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How to Market Your Business Online for Free

Follow these steps to show up in Google Search.

If you rely on local businesses, word of mouth, or your wider community for the success of your custom apparel company, that headline MUST have gotten your attention. Even if you have customers across the country, the constant fight for eyeballs online can be a big factor in the success, or unsuccess, of your business. What you might find surprising is that Google has an equivalent interest in making sure your potential clients, or at least the ones that are looking for what you do, find you online, too. 

This is Google’s Job (and Yours?)

The core purpose of Google is connecting people with the information or products they’re looking for. They’re good at it – that’s how they became synonymous with the word “search” and are one of the biggest companies in the world. But they need your help to do it right, which means making your company the right answer to the relevant questions people are asking online. 

So, let’s dig into your new part-time job with Google, and a few other companies, that will give you the best chance of being noticed in the direct-to-film market. Luckily, everything we review is completely free and provided by Google so they can do a better job. And while they may not pay you for this new part time gig, your new customers just might.  

Welcome to Google Business

Flip open your phone right now (ok, just bring your face to the screen or type in a code) and ask it for “custom T-shirt shops near me.” This is how potential customers will find you if you rank well in search.  

What you probably see depending on your location and settings, is a few paid google ads, an enticing offer to let AI take over the world, and then Google Maps. 

That map shows you all of the businesses that have been paying attention to what it takes to be found online. Along with some reviews, pertinent information like hours of operation, an image or two, and more.  

Do the same on a desktop device and you may see a slightly different order, but in general, the same companies will be shown, normally just in a wider geographical area. The companies that show up first have hit the “getting-found-online-for-free” jackpot. 

Now the Tough Question

Were you in the top five? Top 10? 

Did you show up at all? 

If you didn’t, you can find your Google Business listing another way – just search for the name of your business. Don’t type in your website url or allow it to be auto-filled, just search for it.  

Here’s what it looks like when I search for the name of a company I’m familiar with that’s close by:

This shows your Google business profile. I’m sure you’ve used a profile like that before to contact a restaurant, plumber, or other service provider near you, so you can see its potential value.

Even if you never show up on the top three in a Google Maps search, having a complete, compelling Google Business profile will lead to more business.

Step 1 to Getting Found Online | Claim your Business or Start Fresh 

There’s a good chance Google already got started on a profile for you. If that’s the case, or you’ve purchased the business from someone else, you’ll need to claim it.  

Claiming a business is an easy process as long as you occupy the same address. Notice on the screenshot above for Hit Master Graphics about half way down there are two links: Suggest an edit and Own this business?  

This is where you start.  

If you can’t find your business profile, visit this link and get that process started.

Once you do that for the first time, you’ll have to prove your identity in some way – like receiving a postcard to the address you list. But you can still press on and fill everything out in the meantime.  

In case you missed it so far, completing your Google Business profile is the cornerstone for getting found online – and a core part of “local SEO.”

Step 2 to Getting Found Online | Complete the Profile 

Google’s “new” interface for their platform is very simple to navigate if you know what to focus on… and what to ignore.  

Edit Profile: 

This is the core of your business listing. Editing your profile includes:

  • About your business 
  • Contact information 

  • Location and areas 
  • Hours 
  • More 

Fill this information with the understanding that this is a primary way that Google matches people searching for what you sell or do – and for you, your product, or service specifically.  

What you write here, the information you convey, and how you do it is a fundamental key to getting found. Don’t rush it. 

Key to a successful About section: 

Make sure your business name is correct. 

Choose your Primary Business category as what best describes your business, then add the other ones you were tempted to choose after that. For example, you might choose “Custom T-Shirt Store” as the primary and sportswear store next then DTF print shop, etc.  

Create your Description. By “create” I do not mean just type whatever comes to mind.  

The description is important for two reasons: 

#1: It’s how they find you  

This section is a big part of what Google will use to choose whether to show your location or listing in response to a search… or someone else’s. And in what order.  

To get this right from the search perspective you should include what you do, of course, but also the right keywords.  

“Custom T-shirt printer,” “sportswear,” “custom team jerseys,” and “event T-shirts” might be appropriate.  

Include some things that set you apart that your potential customers might be looking for, like:  

“same day service,” “fast delivery,” and “no minimum quantities.” 

#2: It’s how they choose you. Or don’t.  

I was surprised when I ran a local search for a custom T-shirt printer and the company’s description showed this: 

“Company name (my edit) is an advertising agency. That does Custom T-shirts, signs, printing, banners, magnets, branding, Graphic Design, logo design, Web sites, s.e.o, s m m, and more.” 

I’m not looking for an advertising agency. It sounds expensive.  

You have 750 characters, including spaces, to convince your customer to choose you. Don’t blow it.  

Edit your Products and Services Sections 

Choose popular products that people may be searching for and that you have or can take good photos of. Link to the page where the customer can buy them online OR where you have more information on your website. Don’t just link to the homepage. 

The services you provide are equally important. Services are the things you DO, not the objects you sell, such as image editing, logo design, DTF printing, etc. 

Again, think carefully about the name of your products and services and about what you put in your description. It should match what your ideal customers might be looking for.  

Upload Photos – GOOD Photos 

You’ll get to upload a cover photo. If you don’t, Google is likely to use one of the outside of your building taken by Google Mobile. Your cover pic should be 1024 x 576 pixels – though I would encourage you to check at the time you’re reading this.  

Add your logo. Not one that you capture off your website. Make it at least 720 x 720 pixels.  

Then, move on to pics of your shop, if it’s worthy. This includes the people who work there and the products you create. Remember, potential customers may go here to see the quality of your work.

Using Your Google Profile 

Once you’ve got the basics and have verified your identity, you can move on to actively using Google Business. 

You probably thought this would be a “set it and forget it” event, but it’s much, much more! 

  • Messages – Turn this on and your potential customers can chat with you and ask about your business live. 

  • Bookings – Let your clients set up their own appointments with you. They’ll find it super convenient. 
  • Q&A – This is a great way to publish an FAQ style set of questions – and help you get found for your answers. 
  • Add Update – Make an announcement, run a sale, use it for a blog. The more active you are, the more Google likes it. 
  • Ask for Reviews – This is so important to do. 
  • Measure Performance – This is a built-in analytics tool to see if you’re getting notices. 
  • Advertise – Don’t do that. Not from here and not yet.  

Pro Tip

Depending on who you ask, just over 7 percent of search is done on Bing/Edge and even Internet Explorer. 

That may seem small, but if you live in a city with 1,000,000 people, that’s over 70K potential customers that most of your competitors are going to ignore. 

So, Microsoft has created Bing Places, which is basically a carbon copy of Google Business.  

All you have to do to use it is set up an account and sync it with your Google Business account.  

It will even sync any changes you make to your Google listing over time.  

Local SEO 

There are no guarantees in getting found – even if you do everything right – but you can pretty much guarantee you won’t be found online if you do nothing at all!  

Take the steps. Fill out your Google Business profile to the best of your abilities, add updates on a regular basis, and sync it with Bing. 

It’s all free. And it might just help you make your business successful.   

Bio: Mark Stephenson is a digital marketing strategist, partner, and educator. He is the driving force behind Clients First Marketing, a boutique marketing firm dedicated to empowering small business owners through comprehensive marketing solutions, educational resources, and tailored CRM systems. With decades of experience in digital marketing, sales, and management, in the customization space and beyond, Mark brings a unique, holistic perspective to the ever-evolving world of online marketing. Find him on LinkedIn.

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