Figuring out how to advertise a Shopify store for free is about finding opportunities to show your products to potential customers without having to pay for this ‘privilege’.
The best places to advertise a Shopify store for free is to use ad credits/vouchers with the 3 main ad networks, using the Facebook Marketplace and using Video Pins on Pinterest .
Attention has become a commodity.
Internet searches and social media commands most of our attention online which is why it has become the most popular place to advertise ecommerce products.
Make a beautiful Shopify store, they said…
Just have good products, they said…
Do good SEO, they said…
Despite all your best efforts you can still only hear crickets…
The truth is that unless you have a very clear and very definite plan on driving traffic to your Shopify store then you are doomed to fail from day one.
Just building a store and having great products will get you nowhere.
Traffic is king.
It always has and always will be the most important ‘ingredient’ for any online business. Traffic equates to having people’s attention.
When you can get attention and ‘eyeballs’ on what you have to sell then at least you have an opportunity to make sales.
You may not have something that interests that particular person(s) but traffic gives you an opportunity.
No traffic = no opportunity.
When your traffic matches what you are selling then all of a sudden this opportunity becomes much more valuable.
Showing products to people who are interested in those products gives you the best opportunity possible to sell them something.
This is where advertising becomes really important for ecommerce and Shopify stores.
Advertising allows you to quickly get access to highly targeted traffic.
It comes at a cost though and for the most part advertising costs on Google, Facebook and Instagram has been on a steady rise as more and more brands are moving to this model of targeted advertising.
Traditional advertising where you show your products to anyone and everyone is just a dumb way to go abut things.
It may still work for old and established brands – or new brands with huge budgets, but for small to medium sizes Shopify stores we want to be much smarter than that.
So, if advertising is the holy grail to ecommerce success, what can you do if you do not have the budget to advertise?
These days $1000 won’t get you far on Facebook Ads or Google Ads.
Learning how to advertise a Shopify store for free is all about being smart, hustling and really working for that initial momentum.
3 Powerful Strategies To Advertise a Shopify Store for Free
Back in 2016/2017 you could easily build a Facebook Page and by posting daily you could not only build a lot of page likes but you could potentially reach millions of people with your posts.
As Facebook’s main ‘product’ (their ads) started growing their desire to show your posts for free started to diminish.
The space in the feed became far too valuable to share free posts. They’d much rather sell that space.
With Google, their Shopping Ads now take up prime spot in any search result that has commercial intent.
Even the first 3 to 5 search results in Google is now taken up by ads.
Google and Facebook remain to be the most popular and the most effective to advertise a Shopify store and ecommerce products in general.
How can we take advantage of this – for free?
Here are the 3 most powerful ways to advertise for free:
1. Use Free Ad Credit with Google Ads, Facebook Ads and Bing
This is not a new trick but one that is not used nearly enough. Facebook, Google and even Bing are constantly looking for new fresh advertisers.
For them it really is a case of more is better. The more competition amongst advertisers the more competition there is on bidding for limited ad space. This drives up costs.
Google offers $100 to $500 vouchers while Facebook offers $100 to $300 vouchers. With Bing I’ve seen vouchers as high as $1000.
These vouchers are often not free money because it often just matches your spent but its still well worth it. The offers are constantly changing so make sure you stay on top of it.
The catch is that they only offer this to ‘new advertisers’. You may need to get your mom or your sister to sign up for you if you’ve already advertised on these platforms.
If you’ve connected a store with ads on any of these platforms you can’t use it either. It needs to be a Shopify store that has never been connected before.
Here are a few quick tips if you want to get the most out of your free ad credit.
- With Google Ads, use only Shopping Ads. It is by far the most effective for ecommerce and generally speaking it will convert much higher than search ads. The same goes for Bing Ads.
- Get the highest possible voucher from day 1. You can’t use multiple vouchers on the same account so make sure you max out on day 1.
- Start with your best guess. Performance advertising is a process of testing to find the hidden gems. It can take a lot of testing to find keywords/audiences that gives you a positive ROI. If you use a voucher to advertise a Shopify store for free then start with what makes the most sense.
- Don’t buy vouchers on Fiverr. There are many people selling vouchers and they usually harvest these using multiple fake emails. This can be very risky and can get you shut down for good.
Your free ad credit is NOT going to make you rich.
What it will do however is to give you proof of concept.
If you spend $100 and you see very low clickthrough rates, low engagement rates on your product pages and almost no add to carts then you are clearly missing the mark with your targeted audience.
Throwing more money at it will most likely not make it work any better.
2. Facebook Marketplace
Up until about a year ago, Craigslist was the biggest online marketplace where people could buy, sell and exchange goods for free.
Craigslist was a phenomena of the early Web 1.0. It somehow endured and only when Facebook introduced the Facebook Marketplace did start falling out of favour.
Since most people use Facebook anyway, having the Facebook Marketplace makes total sense.
It is essentially the same concept as Craigslist and it allows you to sell anything to anyone. The main idea behind it was to allow the sale of second hand items or to allow the general public to make one-off sales of products and unwanted goods.
This has however become the secret weapon for many dropshippers. Selling products from Your Shopify store on Facebook Marketplace gives you access to millions of free buyers.
While these are not necessarily free ads per say, the concept is the same. By placing a free ad on Facebook Marketplace you get access to all that potential traffic for free.
At the beginning of 2021 this is still a fairly new and very untapped traffic source for dropshippers. I suspect that it will continue to grow well beyond 2021 but eventually Facebook will catch on to this.
Here are a few tips to advertise for free on Facebook Marketplace:
- Make sure your fulfilment is sorted. You need to ship the product within 3 days for Facebook to release the funds to you.
- Make sure your ads don’t look like ads. The more your ads look like you are an average housewife selling an unwanted gift the better. Take unprofessional pictures with your phone and write ads that don’t sound like a sales pitch.
- Post a lot. Not all your ads will get traction. Post as many ads as you can and make sure you keep track of it all. Always make each ad look slightly different.
While ads on Facebook Marketplace won’t drive traffic directly to your Shopify store, it will quickly give you some great insights into whether your products are selling and who buys them.
Once you start making a few sales per day you can start building up some cash flow which you can use along with your sales insights to buy ads.
3. Pinterest Video
I don’t know why, but Pinterest seems to still fly under the radar of so many Shopify stores when it comes to advertising.
Pinterest is a huge untapped traffic source and because of its visual nature it lends itself perfectly to physical products and ecommerce.
Like Facebook and Instagram, Pinterest is slowly moving towards being dominated by paid ads.
You can still drive a ton of free traffic with Pinterest though but there is both an art and a skill to getting free traffic.
You need to be in the right niche (some niches simply don’t get traffic/interest on Pinterest), you need to pin 30 to 40 puns per day and you need to be super consistent.
Like SEO traffic this takes too long.
So, how to advertise a Shopify store for free on Pinterest then?
In 2020, Pinterest introduced video pins. These are like standar image pins but with video. On a platform where 99% of the content is static images, a video pin really pops and gets a ton of attention.
Because video pins are still so new, there is very little competition. Pinterest is always pushing video pins like crazy and gives video pins prime spots.
The result is that video pins often gets placed alongside ads – without having to pay for an ad.
Since most Shopify stores use video in their ads already you can easily convert your video content for Pinterest Video Pins to get free traffic.
While this is not directly a free ad, it gives you almost as much free exposure as you would get from an ad.
Story Pins is also now being introduced and since it is a new format, those who get in early will be rewarded with lots of free traffic.
Here are some tips for using video Pins to get free traffic to your Shopify store:
- Focus on short 15 to 30 second clips that someone can watch while scrolling.
- Focus on interesting and quirky products that catch attention.
- Let your video show how this product is interesting and if it solves a problem then let the video clearly illustrate that.
- Create multiple versions of your video and pin daily. The more pins you have the higher your chances of ‘going viral’.
- Make sure your products relate to female buyers. Fashion, home decor, cooking and moms/babies are some of the biggest verticals on Pinterest. If your products don’t fall into any of Pinterest’s popular categories then relate it to those categories or to female buyers through your ads and marketing.
Pintrerset video is still in its infancy. Most of the ecommerce and dropshipping brands having success on Pinterest are using video ads. Repins can get you a ton of free traffic – even if you buy ads.
6 Secret Ways To Advertise a Shopify Store For Free
The most popular way to get free traffic to a Shopify store is through SEO. This can be a hard slug though as it takes time and a lot of tedious work.
SEO should never be your only strategy to drive traffic. It can take months of work only to find out that your Shopify store is not working.
SEO is not the only way to get free traffic. With new platforms like TikTok, a variety of apps and many new social media platforms there is no shortage of places to punt your products.
The problem is that everyone hates being advertised to.
The secret to getting traffic to a shopify store for free is to not try and advertise or to try and promote your products.
If you can find a way to either help people or to entertain them and have your products align with your help or entertainment then you can certainly get a ton of traffic.
1. YouTube Channels
YouTube has exploded in the last 3 years and it seems like every second person is now a YouTuber. People like PewdiePie and Logan Paul have build empires with their YouTube followings.
Funneling that following to an ecommerce store can be very lucrative. It’s free traffic that is highly engaged.
If you have an audience then you can advertise for free to that audience.
It’s not just these big guys that got in early who can be successful. The way youtube works is that when you meet certain criteria it allows you into its advertising program and they then pay you a share of the ad revenue.
Channels that don’t have original content can’t be monetised through YouTube and they usually have to find alternative ways to monetise the channel. Selling products and, merchandise is the obvious choice.
What does this mean for you?
You can start a channel and simply post videos without copyright claims. We see this often with funny cat videos and stuff like that.
Cat beds anyone?
Don’t underestimate how effective Youtube can be to sell products on your Shopify store.
You can also reach out to some of these channels and hook up a deal since many of them are desperate for ways to monetize their audience.
2. Facebook Groups
I’ve written about how powerful Facebook Groups are before and I will say again.
Unlike Facebook Pages where your posts have almost zero chances of getting shared, with a Facebook Group the entire group sees ALL your posts.
Starting a Facebook Group around a very specific topic and building that group with your knowledge and experience can build you a real asset.
Facebook groups tend to still get promoted for free by Facebook and once a group reaches a certain level it starts taking on a life of its own – growing organically.
With a Facebook Group you know exactly who your audience is and selling ecommerce products in a subtle way can be very powerful.
Selling print on demand apparel on Facebook Groups built around specific hobbies or interests ist still working incredibly well and there is still a lot of room in this space.
HARO is a website that is very popular amongst SEO professionals. HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out.
It’s basically a service that connects reporters to experts.
Most reporters are required to write about subjects they know nothing about.
Since they can not always find or rely on online information they tend to seek the help of industry professionals as a source of their information.
Stay with me here…it gets a bit complicated.
A reporter might cover a story about home fitness products and your store is selling the latest and greatest that China has to offer.
You can help that reporter out by answering some of the detailed questions they may have. In return, they will offer a link back to your store in their article.
If the article gets featured on major news sites it can drive immense amounts of traffic to your store – effectively advertising your Shopify store for free on major news websites.
There are more details and its a bit more complicated to actually get linked up to reporters but that is the crux of it.
This works best if you have a unique product and a product that truly solves problems and have research and data to back it up.
4. Viral Content on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube
Creating viral content is still a mystery even though some people claim that they know how to make something go viral.
While the ingredients of viral content is no longer as much of a mystery, it is rarely predictable what will go viral.
Viral content has the power to be spread organically and can get your products a lot of exposure for free.
Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and Whatsapp are littered with viral videos that amazing, entertain and engage people. It has the power to interrupt people’s busy lives and funnel their attention.
Most viral content are not commercial by nature.
I’ve seen hundreds of big brands trying to create viral content without success.
Everyday people have their BS detectors well switched on and can sniff an ad from a mile away.
Dollar Shave Club and Poo Pourri broke new ground with their style of viral videos that was so funny that it got shared millions of times on virtually every social media platform.
Dollar Shave Club claimed that their one video was responsible for roughly 1 billion dollars worth of sales.
The video cost virtually nothing to make and was done on an iPhone.
Can you do the same?
Probably. It takes ingenuity though and you need to come up with something fresh and new.
5. Brand Ambassadors
The concept of using social media influencers to ‘advertise’ your products on Instagram, Facebook, YoutTube and Pinterest is nothing new.
The Kardashians continue to crush it with their social media influence but at $1 million per campaign they are out of our budget by about a million.
With every second Instagrammer now being an influencer many of them are not making much. The mid and lower tier influencers struggle to monetize their channels.
To advertise a Shopify store for free on Instagram you can approach influencers and offer for them to become brand ambassadors.
Essentially you will give them free loot and in exchange they will post pictures (and links) about your products.
This greatly reduces the risk of paying influencers upfront and potentially not seeing a return.
You may have to approach many influencers before you get any takers but the payoff can be worth it. It may cost you the cost price of some products but that’s it.
Calling it a brand ambassador also sounds very exclusive and can appeal to the ego of many of these influencers for whom their appearance on social media is everything.
Starting an affiliate program for your Shopify store is a real old school strategy but one that has fallen by the wayside in recent years.
This is certainly not the best strategy for all Shopify stores but with the right stores and the right products it can be a great option.
My take on it is this.
In 2020, Amazon cut their affiliate commissions to ridiculous levels. The vast majority of blogs and websites that are built around popular products and hobbies monetize via Amazon Associates.
Since 2020’s rate cuts many blogs and websites saw their earnings cut in half.
If you can find a number of blogs and/or websites that fits well with your Shopify nice store then there is a huge opportunity.
These blogs will advertise your products for free and in return you will pay them a 10% to 20% commission on sales.
The secret is to be generous – or at least be much more generous than Amazon. You also want to reach out to a few dozen of these blogs directly because they are not going to be looking for you.
Make it easy for them, generate affiliate links for them and have some creatives and images ready for them.
For blogs and websites with big mailing lists it can translate into big paydays for you and them.
Reaching out to big content sites can be deflating. 99% of them will not respind but you need to be different. Don’t lead with your promotional offer. Reach out to them to connect FIRST.
Once you establish some sort of relationship you can come in with your promotion or offer.