How to Advertise a Small Business

Small business advertising
Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash
For all of my small business friends out there, I've been hearing a lot of questions regarding where to begin with digital advertising for small businesses.   Now the strategy will vary significantly from business to business, however I want to give a short list of recommendations, starting with the strategies that doesn't cost a dime.

Table of Contents

Email Marketing

email marketing

For any small business, no matter how small, you should be collecting emails from customers and prospects. If you aren’t doing this now, you should start right away.

On your site, make sure you have some mechanism to collect email addresses. The reason is, you want to build up a relationship with your users and potential customers. Once you build up a nice email list, you can message them throughout the year to share your latest offering, promotions and business updates. Email is likely one of the most cost effective forms of advertising and I would highly recommend everyone implement this strategy. My recommendation is to use Privy which has an awesome product to easily collect emails on your site. I wrote an in-depth review on Privy to reference.


Once you have a list of emails, start engaging with this audience on a regular cadence. For example, start with a monthly newsletter of all the great stuff you’re working on, highlighting new products/services, or just give valuable content so you maintain top of mind.  There are a lot of really good sources for ideas and tips as it relates to email marketing. See this article from All you have to do is Google email marketing strategies for small businesses.

In terms of return on investment for small business marketing, email is without a doubt, one of the best places to go and should be an ongoing strategy.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics

If you have a website, you have to make sure you have Google Analytics setup. This is critical before you take part with any type of digital advertising. The reason is you want to make sure you’re tracking the effectiveness of every campaign, before you even spend a dime. So often I hear of businesses that advertise, without even setting up proper measurement. When this happens, they have no clue if their ads are working or not. I wrote a helpful article which goes into detail on why you need to setup Google Analytics.

Free Local Directories

This is a must, super easy and free. Make sure you’re listed on Google My Business and take it a step further by signing up for a local directory service such as YEXT to push your business information to 65+ local directories. MOZ wrote a really great article on the importance of local citations.


As a section of local directories, I would also recommend to reach out to your local chamber of commerce, just to get your site out within your local community.

If you want to learn more on free local directory listings, check out my post here, which you can audit your current listing profile.



SEO. For those not in the know, it’s Search Engine Optimization. I know, it sounds technical, confusing, complex and hard to master, right? It’s not, it really isn’t. It does take some time, and you can always get better at it, but this is something small businesses should work on.

Why? SEO is your sites ability to attract FREE (yes free) traffic from the search engines (i.e. Google, Bing, Yahoo!, AOL, etc.) by having your site rank up at the top of search engine results pages for relevant searches. The higher you rank, the more FREE clicks you that you will get for your small business.

Now where to begin, this is a bit tricky, so let me make this easy with some starting points. You can certainly get advanced, but let’s not get crazy for now.

Google Analytics

Make sure you have Google Analytics so you can start seeing how much organic traffic you’re getting, this will serve as the benchmark.


You’ve likely heard that content is king, right? Well if you haven’t, you’re hearing it here first. It’s king. What does that mean? The more unique content that provides value to your users, the more “SEO Juice” your site will have. Google and the engines respect content that is unique and is valuable to the users. If it deems your content valuable (based on how many users interact with your content i.e. time on site, clicking on your site, etc.), it will reward you immensely by ranking you at the top for searches.

My recommendation for content is to think of keywords you want to rank for. From there, make sure your site has content around the theme of keywords your are targeting. For example, if you have a local tax firm write a blog on everything tax related, for your audience. For example write content such as :

  • Top Tax Changes for 2018
  • Most Overlooked Tax Write Offs
  • Tax Checklist
  • Best Tools to Organize your Financials
  • etc.

The more content you have, the more the engines will see that you have value to give to your users.

Also, from there, other sites will likely link to your site, which gives a clear signal to the engines that your site has value. If folks are referring people to your site, it must be good!

Just remember, content is king. When in doubt, write valuable content, on a frequent basis. A blog is an excellent way to do this.

Technical Foundation

I could go deep into this, but for the sake of this blog post I’ll keep this high level and just give a few nuggets to focus on for your small business.

  • Focus on speed. Speed kills. If your site is slow, you will get penalized from the engines (starting this summer). Google will penalize sites that have slow rendering times as it won’t provide a good experience. Test My Site from Google is an amazing free resource to inform you how fast your site is and what are the opportunities to make it faster. The faster your site is, the greater chance it has to rank higher (assume you have good content as well).
  • If you use WordPress (if you don’t already, I highly recommend it), add a SEO plugin such as Yoast. Yoast is an easy to use plugin which helps you optimize your site for SEO. It tells you how your SEO is scoring and gives recommendations.

Google Search Console

Setup your site with Google Search Console. This is the platform you can go to see how your small business is being ranked from Google. It will also point it if there are any errors on your site that you should address which may be preventing Google from crawling your site.

Read up and continue to study SEO. Don’t feel stressed or go crazy on it, but occasionally check out a few SEO blogs to get some tips along the way.  SEO is a long ball play, but if you make improvements along the way, everything will benefit. Just remember, this is to get FREE traffic to your site.

Also, SEO takes a long time to take into effect. For example, if you start blogging, it may take up to 4-6 weeks to even start getting organic traffic. But eventually it will snowball and before you know it, you’ll have a ton of free visitors to your site.  When you write content, just understand that it will pay off, it may just take some time.



Now I’m getting into paid advertising. Even though I’m starting to cover paid advertising, these are highly effective ways to drive new customers. The return on your ad spend is extremely positive.

Remarketing gives small businesses the opportunity to show a display banner ad to users who have visited your site, but didn’t convert. It’s a great way to remind users of your small business to prompt them to take action. It works extremely well as usually only 1% of site visitors will purchase or take a desired action from your site.

Even though only 1% of users take action, it doesn’t mean that the 99% of users aren’t interested. It’s just they weren’t ready to take action at that time they visited.

For example, a lot of users do a ton of research in advance of making a purchase. Just because they didn’t commit to your products/services on the very first visit doesn’t mean their not interested, they’re just getting information to make an informed decision.

With remarketing you can target all of these users who have visited your site to remind them of all the great products and services your small business has. The best part about it, it works, really really well.

You can launch a remarketing campaign through Google, which I detailed here, within just a few hours (at most – I could likely create one within 15 minutes). To boot, with Google you only pay per click. Which means you’re only paying for users who agreed to visit your site by taking action and clicking your ad. There is no such thing as a wasted impression. There are other platforms you can use for remarketing, but I am biased towards Google as Google has significant reach (reaching 95% of users) and it’s a proven platform which you can advertise as much or as little as you want. 

My recommendation for all the small businesses reading this blog post is to pixel your site (which I detailed in the aforementioned blog post) to start collecting a list of users who has visited your site. From there you can launch a remarketing campaign which should always be running. Just set a low budget for this and always have this on.

I have a remarketing campaign running for my brothers small business and the return we see is amazing. It’s not uncommon that we see just $50 in monthly investment drive literally hundreds of dollars worth of sales. It has that much success because you’re reaching the most engaged audience possible.

If you’re concerned about creating digital banners and the time and money required, don’t be! I have a detailed blog post here on how you can create very effective digital banner ads for your small business, quick and on the cheap.

This sums up remarketing, you should get started on this and unlike SEO, you can have an immediate impact. Once you create the campaign, all you do is flip a switch and it will start driving quality traffic for your small business.

Here is a helpful blog post on how to create a remarketing campaign.

Google Search

google search ads

This gives you the ability to rank in top positions on the search engine results page, immediately.

Before I blogged about the importance of SEO to rank high on the pages. However, with Paid Search, you can immediately own top real estate (even above the organic posts) through paid advertising. All you do is turn on a switch and you’ll immediately start driving qualified traffic to your site.

For example, see the ad for Mobil 1. Without any SEO, they can immediately own the #1 position on the search results page and drive a ton of traffic.

Google Search Ad

The best part about search ads is you’re only buying highly qualified traffic, based on user intent. See my post a month earlier on how intent marketing is so powerful.  In this case, you’re only showing an ad to users who are looking for the exact product or service you offer.

With Paid Search, you need to be very strategic and careful on how you advertise. Advertisers can make a lot of money (and do) and they can also lose a lot, all based on how you setup your campaigns. I’m looking to ensure you’re in the former camp, making a lot of money from Paid Search. If you’re launching Paid Search ads for your small business, I highly recommend you either sign up for my video tutorials or we engage in some capacity, just to make sure you’re setup for success.

For those who want to get started, check out my blog post on how to create a search campaign.


I won’t go into detail on social right now (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), but this is something you should have an ongoing presence on. You don’t need to use all platforms, rather pick the platform that’s best for your business.

If you’re a local brick and mortar location, Facebook, is likely the preferred platform. Here is a helpful blog post of my top Facebook advertising strategies

However, if you’re an interior designer, Instagram, will be your jam, given the visual nature of it.

I’ll post more on this in the future, but just be sure that you are active on the most relevant platform, in a variety of ways. For example, share relevant content, poll your audience, share images, videos, etc. Also, you don’t want to burn out your audience, so you need to be mindful on how often you’re posting. Try and find the sweet spot of not posting too much, nor too infrequently.

To sum up this post, there are some highly effective strategies that you can launch today. Every business is unique and solutions for each business will be unique, however the strategies mentioned above should all be considered. Some of the most successful small businesses leverage all of the platforms mentioned.

Ben Lund

Ben Lund

Ben Lund is a 14+ year digital advertising vet who founded Rise Marketing Group. Outside of managing his agency, he offers advertising courses on SkillShare and routinely shares his best practices on

Ben Lund

Ben Lund

Ben Lund is a 14+ year digital advertising vet who founded Rise Marketing Group. Outside of managing his agency, he offers advertising courses on SkillShare and routinely shares his best practices on

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Need More Advertising Help?

While I am sharing a good amount of free information through DIY Digital Strategy, if you need more help, feel free to drop me a line on my contact page, as my agency Rise Marketing Group helps clients of all sizes.
Even if you’re not interested in full service advertising management, I would love to hear from you! Ping me a line at and I’ll be sure to follow-up to see how I can help.