When you’re just starting out and budgets are restricted, earmarking dollars in your marketing budget for an SEM campaign might not be in the cards.
So what can you do when you’re charged with boosting your startup’s search rankings on shoestring?
Invest your time and effort into laying the best possible SEO foundation you can with strategies that grow your brand’s web presence organically.
From there, you can begin nurturing relationships with journalists to earn mentions in industry-related articles and devote time every week to connecting with bloggers to discuss cross-promotional opportunities.
When paying to drive traffic to your site isn’t an option, good old-fashioned networking, as well as the development and promotion of intriguing, original content is key.
So, here are seven ways to boost your startup’s search rankings.
1. Play Lois Lane (or Clark Kent).
One of the easiest ways to get your company name floating around is by offering up assistance where it might be needed.
Does an industry-related blog need content? Offer to write a monthly column or report on something that’s currently affecting your industry.
Writing an article also creates a great excuse for you to reach out to other people in the industry — especially thought leaders — who you’d like to be in touch with.
Use the opportunity as an excuse to play the part of a journalist and get in contact with potential customers, competitors, or other influencers that you’d like to make aware of your business presence.
In return for your efforts, you can ask the publisher to please link back to your company in the author bio.
2. Good design
People engage with and share good-looking content — photographs, videos, infographics, visuals — not to mention the fact that it can improve the indicators that search engines use to rank content.
This is why investing a portion of your budget to work with a talented graphic designer is so important.
If you want people to notice your content and share it through their networks or link back to it, make it easy for them by making sure it’s presented in a professional and aesthetically pleasing light.
3. Find an advocate
You know easily excitement can be transferred among people. Just think about how it feels when a friend excitedly explains to you about a new product or recent experience that she felt was incredible!
That carryover feeling of excitement is what you want to feel when you head out to find a public relations partner.
You want to find someone who is genuinely excited about what you’re doing and who can recreate and drum up excitement when he or she is out talking about your startup.
Focus on connecting with a person who feels like an advocate; someone who is so excited by your product or service that they can’t help but talk about it when they meet new people.
It’s pretty simple, people feed off other people’s excitement or lack of. Make sure you have an advocate, not just a PR person — there’s a big difference.
4. Get face-to-face
Email, texting and social media — they’re all great for connecting. But you know what’s even better?
Face-to-face, real-life interactions with other people. Especially when you’re trying to make an impression and build solid relationships with the people in your industry who can help get your name out there.
Make the time to get out from behind your computer and meet up for coffee, attend industry mixers and connect with people in real life at networking events.
5. Stay top-of-mind
Once you’ve made the effort to get out from behind your computer, meet people face-to-face, interview influencers in your industry and provide content to relevant publishers, you’ll want to tend to your investment.
It’s easy to send out short emails every now and again to the contacts you’ve made when you run across something you think they might be interested in.
Stay top-of-mind with your contacts by reaching out every so often with news, events or funny anecdotes about the things you know they’re interested in.
It’s a friendly and non-intrusive way to stay in touch and it’s a great way to drop info about your company without seeming pushy.
Stay top-of-mind by using a little personal touch in the next email you send out.
6. Be chatty
Follow the bloggers in your space and make an effort to comment on articles that you like or disagree with.
No need to get excessive here, but being an active participant is a great way to get your name mixing with the people who matter in your business realm.
It’s also a more natural way to introduce your name and company to the person running the blog.
Leaving comments on posts and consequently receiving a reply from the article author or blog owner is a much warmer introduction than a, “Dear So-and-So, I found your contact info on your blog and I need a favor.Yada Yada.”
Bloggers will be much more inclined to link out to a site associated with someone who is a genuine fan of their work; someone who takes the time to participate in the space they’ve created online.
7. Give it away
Pay a graphic designer to do great work, spend time and effort interviewing people and create original content, then — give it away.
Be generous with your content and offer opportunities for more popular publications to share it on their platforms.Being of service to people is one of the quickest ways to earn their trust.
Most people are contacting them and looking for a favor. Be the one who reaches out to say, “How can I help?”
They’ll appreciate the offer and remember you when they need a quote for a story about something going on in your industry and when they’re compiling “best of” lists.
Boosting your organic rankings involves becoming an active participant in what’s happening around you in the industry.
Creating amazing, original content is pointless if it just sits on your site and is never seen by anyone.
So spend time on public relations and outreach. Build relationships with the writers and editors of the blogs, sites, and publications where you’d like to be mentioned.
Let them know that you or another representative from your company would be happy to contribute to what they do, either through contributing editorial content, or providing quotes whenever an article regarding your industry pops up.
See if they’d be interested in enhancing their own articles with an infographic or other shareable piece of content, like video, that your company could provide.
You’ll get the link back to your site when they credit your company for the collateral, and you could also earn a mention in the article when the graphic is referenced.
This is a way to very organically inject your company name into the industry space, as well as keep your company on the forefront of the editors’ and writers’ minds when future related stories come up.
These are just a few ways that you can start to build up your brand’s web presence without relying solely on SEM efforts.
This is an updated version of a post previously published in 2013.