to your business, but it can get your product in front of new audiences. This is an excellent form of cross-marketing that can benefit everyone involved.

Remember how every social media post is essentially a free ad? Use that logic here. Promote your giveaway on your social media pages with clear entry instructions. Since social media use often occurs during leisure time, you’ll catch current and potential customers when they most likely have time to enter your giveaway. 

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5. Classified ads

Think of classified ads as a lower-key e-commerce marketplace that moves past tangible products to include services, too. Craigslist is perhaps the first platform that comes to mind when you think of this ad category, and it’s a great start. You can use it to post free ads for tangible items (Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor are great alternatives) or services you provide locally, such as tutoring or guitar lessons.

You can also view platforms such as TaskRabbit as classified ads sites. On these sites, you’ll list the services you provide alongside your rates, enabling you to appear when customers search for available helpers. Your listing will cost nothing to create, but keep in mind that TaskRabbit and similar sites may take a commission on your work.

No matter the platform you use, posting classified ads is typically an easy process. You’ll simply state your location, describe your products or services, add photos if applicable, and describe how customers can buy what you sell. And it’s not just straightforward — it’s free.

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6. Search engine optimization

You can master SEO without paying for classes or hiring consultants. Simply search the internet for lists of SEO best practices, then implement this advice on your website, social media posts and pages, and business listings. The more sites and platforms where you apply this advice, the more customers will be exposed to your products or services. And that right there is the ultimate goal of successful advertising.

SEO is important for any business with an internet presence. And since every business today needs a strong internet presence in order to compete, SEO is perhaps the foundation of all good free advertising. While it requires a bit of work and patience to get started, the payoff is immense.

7. Social curating

Social curating is somewhat like social media in that it involves websites where users can sign up and create profiles for free. But where social media allows individual users to highlight themselves, social curating more closely resembles user-run forums. It encompasses websites like Reddit where individuals discuss topics that interest them while putting less value on individual profiles.

Of course, your company can — and should — still create profiles on social curating channels. You should take the time to fill out your basic information, but you don’t need to go beyond that. Social curators don’t often search platforms for companies, though if you participate meaningfully in a conversation, people may view your profile. If there’s a conversation to which your business should be contributing, these platforms are where you can go to do exactly that.

Using social curating channels is a great strategy for accessing a niche market. Go into these communities and tactfully present your input on the issues being discussed. Chances are you can find a social curating hub for any realm into which your business might wander, so keep looking until you find something. And then, get to work establishing your presence.

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8.  Blog content

Virtually every website design service will let you add a blog to your business website. Blogs can be an invaluable way to advertise yourself for free, so don’t skip this step when creating your own site. As long as you, not someone you hire, is the person writing your blogs, then you’ll be creating content relevant to your customers for free. 

Better yet, if you prioritize search engine keywords in all your writing, each piece of content you create is another opportunity to appear (for free) in relevant searches. In this way, well-written content somewhat promotes itself. You can also direct people to your blog posts by posting them on your social media pages or adding them to social curating conversations. If you have an email newsletter, you can promote your blog posts there as well. If you don’t already have a website to post your blog content on, Namecheap’s Site Maker tool comes equipped with a blog integration tool.

Blog content is a great form of free advertising for pretty much any small business. Think of it like this: At least some of your customers are probably looking through search engine result pages to find companies like yours. All your blog posts essentially act as organic search engine ads for your company. If a customer searches for “online reputation management” and reads content from you, a local ORM provider, they might contact you for help. You can turn that initial contact into a sale.

How to make the best of your free advertising

The benefits of all the above free advertising methods somewhat speak for themselves. The obvious big one: Free advertising exposes you to more customers without any extra spending. But there’s another thing all these methods have in common that’s easy to overlook. Namely, most of these free advertising approaches will eventually direct customers to your website.

In some cases, the path to get there is obvious. Blog content is hosted on your website, and social media posts often link to web pages. In other cases, the link is more subtle. The winner of a promotional giveaway doesn’t necessarily have a direct route to your website, but they may feel inclined to visit to learn more about you. Likewise, people you meet at networking events might visit your website to keep learning about you after a great conversation.

Once a sales prospect is on your website, that’s your chance to strike. Your website needs to quickly — with compelling photos and persuasive text — show why you’re different and why customers need what you sell. And with the Namecheap Site Maker, you only need to answer a few questions to determine the sections your website needs. Once that’s all sorted, it takes just a few minutes to complete your website and start making the most of all your free advertising opportunities.


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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