5 ways to support local businesses without spending a dime

“Shop small, shop local.” It’s such a common phrase, and rightly so because it’s really important to support small businesses!

But what if you don’t have the extra cash right now to buy all the products at your local boutique, and your yoga pants collection can’t stretch enough to eat at all the restaurants?

Here are some ways I try to support local businesses by signal boosting their online brands … that don’t cost a single penny, but make a huge difference in their discoverability:

1. Write a Google review

The number 1 thing you can do to support a business you love is to write them a review on their Google My Business page. Their Google My Business profile is a huge ranking factor in whether they show up in local searches — 25% of whether they show up in Google Maps is the info on their GMB page, and another 10% is based on the their reviews … and not just how many they have, but also the content within them! (Here are all 8 local search ranking factors, if you’re curious.)

So go leave a detailed review. Not just “5/5, would recommend” but explain WHY you love them, specifically: “The dim sum menu is great, the bubble tea is made from fresh fruit, and the beef chow fun with black bean sauce is my go-to. And the couple who runs the place is so sweet!”

The words that you use in your review may then help that company show up in search results … so if your neighbor is looking for dim sum, your review could trigger that business to show up!

To leave a review, just find the Reviews section of the business’ website & click the “Write a review” button. Easy peasy!

Would a Facebook or Yelp review help instead?

Yes! Especially if that business has a strong Facebook presence, or if Yelp is showing up in those local search results.

It’s possible for the business to aggregate their off-site reviews into their Google My Business pages too … it looks really good to have great reviews on multiple sites, but those don’t have the same weight in the Google algorithm, so Google is best but other sites are totally ok too!

2. Create & share user generated content

Did that delicious dim sum also look incredible? Snap a pic & upload it to the business’ Google My Business alongside your review!

Businesses can upload their own pictures for self-promotion, but Google pays more attention to images shared by users, because it shows that customers really care about the business enough to go the extra mile.

So if that boutique has great merchandising, snap a pic to share. If your hair looks awesome after you leave the stylist, post a selfie for others to see your gorgeous look.

3. Engage on Google Maps

If you’re looking for a local business, search for them on Google Maps, then engage with their listing in some way: look up directions, read reviews, look at the menu, call directly from the listing.

Even if you order from the same pizza place every Friday and you have them on speed dial … call them through their Google listing. The pizza will be just as good, and you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that you sent Google a not-so-subtle signal that Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe is way better than Pizza by Alfredo.

4. Support their social media profiles

Google isn’t the only place to give praise: Give the company a shout-out on Facebook or Instagram!

You can leave this praise right on the company page, or if you have an active following, write a post on your profile & tag the company‘s Facebook page; this way it will show in your feed AND theirs, so you hit 2 audiences with your love bomb.

Bonus tip: If you see a post where somebody is asking for recommendations, don’t just write the name of the company; instead, link to the business page. Make it super easy for everybody who looks at that post to click through to the right company, and should only take an extra 10 seconds.

Pro tip: Geotag your fave places & share local hashtags

Food pics & selfies can get even wider reach if you optimize them. Be sure to tag the business in your local post:

  • On Facebook this can be a check-in
  • Instagram Grid it’s in your image settings
  • For Instagram stories, add a location sticker

This will attach your user generated content right to the business page, so when people open up their profiles, they’ll see your images as social proof.

If you’re posting to your Instagram grid, also find some local hashtags to boost the signal. Here in Rochester, hashtags like #585 or #ROC help locals see it (and you don’t have to get that clever — those are our area code & airport code!)

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