A lot of the startups I talk to really need help with online marketing, so we tapped our friend Bryan Phelps at SEO.com to write up a guest post for us on the matter. Bryan got started in Internet Marketing in 2005 when he heard you could make a few extra bucks on the Internet. A few years later he had built a handful of successful affiliate websites generating organic traffic and revenue through search engine optimization. He got his first taste of the startup world when he joined OrangeSoda in 2007 and led their SEO department for 3 years. Bryan recently joined SEO.com to lead the efforts of their new Small Business and Local SEO services.
Marketing and promotion is now a requirement for any startup, whether you’re primarily an online business or not. The Internet has made it easier than ever to try to spread the word about your company without hiring a PR firm. With more and more people turning to news websites, blogs and social media, getting your message in front of the right audience can sometimes make or break your startup.
With a tight startup budget in mind, here are some tools every business owner should be using to improve the reach and visibility of their business.
Followerwonk (FREE) – Followerwonk offers a variety of free Twitter tools to help you find the right people and analyze your followers. The “Search Twitter bios” field can give you a good start of finding potential clients or influential people in your industry.
HARO (FREE + PAID) – Help a Reporter Out can help your startup get in touch with journalists who are in need of your expertise. Register for the free alerts to get a feel for it. Depending on your niche, opportunities will vary. The exposure from newspaper, blog or other sources will spread the word about your startup and can also help generate high quality inbound links which will help your SEO efforts.
Google Reader (FREE) – Google reader is best known as a common RSS reader but it can also be a powerful tool to find popular blogs related to your startup. To search ALL blogs (not just those you subscribe to), click “View all recommendations” on the left, then enter your keywords and search.
In addition to following popular and interesting blogs related to your niche, you can start contributing to the community via comments which may lead to a guest blogging opportunity where you can share your startup with the community. Here are a few examples:
BlogHer Network (FREE) – The BlogHer network is very large and could be a great place to contact bloggers to get the word out about your startup. Use the categories on the right to filter down your list. Whether your product is for the home, sports-related, financial or anything else, the BlogHer Network is a great community to meet bloggers.
Pingdom (FREE + PAID) – Pingdom offers 2 really useful tools. The first is a site speed test. Having a fast loading website is important for users but is also becoming a more important ranking factor and quality score factor. Just type in your URL and see which elements of your site are dragging down your site load time.
The 2nd tool Pingdom offers is a downtime checker. Pingdom visits your site and reports back to you if it is down. You can receive email or text alerts. It also includes a monthly report so you can see how frequently your site goes down and for how long. Monitoring 1 site is free, additional sites can be monitored for a fee.
Ask Your Target Market (PAID + BARTER + PRO BONO) – With a very descriptive name, AYTM lets you poll a very specific set of people. Create a survey with specific filters like Age, Income, Career, Relationship Status and many more. As a startup, getting feedback from your target market about your product or service can be invaluable. AYTM offers unique payment options. You can simply pay regular price, barter by answering questions for other AYTM customers or they even offer Pro Bono surveys for open-source software and non-profits.
Pay with a Tweet (FREE) – If your startup ever creates valuable white papers, cheat sheets, tutorials or similar works, you can use Pay with a Tweet to get more visibility to your content and your startup. The general idea is that users can only get access to your content by tweeting about it. Once they do, they can view or download the material you created which may lead to additional website traffic and visibility from their networks.
Topsy (FREE) – Topsy is a real-time, social web search. It’s a great tool to see what people are talking about and sharing. It can also help you identify influencers in your industry that you may want to start building a relationship with.
Open Site Explorer (FREE + PAID) – If you’re working with an SEO agency or running SEO campaigns in-house, you should become familiar with Open Site Explorer. This tool from SEOMoz provides a lot of data about your backlinks that you can use to monitor progress and troubleshoot problems. You can also compare your site to your competition to get an idea of how much work you need to do to get to the coveted top positions on the search engines.
DoubleClick AdPlanner (FREE) – As a startup, your time and money is usually somewhat limited. If you’re going to spend time searching for places to try to get coverage, guest blog post oradvertise, you will save yourself some time and money by using Google’s DoubleClick AdPlanner. AdPlanner gives you a good estimate on traffic, demographics (age, gender, income, etc.), related sites and a lot of other good valuable information.
Some of these tools will be more useful than others depending on your industry and marketing goals and there are many, many more great low-cost tools are out there, but this is a good start. What are some of your favorites?