A digital marketing strategist who is passionate to help B2B SaaS companies achieve organic growth.
Have you ever observed how a spaceship propels itself into the orbit?
A massive amount of fuel is ignited sending the gargantuan spaceship into outer space. Once it enters the outer orbit, it uses a negligible amount of fuel to stay in the orbit.
That’s how a startup works as well. A startup needs the maximum amount of visibility in its initial days to take off. Once it has garnered significant visibility, the visibility garnered itself is sufficient to sustain momentum and achieve growth at scale. More like a spaceship staying in orbit with negligible fuel.
For startups, visibility matters. It matters now more than ever. Digital media has turned search engines and online stores into highly competitive mediums. If your startup does not enjoy good visibility there, chances are that it never will be able to break through the competition and build its customer base.
That brings us to the power of search results. In 2019 alone, Google has received nearly 2.3 trillion searches. Of that, more than 16-20% of searches are for new phrases and terms that are completely new even to Google’s bots.
For a startup that is gunning for high visibility, an online search is like the flag-off point. Why? Top SERPs enjoy several other benefits:
Now SERPs can be achieved in a zillion ways. The internet has no dearth of information on ‘how to become a master of SEO’, ‘how to nail your SEM goals’, ‘how to be a pro and SMO’, and similar stuff. It will take you a decade or more to sift through that material, implement them, and see some actual results.
However, there are some proven tactics that you can give a shot without much ado. There are brands that have taken their visibility from 100 odd sessions a month to 10,000 sessions a month and more. Their secrets are now in the open for all to learn from and implement.
I am presenting a fair bit of those secrets with the hope that it will help skyrocket your startup’s online visibility as well.
To make your startup visible to your customer’s eyes, you must go where they are. Or, you can bring them to where you are by finding out what they are looking for.
Broadly, there are four strategies that can be implemented to make this work:
Let’s take a deep dive into each of these four strategies.
It takes nothing to reach there. It takes time. But, once you reach there, it delivers value for the long-term.
I am referring to the top SERPs in a search engine. SEO is the strategy, or rather a group of tactics deployed to make a page rank better in search engines. It relies on keywords — the search phrases that customers use to find information about products and services. So, does it mean that creating web pages that solely have keywords in them is going to help you with SEO? definitely, not. In fact, that tactic will backfire.
Instead here is what you will have to do:
a) Churn out informative content
Here is the sole reason why users resort to online searches: they want to find reliable information, and quickly. Online search helps with that. From Apples to Zoos, an online search can help find information about anything and everything.
But, to make the information on your website appear in SERPs. You must churn out qualitative content. In the world of SEO, qualitative content always wins against quantitative content.
The internet allows you to deliver information in myriad forms. It can be website content, blogs, infographics, visual imagery, or even videos. Whatever form your content is, it must have quality. By quality, I mean informative content that will answer your user’s questions, help them solve a problem, or make their lives easier in some way.
When you churn out informative content, infuse it with the right keywords that users use to find information pertaining to your business. That way, your online visibility will maximize and you will also enjoy a steady stream of online traffic to your website.
b) Publish guest blogs on top industry publications
SEO works in many ways. Publishing great content with the right set of keywords is just one part of it. You also have to build backlinks, distribute your content, and also contribute to guest blogs to win top SERPs.
Let’s focus on the last bit — the contribution to guest blogging websites. That is where there is scope to maximize your online visibility.
Publishing a blog on your website makes your content visible only to your patrons — your customers, stakeholders, and prospects. Whereas publishing content on third party websites like Forbes, Entrepreneur, etc. can give your startup the much-needed visibility. It helps build credibility and also makes your thoughts visible to a larger population of the audience who could be interested in what your startup is doing.
In fact, it could even help you swell your customer base significantly, like how Buffer did. Buffer is a social media tool that allows users to schedule posts. Guest blogging enabled Buffer to win more than 100,000 customers. Of course, there was hard work involved. Leo Widrich, co-founder of Buffer churned out more than 150 guest blogs within a span of 9 months.
c) Participate in Q&A forums or communities
Official blogs and guest blogs help maximize online visibility. But, they have one downside. Most often, your blogs could have a marketing angle to them that could make them appear alien to your audience. In fact, one reason why Q&A forums like Quora and Reddit rose in popularity is that they are built on user-generated content that has the least marketing angle to it.
Also, they have a huge follower base since any information found on these websites is legit and approved to be genuine, true, or considered to be expert advice. Additionally, participating in these Q&A forums can also help your business earn referral traffic.
In fact, if you have access to any Search Engine Optimization tool like Ahrefs, you can leverage it to find the top-performing Quora questions relevant to your domain. Here are the steps recommended by Nikola Roza an SEO expert:
This process would help you bring in referral traffic from Quora to your website.
Here is one piece of advice that will help you make the most of Q&A forums.
Pick any Q&A forum of your choice, say Quora. Search the keywords that are relevant to your business. From the results that throw up, list down popular questions based on the number of followers, answers, and upvotes. Do a thorough analysis to figure out gaps in existing answers. Write a better answer that will make you rank better than others. As a best practice, plug in a related blog on your website or even the website URL to maximize visibility.
Unlike the space shuttle that I referred to at the beginning of this article, startups have one challenge. They are perennially short of time. They are always pressed to take the product or service to the market in the shortest time frame possible. Also, along with product release, they must also manage to bring in maximum customer interest and inquiries (read leads).
Organic traffic takes its own sweet time to make this happen. A typical website or blog can take at least 60 days to 240 days to attain a level of the desired ranking.
When instant results are expected, paid promotions can help a startup gather instant visibility. Google delivers an 8:1 ROI i.e $8 for every $1 spent.
Considering the growth potential there are paid promotion avenues that a startup can explore.
a) Search ads
Organic traffic trickles through search phrases that customers key in into the search engine. Search ads are shortcuts to climb the SERPs. They are paid slots that ensure that the page is displayed at the top of the SERPs, along with the label ‘Ad’. Search ads take the textual form.
b) Display ads
Display ads are image-based adverts that are positioned in top-performing websites. These websites have content or offerings that are closely aligned with what the startup is offering.
For example, if your startup is launching a smart wireless charger for gadgets, your display ads will be displayed in gadget review websites, technology websites, online stores selling gadgets, and so on.
c) Run retargeting ads
The benefit of paid promotion is that you can target a specific kind of audience whom you want to become aware of your startup and its offering. This ensures that your marketing spending is not wasted on an audience who has little regard for your business.
For example, a SaaS product that is offering billing solutions to small and medium businesses can direct paid ads towards SMB business owners, managers, etc. It can exclude an audience who belong to a specific target audience bearing specific traits, like age, location, gender, spending habits, etc.
They say businesses are built on the foundation of relationships.
Even in the digital world where a startup has to serve its customers online, without face-to-face interactions, it is the networking prowess that can help strengthen relationships.
How can a startup, a virtual entity build networks? These tactics can help:
a) Hosting webinars and podcasts
Webinars are virtual conferences where a handful of speakers interact with participants through video or chat. They are extremely useful for knowledge sharing and for discussing thought leadership topics. On the same line, they also act as launch pads for startups that are venturing into off-beat markets with little or no awareness.
Podcasts are pre-recorded audio discussions. They usually have two participants who interact with each other on a singular topic. A podcast can be scripted or even be an impromptu one.
Both webinars and podcasts offer startups a unique opportunity to present their ideas, perspectives, and also bring their startup to the world’s notice. In fact, they are the best source of knowledge gathering for founders and marketers who are short on time but high on the need for learning.
b) Create customer evangelists
Have you visited Pinterest? Do you know what makes Pinterest so popular?
It thrives on user-generated content. It is an advanced form of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM). Customer evangelism when your customers are willing to spread refer your business to their near and dear. They are already won with your product quality, customer service and brand values that they want others also to relish from it.
There are several benefits that customer evangelism can give your business:
c) Leverage influencers marketing
Influencer marketing is often regarded as a sham and not worth it for startups. But, that is the opinion of those who have not executed proper influencer marketing strategies. Or they picked the wrong influencers who can do more harm to the brand than good.
Leveraging influencer marketing can create an instant online splash about your product or service. Take for example how Apple did it. When the Apple Mac Pro was released recently, Apple looped in leading influencers to spearhead the marketing campaign. The brand carefully chose leading brand evangelists who are popular for their YouTube videos about Apple products. That helped recreate the kind of hype that the iPhone enjoyed in 2007.
d) Channel partners
Channel partners are largely used by a syndicate belonging to a specific industry or business. For startups, they serve a dual purpose. You can leverage channel partners to bring in more revenue and leads. Alternatively, you can also leverage them to shed a spotlight on your brand.
For example, if your startup is into selling a novel product like sunglass earphones, you can leverage channel partnerships with mobile manufacturers, sportswear brands, and the likes to get an instant boost to visibility.
TrialPay (acquired by Visa), an e-commerce payment platform nailed this strategy. Several key channel partnerships allowed TrialPay to sprint from zero to 10,000 clients in two years.
Here is a simple way to evaluate the power of your brand. The amount of extra money that your customers are willing to pay more than the price of your competitor is your brand value. The additional price indicates that your brand offers more than the ordinary. Also, a brand is not just a fancy logo with a tagline. It is a collection of experiences and expectations that customers expect from a business.
These extra pieces do not come so easily. Like Rome, even a brand cannot be built overnight. You must put in conscious efforts to build a brand.
Here are some ways how it can be done:
a) Online customer reviews
The oldest trick in the handbook for brand building is this: winning and showcasing customer reviews. Customers review has an aura of authenticity over them they exude social proof which inspires news prospects to take an informed decision. Also, online customer reviews also offer the many benefits of user-generated content, SEO friendliness being one among them.
Studies by Bright Local have found that 91% of 18-34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. They do not stop with one or two reviews. They read at least 10 reviews before making a purchase decision. That makes customer reviews a critical piece in your overall brand-building effort.
Positive reviews can make your business soar high in volumes while negative reviews can stall its growth even in the early stages.
b) Social media activity
In the olden days, brands had billboards in most frequented places. Today, they have social media handles and product showcase pages. A business that is active on social media can quickly create a connection with its customers. It also builds trust since the social media presence has a humane touch to it. Of course, social media will work as an effective brand-building tool only if it is managed properly.
Instead of managing all your social media accounts manually, make your life substantially easier by opting for automated social media posting tools. To name a few — Buffer, Sprout Social and Hootsuite.
M.I.C.E stands for Meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions. You cannot build a brand with social media firepower alone. You must meet and greet people in person. M.I.C.E helps with that. In fact, you can even become sponsors for specific events which will proper your brand identity forwards amidst a specific set of audience.
For example, a tech conference exclusive to cloud computing experts. Or a hacking event for ethical hackers. When it comes to M.I.C.E, the opportunities are literally endless to build and grow a brand.
d) Register on top business listings
Remember the Yellow Pages from the early 90? It gave you a complete list of all individuals and businesses along with their contacts in an organized manner.
Online business listings or directories are virtual avatars of the Yellow Pages. They help you search, find and contact individuals or businesses who can help you.
Some of the top websites for business listings include:
These websites let you list your business or even your product in specific. From your location down to minute product features, you can get your business or product listed in an organized fashion. This makes it easy for customers to find you and contact you easily. In fact, like in search engines, you can also pay for a top slot on the search results of these pages.
Here is one more key reason why you should get listed in business listings. They rank higher on most search results that bring in referral traffic to your website.
Peter Thiel in his book ‘Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future’ writes: “The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside.”
Most often that secret is hidden in plain sight. It is online visibility. Every successful business and popular brand that you know enjoys great online visibility. Of courses, startups rise to stardom and become dominant forces with online visibility. Today, in this internet-dominated era, nothing matters more than online visibility.
Hopefully, the tactics I have discussed above will help you maximize your startup’s online visibility.
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