20 Online Websites Where You Can Market Your Small Business for FREE
Intro: Online Websites like Facebook is well known social media and many businesses have used Facebook Pages to market tier businesses. This is one of the many reasons for Facebook’s skyrocketing success
Pros: Everyone seems to be on Facebook. Facebook is an Online Websites which is easy for the average person to post text and photos.
Cons: Facebook can be distracting. When you’re on Facebook which is an online websites there are notices and feeds that interrupt what you are trying to do. If you arrived on Facebook from a link on a business website, there is a good chance you will be going down a rabbit in a very short time. This is the very reason why I caution business owner who have a website to not point people to Facebook without a specific goal in mind. In other words, don’t just have the ever present Facebook button going to your Facebook Page and that’s it.
Summary: Facebook Pages may be good for some small businesses and may not be good for others. Carefully review your entire marketing plan before you embark on Facebook Page. Because once you do, you will have to maintain it forever. Otherwise you will distract your customers from you other more important marketing efforts.
I put Facebook first, not because it is the largest social media platform but because it’s actually the last place you should consider marketing for free if you’re small business Read this list and you’ll see why.
Intro: Udemy is platform where anyone can teach a course and make money from it. For the small business owners, this can also be a place to get free exposure for your services. If you’re a psychologist, you can have a course on behavioral techniques.
Pros: Added exposure for your business and can make some money on the side. You will also be looked as a leader in your industry. You can upload and put out your shingle for free. Of course, you will have to pay a percentage of your proceeds. If you’re in a business that lends itself to teaching others, this is a great way to get exposure to your audience
Cons: Creating an online course that people will pay for is no easy feat. While it is free, it takes a lot of work.
Summary: Udemy is great if you’re already done some kind of teaching and course work. Also, it takes a high level of commitment; however, the audience on Udemy is huge and the exposure is Free. In your Instructor Biography, you can have links to all your other social media platforms such as You Tube, Twitter, Facebook and so on.
Intro: Etsy is a place where you can sell your goods—usually of the unique boutique kind. People sell anything from homemade shaving cream and bow ties to wall art such as illustrations of your alma mater and pastel portraits of someone else’s child.
Pros: This is a free place to sell your product and reach a wider audience. You can set up your shop anyway you want. Etsy has a huge audience and you can sell your products to them.
Cons: The types of products is limited to eclectic homemade type of items, so if you’re planning on selling your plumbing supplies such as pedestal sinks and hex nipples, you might want to look at some of the places featured further down this list.
Summary: There is nothing wrong with added exposure to a new audience. If have a product line that fits in with Etsy, you definitely want to be on the website. Even if you don’t sell a lot, the added exposure is free for you.
Intro: This is a the big kahuna of free online marketing. Most people you can upload any video you want. The trick is to couple You Tube videos with another online video marketing venue such as Udemy mentioned above. Once you make a course on Udemy, you can use parts of it on You Tube for added exposure to your audience.
Again, this format lends itself better to small businesses that have an instructional component to it. If you’re a cutting grass business, don’t bother making a video here about your business. You won’t get a lot for hits. People come and stay on You Tube to be informed and entertained, but not sold to. You will get a lot more mileage out of the free resources shown below.
Pros: You Tube is free and incredible easy to use. You can upload virtually any kind of video in any kind of format. Video is a great way to demonstrate how your business works. There is a huge audience, so getting exposure to the right people is highly likely.
Cons: If your video doesn’t get a lot of views, you might end up looking like a loser. So be sure that your video is going to be a hit. Don’t upload a video about your boring business, unless you’re using You Tube to host your video to be seen on your website. The marketing on You Tube should be questioned in this case.
Summary: You Tube has a huge audience and much like Google, people use You Tube like a search engine. However to have a presence on You Tube, you have to put in much more of an effort (e.g. create a great video). Only use YouTube for marketing purposes if you feel your video really has mass market appeal. Leave the terribly produced and edited plumbing videos on your website. And never look into the camera and say, “This is my business and this is my product. Won’t you…please…buy from me?”
Intro: Houzz is a platform for home remodeling and design, bringing homeowners and home professionals together in a uniquely visual community. If you do anything in the house remodeling and building business, you have to be on Houzz. If you’re not, then where have you been? On Houzz building professional can upload their professional profile (kind of like Linked In) with a portfolio of images
Pros: This pro with Houzz is that it is only for people in the housing business, so when customers get to Houzz they are laser focused on what they are looking for. There are no other distractions such as videos of cats play in pianos and nonsensical posts from your nonsensical “friends”. Houzz is free to upload your profile and portfolio. Lots of free features such as creating a free website.
Cons: Well if you are not in the housing business, then you’re not invited to this party. It’s a do it yourself model, so there is chance you can make your profile look like crap.
Summary: Houzz may very well change the way niche industries show case their wares. Houzz is a perfect model for a platforms like this to come. Like Linked In, it’s all professional so you and your customer won’t lose focus and get distracted by cat videos. Your customer will appreciate this.
Intro: Angie’s List is a community where members and local providers can connect. Although some other businesses are represented there, Angie’s List mostly caters more to home repair business
Pros: Angie’s List shows up a lot in the search engine result pages (SERP), so you will get a lot of added exposure.
Cons: In order for your customer to see your listing, they have to be signed into Angie’s List. This will make your universe smaller than if it were free like Linked In. Also, like many review sites where you don’t have a lot of control over the reviews, the reviews you get can hurt you. And many people are more apt to review your business negatively than positively, so you really have to work extra hard to get those positive reviews (e.g. ask for them from your customers)
Summary: Angie’s List has gotten mixed reviews as this article by Laurie Kulikowski On The Street will attest: Angie’s List: Is It Good for Small Businesses?. Personally, any place where you don’t have complete control over your message is a dangerous place to be. This is why I am an advocate of having a strong website with lots of testimonials and a clear benefit of your business. Like a lot of review sites, it only takes one bad review out of ten to make your business look unfavorable.
Intro: If Angie’s List the controlled environment of a prisoner of war camp, then Craigslist is the Wild Wild West. Craigslist list takes the form of the classified ads you would see in the back of your local newspaper. There’s everything from Personals to ads for Accounting Jobs. For the small business there is a small business section under Services.
Pros: Free, free and free. There’s no catch here at all. You don’t have to give up a real e-mail address or submit a profile or anything. You can post what you want however you want.
Cons: Not a lot of people actually browse Craigslist looking for small businesses; however, your listing may come up in a SERP. The other negative is your posting is timely, so you have to keep posting to stay in front of the eyes of your customer.
Summary: If you got a lot of time and no money, then this is not a bad option for you to test the waters on marketing business. Be sure to have a good ad and a good headline. Also, you would want to post at least once a day for at least two weeks to see if there is the right fit for you.
Intro: Groupon is a site where you can host a discount for your product or service. Basically Groupon is a deal-of-the-day recommendation service for consumers.
Pros: Groupon is another site that shows up in the search engine results page (SERP). You don’t have to pay to be listed. If you write a very compelling profile and point people to your great website, this is free marketing at its best.
Cons: You are forced to sell your product for half price and then you have to pay Groupon half of what you make. So if you have a product or service that normally sells for $129, Groupon will force you to create a discount for up to 45%, so your product is now sealing at $58.05. Now you have to give Groupon 50% of that, so your profit is $29.02 on a $129 product or service. You would do better having a 75% off sale on some other venue like your website.
Summary: This may work for some businesses that have a loss-leader that works for them. For some small businesses this works great. For others, this could be a huge problem in which the internet is peppered with war stories.. I’ve had some clients who swear by it, so it all matters what kind of business you have and what your Customer Lifetime Value is.
Intro: Pinterest is one of the biggest (and fastest) growing social media sites. It allows people (and businesses) to post images and organize them in categories, and allows you to share then with followers.
Pros: Easy to use and absolutely free. A great way to show off your portfolio of your visual products and services. You can get followers like you can on Twitter and Google+. More on that later.
Cons: It is very limited to small businesses that are very visual in nature such as interior designers, photographers, make-up, and collectibles and so on. If you have don’t have a visually appealing business (such as plumbing supplies), then this site would not be right for you.
Summary: The site is being overused by small businesses that have no business being there. Pinterest is only useful for small businesses that are visual in nature only. So if you’re a psychologist, find another place to market for free. See below for some great ideas.
Intro: Linked In started out as a social media site for professional individuals but now allows for small businesses to have a presence.
Pros: Not only can you have a personal profile for yourself but you can have a business profile in which you can get followers. Also, you can create a group (e.g. Social Media & SEO) for added marketing value. For the small business, this is a great place to be because it’s all business (unlike Facebook and Pinterest) and there are no ratings (like Angie’s List).
Cons: The website is still looked at as mostly a glorified resume for individuals, so there are not many people coming to the website to seek out the services of a small business. However, things are changing and it depends on what type of small business you have.
Summary: Linked In is adding many new features (images, video, slides, blogs) to make you stand out, so the small business would be wise to take advantage of these now before the whole landscape gets over saturated. Like all the items on this list, the first ones to take advantage of these free marketing will win out before the herd comes along.
Intro: Trip Advisor is a website that has rating for businesses that are in the hospitality business. This site is more like a directory than a social media site where your business might be posted without your involvement at all. If you have a presence in the real world, Trip Advisor will make your presence known on their site
Pros: Trip Advisor is well known and trusted, and they have a great looking website. I guess it’s not hard with all the beautiful hotels showcased. There are opportunities for the small business is beef up your profile and provide feedback to those who post reviews.
Cons: Limited to the hospitality business. Like Yelp, this is a site where anyone can post a review good or bad. Unlike Linked or Facebook, you don’t have a lot of control of how your business is listed.
Summary: Also this site is narrowly focuses so it is a must have for those in the hospitality business. These sites are a double edge sword. They can make or break a business. While there aren’t too many opportunities to modify your listing, it is important to take advantage of all the things that Trip Advisor does have to offer. Since the site is focused on your business, it would be wise to keep a close eye on the happenings on this website. Pro tip: If you fill out all of your information you have a much better chance of showing up in the SERPs than if you just do the minimum. In other words, write a description!
Intro: Dribbble is a website strictly for designers. It allows for designers to upload images and videos to create and online portfolio.
Pros: Free. Who doesn’t like free? Easy to use. A reasonable substitute for a full blown website. Free added exposure for those on the website. It has a community feel to it—if you like that’s your kind of thing.
Cons: It has a community feel to it—if that’s not your bag, baby. It’s not that popular and doesn’t seem to come up on in the SERPs. Not much for the small business unless you have a visual portfolio.
Summary: It’s free and if you have a portfolio at the ready, it doesn’t take long to upload.
Intro: Coroflot is very similar to Dribbble in that it is strictly for designers.
Pros: Listings show up in SERP if one is searching for a graphic designer. Free added exposure.
Cons: Not an easy name to pronounce, and the site strictly just for designers.
Summary: If you’re a designer and need added exposure, this is the place to be. Like a lot of o these free sites, you really have to work it to get noticed. Coroflot is good in that many of the profiles come up in the search results on Google.
Intro: Another designer portfolio site with a name that’s not easy to pronounce. We might as well get these all out of the way.
Pros: It’s free.
Cons: It doesn’t have the depth of exposure that Coroflot has.
Summary: I’m not sure why there are three of these sites and I don’t see the real difference in any of them; however, they are so easy to use that it would a crime not to take advantage of all of them.
Intro: Living Social is a bit like Groupon, where merchants can have daily deals. Living Social boasts that 96% of those are first-time customers, so this is a huge opportunity for businesses looking to bring in new customers.
Pros: It’s free and great exposure. You can have a countdown clock to show the urgency of your deal. You can have a link to your website, and you don’t pay anything until someone buys form you. The Living Social site shows up in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Cons: Much like Groupon, you are forced to discount your product at a ridiculous amount. Doesn’t look as nice as Groupon and there are miscellaneous ads (i.e. Google type ads) that seem out of place on this website.
Summary: Other than discounting your product to steep levels, this is a good site to get your brand or small business out there.
Intro: About.me (not to be confused with About.com) is a website for personal profiles, thus the domain name suffix; however, many businesses have profiles on the website as well.
Pros: Businesses can have a free profile. Some listings show up in the search engine results pages.
Cons: Not much there. Same as a lot of other places. Doesn’t seem to offer any thing unique. And from the profiles that they profile, it looks like you have to be some kind of fashion model to have a page. This site doesn’t really seem to have a focus other than simple profiles of people and small businesses
Summary: This is another place to put your profile. It is more about “me” than anything else, but some professionals may get a boost in exposure by being on this website. Even though there are tools to create a great presence, like anything else, you really need to work it. In the end it’s free and some profiles show up on the search engines.
Intro: About.com is a well renowned highly respected website that has articles from a wide range of topics from Health Money to Travel. If you have been around for any length of time, you’ve probably stumbled upon this site at one time or another.
Pros: You can write articles for About.com, thus solidifying your role as an expert in your business. The topics are somewhat limited. No plumbers allowed. Seriously, I didn’t see any plumbers. Setting yourself up as an expert on this website will pay dividends in your business. Your articles can have a link to your website.
Cons: The search feature is really lousy, so people won’t have much of an opportunity to seek you out once they’re on the website; however, the real strategy is to have people just stumble upon your article from the search engines.
Summary: It’s a lot more work than posting your profile somewhere but it will get you added exposure. Nearly every web search I do About.com comes up in the results so, so they get some great exposure.
Intro: Superpages.com is a local business directory. Any local business can claim their business profile for free
Pros: It’s free to claim your profile and many of the listing show up in the search engines. You can have a link to your website and even host a video for direct user engagement. You can photos to your profile. Social Share buttons so people give a shout out to your listing.
Cons: Those who pay extra for an Ad will be listed higher up on the page. Unverified reviews can be harmful to a business. Removing ones business from the site can be tricky.
Summary: In the end, this is a must do for many small business. By now you should have at least ten great photos of your business that you can post everywhere. This would be a good place to start.
Intro: This is much like Superpages. It’s a directory for local business
Pros: you can post your website, video and photos. This has a “Request a Call” feature for added customer engagement. Other features where a customer can forward listing to their phone for e-mail. Get found on the search engines. Great added exposure.
Cons: The layout seems a little weird. From a customer stand point the website doesn’t seem to function properly.
Summary: Overall, it’s not a great site, but if you have your info and photos ready, it won’t take much to make your listing stand out. My virus protection Avast has rated this site as “untrustworthy.” Proceed with caution. I guess in the end, I wouldn’t recommend this site to my clients.
Intro: Another “yellow” site where you can have a free listing in their local directory.
Pros: you can add your listing and advertise for more visibility.
Cons: Listings don’t show in the SERPs, and no many have ever heard of this site. Information on this site seems to be aggregated from other websites.
Summary: A quick search and research shows that all of these “yellow” sites are not created equal, so if you’re not getting a top listing in one you might want to try another one. There are some reports that this is a rather dubious site, so do your homework before engaging with this site.
Intro: Instagram is a photo sharing site. It’s has grown very quickly.
Pros: Easy to use. Very popular. You can follow people and they can follow you. If you have visual oriented business such as hair salon, interior designer, etc., then this would be a good place to add to your expanding portfolio
Cons: Doesn’t seem to show up on Google for small businesses. Only oriented toward visual type small businesses.
GREAT RESOURCES FOR FREELANCERS:
Ash Waechter is a direct response copywriter who helps small businesses sell more products and services online. He also writes SEO copy for attracting readers from around the web.