Running a startup is hard work. In addition to starting and running a new business from the ground up, other considerations – such as marketing – should be baked into the overall process and never treated as add-ons or afterthoughts. For the one person or small group of people involved, this can certainly seem quite daunting, what with everything else already on their plate.
That said, there might be a lot of things that entrepreneurs are already doing (or could be doing) that tie in with their SEO efforts: especially on the link building side of things. It’s just a case of maximising and leveraging these opportunities, making sure that they’re able to take advantage of them in the best way possible.
Based on my recent involvement working with Cardiff Start, a startup community for entrepreneurs based around the South Wales region of the UK, I wanted to give my SEO/link building tips for entrepreneurs who may not have the budget or capacity to make use of an in-house employee or utilise an agency, and who therefore might be doing it all themselves.
1. Leverage your (offline) network
First things first… Are you doing much networking? If so, you might be able to leverage your current network. Some small business sites have Resource/Links sections and link out to people within their network, so there’s no harm in asking (and doing the same in return). In the UK we have networking groups like 4N, BNI and the Chamber of Commerce – so if you’re a member of one of those, it may be a consideration.
I’ve put “offline” in brackets, but really it could equally apply to online networking as well of course. People you know via social media platforms – such as Twitter – may be more than happy to oblige, too.
2. Add yourself to directories
If you’re doing the very introductory basics of marketing then you’ll probably already be considering adding yourself to online directory sites. In particular, I’d consider two types: local directories and relevant/industry-specific directories. For those that let you add a link, make sure you add one.
If you’ve already done this part of the process, it might be worth quickly double-checking that you added a link in every instance where you could, just in case a couple got missed, especially if it was done a while ago and/or in a bit of a hurry.
3. Guest blog
Guest blogging is all the rage in the SEO industry at the moment, because – done properly – it’s a great way to get exposure as well as high-quality, natural links to your site. So if you’re writing a lot of content for your own blog, consider also giving a post or two away to other blogs relevant to your business and your industry.
If you’re struggling to decide what to keep for your own blog and what to use for guest blogging purposes, when you have an idea for a post think about where it may best be served: would its content be better suited elsewhere? For example, even though I work in SEO, I might be writing a guest blog on video gaming in the near future, which wouldn’t exactly fit with the theme of my blog at all, but could work very well as a guest post.
4. Leverage (online) PR
If you’re considering what area(s) of marketing to concentrate on in the early days of your startup, be advised that PR can really do wonders on the link building side of things (and therefore your SEO). Some of the best links you can get can be from PR, especially if you get recognition and links from big news sites.
So if you’re submitting online press releases, make sure you include a URL to your site in the process. Pro tip: make sure it’s written as the full URL (e.g. “http://www.example.com”) in case it gets reproduced or copied and pasted on other sites – sometimes anchor text links (e.g. “Example, Inc.”) may not work, so bear that in mind.
5. Help people out!
Similar to leveraging your network (tip #1 above), go one step further and help them out. Does anyone have any problems that you can help out with, especially if it’s something you (and your business) specialise in? I’m sure that the least they would do would be to share their love and appreciation for you via their site, their blog and their social media profiles.
6. Create things that help people
Another good opportunity – if you have the time and resources to do so – is to create things that can help people. For example, I know a startup that has created a free niche search engine and a free iPhone app, the latter of which has gotten them significant press coverage (with links to their site as well as the app).
Pro tip: If you’re creating things that appear on their own separate domains/websites, make sure they link back to your main site. That way, any links they receive will provide your main site with SEO benefit in the 2nd degree.
Speaking of which…
If you’re an entrepreneur with multiple businesses and/or projects across a number of sites, consider linking between them (known as interlinking). If you have a personal blog/site as well, make sure that it’s linking to them, too. It may seem obvious, but in my experience, it’s often a very quick win that is sometimes very easily overlooked.
8. Link out from all profiles
If you’re doing social media marketing, make sure that you remember to include links where and when you can. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. all allow links from your profiles to your site. Some of them may be nofollow and/or redirects, so they may not be the most valuable links when it comes to SEO, but every little helps.
Bonus tip: Make sure there’s a link…!
My last bit of advice may seem really obvious, but sometimes it’s a case of making sure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity. Are you definitely including a link within your online press releases, guest blog posts and directories? Make sure that you are. I’ve seen some people adopt these practices without even thinking of including a link, and while they’ll still have benefits in their own right (excluding SEO of course), it’d be a shame to miss out on the potential SEO/link building benefit as well while you’re at it.
[Image credit: shuttermonkey]
Steve Morgan is an SEO Strategist at Box UK, a web & software consultancy based in Cardiff, South Wales, UK that also offers digital marketing services. You can also find him on SEOno (his own blog) and on Twitter: @steviephil.