According to SEO experts the term “free advertising” gets over 8,000 searches a month. That’s a lot of people looking for a free way to advertise their business. The number is even higher if you throw in terms like “free marketing” and “free Internet advertising.”
So, does free advertising exist for small or local businesses? Like the proverbial free lunch, not really. This is one of the reasons Groupon is always very careful to explain that there are no upfront costs to advertising with Groupon. You do not have to pay to run a Groupon, but as with all advertising, even advertising that claims to be free, there are eventually costs.
Television stations, radio stations, and newspapers all run “free” Public Service Announcements for nonprofits. These are a great service to the nonprofit and the public, but someone still has to pay to put the ads together. Even if the nonprofit gets a company to do this work pro bono, it still takes money to have your legal time approve the ad and time to supervise the ad.
Internet listings, websites, and social media are all often touted as free advertising. Obviously, a decent website design is anything but free. Although I always recommend claiming your free Internet listings and setting up social media accounts, doing so does cost time. Effective online social media activity “costs” staff time to run and monitor. Does this count as free Internet advertising? Well, it depends on how you define your costs.
Another great way for local businesses to get their name out there is to participate in local events. Some people consider this free advertising because the only cost for a restaurant to donate food to a fundraiser or a florist to donate flowers to a networking event is the cost of materials, and possibly time.
There are plenty of low cost ways to advertise your local business. But, there’s no such thing as completely free advertising.