SEO (i.e., search engine optimization) tactics shouldn’t eat up your marketing budget.
When most people think about SEO, they think about a long-term, expensive strategy that takes up their precious time and drains their business bank account. While SEO should be viewed as an investment, and not just a marketing expense, there are plenty of great ways to build your company’s search engine rankings without spending a single penny.
How (Not) To Fail At Online Marketing
When you are a young startup, strapped for cash, finding ways to improve your search engine rankings can mean the difference between online success and failure.
In general, most startups fail in online marketing for two reasons. First, they spend too much money, without the right investments in certain areas. Second, they are not aggressive enough with online marketing tactics, and end up falling short on customer acquisition.
Free SEO Tactics for Small Businesses
Many of you are familiar with the adage: it takes money to make money. And when it comes to online marketing, you should not be afraid to invest heavily into SEO strategy and tactics—when you have the funds to do so. In the meantime, you can improve your website’s search engine rankings without draining your bank account. Here are five of the most popular free SEO tactics you can utilize on a daily basis:
Start Guest Blogging
Believe it or not, most blogs are more than happy to allow a guest bloggers to share informative and valuable content with their readers. To get started, follow submission guidelines and contact relevant blogs within your industry. Generally you can get a byline (i.e., your name) and a link back your own website, if accepted.
Be sure you can write helpful, informative guest posts, otherwise, you will waste your time and theirs. The better your guest posts are, the more likely they are to ask you back—which means more exposure for your business!
Find popular blogs that match your industry niche; blogs that your customers or industry leaders are reading. You should always direct your content to their core audience. For example, if I am going to write a post about startups, it should be pitched to a startup blog. Next, write amazing content with added value. If you are going to submit a guest post, prepare to bring your best writing, grammar, and spelling skills to the table. When you ask an online magazine or blog to feature your content, they expect you to bring added value that they themselves couldn’t create. Be creative, informative, and unique.
Finally, email like a pro. Now I must admit, I can’t say I have mastered this completely, but the basic rule is that your email should be short and to the point. Share how you can contribute to the platform, instead of how you can benefit.
Share Valuable Content on Social Media
Social media is definitely the future of online advertising, though that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have to spend money on social media marketing. Simply having an active social media page that adds value to your fans’ news feeds is a great way to build clout for both your social media page and your company website.
Link to it, mention it, and keep your fans interested. Remember the golden rule when it comes to social media however: Do not clog news feeds with useless content. Always provide quality in lieu of quantity. The more valuable and useful your content is, the more likely it is to boost SEO efforts.
Practice On-site SEO Tactics
On-site 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 website content yourself, not only will it be more accurate, it will boost your search engine rankings and bring more readers to your website.
Finding the best keywords can be as easy as thinking about what you would search if you were a customer 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 in business, 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.
Create a Company Blog
A basic tool of content marketing is blogging. Sure, managing a company blog is time-consuming, but it is a vital part of building your website’s search engine rankings. Regularly creating original, informative, and useful content can easily build a gauntlet of keyword-rich SEO content, that will quickly build your authority (both with online users and Google algorithms).
If you need help with deciding what type of content to write, 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 the tone and style of your posts fit your business brand and provide relevant information. Meanwhile, do not stuff your company blog with popular keywords that are unrelated to your niche — it is annoying to customers and could lead to Google flagging your page.
If you need inspiration, my personal favorites include Takipi, Vend and Buffer Blog. Takipi 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 is all about POS, and they do an amazing job constantly engaging with store owners. And the Buffer Blog is one of the best company blogs in the world. To be honest, I am not fond of all of their writers and topics, but at the end of the day there is no denying we can all learn from Buffer on how to manage a company blog.
One of the most important things you can learn from successful company blogs, is that they don’t merely exist to convert readers into sales, or improve SEO. Instead they aim to connect with readers [in an authentic and engaging way].
Seek out Free Backlinks
Some startups may be willing to pay for backlinks, but real, high-quality backlinks are bound to cost a pretty penny—which may exceed your marketing budget. Instead, you can post your own backlinks on applicable websites, directories, and blogs to build your online reputation.
Before you start building backlinks, ensure the links are appropriate in the context of the directory or blog. Otherwise the moderator might delete them, or worse you might go overboard with your SEO efforts. Don’t be afraid to spend several hours a week placing backlinks where they will be seen by interested parties (or delegate this tasks to a marketing intern). Adding a link to your website at the end of a helpful comment on a blog post of forum thread can improve page rankings with little effort. But remember: your comment should be helpful or it will be flagged as spam.
Avishai Sam Bitton is the Founder of Go Social Israel and Marketing Manager at imonomy. He loves Internet startups, PC gaming, Star Wars, blogging, photography, LinkedIn and Linda. Connect with imonomy on Twitter. This post has been edited and condensed; it originally appeared here.
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