You’re living the dream and working to get your startup off the ground. Congratulations; getting started is half the battle. The other half is getting noticed and gaining recognition. There’s no question here: The best way to accomplish this is to boost your Google ranking. As the most popular search engine in the world, it makes sense to start here.
Popular might be an understatement. The latest figures show that Google processes more than 40,000 search inquiries per second which averages out to approximately 1.2 trillion individual searches per year. Getting noticed here is not only a desired outcome, it’s also essential for finding online success.
How do you make it happen? How do you take your startup to the next level in terms of personal branding and search engine rankings? Sometimes thinking creatively can go a long way. Check out the 10 tips below for boosting your startup’s Google ranking while enhancing your overall brand.
- Know Your Keywords
Any SEO strategy is incomplete without a targeted list of keywords. These keywords should be related to search terms that are relevant to your business. The days of picking words that you feel are best are done. Today, coming up with keywords takes research and planning.
Because Google is your target, using its Keyword Planner makes sense. The planner allows you to upload your landing page along with keywords that you think might be relevant. From there, the tool will populate a list of target keywords. Look for keywords with low to moderate competition but high search volumes and create your list.
- Use Testimonials to Gain Links
Links matter. The more reputable sites that link back to your site – the keyword here being reputable – the more relevant and popular your site will appear to search engine crawlers. In the past, backlink banks took advantage of this and multiple spam sites were created just to help brands gain links. Today, that practice is frowned upon, but backlinks still matter for SEO purposes.
How do you work around this situation? By setting up a testimonial page. Testimonials not only help customers looking to make purchase decisions – 54 percent of customers are influenced by testimonials – they also help build links. Offer testimonials to brands that you’ve worked with, and ask them to return the favor. If you link to them on your site, they’ll probably be happy to do the same for you. Check out accounting software company Xero’s testimonial page as a reference.
- Focus on Content
Blogging takes time, energy and creativity. Because of this, it’s often the last choice for startups already consumed with day-to-day business. However, to boost Google rankings, it must become a top priority.
Regularly published content keeps your site fresh and demonstrates activity. 70 percent of content marketers claim content marketing increased awareness surrounding their brands. Search engines look for sites that are updated regularly; this combination means that regular, relevant content is essential for any brand hoping to increase search rankings.
Hubspot’s inbound marketing blog is updated daily, filled with authoritative content from the brand itself, user-generated content and polls that keep readers engaged while attracting search traffic.
- Offer a Scholarship
It doesn’t matter if your brand has anything to do with education whatsoever. By offering a scholarship, you attract attention from a new set of potential customers, as well as from sites with .edu domains. This is important: Sites with .gov and .edu domains receive higher page ranks thanks to their authoritative statuses. Backlinks from sites with higher page ranks tend to be more valuable than standard .com links.
By offering a scholarship – like Towel Supercenter does – you can reach out to various establishments of higher education; they’re likely to share it on their website for students. This increases attention from potential customers and also from Google.
- Use Social Media
More than 74 percent of adult Internet users use social media. This means that getting recognized and gaining a following on social media sites may be just as important – if not more important – than gaining a following on your site alone.
Social media allows brands to share content effortlessly, and for readers to share that same content with their networks, increasing exposure on an exponential level. Furthermore, click-through rates increase by 94 percent by brands that use a combination of search and social media. Brands that use both are also generally rewarded by higher search rankings. The top brands in the world are seeing big gains in both personal branding and search rankings by using social media to enhance SEO strategies.
- Donate to Nonprofit Organizations and Sponsor Events for Charities
SEO can be an expensive tactic, but generally, to make money, you have to spend it. One way to spend less while gaining exposure and receiving reputable backlinks is to donate to nonprofit organizations and becoming a sponsor for events.
Many nonprofits have .org domains, which are also a step above .com in terms of page ranks. They’re also more than happy to highlight their sponsors and donors through thank you pages and event sponsor pages. Some businesses – like American Express – have seen 28 percent increases in traffic thanks to giving to charity, or cause marketing. There’s no reason your startup can’t do the same.
- Offer Discounts as Part of Your PPC Campaign
Generally, Internet users who utilize Google for searches can tell the difference between a paid advertisement and an organic link. 94 percent of the time, organic links win out in terms of getting the actual click.
This doesn’t mean that there’s not a place for sponsored and paid ads. It does mean that the strategy needs to change for success. If your startup is interested in receiving higher rankings and gaining more attention on Google, consider offering a discount through your paid ads. This will help gain attention without trying to mask your intentions. Shutterfly – an online retailer of photos and photo-related gifts – is notorious for offering daily discount codes on its website, social channels and Google to attract traffic that converts.
- Host a Photo Contest
If there’s an opportunity to win something –a gift card, a free service, a sample product – people will likely be eager to participate. It’s an easy motivation for driving action.
To take advantage of this, consider hosting a photo contest. Use a social media network like Instagram to set the contest regulations, asking users to submit photos with specific hashtags, during a certain time frame with a predetermined hashtag. Then, gather the photos and share them across your social channels and on your own website on an ongoing basis to improve search rankings. Run reverse photo searches on each photo you post to find out who else is sharing your site’s photos; ask the websites to credit your brand.
This strategy – undertaken by multiple brands like Under Armour – drives attention and incites action. In fact, 7 out of 10 Internet users have participated in an online photo contest. Your startup can take advantage of this to improve rankings across the board.
- Optimize for Mobile Users
Starting last month, Google began rewarding sites that are optimized for mobile users. Not sure where you stand? Don’t worry; Google offers a mobile-friendly test to check out where you’re excelling and which areas could use improvement.
This doesn’t only matter for Google, it also matters for improving user experiences. Because 63 percent of adults use smartphones to access the Internet, sites that aren’t compatible will receive less traffic. Evaluate where your site stands and consider creating an optimized site to improve personal branding efforts and Google rankings. Not sure how to make it happen? Consider working with an experienced Web developer who can provide options and discuss what route would be best for your brand.
- Monitor Your Success and Modify
No strategy is a “create it and forget about it” endeavor. Brands that see SEO in this way tend to fail. Google’s search algorithms are updated – on average – more than once a day. This means that for any endeavor to be a success, it’s got to change on a daily basis.
Set up Google Analytics to track the success of each campaign and page on your site. Become familiar with the terms within the tool and with which numbers are most applicable to your brand. Track your site visits, average visit lengths, bounce rates and traffic sources. Make changes as often as you need to in order to ensure success. Don’t be afraid to test out new methods and techniques to find what works best for your business.
Starting a business and taking it to the next level is a large – yet exciting – undertaking. You can help your startup from day one by working to boost your Google rankings. The more traffic your site receives, the more likely your brand is to grow. Start with the tactics listed above and do research to find additional ways to reach your brand’s individual goals.