Is free advertising a myth?

The Captain Digby Inn in KentOnce, “free advertising” meant what it said, targeting the small- to medium-business owner; today it’s often no more than a buzz-word favoured by internet directories, primarily to encourage sign-up for a trial period. So, as a business owner, should you be tempted?

Such is the throw-away nature of this internet catchphrase, many business are inclined to disregard it as nothing more than a sweetener – a hook to procure new business in the short term, with a later attempt to convert fledgling advertisers into long-term, subscription-paying customers. But, what if your limited budget doesn't stretch thus far?

Forging Local Business Relationships

In the UK, pub landlords, guest house owners and restaurateurs all have an opinion on today’s tough business climate. Dogged by tax rises, flagging profits and cheap competition, an estimated two to three public houses close each day in Britain, which is why local business networks and community support are vital.

With no advertising budget available, many British pub owners are now turning to the tested method of old-fashioned network marketing – lending their own credibility to others in attempt to forge strong community business networks and target a wider audience. In doing so, business owners can:

  • Encourage multi-network marketing in the local area.
  • Gain credibility among trusted followers of other businesses.
  • Cross-promote to develop new revenue streams.
  • Increase prospective 'word-of-mouth' referrals.
  • Forge local business relationships, with the emphasis on exploring mutually profitable opportunities.

Free Advertising for Regional Business Owners

The concept of genuinely free local business advertising is simple. Online niche directories extend the offer of free advertising without condition, in a bid to support other local and regional business owners. Often fledgling start-up businesses, these directories are reliant upon three key components that improve their 'reach' and generate traffic from both local and national searches. The county of Kent in south-east England is a typical example.

Original, Informative Content

Wickham Lodge Gardens in KentApproximately 70 per cent of all visitors to this type of site arrive from organic keyword searches. These searches are a direct result of comprehensive and targeted content, devised specifically to draw a new influx of visitors to the site. Success stems from the fresh and varied content featured, which bridges 'hot' search topics such as “family pubs in Kent”, “holiday accommodation in Kent” and “pet-friendly cottages in Kent”.

This strong local focus is aimed at delivering a prime position on the first page for all major keyword results for “Kent pubs” and similar phrases. A complementary benefit for directory owners is increased exposure that the site receives as a result.

Word of Mouth

Old-fashioned word of mouth strongly influences the popularity of online niche business directories. Social media and other online channels increase the effect. Directory sites encourage connectivity and interactivity, and reciprocate by interacting with restaurant owners, pub landlords and similarly interested parties.

In this way, directory owners slowly but surely forge new relationships with like-minded entrepreneurs, with a view to assisting one another to attract new customers and build their respective networks. The directory’s focus is exclusively regional, aiding smaller brands gain exposure, whilst steadily improving its own.

Niche Directory Listings

Small local directories feature many niche categories not supported by larger, national directories. Additionally, local directory listings often provide more than simple contact information. The effectiveness of expanded directory listings ties in with content strategy. Listings provide informative, keyword-rich content, which drastically reduces bounce rate and encourages interactivity with the site. This in turn boosts the likelihood of an advertisement being viewed by a far larger and wider audience.

Taking the Next Step

At a time when local search engine results are under the microscope, regional business owners can’t afford to reject free opportunities, even if they are rarely hook-free. A reputable local online business directory aims to rebuild confidence among owners of restaurants, pubs and holiday accommodation, with a professional yet friendly approach that is far more likely to generate results.

Would you be inspired to give free advertising a shot? Finding a suitable local niche business directory with a strong presence in your niche is a great way to start. Don’t waste the opportunity to use the Internet to your benefit.