What you want to say about your business is one of those rare things that you have control over, so it’s up to you to use it to your advantage. But some online business owners are concerned about how much advertising costs. And some wonder, how do you know where to advertise in the first place?
These are reasonable concerns, so we’ve got your back. In this article we’ll go through some of the benefits that advertising can bring to your online business, and tackle any fear of costs by focusing on 10 of the best free advertising sites available to you.
What do you have to gain from advertising your online business?
Boost your brand and website awareness – People need to know that you exist if you want to sell things, which is where promoting your website comes in. But most also want to know your story, values, vibe, credibility, and how your business operates. You can get this across even in the simplest of ads.
Find your customers – Most customers buy because they’re getting something on an emotional level. Advertising online lets you spread your reach, and if you’re unique, you’ll find your target audience. It’s like a really unusual, vivid profile on a dating app – if you really stand out, no holds barred, the ones that do get in touch really like you.
Give people more value – Potential online customers have so much choice and are bombarded with up to 10,000 ads a day. And that doesn’t include all the content from friends and family! Differentiate yourself from your competition by adding value to your customers’ lives, not just with your products but with other needs you might be able to fill, such as information, tips, recommendations, and collaborations with others to help meet new needs. They all add up and help build loyalty.
Make more sales – The traditional holy grail of advertising. You want to be able to pay your bills. And statistics on digital marketing ROI show how advertising pays, with SEO marketing averaging an ROI of 22:1, or a whopping 2,220%!
Advice from the Experts
Good to know: ROI stands for return on investment, which in simple terms describes how much money you’ll get back.
Guide them through your annual cycle – Businesses pivot and try seasonal and new promotions. Advertising helps you announce there’s a new reason to check you out. You can lead customers to whatever new funnels you’re adding along the way.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: The best advertising comes down to the sticky sentence – something that sticks in their mind no matter what else they forget about your ad.
Maybe you’re now a little intrigued by what advertising can do for you. And that ROI sure seems tempting, but your budget can’t cover an upfront expense. So let’s look at the best free advertising sites!
First up, what do we mean by “free advertising sites?” This article doesn’t cover general sites that you can use for free advertising, like WordPress or Instagram or Quora or a host of others. What we mean in this context is sites that are specifically built to drive advertising, most of which is free, for a customer base.
Before we get into our list of the best free sites to advertise your business, let’s take a second to look at whether it’s right for you. Free advertising sites do bring an online business owner benefits, but it also brings challenges:
- It’s free, so budget isn’t a problem
- You don’t have to limit how much advertising you put out (usually)
- You can use analytics to check whether they’re effective and adjust future ads
- Lots of competition and noise
- No quality control so audiences have to wade through subpar campaigns
- Some free sites don’t have the resources for moderation from attacks or fixing mistakes
The good news is that most of these challenges can be solved with ads that are written well for a target audience.
Find Out More
- Discover our top Digital Marketing Tips to help your ads go further!
All free advertising starts with research on the site’s terms and conditions, what you’re selling, and who your target audience is. Which categories do your products feel at home? What do your competitors’ ads (both the good and the ugly) look like?
To help you get a better idea of what site works best for you, here are 10 of the best free advertising sites and why they work.
#1. Facebook Marketplace
Facebook Marketplace is easy to use, and brings an audience of 1 billion people a month who spend a lot of time on the platform. It’s not for businesses that sell luxury or high-priced goods and services. Marketplace is seen like a thrift shop and there’s a huge amount of competition.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t display your business’ information where it’s easily seen which makes building a brand tougher.
But if you sell one-off items and prefer to sell locally, this is a good option for you. To set up, click on the Marketplace at either the top or bottom of the screen, and have a look through the categories. Once you’re ready, click on the profile option, and fill out your details and info on you and your products. Like Craigslist, it works best locally. It’s truly free.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: Visuals in advertising (infographics, good photographs, and video) will always improve engagement. But don’t forget photo descriptions and alt text to make your content accessible for visually impaired customers. They want to find you and your products too!
#2. Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business)
Google lets you freely advertise by posting your business profile on Google searches and Google Maps. It’s a successful platform – Google Business Profile means you’re 2.7 times more likely to be considered reputable by Google users, plus your chances of customers visiting your site increase 70%, and they’re 50% more likely to buy from you. Impressive stats indeed!
It favors businesses with a physical location, but if you’re strictly online, it’s still worth filling out a profile. You can also create all kinds of content – posts, DMs, offers, promotions, etc.
Set up a business account on google.com/business and create your profile. Fill out all the details, link up to your website, and continue to add postings. It’s totally free – there are no hidden fees.
In Craigslist everything is categorized so you can easily target your audience. And the community discussions allow word-of-mouth to further help get the word out. The best businesses that do well are local businesses (because categories are broken down by location) that provide goods and services for their community.
Be aware that although the advertising is free, if you sell you’ll pay a fee. Your posts last 30 days.
Craigslist provides an ad forum that talks you through everything you need to do, including how to write effective Craigslist ads and how to find your posting. When you advertise, you’ll start with the “New Posting” selection. Include SEO in your ad, keywords in an attention-grabbing title, visual content when possible, and reasons for selling help too.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: No matter which platform you choose and how local your products, always make sure your ads are optimized with keywords/SEO.
Yelp free advertising attracts many small businesses because it pushes your ads to secondary sites which are partnered with Yelp. 90 million people look to Yelp for business information each month, and 97% make a purchase. Yelp-friendly businesses are local, such as bars and restaurants, professionals like doctors and lawyers, home/auto services and maintenance, beauty, and health and fitness.
On Yelp you register your profile and fill out as much of your business’ information as possible. You can ask your network to add honest reviews on your profile too. On the free plan, you can respond to messages and reviews.
Its upgrades are very affordable – for a dollar a day you can keep competitors’ ads from popping up on your page or add a call to action button.
eBay’s an extremely popular site boasting 135 million eBay customers browsing 1.7 billion listings. The most popular categories are electronics (and electronic accessories), automotive, health/beauty, and sports/outdoors. And if you sell internationally, you’ll do better – 50% of its gross purchase revenue comes from international sales.
Selling on eBay works like an auction site (though you also have the option to sell outside of an auction). While you create your listing remember that targeted keywords are vital. You can use the listing page as blank space for your brand – introducing backgrounds colors, even a paragraph on or link to your business.
You‘ll have a limit on your free ads, and will be charged a final valuation fee upon the sale. This rate depends on whether you’re a private lister or a business.
At first glance Oodle is a great place for simple, locally-based classified listings. But it brings a lot more than that. You know that person in your life who introduces you to lots of different types of people? That’s Oodle. A connector. It works by not accepting ads directly, but by indexing and showing your ads in one place.
Customers can set notifications so if your ad matches what they’re searching for, you’ll both be in luck. Like many of the other sites it favors local transactions, but you can still sell to further regions.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: Always do your due diligence on any advertising sites. UX shifts depending on management and customers. Read reviews (like you find at Trustpilot), and talk to businesses unrelated to yours who use the site to get their opinions too.
Though Gumtree is more popular in the UK than in the US, it’s gaining ground. If you like sustainability and upcycling, or if you like to haggle, this platform is for you. It’s best for locally sold items – in fact, selling internationally can be difficult because the Gumtree website automatically reverts to the user’s location so people outside the US will struggle to find your ad.
Gumtree’s free advertisements allow 60-day listings, longer descriptions, more photos, and you can edit your ad whenever you want. Once you register and set up your first ad, you get an account manager too.
There’s no limits to how many posts you can make, but watch out for fees, which vary depending on what type of ad you put out.
The businesses that do very well on Locanto are those that enjoy a big local following. Businesses that advertise classes, ticketed events, entertainment, talks, and any local events are heavily promoted.
Posting an ad is really easy – even simpler than eBay because you haven’t got to verify or provide business financial information. Simply click on the link and get started right away..
Keywords/SEO and a good headline will get attention. Your ads will stay around for 60 days and are totally free if you’re in the right location (always check first!).
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: Keep your safety above everything else. Do your research on scams on the platforms you’re using. If meeting a customer, choose a public place whenever possible and let people know where you’re going.
Geebo is another classified site with a difference – safety is the USP at Geebo. Geebo provides its sellers a list of common scams for protection and education. Though they have a small team of three people in their office, they manage to get 2.5 million page views/month.
It’s really easy to make an advertisement – click on the post button on the homepage, choose your category, fill in some details, add photos, and you’re off. Steer clear of looking for employees on Geebo – they charge at least $75 dollars per employment ad.
ClassifiedAds is a small startup run by 20 people with 3 million unique visitors a month. It runs similarly to Craigslist – a simple sign-up and post. Customers will search for your product, and ads as well as listings will come up. You’ll also get to add a link to your website and provide contact forms for better communication.
It’s free to post ads, fully browse the site, and get in touch with sellers (which your buyers will love). But note that because there aren’t photos on the search results page, keywords and an eye-catching title will be essential.
Free advertising sites certainly provide a lot of opportunity for online business owners. Written well, for the right target audience, they bring you a new audience and customer base, let people know about your brand, bring your customers value, and sell more.
Once you figure out which sites work best for you and use their best practices, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of something that takes very little time or resources. It’s all about finding the right place for you and your online business to thrive.