The idea of actively building links is generally ostracized and off putting in the startup world. This is unfortunate, as link building is a very easy thing to do and it can pay dividends far beyond the amount of effort put into the process. Since literally every Startup can benefit from SEO and more traffic, it is imperative that all Startups have some sort of strategy in place.
As my product is in the SEO space, I figured I would share a link building method that’s safe, effective, and easy to do…even for someone who has never done SEO in their life.
Let’s Get Started
First, a 17 word SEO primer: SEO is a popularity contest, and you need a lot of votes from influential people to win.
I KNOW THERE’S MORE TO IT.
In that primer, votes = links from other sites to yours and winning = ranking high in the search engines.
But that’s enough for us to get started, so please don’t raise objections to this summary. Let’s just roll with it.
So how do you rack up those votes, you ask? You can:
- Cross your fingers and pray
- Write some really good content, tell people about it, then do #1
- Spam the ever living crap out of the internet
- Actively participate in discussions across the internet, slowly increasing your brand awareness and reach
Again, I KNOW THERE’S MORE TO IT. Spare me.
For startups with founders who aren’t very well versed in SEO, I recommend a combination of #2 and #4. I’m not going to cover #2 here because, well, I don’t want to. I’m going to talk about #4.
You’re probably asking, “So, how do I actively participate in discussion across the internet and slowly increase my brand awareness and reach?” Well, I recommend the following.
The Really Easy Link Building SEO Strategy For Startups
Step 1) Brainstorm Some Keywords
There are lots and lots of ways to gather lists of keywords, from just scribbling down a list on paper to using fully automated tools (like serpIQ! </shameless-plug>). The method I’m going to recommend here is simple enough that anyone can do it in 5 minutes.
- Obviously, write down your product name and any variations thereof.
- Write down a few short phrases that define your product well enough so that if someone typed it into Google, it’d be reasonable for your product to show up in the results. Let’s take Basecamp as an example. Some keywords that we could describe Basecamp with include: “project management”, “small business project management”, “simple project management”. This really isn’t rocket science, it’s pretty easy to come up with these. Focus on simple, straight forward keywords.
- Be specific, but not verbose. “simple project management web app for small businesses with fashion conscious founders” is not a good keyword.
- Write down some keywords related to the problem your product solves. Again with Basecamp: “project management for remote teams”, “how to use milestones”, “shared todo lists”. These can be a little bit more verbose.
- Write down as many competitor related keywords you can think of, including both brand and product names. “Asana”, “Active Collab”, “Planscope”
Step 2) Find Related Keywords For Each Keyword In Your List Using Google
Go to google and search for each of those keywords you wrote down. Scroll down to the bottom of each results page, and more often than not you’ll see a related keywords list. These are keywords Google has decided are very relevant to what you searched for. PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE. Grab all of those keywords and add them to your list as well.
At this point, you should have a few dozen keywords in your list. Read through it and throw away any keywords that are obviously not good.
Step 3) Generate RSS Feeds From Google Blog Search Results For Every Keyword
For whatever reason, people don’t talk about this much, but here’s a neat little trick. Every time you search for a keyword in Google Blog Search, you can generate an RSS feed at the bottom of the page to subscribe to that keyword. Then, whenever anything new shows up in their index, that will also show up in your RSS reader. Automated keyword mention monitoring? Yes please.
First, search in Google Blog Search for your keyword:
Then scroll down and click the rss feed link at the bottom of the page:
Grab all of these links for all of your keywords and put them into a spreadsheet list or just a text file for now.
Step 4) Add Keyword Feeds To Google Reader
(Note: You can use any feed reader, I’m just using Google’s for this example).
Go down your list of keyword feeds and subscribe to each one. After you add your first one, click the arrow next to it and select “New Folder” and make a folder named “Keyword Feeds”. As you add all of the rest of your feeds, add each one to this same folder.
Step 5) Put On Your Blog Commenting Game Face
You should now have a bunch of blog posts in your feed reader that you can visit and comment on. What you’ll want to do here is visit the posts that seem interesting or relevant, ACTUALLY READ THE BLOG POST, then leave a legitimate, insightful comment. Don’t just say thanks, don’t just pimp your product out. Contribute to the discussion.
Bloggers love comments. Especially on their brand new posts (which is why this method is so powerful). If you leave a good comment on a post, that blogger is going to love you forever. So do a good job here. Also, you don’t have to agree with the blogger necessarily. If you want to nicely object to what they wrote, that’s a great strategy too.
Another little trick is to reply to someone else’s comment. Play Devil’s Advocate or just enter the discussion from their comment instead of directly off the post. Just be natural.
Once you’ve left a comment on the post, you’re going to want to copy the url of that post and save it to a new spreadsheet or text document. You’re doing this because:
- Most blogs have comment moderation on
- You need to check and see when your post gets unmoderated
Finally, grab the rss feed of this blog you just commented on and subscribe to it in Google Reader. Put it in a folder named “Commented” like in the above screenshot.
Step 6) Monitor Your Comments
Periodically load up the list of urls you’ve saved of posts you’ve commented on previously. Go to a site like urlopener.com and open them up in your browser in batches of 10 or so. A trick here is to use a different browser (or incognito mode) than the one you commented in; reason being, most blog platforms will drop a cookie on you, so you’ll see your comment even if it’s in moderation.
Go through each url one by one and see which ones have been approved. When a comment has been approved:
- Remove it from your list of urls in this spreadsheet
- Move the feed in your feed reader from the “Commented” folder to an “Approved Comments” folder.
- Do a little jig
Step 7) Rinse And Repeat
This strategy only takes about 15-30 minutes a day and can have a very nice positive impact on your bottom line over time both in traffic and (hopefully) conversions from that traffic. There’s no excuse not to do this. So long as you have a good amount of keyword feeds in your reader, you should be able to post 5-10 comments a day very easily.
The Inner Workings Of This Strategy
So there are a few reasons why this is a good strategy to follow for beginner SEOs and Startups.
- It’s safe. Don’t listen to people who say building links is Black Hat. It’s perfectly ok to manually comment to your heart’s content. You won’t get slapped by Google for this.
- Once you’ve gotten approved on a blog, you usually won’t get moderated any more. That doesn’t mean you should then just start shamelessly promoting your product or spamming every single post on that blog, it just means that you can comment on that blog in the future without having to go back and check to see if your comment got approved. Easy links at that point.
- Repeat commenters on blogs makes bloggers happy, which means they will take notice of you and possibly write about you or just mention your product in their own lives.
- Comments can send traffic too. Yes, links are good. But the traffic you get can also be great.
- The benefits compound over time. The nature of Google and Page Rank and link sources is that they generally get stronger as they age. Getting a comment on a post on the day it’s published means that one day that comment might evolve into a very strong link as that blog post grows in strength itself.
So that’s it. You can get this strategy up and running in under and hour, and act on it every day in about 30 minutes a day. This is very much worth your time and every single Startup out there should be doing this.