How to use free ad sites to promote your Canadian business

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Confused about how to advertise your small Canadian business online using sites that offer free ads? Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

When I first took my small writing business online, I had no clue how to advertise my services.

While trying to research it on my own, I encountered tons of well-meaning articles dispensing technical “should-do’s” — which would have been great, if I understood what the terms meant or if I had any idea about how to go about acting on that advice.

Fear not dear reader! I’m here to explain:

  • What free ads and free classifieds are
  • What the fancy internet terms mean
  • Steps you can take now to get the word out about your awesome company

Then you’ll be able to make a decision about whether free ads are something you can tackle on your own, or whether you might need to hire out a portion of this task. At the very least you will understand what needs to be done and how to make it happen.

Free ad sites: How to make them work for you

To start with, you can place ads on free ad or free classified sites like Yelp or Craigslist.

While these sites make their money by offering enhanced listings to paying customers, you don’t have to spend a dime to use them.

Each functions as an online clearinghouse, where anyone can put up a profile or short description of their business for FREE, so people looking for products and services can search that site to find what they are looking for.

Why you should focus on Canada’s free advertising sites

Woman Hanging Open Sign in Business WindowIf you are a Canadian company, and your website address or URL ends with a .ca, it will be better for you to focus on Canadian ad sites. Why? Canadian versions of search engines are more likely to list Canadian sites in their search results.

That’s the behind-the-scenes work that search engines do — they try to match their results to where the searcher is geographically. Because what use is a cake company in Madrid going to be to you if you live in Vancouver and need a chocolate fudge for your kid’s birthday tomorrow?

Another reason to use Canadian business listing sites is that you want people who already know how to go to Yelp or Craigslist to find your company. You also want the major search engines, like Google, Bing and Yahoo! to show those same offerings in their general search results as well.

This way you cover two levels of search results.

The more free sites you list your small business on, the better your chances of being found.

To help you get started, WooRank offers this list of the top Canadian business listing sites that offer FREE ads.

Google My Business Dashboard
Google My Business offers free listings, along with data on how many people see them.

Search engine optimization (SEO): the secret sauce

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a fancy way to describe the things you can do to your website to get Google and other search engines to notice your website.

Free ads will only work to your benefit if your company is at the top of the search result listings.

The way search engines work is to match the words people use to search for your products or services to the words you use on your website to describe them.

Woman Looking at Winter Coats on Her Phone
SEO helps move your listing to the top of Google’s results so you get more clicks.

In order to make Google your friend, the first tenet of good SEO is to get a handle on the keywords that people use when looking online for businesses like yours.

Keywords are the words or phrases that people type into Google — for example “cheap t-shirts” or “t-shirts on sale” — when they are searching for something. Keywords are often one or two words long; anything longer than that is called a long-tail keyword, (e.g. “seamless cotton t-shirts with tagless label”).

Your aim should be to have your company listed on the first page of search results when someone searches for one of your products or services on the free ad sites. Page 17 of listings won’t do.

Think about it: when have you EVER scrolled past page two or three of search findings?

That’s where SEO comes in. Find strong matches between what people already search for and what you sell, then use that language on your website.

A few helpful resources:

  • Google has a Keyword Planner Tool that is FREE as long as you set up an account.
  • Brian Dean at Backlinko.com offers a tutorial on how to use this tool to learn what the keywords for your small business are, and how to put them to work to increase traffic to your site.

Man Positioning a Free Ad Sign Outside a Coffee Shop“Cheap t-shirts” might hurt to use as a keyword to describe your sturdy cotton crewnecks, but if that phrase has 300,000 more monthly searches than ‘reasonably priced t-shirts’ with 1,354 searches, it just might be worth working into the text on your product page.

Editor’s note: No time or interest in doing SEO yourself? Leave it to the SEO pros at Godaddy — they’ll help your site get the attention it deserves.

Canada’s free classifieds — what have you got to lose?

Put these tips to good use to get your small business noticed without breaking your advertising budget.

To get to the top of the search listings, you need good SEO and you’ll need to invest time in writing and listing your ads.

The more sites you place a free classified with, the better your chances of drumming up business through their search results.

Remember, whether you choose to hire an SEO professional, or do it yourself, any investment you make in your business with advertising will be well worth it!