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Five Tips for Startup Marketing

This is a guest post by one of our mentors, Akhil Anumolu, about the importance of marketing for startups.  Follow Akhil here

After recently resigning from my position at a startup, I decided to take a 2 week vacation and I felt helping startups would help reinvigorate me and be a good use of time. Having a background of growing companies through smart marketing and analytics, I approached Jim Flannery to come work with his incubator. He welcomed me to come in this past week to spend time with startups in Athens, learning about the creator culture and community in my alma mater’s town. I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the amazing products and companies being built in this college town, which excited me to help them grow with online marketing.

Growth is a crucial component of any startup and I believe a great product sells itself, but marketing helps it be seen by the masses. While the methods used to market vary by industry and company, there are a few online marketing methods that are ubiquitous to every startup. Having told Jim this, he urged me to detail 5 essential online marketing resources for startups, since these would be useful for all types of businesses. Here are my top 5 free resources for every new business that has a website:

1. Webmaster Tools (Google/Bing/Alexa)

SEO is a key piece in user discovery of your site and product. Being SEO optimized is only one key piece, the other is being verified with webmaster tools on search engines. These tools help you get discovered by telling search engines you are a legitimate site and to crawl you. When they crawl your site, they index it and build relevancy for organic search, which for many startups is free marketing. They also help you understand your audience demographic, SEO issues, site issues, and what search terms people are finding you for on organic search. Begin by signing up for each service and then placing their meta tag verification code snippet on your site. Then tell each platform to verify your site and your site will get crawled, in turn more likely showing for relevant keywords. Keep in mind these tools are for U.S. dominant search engines, there are also international webmaster tools for search engines such as Yandex and Baidu.

2. Google (Analytics/Tag Manager)

Google themselves provide a lot of free resources to help you learn about the internet in relation to your site. Having Google Analytics (referred to as GA in the industry) helps you know what customers are doing on your site. For free, it provides data ranging from visits, to referral sources, to even demographic information about the customers that visit you. It is an essential tool in knowing if your efforts are working and who they are working on. It is very simple to deploy and even easier if you use the tag manager detailed below.

Google Tag Manager on the other hand is a tool very few people know about. It allows a non-technical person to deploy code snippets quickly on a site. When you begin working with advertising and analytics platforms, each one will require code snippets to be deployed on your site to gather data and quantify their effectiveness. Instead of placing all these code snippets each time on every page, you deploy the tag manager on every page and then deploy the code snippets through them. This helps you change code easily and improve site speed, which is crucial for SEO.

3. Advertising Platforms (Adwords/Facebook/Twitter)

You may be a bit surprised to see these on here since they are not “free”. While true that you do need to spend money to use these platforms, the learning resources are free. Many times startups want to get to advertising before knowing why they want to advertise, their budget, optimizing their site for advertising, and determining what to define as success. Learning about these platforms and understanding how they work can actually help you improve your business by understanding the plethora of metrics used to define success and how they are calculated. Take time to understand what each platform does in terms of marketing your ads (Display, Text, Links, Placement, etc.), what you can count as a success metric and be charged for (Clicks, Impressions, Conversions, App Installs, etc.), the level of competition for your keyword or targeted audience, and how to ensure your site is well built for the ads (Quality Score). Once you know these, you can easily begin advertising at an optimized rate, thus reducing your costs. Also keep in mind, you can find credits for these platforms online to help you get started.

4. Q&A Forums (GrowthHackers/Quora)

I cannot stress how important these two platforms are to learning about online marketing. Most likely a question or situation you encountered was posted on and answered in one of these two spots. While I dislike the term “Growth Hacker”, since it is just a word for online marketer, following people who call themselves growth hackers can help you leverage their trials and tribulations to do online marketing better than you could have. Spend time randomly reading through topics that you find interesting, you may pick up a few tips for situations you did not think about.

5. Moz Blog (formerly SEO Moz Blog)

I was considering making this “blogs” in general but figured pointing to a specific blog I read daily would be better suited. The awesome folks at Moz constantly keep posting about new ways to improve your content, social media, paid search, and SEO to be found easier (Hint: it improves their organic search). They even are kind enough to have beginner guides to such topics like SEO and Social Media. Spending time on Moz will rapidly improve your understanding of what it takes to be found on the interwebs organically.

These are just a few simple and easy resources to improve your online presence and marketing as a startup. From here, there is much more to do but having a solid foundation makes online marketing much easier and more cost/time efficient.

Have a question, reach out to me on twitter @Akhil_Anumolu

jim
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