Google was very instrumental in helping me build my last company and I'm forever grateful. I sold it 2 years ago and was able to put some of that money into my new business dashboard startup Dasheroo. When I started my previous company 15 years ago early on we did really well optimizing keywords on Google to drive free traffic. But that was long ago there wasn't a ton of competition.
So we had to start ponying up money to get close to the #1 spot, the #1 advertising spot that is. And our keywords were expensive. We grew to be over 130 people, profitable for the most part with revenues well into the $30 million range. Nice huh? But the almighty G was taking $200k/month to drive us traffic!
Was that traffic good? Most of it, but it's a big nut to bite off, even at the later phase of our company. Now at Dasheroo we want to grow as much and as fast as possible without having to give it up to the big G, for the time being at least.
So how are we doing it? So far we're growing our traffic at a nice clip, about 10x growth since January and 2x growth in the last 2 months. And it's not going from just one visitor to 10 visitors, it's in the many thousands of visitors.
So what are we doing (besides hard work and crossing our fingers!)?
1. Start with a product people need and love.
Historically Apple is one of the best at building great products people can't get enough of. Their customers are zealots. Apple puts a ton of time and resources into think about the product, the customer experience from the purchase to opening the beautiful packaging to the way it just works, most of the time. It doesn't even matter when you have an issue when using the product, you get over it, you still love it, and you probably tell your friends how much you love it.
What does this do? Drives word of mouth and influencer marketing.
2. Seed your friends and followers information about you and your company before you launch.
Use what you've got! If you've been in business you've collected business cards and info from people you've done business with. Maybe it's in your email inbox or CRM provider or even a shoebox. So dust off that shoebox and get your email list shiny and ready for your new product.
What does this do? It begins building awareness early.
3. Keep your followers in the loop with what you're working on.
People like "inside scoops" or to be in the know about what's going on with you, especially if they're on the list from #2. Email marketing and weekly blog posts help get you there.
What does this do? It brings folks into your world. It makes them feel special they know inside info before anyone else!
4. Develop a long list of keywords where you want to be listed on page 1 when someone searches on Google.
Develop a keyword and phrase list early on and make sure it's not just a few keywords. Go to Google's Keyword Planner tool to see if your keywords get search traffic. Use that same tool to get new ideas of keywords that get more searches. And make sure when you write any content you optimize that content for your keywords. This way you'll make your way to the top of the organic search results.
What does this do? It gives you a solid SEO strategy for what content to write and which keywords to optimize for.
5. Write content for other publications.
Especially early on it's great to get yourself and your new company established as experts at what you do and known in your industry. Ask to write content for sites that have a good domain authority. Include your link (backlink) in each piece of content you write. For instance I write for this Inc.com column and I also write for Small Business Computing and John, our CEO writes for Business.com and Social Media Examiner.
What does this do? It establishes you as an industry expert plus the more inbound links on quality sites help #5.
6. Build your social media presence.
Building a new audience that knows you for your product or service is just awesome. It's like your email list when you've got something to announce, release or just share.
What does this do? Posting creative content from blog and other sources shows search engines you're active. Communicating to your followers where they like to keeps you top of mind, or at least somewhere in there!
7. Follow people on social media who are relevant to your industry.
People who are relevant in your industry usually have one thing: followers that you want to get to know, and get them to know about you. And you want to be in front of them as well as their followers. Get to know them and start by following them.
What does this do? If relevant people follow you back you begin to create your industry community.
8. Repost industry influencer's content.
Your influencer may not have seen that you followed them, but they may see that you're Re-Tweeting and reposting their content. That might just get you a follow AND a reason for you to reach out to them.
What does this do? Influencers with a big following may follow back, like and post what you have to say, spreading your message.
Is all of this more time consuming and tougher than buying a bunch of campaigns on Adwords? Maybe, but this is an approach that will pay dividends over the long run, and the traffic and awareness built through these efforts typically converts better than AdWords, too!