Marketing Your Small Business for Free

The toughest thing about running a small business is getting exposure. Even though it’s one of the most important parts about building your business, many owners struggle to find the time or the money to get the work done.

You probably have the rest of your budget tied up in paying for renting your space, paying for raw materials, covering employee payroll, and who knows how many other things. Don’t worry. This is incredibly common with most small businesses. Marketing is one of the first expenses to be pushed aside, but remember, you can easily market your small business for free.

You don’t need to hire a digital marketing agency like Rank Boss or even get a freelancer.

Build an Email List

If you have any sort of online presence, you need to build an email list. Growing an email contact list gives you a source of traffic and revenue you can regularly tap into when you’re running a sale, launching a new product or service, or if your site’s hit a dry spell.

All it costs is about 5 minutes of your time to set up and you don’t need to pay anyone to do it for you! Email marketing services like Mailchimp have made it incredibly easy to get started. And you can even implement some automated email campaigns like shopping cart abandonment, welcome messages, and more with virtually no development experience or knowledge necessary.

You can also collect emails from customers that buy from your brick and mortar stores too.

If that wasn’t enough to get you moving, email marketing will consistently have a higher conversion rate than your other traffic streams. (Provided that you didn’t buy contact lists from a third party seller, which we strongly advise against.)

The reason for that is pretty simple. These people want to hear from you. They like your business and they like your product enough to sign up for your emails. If you don’t spam them six ways from Sunday, you’ve got yourself a dedicated group of customers that will consistently buy from you.

Don’t believe us? Look at the numbers.

email marketing conversion rate comparison 1
Email marketing converted at nearly 3x the site wide conversion rate for this client.
Email marketing converted at nearly 11x the site wide conversion rate for this client.

When you’re getting started, we recommend to stick to a monthly newsletter or a monthly sale email cycle. Emailing too often can fatigue your list which can lead to lower engagement and higher unsubscribe rates.

Be on Social Media

Everyone is on social media. Facebook has 1.5 billion users logging in daily. There are 600 million on Instagram and almost 200 million on Twitter. Your audience is out there waiting for you to find them.

Having a good social media presence is an amazing way to keep your brand on your audience’s mind, build brand loyalty over time, and create a reliable stream of referral traffic to your website. This will in turn lead to more sales, leads, and email list sign ups to be marketed to later. However, this is only if you have a good social media presence.

And the trick to being successful on social media is, wait for it…to be social.

I know! Mind blowing, right?! Sarcasm aside, many businesses get caught in this trap of doing social media as a sterile brand where they only used canned responses or they interact with their audience without any passion because it’s a checkbox they need to tick for the day.

Don’t do that.

The trick to being successful on social media is to be social.

Show some passion. Be a human being. Talk with people. Respond to their comments. Comment on their posts. Answer questions. Post memes. Comment on memes. Tell people about upcoming events. Amplify your content. Have conversations.

Don’t worry about having some “grand strategy”.

Just be social.

It’s really that simple.

Local Citations & Map Listings

There’s no better way to put your small business on the map than…putting it on the map.

Local citations and map listings are your business’s best friend. You can quickly, and fairly easily, find your business at the top of Google for searches related to your business with an optimized map listing. You don’t have to fork out hundreds of dollars a day with Google AdWords or spend weeks or months on SEO.

With a little bit of work, you can be at the top of Google for local searches.

All you have to do is set up and optimize a business listing. (And it’s totally free.)

Importance of Local Marketing for Small Businesses

  • 50% of all searches are on mobile devices
  • 80% of local searches convert (sale, lead, foot traffic, etc.)
  • 72% of local searches (w/in 5 miles) end up visiting your store
  • 85% of brick and mortar stores see growth from local marketing

The goal of local marketing is to get more eyes on your business. By being in these top results of the local pack, you’re going to increase your company’s exposure to potential clients and, hopefully, start generating leads.

Local citations are a form of barnacle SEO. This is a form of marketing where you attach your small business onto the body of a much larger website in an effort to siphon some the traffic it gets towards your website.

When you’re just starting to build your online presence, you’re going to get zero traffic. It’s just the way it is. BUT, if you list your business on websites like the ones listed below, you’ll see referral traffic and leads start to trickle in.

Best Local Listings for Your Business

  • Google Maps / Google My Business Listing
  • Bing Local
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Yelp
  • Nextdoor
  • Yellow Pages
  • SuperPages

Build a Website

Your website isn’t just the online face of your company. It’s the first touch point that most of your potential customers will have with your brand. And just like your parents used to tell you, first impressions are important.

If someone tries to Google your business and you don’t have a website, they aren’t going to take you seriously. They’ll probably go straight to one of your competitors. You could very well lose these potential customers for life since they’ll most likely never give you a second thought. That was a missed opportunity.

You need to build a website.

“Yeah, just build a website. What’s the big deal?”

Basic WordPress websites (just a few pages) can be built in just a handful of hours at minimal cost to you. You can even do it yourself with a drag and drop page editor like Visual Composer (free) or Cornerstone (not free).

Having a website is also a great way to reach new audiences by investing in SEO, content marketing, and using it as a foundation to build your social media presence. You can keep in touch with your customers with an email list and even give your customers a way to get in touch with you via a contact form.

Basic SEO on Your Website

It may not seem like it from the outside, but basic search engine optimization (SEO) is really simple and most small businesses completely overlook how powerful (and free) of a tool it is. All it takes is a couple hours of research and you’re able to start working on the basics.

To cut down on the amount of work your have to do, the 7 bullets below have some basic SEO tasks you can knock out to market your small business for free.

  • Make sure every page on your website has a designated <title> tag and meta description tag. (Ignore the keywords meta tag. They don’t do anything.)
  • Check that none of your internal and external links are broken. (Just click them and make sure they go where they’re supposed to go.)
  • Don’t copy / paste content from other websites no matter what you see on other business’s websites. Duplicate content is horrible for your domain health. (If all of your friends jump off a bridge…)
  • Make sure that your website has a sitemap and that it’s submitted to Google Search Console.
  • Be sure to use h tags properly within your content.
  • Don’t make multiple pages on the same topic. The only exception to this is if you have multiple locations that do the same thing.
  • Get those local citations going like we talked about earlier.

There’s more you could do, but these are the quickest and easiest things you can do for a solid SEO foundation on your website. They can drastically improve how Google views your site and crawls it which in turn can improve your search engine rankings.

You also don’t want to make the mistake of doing SEO incorrectly so be sure you don’t fall victim these common pitfalls.


Don’t get stuck thinking that marketing your small business is too expensive. There are plenty of online marketing tactics you can use to build your business that cost nothing more than your time. All it will take is a little bit of research, some late nights in front of the computer, and you’ll start to see your business grow. Knock these out first and then worry about where to spend your marketing budget.

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Kenny Empey

Kenny is a digital marketing specialist with over 10 years of online marketing experience, and Founder of Rank Boss Digital Marketing Agency. With 1M+ leads and countless dollars generated through his targeted strategies, he'll help unlock new traffic and revenue streams that take your business to the next level.

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