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The Best Ways to Promote Your Business in 2021—With or Without Money

In order to survive and grow, your business needs customers. In order to get customers, you need to promote your business. In the good old days, this was a matter of deciding between a flyer, a brochure, a postcard, or an ad in the local newspaper.

But in today’s digital world, the possibilities are endless (read: overwhelming).

the best ways to promote your business with or without money digital strategies map

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So if you are struggling to figure out the best ways to promote your business; or even just what your options are, you are (a) not alone and (b) in the right place.

In this post, I’m going to cover the 30 most effective ways to promote your business, whether you have no budget, a limited budget, or some wiggle room. We’ll go over how to spread the word with respect to:

  • Search engines (namely, Google Search and Maps).
  • Social media channels (including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest).
  • Online directory listings (there’s more to them than you may think!)
  • Your local community (events, sponsorships, and press).

Promoting your business is a must if you want to stand apart from your competitors and out to your customers, so let’s get started with the most popular channel: Google.

How to promote your business on Google

Using Google to promote your business is a no-brainer. Capturing more than 90% of the market share, it’s one of the best ways to get in front of consumers that are actively searching for solutions. Here are the best ways to use Google to get your name out there:

1. Create and verify your Google Business Profile

Your Google Business Profile (Google’s term for your Google listing) is what allows your business to show up in Google Maps results, the local section of Google Search results, and also—when someone types in your business name and location—the right-side Knowledge Panel in Search results. As Google gets better and better at catering its results to the searcher’s location, this free listing should be a top priority.

The key to using your Business Profile to promote your business is to verify ownership of your listing through your free Google My Business account. Once you have ownership, you can optimize your listing to show up higher in search results and for more relevant searches.

best ways to promote your business with or without money-google business profile

If you’re ranking on Google Maps or showing up in the Local Pack (as seen above) of regular results pages (this is very doable), your business is basically promoting itself 24/7. Even better, you can publish posts directly to your Google listing, putting attractive promotions in front of your audience at a time when they have high intent.

For a deeper dive into this very free, very effective method of promoting your business, visit 13 Google My Business Optimizations for 2020.

2. Get a website

Every business needs a website, no matter how old-fashioned your business or clients may be. Your website is the go-to for current and prospective customers. Even if they find you on social media or Google, they will want to go to your website and, like your Google listing, it serves to promote your business around the clock.

A good business website not only serves as a promotional tool in and of itself—it tells the story of your business and what you offer, provides contact information, and reflects your brand’s personality and distinguishing characteristics—but it is also essential for measuring and improving the success of your other promotional tactics.

the best ways to promote your business with or without money-get a website

For example, when you run ads, you need landing pages, which live on your website. When you post helpful information on social media, it should link to its home on your website. With all of your marketing channels flowing into your website, you can use analytics to see which strategies are working best and get invaluable insights about your audience.

Although there are completely free solutions to get a website in place for your business, almost inevitably you will need to move to some form of a paid website if you are serious about promoting your business. Having your own domain name, a professional look and feel, and the ability to scale and add features as needed are all essential for growth.

3. Implement search engine optimization

It’s one thing for you to promote your business; it’s another thing for Google to promote your business. SEO is a set of practices that align your business with Google’s ranking algorithm. But because this algorithm has evolved to use machine learning and user behavior to produce the most accurate and quality results for searchers, optimizing for search engines is really just optimizing for searchers—particularly those searching for what you have to offer.

SEO isn’t just one tactic, but many tactics that collectively work together to improve your rank. Also, because Google has superb location-based results, you have just as much of a chance as big retailers to show up on the first page of Google— without spending a dime! (With the exception of the costs to get a website, of course).

the best ways to promote your business with or without money-SEO

SEO tactics to promote your business include:

  • Adding relevant (industry- and location-based) keywords to specific places on your website.
  • Producing original, high-quality content regularly, with tagged images.
  • Maintaining high page load speeds and security.

For more SEO tips, check out this post on The Top 10 Google Ranking Factors of 2020 (+How to Optimize for Them).

When your business is ranking high in results, Google is basically promoting your business for you—and not just to anyone, but to the people searching for what you have to offer. Doesn’t get much better than that.

4. Create a business blog

We just touched on this in the previous strategy, but content is such an important driver of SEO that it really deserves its own category as a promotional strategy. A blog is not LiveJournal for businesses. Sure, you can create some posts about milestones and events, but a lucrative business blog is one that produces educational content, in your brand voice, around questions and terms your ideal customers are searching in Google. 

best ways to promote your business with or without money-business blog example

An example of a targeted blog post from our friends at LOCALiQ

These questions and terms are called keywords, and the more content you produce targeting these keywords, the more opportunities you create for your business to show up in search engine results pages. Great blog posts can be any of the following:

  • How-tos and instructional posts
  • Lists of strategies and resources (top 10, 5 best, 3 crucial, etc.)
  • Q&A or interview writeup with an industry expert
  • Thought leadership posts
  • Example/template posts
  • Guest posts
  • Customer testimonials or case studies
  • Seasonal posts (such as this one)

For help finding keywords and creating SEO-friendly blog posts, check out these resources:

5. Share your content

A blog that shows your expertise, approachability, and genuine desire to help your audience is the perfect promotional tool for a business. So don’t just publish posts—promote them! On social media, via email newsletters, or even turn them into downloadable guides to help you collect leads. Better yet, if you produce content with shareability in mind, your blog posts will likely get noticed by other credible websites who will mention and link back to your site on their site or social media feeds—promoting your business for you.

6. Run Google Ads

While SEO will help you to get to the top of results pages, it is a long-term strategy that can take weeks, even months to start seeing results. For more immediate exposure, and if you have the budget, Google Ads is the way to go. Google Ads ads show up at the very top of search engine results pages, above organic and local listings. And of the search engines available, Google is by far the most popular not only because they control the largest share of search engine traffic, but also because of its high level of flexibility, ad building features, and detailed performance metrics.

best ways to promote your business with or without money google ads

Though mastering Google Ads takes some time as well as plenty of trial and error, an optimized campaign is far worth the investment. Advertising on Google can be done through text ads on the Search Network or branded banner ads on the Display Network. You can check out our Google Ads crash course here.

How to promote your business using online directories

Consumers routinely visit online directories to search for and vet businesses that fit their specific needs. These sites tend to be high-traffic, long-standing websites with high domain authority, so it’s not uncommon for your profile page or your business name to show up on the first page of Google through one of these domains. Online listings do not take long to create and can help enhance your online presence, promoting your business to nearby, high-intent customers.

best ways to promote your business with or without money-local listings show in search results

7. Create listings on the major directories

Smaller directory sites pull data from larger ones, which means that by creating listings on the major sites, you’ll also likely begin showing up on smaller directories automatically. Below is a list of the major directories to start with. All of them are free, but often have paid options for advanced features.

  • Google (see tactic #1)
  • Yelp
  • Facebook
  • Applicable niche directories like TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc.
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Glassdoor
  • Foursquare (Even though it’s dead as a social platform, its data is used by thousands of platforms.)
  • Yellow/White Pages
  • Bing

For a deeper dive, check out this post on the Top 10 Free Local Listing Sites.

8. Optimize your listings

It’s one thing to create a listing, but it’s another to optimize it. By filling out every field in your profiles, adding photos, and collecting reviews, you can improve the appeal of your business and rank above competitors in searches. It’s also important to make sure your information in all of your listings is consistent with the information on your website. Inconsistencies can cause the Goog to raise an eyebrow about your trustworthiness. Finally, be sure to monitor your listing and fix any inaccuracies, which can happen when listings are auto-populated. For more ways to optimize your listings, use the same post I linked to above (but I’ll link it here just because).

best ways to promote your business with or without money optimize your listings

9. Get online customer reviews

We just mentioned collecting reviews, but because reviews are so important for small and local businesses, they deserve their own section.

Word of mouth is one of, perhaps the most, powerful way of promoting your business to the right people. Testimonials on your own website are great, but reviews on official platforms like Google, Facebook, and Yelp are even better. 

best ways to promote your business get more reviews

These websites can increase your exposure, and because they have measures in place to prevent fake or spam reviews, people trust the reviews here more than anywhere else. Plus, reviews are a major ranking factor for local search results. To get reviews, check out these posts:

10. Monitor and respond to reviews

Many online directories allow anyone to add a listing, so even if you didn’t list your business, it may still be on there, collecting reviews. Be sure to claim your listings wherever possible, and monitor these sites frequently. This way you can respond to reviews—which is another great way to promote your business. Not only can you resolve (and even reverse) negative reviews, but the way you answer reviews (positive and negative) can reveal your brand’s values and give potential customers an idea of what it’s like to do business with you.

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