Your SEO tactics shouldn’t eat up your startups budget.
When most people think about search engine optimization (SEO), they think about a long-term, expensive strategy that takes up not only plenty of their precious time, but also drains their bank account. While SEO should be looked at as an investment for your business, and not just expense, there actually are plenty of great ways to build your search engine rankings without spending a single penny.
Especially when you are a young business, strapped for cash (or even just not ready to make the kind of investment that SEO can sometimes be), finding ways to improve your rankings with spending a lot of cash can mean the difference between success and failure. For most small business owners, your budget is very small, and most of your money will be apportioned long before you can section off a piece for SEO strategies, even just for SEO content.
In general, startups fail for two reasons. First, they spend too much money, without the right backers and investments. Second, they are not aggressive enough with their online marketing techniques, and end up falling short when it comes to customers and client acquisition. Running a business takes money, and you should not be afraid to put money into SEO tactics—when you have real money to do so. In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to improve your rankings that won’t drain your bank account. Here are just five of the most popular free tactics I use on a daily basis.
1. Guest Posting
Believe it or not, most people who run blogs are more than happy to allow a guest poster to jump in and write an informative, valuable blog post for their readers. In general, all you have to do is contact a blogger in your industry with an idea for a post, and they will be perfectly willing to let you write it and even post it under your name and with a link back to your webpage.
Be sure that you can write helpful, informative posts, otherwise, you will be wasting your time and the blogger’s time. The better your posts are, the more likely they are to ask you back—which means more exposure! Content that works should be friendly and informational. While you don’t want to exactly match the tone of the original writer, it would be beneficial to read through past posts and get a feel for their style and what their readers are expecting.
Here is my step by step break down of how to do this right.
Step 1: Find blogs that match your niche
If there is one thing I learned at imonomy is that no one wants to post on their site content that their readers are not looking for, even if you have the most unique and creative content, you should always direct it at your core-audience. If I am going to write a post about startups, it should be directed to a startup blog. You might think that a post about startups can fit any tech blog, and in reality there is so much technology news going on, why would any tech blogger want to spend time writing on a new startup company? Luckily there is a workaround. Let’s say that you found a blog you like, and that blog doesn’t match your niche business. One thing you can do is approach that blog with an idea for a post, that is semi-related to your agenda and a bit more related to the blog you are approaching and that blogs readers. Before you do this think about what the blog will gain out of the guest post, and not what you will gain.
Step 2: Write amazing content with added value
If you are going to guest post, prepare to bring your best writing skills to the table. When you ask for someone to feature you on their blog, they are expecting you to bring added value that they themselves couldn’t create. Be creative and informative, make your writing unique and fill each paragraph with your personality, and with a bit of luck you might end up with a following of your own. A great example of added value is sharing experiences, I shared mine on a blog post once, people enjoyed hearing about my experience on Elance and oDesk.
Step 3: Email like a pro
Now I must admit, I can’t say I mastered this 100%, but the basic rule is that your email should be short and to the point, the screenshot bellow is an example of how I was able to get a chance to guest post on a Spanish startup blog known as Todostartups.
If you need help with your emails, feel free to pitch them to me, if I have time I would be glad to comment. In case you prefer to keep reading more about sending emails, then I highly recommend a post by Iris Shoor about cold emails.
2. Sharing on Social Media
Social media is definitely the future of online advertising, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend money on social media marketing. Simply having an active page that adds value to your fans’ newsfeeds is a great way to build clout for both your social page and your website. Link to it, mention it, and keep your customers interested. Remember the golden rule when it comes to social media, however, do not clog your users’ pages with useless content. Always look for value over quantity. The more valuable and useful it is, the more likely it is to boost your SEO efforts. Read my post about the SEO tips and tools you should use in 2014, remember to build your tactics according to where your users are. Here is an example of a good Facebook post by Bizzabo.
3. Onsite SEO
Onsite SEO doesn’t necessarily mean you have to farm out content writing to a professional writer. While you should have clean, keyword-rich content, chances are, if you are willing to take a little time to create this content yourself, not only will it be more accurate, it will boost your rankings and bring more readers to your website, even if you didn’t pay anyone to write it. Finding keywords can be as easy as thinking about what you would search if you were a consumer looking for a business like yours.
While this is not exactly the most scientific way to obtain keywords, it is free. Often, the most expensive part of SEO is acquiring the right keywords. When you are first starting out, however, you may not have the cash to pay someone to research applicable keywords, but you may not need them. For example, if you are an app developer in Santa Barbara, you probably want to rank for Santa Barbara app developer. That is a good place to start.
4. Running a Blog
Running a blog is time-consuming, but it is a vital part of building your page’s rankings. Putting out regular, informative, useful content that users in your industry will want to read can easily build a gauntlet of keyword-rich SEO content, that will quickly build your authority both with individual people and with the algorithms that Google uses to sort their pages. Top Ten lists are especially popular and easy to research and write. Consumers find them enjoyable to read because they are easy to scan and provide excellent snippets of information in a compact format.
Whatever format you choose, make sure that the tone and style of your posts fit your business and that they provide information that is relevant to your customer. While a post may provide interesting information to a wide number of readers, if it does not cater to your customer, it will not do its job. Do not stuff your blog with popular keywords that do not relate to your niche, as not only is this annoying to customers, but it actually could lead to Google flagging your page.
Here are 3 good but very different company blogs from very niche areas of expertise, each blog shows that any company can run a blog if it is for customer acquisition or for general SEO, there is no secret sauce, just good content:
- On of my favorite examples is a blog by Takipi, this blog shows you that you don’t have to post every day to run a great blog, just make sure you provide value to your readers.
- Vend are all about POS, and they did an amazing job with building a blog that constantly engages with store owners, I highly recommend to check their Blog, especially if your company is working on a physical product or service.
- I think the Buffer Blog is one of the best company blogs in the world, to be honest I am not fond of all their writers and topics, but in the end of the day there is no denying that we can all learn a lesson or two from Buffer on how to manage a startup blog.
One of the most important things you can learn from the most successful company blogs, is that a company blog does not only exist to convert readers into users, or improve SEO. The best company blogs try to connect with the users, even those that are not among the clientele or target market.
5. Free Backlinking
Some people may be willing to pay for backlinks, but real, high-quality backlinks are bound to cost a pretty penny—something you may not have. Instead, you can post your own backlinks, on applicable websites, directories, and blogs to build your reputation. Just make sure that the links are appropriate in the context of the directory or blog. Otherwise the moderator might delete them, or worse you might be going overboard with your SEO.
Don’t be afraid to spend several hours a week placing backlinks where they will be seen by interested parties. Even just adding your link at the end of a helpful comment on a blog post of forum thread can improve your page rankings, and it takes almost no effort, once again, your comment should be helpful.
Do you have SEO tactics you want to share? Feel free to exchange your ideas and tips in the comments section bellow.