If you've got a business, then one of the most important things to do is to be able to be found on Google by potential customers who are searching for what you sell.
So many people turn to Google just about every single search they make.
If you're looking for a new restaurant to try, if you're looking for an electrician or a plumber, or you're looking for a digital marketing consultant like myself, chances are the first thing you'll do is jump on Google.
If you have a business and can't be found on Google it's pretty tough, to say the least.
You're missing out on a lot of potential visibility, you're missing out on a lot of potential leads and inquiries, you're missing out on a lot of potential revenue and customers.
If you've got a business and you want to be listed on Google, how do you go about doing it? And - perhaps just as importantly - how do you go about getting listed for free?
In this article I am going to show you how to get your business listed on Google for free.
It's important for businesses to try and effectively manage costs where they can, including when it comes to marketing/promotional spend.
Marketing is one of those areas where you do ultimately need to put some money in (or at least have the ability to put in time if you don't have much money) but Google is one of those opportunities where you can actually get your business a lot of visibility for free.
If you want to do things like pay for Google ads, so show up on Google paid search, or you want to pay someone to do search engine optimization for you, so you show up faster on Google, that is an option.
But in this article, I want to talk you through three ways that you can get listed on Google for free. In fact, I'm going to talk you through three specific ways to do this. So if you're wondering “how do I get my business on Google for free?” keep reading as I'm going to show you three effective ways to do this.
Google My Business
The first way to do this is to get a Google My Business listing.
Google My Business you'll probably be familiar with, at least from a customer's perspective.
If you go and type in something like “cafe near me” or "digital marketing consultant", you'll see a whole bunch of physical businesses listed with review stars with directions, opening hours etc and you'll have the ability to click through to their website and see more information about that business.
You can click into the business and learn more about it, see photos and all those kinds of things.
Depending on what type of businesses you'll see different things you might see menus for example, for a restaurant or a cafe.
Google My Business is Google's free platform for enhancing the visibility of local businesses.
If you're running a cafe or restaurant, if you're a local trade business, like an electrician or a plumber, or if you run a retail shop like an art gallery - anything like that where customers come to you or yuou come to them - then you really need to focus on getting on Google My Business.
In fact, if you're wanting to do your digital marketing for the lowest possible spend (ie, you want to do it for free) and you have a locally-focused business I would actually say that Google My Business is perhaps even more important than having a regular website these days, primarily because Google My Business generally allows for faster results.
It’s free to set up. What you need to do is go to this link and click on that and follow the setup process.
Google will help you guide you through creating your Google My Business Profile, and then send you some information that you have to input in order to verify that you are who you say you are and that you actually have rights to represent that business on the platform.
With Google My Business, it's much easier to show up for local search results. So if there's a local element to what your business does (like you're in hospitality, or retail or local services or trades) then being on Google My Business is so important.
There's a whole world of information out there as to how you do the best possible job with Google My Business in terms of configuring your profile to rank as well as possible for relevant searches.
Without going into too much detail, the key points to bear in mind are as follows:
Once you've done your listing, you'll have to wait to get it verified. Google will usually send you a postcard that has a little code on it, and you enter that code and that verifies your listing. That process can take a bit of time, especially these days with postal services being overwhelmed thanks to everyone doing more online shopping.
So if you don't already have a Google My Business listing, I would go and set this up immediately because you want to get that verification done as quickly as possible. The longer you wait to complete this step, the longer it’s going to take to get your business listed in maps and local search results - every minute counts!
Once your listing is set up and verified, what you can do is go through and really start trying to fill out your profile with as much good information as possible.
Put in your opening hours, put in your service categories or your business categories, put in the areas you serve and so on - give as much detail as possible. There's a distinction between businesses that serve a particular area (like you might be an electrician, for example, who's based at home, but you go and serve people in the wider Christchurch area) or you might be operating in a set physical location like a retail store, such as an art gallery where people come and see you.
There are options for these two different types of businesses, but basically, you want to go through and give Google as much good information as possible about your business, including a really good description that makes it clear what your business does (including the main keywords you are trying to rank for).
The next thing you actually want to look at doing in order to improve your Google My Business ranking is trying to get positive reviews from customers.
Even if reviews don't move the needle a huge amount in terms of actually getting better rankings and showing up more visibly in Google for free, at the very least when someone finds your business if you have good reviews, then that's going to impart a good impression.
When customers come to your business and you successfully complete a transaction, ask them if they'd be comfortable going to review you on Google.
Not everyone will, but ask consistently and you will start to get reviews. Over time, you should build up a decent number of reviews that are positive and that will help actually make your business show up better and Google and be more enticing to click on.
The final point I want to touch on with regards to Google My Business and helping your business to show up in Google for free is that you should look to get listings of your business information on other websites.
That's your business name, address and phone number (at the very least) listed on other websites like your Facebook page or your business YouTube channel.
This “Name Address Phone” (NAP) data is also known as citation building when it comes to local SEO.
One thing that Google's really keen on is that they want to avoid a scenario where they recommend a business and someone goes and drives across town, for example, to try a new cafe - and they get there and it's actually shut, or it's not even what it claims to be (i.e. the cafe turns out to be a bookstore or something like that)
Google tries to verify the listings that are in their database with other information they can find online about their business.
For example, if your business is at 123 Easy Street on GMB, and you have other websites, such as your own site or your social media profiles, listing that your business is also at 123 Easy Street, it makes it easier for Google to say, “hey, this business is what it claims to be”.
If there's conflicting information or little information at all, it's much harder for Google to know that you are definitely what you claim to be.
Citation building (getting more NAP data listings in a consistent format) can be tedious and time consuming. I can help you with that service - contact me for more information.
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Ranking Your Own Website
Another way to get your business on Google for free, is to actually rank your own website. Whatever your business is, you should look to have a website.
It doesn't cost a huge amount these days to run a website.
You can pick up a domain name for very little cost really, depending on the domain name you want the extension you want, whether you want .co.nz (which costs a bit more) or a generic domain like a .com or .net
it might be anywhere from about $10-$50 a year to secure your domain name, but it's a really good investment (just don’t forget to renew your domain when it comes up for renewal).
In terms of actually running your website, hosting and those kinds of things are nowhere near as expensive as they used to be.
You've got a lot of great options for setting up your site that doesn't have to take a whole lot of development work.
Now there are fantastic web developers and designers out there who will build you great websites. If you've got a budget available, then I would suggest engaging a professional - but if you want to get on Google for free, then setting up a website with a cheap domain and basic hosting on something like Squarespace or Wix is the way to get started.
While that isn't free in itself, what this will allow you to do is actually get your website listed in Google's organic listings for free and at a minimal cost.
It's important to clarify that there is a cost to running a website. At the low end you might be looking at say $150 to $200 a year, and scaling up from there (this is assuming you do everything yourself).
There is definitely a cost, but the flip side of the coin is that a website will allow you to get listed in Google's search listings for free.
If you're familiar with the anatomy of Google search results, you’ll know that you usually have ads at the top of the results. You've got things like a local pack, depending on what searches you've made. (the local pack is Google My Business listings) and then you've often got the “regular” websites.
Without a website, you can't really rank in those organic Google listings - so what you want to do is get your website set up as soon as you can. As I said, there are lots of great DIY options for actually getting a website up and running. You don’t need to spend crazy amounts of money to do this. Just a simple template on something like Squarespace or Weebly or Wix will suffice as a starting point.
It's not going to be perfect (and as your business grows, you might want to invest in a professional solution)
However, in terms of getting started for the lowest possible cost, this is a great way to do it.
With regards to showing up in Google free in the organic listings once your site is built, it's about making Google understand that your website is trustworthy, and also making Google understand what your website is about.
For example, if you're an electrician in Christchurch, you would want your website to talk about the fact that you're an electrician in Christchurch, go through the services you provide (like emergency work, hot water cylinder repairs or whatever it is you do), have information on how people can contact you, have things like testimonials, all that kind of stuff.
The art of trying to get your website ranking better for your target keywords (e.g. ‘hot water cylinder repairs Christchurch’) is called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short.
SEO is a very broad topic. There's many many different components to it, beyond the scope of one of them discussing this article.
But long story short, having your own website gives you the opportunity to show up in Google's organic search results.
And once you've got your website set up, you can look at the basics of SEO (learn more here about how to get your site showing up in Google’s organic listings via SEO)
The key thing to bear in mind is that SEO can take a lot of time; it doesn't happen overnight. Some keywords are more competitive than other as well - to show up number one in Google for something like car insurance is going to be very tough, because there's so many well established providers with strong websites and good SEO strategies.
However, if you're a very niche business (e.g. a dog walking service that only operates in Rangiora), then it’s going to be easier to rank for ‘dog walking Rangiora’.
“Parasite SEO” - Using 3rd Party Platforms
The final option you've got with regards to showing up on Google for free is to actually look to leverage other people's websites.
There are platforms like YouTube, for example, where you can go and you can create content and upload it onto that platform.
You can optimize the content for the keywords you want to rank for and what you can do is actually piggyback off the rankings of these other websites achieved.
A common term for this in my industry is “Parasite SEO”.
I don't know how kind of appropriate that term is but it's quite an interesting one at least.
The whole idea behind this is you look for opportunities to show up on Google piggybacking off the existing ranking capacity and power of other sites.
YouTube is probably the best example of this as often if you Google something YouTube videos will show up.
The Parasite SEO process is simple:
- Find third-party websites where you can create your own content and publish it (e.g. YouTube, Facebook Pages, Slideshare, Quora and so on).
- Create content that targets your keyword(s) and publish it.
- Sit back and wait for the rankings to come through.
Parasite SEO is looked down upon by many, but it is a legitimate way to get ranked in Google for free.
One thing to bear in mind with this approach is that you don’t “own” the platforms, so you might suddenly find that your file you uploaded to Slideshare gets taken offline, for example.
However, as a complimentary tactic, parasite SEO can be extremely effective.
Conclusion - How To Get Your Business On Google For Free
To recap, we covered three key ways to get your business listed on Google for free:
- Register and optimise a Google My Business listing. This is critical if you are running any kind of locally-focused business (e.g. hospitality or retail). In another article I go into more depth about whether Google My Business is appropriate for a non-local business, so that is worth reading as well.
- Build your own website and start ranking it in Google for target keywords. There is a charge to build a website (but you can do it yourself for little cost) but this “unlocks” the ability to start showing up in Google’s organic search results for target keywords. Remember that Search Engine Optimisation/SEO takes a long time - so the sooner you start, the better.
- Rank content on third party sites using the “Parasite SEO” method. For example, start a YouTube channel and then create videos that are about the keywords you are targeting. Use these videos (or other pieces of third-party content) to promote your business. This works well as a complementary strategy.
I hope you find this advice helpful.
If you’d like to learn more about digital marketing, then you can subscribe to my YouTube channel here where I regularly upload videos about digital marketing and how to “do it yourself”.