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  • 15 Free & Paid Local Advertising Ideas for Small Businesses

Did you know there are over 31.7 million small businesses in the US? That amounts to about 1,600 small businesses per city. This means a lot of competition for small business owners across America, especially when you factor in the larger businesses you’re also competing with in each community.

local small business stats

One of the best ways to make your small business stand out and get more customers is to invest in some type (or types!) of local advertising.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the definition of advertising is “the techniques and practices used to bring products, services, opinions, or causes to public notice to persuade the public to respond in a certain way toward what is advertised.”

Based on this definition, we’re sharing both free and paid ways you can advertise your local business to get noticed, get customers, and get growing.

Free local advertising ideas

Use these free local advertising ideas to get seen by new customers.

1. Claim and optimize your Google Business Profile

Your Google Business Profile is a free local advertising tool that can get you found on Google in a couple of ways: It’s how your business appears on Google Maps, Google Search in the 3-pack, and Google’s Knowledge Panel.

But that’s not the only way your Google Business listing can help you win over local customers. You can seed the Q&A section of your Google Business Profile to highlight important features and increase customer confidence.

You can also post promotions, events, photos, and products to your profile to give customers further incentive to do business with you.

google business profile - fill out all information

This gives searchers instant information that can drive them to take action (which they can do directly from your Google Business listing!), leading it to be an effective local advertising strategy to focus on. Make sure your Google Business profile is complete and optimized for local search using our tips here.

Related: Protect your Google Business Profile from unwanted edits and updates with these tips.

2. Get reviews

Your Google Business Profile has another benefit: It allows you to collect reviews, a critical component of a successful local marketing strategy–making it an impressive local advertising idea for your business to implement ASAP.

Reviews can act as free advertising for your business because they rely on your happy customers promoting your business and sharing the top reasons people should choose you over the competition.

Plus, people rely on reviews. We know that 93% of people read reviews before making a purchase and 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends or family.

By focusing on collecting reviews, you can increase your chances of appearing for searches containing “best” on Google (Google shows listings with 4 stars or higher) and let your satisfied customers do the advertising for you.

example of map pack for best dealerships providence google search

3. Respond to reviews

After getting reviews for your business, it’s also important to respond to them. While responding to reviews is important for increasing customer satisfaction, addressing complaints, and building trust with prospective customers, it can also act as free advertising for your business.

In your responses to positive reviews, you can highlight points made by your customers to further call out the pros of your business to prospective customers reading your reviews.

google my business holiday checklist - responding to google my business reviews example

Also, by responding to negative reviews (the right way!), you have an opportunity to show people that you value your customers and work to correct issues while calling out any positive aspects about your business the negative review may have mentioned.

4. Claim, verify, and create local business listings

Did you know that 46% of all searches on Google have local intent? While 46% might not seem like a hugely impressive percentage, when you take into account that Google processes an average of 40,000 searches each second, that translates into 18,400 local searches every second of the day. And you know what shows up in the majority of local searches? Local business listings.

example of the business listings that rank on google for a local search

So local business listings are a great idea for advertising your small business. As you can see above, a Google Business listing is essential. But, there are more free listings sites your business needs to be on (like Yelp and Bing!).

Make sure your business has a presence on the top local listings sites and include accurate and updated information across all of them. This may seem like a large feat, but it’s worth it to ensure your information is correct (plus, you can get help with listings management).

Not only do search engines reward consistent information across the web (including the exact same Name, Phone Number, and Address), but correct business information creates a positive customer experience–something that’s super important to win new customers.

Plus, by adding compelling information about your business (like a great business description) to persuade searchers to contact you, you can score yourself some additional free advertising space online.

Use our free business listings grader to find the sites you’ll want to update sooner rather than later and see how your online presence stacks up.

5. Run a customer loyalty program

A customer loyalty program is a great way to reward your current customers and incentivize them to keep coming back. Make your loyalty program work for you by determining what incentive you’ll provide customers, how often they can earn rewards, and how you’ll keep track of it all.

Many businesses use a punch card or stamp system, which is an easy way to show customers how many visits to go until they receive their next reward.

customer appreciation ideas - customer loyalty program

Customer loyalty programs act as free local advertising because they keep your business top of mind and reward repeat purchases. And we all know it’s way more cost-effective to retain an existing customer than it is to attract a new one.

6. Win (and promote) local business awards

Is your business award-worthy? Of course it is! Winning awards can increase awareness of your business, entice new customers to try you, and instill greater confidence in what you have to offer.

And lucky for you, there are lots of ways you can win awards for your business (many of them free!) to get some additional local advertising.

First, check with your local news outlets to see if they run any “best of” awards. Then, you can also check with community magazines or websites to see if they compile reader awards.

Then you’ll want to build excitement for your business around these awards by asking your happy customers to nominate or vote for you. You can share this on social media as well as on your website.

Once you’ve won (yay!), you can promote your business award across your website, social sites, in your business with signage, and in any other marketing materials. Many publications will also feature these awards on their sites and in print so you can get some additional exposure (and free local advertising!).

Winners of Best of the Best in Austin are featured in a write up, online, and in a video.

Here’s an example of a write-up for a business that won Best of the Best in Austin.


Paid local advertising ideas that yield high ROI

The best marketing and advertising strategy combine multiple channels. Try these paid advertising ideas to build on the success of your free tactics.

7. Get seen on sites people frequent with display advertising

Over the last two years, more consumers than ever are turning to their trusted local media outlets for up-to-date news and information. In fact, in 2020 there was a 30% increase in visits to local news sites. Your business can get in front of these customers and increase brand awareness using display advertising.

Related: Find out more brand awareness strategies here.

local advertising ideas - display ads examples in indy star

Here’s an example of two display ads on a local news publication site.

Display advertising is a type of online advertising that shows ads directly on local news sites and other sites across the web with the purpose of driving local customers to your business’s landing page or a page on your website. Use display advertising to promote deals or specials, provide information that might be relevant to your local audience, or promote brand awareness by sharing who you are and what you do.

Make sure to incorporate trigger words in your display ad copy to drive action and more clicks.

8. Position your business as an expert with branded content

Another way to get in front of consumers visiting their local news publications is by investing in branded content. Branded content allows you to create and promote educational, informative, or entertaining content directly on a local news publication.

This positions your business as an expert, increases awareness of your business, and can entice consumers to do business with you over the competition.

Watch how this garage repair company used branded content to educate their community here:

9. Try local search advertising

Search advertising is one of those tried-and-true tactics that’s become a staple for most businesses running any type of online marketing or advertising. And the reason is simple: It works!

Local PPC positions your business on top search engines for searches related to your business above organic search results, which increases the chances people will click on your result and contact your business.

You can target your search campaigns locally by enabling location extensions in Google Ads. You can use local search ads to get customers to call your business, visit your storefront,  or help them learn more about your business.

local advertising ideas - example of local maps ad on google 3-pack

Here’s an example from Google of where a local ad can be seen.

Get more tips to optimize your Google Ads for better ROI here.

🚨 Running Google Ads and not sure how they’re performing? Find out with a free, instant audit >> WordStream’s Free Google Ads Grader

10. Use print advertising to reach local readers

The local newspaper provides various opportunities for advertising. You can place an ad or get a listing in the appropriate section (whether that be in the classifieds or elsewhere). Print ads are a great localized marketing strategy because you know the exact area your local paper is reaching.

local advertising ideas - print ad example in courier journal paper

An example of a print ad in the Courier-Journal

Plus, with technology, you can track the effectiveness of your print advertising by using call tracking numbers or custom codes for your promotions or coupons to keep track of the customers contacting you or doing business with you from your print ads.

Related: Another way to track print ads performance is with QR codes. Learn about them here!

11. Host an event

Events are a great local advertising idea because they promote people visiting your location, which helps you sell your products or services.

Your event can be pretty much anything you want it to be. It could be a party, demo, festival, workshop, anniversary sale, charity event, or webinar. The options are endless and don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

Your event could also coincide with a promotion–the first 50 visitors get a free coffee with a purchase or 20% off a service or product. It doesn’t take a lot for people to enjoy themselves. Sometimes they’re really just looking for a good deal and some free snacks.

happy mothers day social media post - promote event on social example

You can host events around social media holidays and observances.

So spread the word far and wide about your event. Use bold signage to let people know. If possible, hold your event out in the open where you can attract more attention on the day of.

12. Send direct mail

Sending printed advertisements to potential customers can be a great way to create awareness for your business. Not only that but doing so repeatedly will keep your business top of mind, increasing the chances that people will come to you when in need of what you offer. Even better if you incorporate coupons or promotions into your direct mail campaigns!

cleaning services advertising ideas - use direct mailers

Read about creating future-use coupons and promotions here.

Local social advertising ideas

Social media is a great place to connect with and win new local customers. Try these social advertising ideas to get started.

13. Partner with a local influencer

Influencer marketing is no longer just for big brands. Growing businesses are getting in on the action too by partnering with local influencers and micro-influencers. This local advertising idea can help you reach a new audience that’s complementary to your business. It just takes a little planning and some outreach.

You’ll want to identify a micro-influencer (which is an influencer who has a smaller, but still healthy, following) who is either in your niche market, posts about businesses related to yours, or highlights local businesses. This will give you the greatest chance of reaching the right audience.

social media marketing strategy tips - microinfluencer marketing

Then you’ll want to reach out to determine how the micro-influencer would like to partner. Do they have rates for posts or are they open to a swap (your product or service in exchange for a post)? Make sure to provide any highlights you want them to include in their post, such as special features you want customers to know about.

Once they share their post, make sure to reshare to your social sites to increase engagement and awareness.

14. Test different social advertising goals

Social media advertising can help you achieve many goals, such as driving website traffic, increasing engagement, and generating leads (like with Facebook Lead Ads).

While running one social advertising campaign is effective, you can see even better results when you run multiple ad types targeting different goals.

snapchat marketing tips - use snapchat ad objectives

An example of some of the advertising goals you can reach on Snapchat.

This can help you spread your marketing budget across different social channels and types of social ads so you can see what performs best and grow your business with local customers in different ways.

15. Run a social media contest

While not technically part of social media advertising, running a contest does require a little budget in the form of a prize. (Plus, you can always try boosting your contest post for added exposure!)

Social media contests like Facebook and Instagram giveaways can help you grow your following, connect with new customers, and increase awareness of your business.

how to do an instagram giveaway - steps for running instagram contest

To run a social media contest, simply determine a prize for your giveaway (gift cards, gift baskets, or free products/services are always big hits!), decide how people will enter your contest, and craft a post promoting your contest. To enter, you can have people like your post and follow you, tag friends in the comments, or post a picture and tag your business.

Related: Find out how to do a Facebook giveaway here.

Advertise your business locally

Local advertising enables you to reach consumers when they’re searching for businesses like yours directly in your area, and that’s something that can’t be discounted. Think about how your customers are searching for businesses, how they like to engage with prospective businesses, and the places they’re spending time–both online and offline–to help determine the right local advertising strategy for your business.

Get more ideas for how to market your business here.

Related: Check your online presence with our free website grader.

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