Most small business owners find it difficult to carve out a budget for advertising, and instead believe that a sign on the door and word-of-mouth will be enough to create a successful business.  Many small business owners know a lot about the business they own, but little about how to advertise it, so they miss some easy opportunities to advertise.  These are steps every business owner can take if they are willing to spend the time entering information about their company and learning how to use some online software.

1. Sign up for a free local business listing with all the major search engines.  Every search engine has a slightly different name for these listings, but for local searches small businesses can often be found easier through these listings than in regular results.  Signing your business up allows you to post operating hours, list products or services, provide a few pictures and more for only the time it takes to claim your listing.  Several online yellow pages also offer similar free listings.

2. Run a search for directories of the type of business you own and you’ll find a number of directories that offer free listings.  Some of these may be very large directories with good reputations that primarily offer the free listing in an attempt to get you to upgrade to a paid “premium” listing.  That’s exactly the type of directory you want a free listing in.  Avoid poor quality directories.

3. Start a blog for free and start writing articles about your business.  There are several free blog hosting sites available that make getting started fairly simple.  The blog postings will help customers searching for the products/services you offer find you in search engine listings.

4. Use at least a couple of the many social media sites out there and work on gathering an audience.  Some are easy to setup and others are more complicated.  These are like electronic word-of-mouth systems because you start by inviting your friends and hope they’ll share the information with other people they know.

Taking advantage of these free opportunities certainly won’t guarantee success.  Most businesses will have to do more advertising to be successful.  To get the most out of some of these services, especially blogging and social media, you may need the help of an advertising agency, which can use different strategies to build visitor traffic and convert those visitors into customers.

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