Being in the industry I am, I talk with a lot of local business owners almost everyday about marketing (they are sniffing around for free tips, but I don’t mind sharing). In this economy, I have found the conversation sliding a little more to cost effective marketing tactics, if not completely free marketing suggestions. Hopefully I can help a lot of small local business owners with this post with some real suggestions that will help them get real results.
Here is the main question I get asked:
“What can a small local business do for marketing online if they have no budget?”
Believe it or not, there is plenty a small local business owner can do for online marketing that costs very little, or is completely free. I want to share these local marketing options with you.
1. Google Local – One of the first things I do for any clients local marketing campagin, is to make sure and get the business listed on Google Local ASAP. This almost gurantees a first page ranking for your most targeted local keyword. For example, if you lived in Lindon Utah, and were looking for a preschool, you would probably more then likely type in “Lindon Utah Preschool” – when you get the results from Google you will see how there is a big list of local options to choose from. (see picture)
It gives you a list of results that are in, or close to Lindon Utah, as well as a map that if you click on will give you exact driving directions and more business information. So it gives you the option to check out all the local spots near you. It is very simple to add your business to Google Local, and the approval process does not take that long – all that FREE and an instant ranking!. If you are a local businesses that does not have a website, you can still get a Google Local listing and get customers from it because you have your address, as well as your phone number listed.
In many cases getting a Google Local listing can help you get multiple listings for your local keywords. If you look at the example picture above – My Smart World, has a #1 local listing, as well as a #1 natural ranking. This just makes you look that more credible in the eyes of potential customers.
Reviews about your business on Google Local can also be written, and the more reviews you have written about your business, the better it is for you (as long as those reviews are positive). You can have people you know that have used the products and services, go in and write the reviews for you. Tell them to be honest as you never want to fake any of these kind of reviews. The number of reviews does not help where your local ad is placed, it just helps out your credibility.
Most people don’t realize how easy it is to get a listing through Google Local, or that it even exists. They just see the results, every once in a while on a search, and often wonder; “How do they get those results there?” To sign up its easy, just go to http://local.google.com and click on where it says; “put your business on Google Maps” (see picture below)
Once you get this far, you will be required to log into your Google accounts and they will walk you through the rest. From my experience it usually only takes 2 – 3 weeks to get included on Google Local and Google Maps. From everyone who I hve helped get on Google Local, they have told me they almost immediatly knew when the listing kicked in because hits to their website, emails or phone calls to their business. Yes, getting on Google Maps is 100% free, it is just going to take you a little bit of time and energy to get signed up with them and thats all! It is a pretty cool way of seeing your business in a top spot without putting much marketing efforts into it!
2. Yelp – Yelp is a great local review site that will help you find just about anything in your local area that can be reviewed. Getting your site listed on Yelp, and getting people to write positive reviews about you will help increase its chances of being picked up on the search engines (more reviews = more content = happier search engines). Check out the user-generated (content) reviews, and the set up of Yelp:
Yelp listings ranks well, and has many trusted users and is a well policed community (from my use anyway), and that is why (in my opinion) the search engines like them so much. Just check out this search result when I look for “Color Me Smart” a Queen Creek Arizona based Preschool –
The owner of the preschool does not even have a website, but since they have a review of them in Yelp, they are getting a first page Google ranking for their business. Think about this, if they list with Google Local and Yelp, they can start to dominate the rankings for their name, as well as local keywords with ease. Again, all 100% free, it just takes some time to get accounts and register your business.
Yelp listings can even help with your Reputation Management by gaining another very valuable spot in the SERPs. For every single one of my businesses, a Yelp listing appears in the first 10 results on Google.
3. Craigslist – If you have not at least heard of Craigslist by now, I wanna know where you have been locked up over the last several years? Craigslist is great for more then just selling your car with ease, it is a great site for placing classified ads for all kinds of businesses and business needs. if you own a house keeping service you can find your exact city and place an ad. You can post up to 3 times a day (with the same email address) although I do not advise spamming them with multiple accounts and multiple listings for the same business. It can come back to bite you!
To understand how Craigslist works, and how people use it to find service providers check this out: First you will go to Craigslist.org and select the State you are in (in this example; Arizona) Lets say we are doing this to post an ad for Phoenix House Cleaning –
Next you will pick the city that is closest to you: (in this case and example it is Phoenix)
Then you will find this screen (see picture) and click the link that says “post to classifieds”
Once you have done this, you can browse through the categories and find the proper place to list your ad. In this case if we are still taking about posting an ad for the service of house cleaning in Phoenix this would be the place you post – (see picture)
Then from here is where it will walk you through how to place your ad. I know its hard to believe but people really do use Craigslist. If you are brand new to the site, you may be scratching your head and saying, “Why does such an ugly site do so well?” It is because they have been around a long time, and have a huge following, and good rep with the search engines. Everything I have ever tried to sell, or ad to gain business has been successful. I can’t even say that much about eBay – I get charged by eBay to not sell anything … FAIL!
4. Yahoo Local – The basic FREE local listing is very hard and confusing to find (IMO), and it would appear that Yahoo does not offer a free local listing, but they do. If you click on the link I provided it will take you right to the basic listing of Yahoo Local and it works pretty much the same as Google. If you look at the screenshot I provided below you will see how the listings work, and how they are very similar to Google –
You just fill out the information they ask for, and once you are accepted in and the database is updated you are good to go and can start to show up in all the same ways I have already explained.
5. USCity.net – USCity.net is a HUGE Internet business directory – It is not the kind of directory that is good for helping out search engine rankings by getting a listing, it is a local directory that is amazing for sending actual traffic to your site. They have such trust with the search engines that for a huge number of local searches they come up on top, and people will find you and click on you that way. For one of my sites about 15% of the daily traffic is sent to me from USCity.net
Here is a picture from a local search done – Arizona Mattress Store – and you will see the results, and how the USCITY.net page ranks in the top 5
These guys do have paid options for listings, (better placement of your ad) but they do have free listings. All of my listings are free and I still see really good traffic. Just follow their instructions for listing and its pretty easy and self explainatory – especially if you have ever listing wtih a web directory before!
These are the main top 5 that I recommend; however there are a few other free local marketing options that might work well, and I would suggest giving a shot. I am talking about the free classified ads through the local TV stations. Just watch your local news tonight, and wait for them to talk about their website. When they do, go log on and find the classified ads on the site and place your ads! I have never personally used these classified ads, but have talked with many who have, and rave about their success.
Obviously, there are so many options for free local marketing that works, and I know I have not listed everything here, but think this would be a great start for anyone looking to help improve their local business. If you guys know of any other great local (free) listings that work please let me know about them here in the comments and share with everyone!
40 thoughts on “Free Local Marketing Options That Brings Real Traffic”
Wow – an SEO post that actually provides practical tips on how to rank and drive traffic! Too few and far between.
Nice post, I received a request today to assist with some local marketing efforts for a builder. I’m going to definitely use some of these tips…
What a great post! I will be bookmarking this and coming back often. Like the first commenter said… Wow… an SEO actually willing to give away information. That’s the type of person that I would do business with!
Man I wish I can kick out some posts like that 🙂 My friend just sent me your way and it’s weird cause I was actually working on a local search post now I can just cut and paste this thanks 🙂
LOL just playing I bookmarked you and stumbled and have a excellent local/world resource for you
Check out the whole site they have many free tools and things you can do
Happy Holidays to all I see your blog is Do Follow mine is also and all are welcome :)Bradley from Dallas area sent me cause he knows that I like 🙂 Thanks
Found the new resource for my clients to learn more about pro-ranking their business. Thank you for sharing your ideas to all of us. Would you put anything on MSN? Is it worth the trouble?
Good info. The only problem is that it’s not available in Romania (Google Local for ex) but I’ve manage to rank all of my clients number one or maximum 4 for local searches. Of course that these tools could help the process and they are useful because I realize that in US you deal with a lot more websites then I have to deal in Romania.
Glad I could help! Make sure to subscribe to our RSS and pass it along to anyone you think would benefit!
Thank you for your kind words! I hope I can continue to provide useful information that people will actually be able to use!
I have no problem sharing links, and linking out when people contribute. I do not do paid posts here and never will, and have nothing to hide from Google. Thanks for your participation.
I will try to remember that for future posts, and do some more research that would benefit people living in ALL countries. Cool that you found our little blog all the way in Romania. Thanks for the comments!
You can add your site via this link to MSN – https://ssl.search.live.com/listings/ListingCenter.aspx It would also be a good resource to add to this post. Maybe I will update it – Thanks!
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@Mat: Fantastic post. I am a huge advocate of Google Local. However, I had no idea about Yelp, Yahoo Local, or USCity.net. Sincerely appreciated. Let’s not forget squidoo. You can setup local lens and it is also free.
Well don’t be surprised still so many years on guys and its still a good tool and technique being used. Nice article..
Low Cost SEO Sydney
Thanks for the comments, and yes Squidoo is another great resource that maybe I will update and add to this post. Great suggestion! Also glad you found some new opportunities that you were not aware of! It is amazing how much is out there, and how much we really can do for little if nothing…and it be for real! Thanks again for the comments!
Hi Mat. Great article full of some helpful tips and resources – some of which I have used and some that were great ideas I am going to check out.
I came across another business online similar to yours called Local Search Appeal: http://localsearchappeal.com/ and their mission/business model seems to be to get start up businesses excited about Internet advertising and optimizing their business for the web, especially with local search in a way that helps them to save on advertising while learning tools and tips that teach them how to advertise themselves and learn web marketing for themselves.
I have always wanted to start a business that promotes this idea of sharing tools and skills with clients so they can take something from your services and learn to do some web marketing on their own. Would you say this is a good model for web marketing firms to promote to their customers and how successful do you think this method could be in the coming years to generate more customers to a business such as yours?
Thanks again for the article. Great work.
I have been teaching people about local marketing for many years now, this is not anything new, so I believe it is going to be around for quite some time to come. Thanks for your comment!
Hi Mat. I have a lot of daily “google alerts” set up and about 2 weeks ago I found your site via one of my alerts. I started reading this particular article above. For some reason I became distracted and lost track of your site. I went back through all of my alerts that were in my trash bin and no luck, I couldn’t find you again. Today I was going through my alerts again and found a site that had linked to you. This time I have subscribed. I know that was a long winded story but this article was one of the best I’ve ever read on this subject matter. Thanks so much for sharing.
I am glad you learned from it, and I am glad you subscribed because I will be sharing many more local marketing tips in 2009. My goal is to provide as much useful information as possible on this blog to help out people just like you! Thanks for your comments!
Great stuff. I don’t think most people realize how many free opportunities there are to market their business online.
Thanks Alex for commenting – are you guys gonna be out at SMX West this year again?
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Mat, Great article and I appreciate experts who are willing to share their “secrets”. I’ve helped my clients get listed on the sites above and found it much more cost effective than nearly any other type of advertising for small businesses. I was really surprised with the amount of leads that could be driven from Google Maps alone. I’ve actually started offering a free optimized listing to customers just to convince them of the value of such local directory listings. USCity.net is a new one to me. I’ll give that one a try as well. Thanks!
Glad I was able to share some new info and thanks for your comment!
Heh, I really don’t look for opportunities to show local businesses how to develop an effective Web presence for free! Nevertheless, there are a few more free sources of promotion that get indexed and rank well:
*HubPages.com Hubs that provide good content
*Blog posts on Blogger.com and WordPress.com
*Slideshow presentations at Slideshare.com
What’s great about these resources, compared to business directories and Yellow Pages sites, is that they have “people power”. Folks tend to gravitate to organic search engine listings that seem like they’ll have more than just “classified content” or a review that doesn’t necessarily answer the question, “What’s In It For Me?”
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Whats great about these resources, compared to business directories and Yellow Pages sites, is that they have people power.
Thanks Mat for the great tips on local marketing you posted. Though it was posted almost a year ago, it’s still useful.
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This has been extremely beneficial for yodels advertising local marketing services- google maps has appeared for roughly 12 different keywords and gets roughly 50 impressions a day per word.
Very nice list for the do-it-yourself type of promoter. This is a great resource and if used properly can really benefit those that take advantage. A little time for a lot of benefit.
There are so many different yellow page/business directory sites where you can post a free listing. I highly recommend adding a listing to those. Google maps listings are amazing as well.
@spammy name removed There are a lot of different places to list your company and Google is a relatively good one, but none of them are great. You should submit your company to all of them, but you should also keep abreast of new developments and changes to Google’s local listings. That’s where the weight is going to be in the quickly-coming future.
I have tried yellow pages and business listing and craiglist but I haven’t tried Yelp and USCity.net. I wanted to submit my site on a Internet business directory that will help my site promote more and earn more traffic.
I have been teaching people about local marketing for many years now, this is not anything new, so I believe it is going to be around for quite some time to come. Thank you for the information that you post.
Thanks for the tips! So is this what you would call SEO? I have a land survey business and am looking to hire an SEO company, is this what they would do for me?
Rick … these are some of many things that can be done or that a good legit SEO firm or agency would do. If you are truly looking for an SEO company, fill out this form: http://www.dreamsystemsmedia.com/Request-a-quote.aspx
This is a great post – I really like the 101 on posting to Craigslist. This is a little gem that I confess I slept on. But since I starting posting, leads are actually coming in….so I’m proof it works!