The search for pretty much everything these days starts with Google. What a searcher finds on the first page can make or break a reputation. This applies to both individuals and businesses. Your online presence, also known as a digital footprint, is therefore everything.
Let’s apply this to the startup eco-system. When it comes to getting a startup off the ground, half your battle is in being seen as credible. If you have a very limited digital footprint when someone Googles your name or your startup, that’s bound to ring alarm bells with potential investors, customers and new hires. So building a startup digital footprint is vital.
We like to refer to this as the startup sniff test. Passing it is essential.
So first off, let’s just define what we mean by a digital footprint when it comes to startup PR and marketing. A digital footprint is your online presence. This is the online record of you and your company. But it goes way beyond your own website and social channels.
But it’s not just the slightly -intangible quality of credibility that an earned media digital footprint delivers. It’s also vital in growing backlinks to your website. And backlinks are still fundamental to how Google ranks its search results.
Getting the basics right with your owned media and social media is vital. After all, these are what will appear at the top of page one of Google when someone searches for you.
In an ideal world, here’s what the perfect Google page one digital footprint of a startup could look like (this doesn’t include a Wikipedia entry, more on that below):
Don’t worry, I’m not about to pad out this blog post with advice such as “setup Facebook and Twitter”. Instead I’ll run through some of the often overlooked owned media platforms and earned media opportunities that can be leveraged to build a startup’s online presence.
I have to confess, I love Medium. I think everyone should be using it. Not only does it give you access to a huge community of readers, it also gives you a really good shot of getting content you’ve written onto page one of Google for long tail keywords. This is thanks to how authoritative the site is, so it’ll outrank most startups’ websites without breaking a sweat.
If you regularly add content to Medium, your directory page should appear on page one of Google when somebody searches for you. This helps to grow your online presence and shows off your original and insightful content.
However, don’t put all your original content onto Medium. The value from any backlinks that this content earns will go to Medium, not to your site. So just use Medium to publish a small amount of content, with the bulk being published on your own site.
Setting up a Crunchbase account is a must for any startup these days. It expands your digital footprint onto another platform which will more than likely also rank on page one when someone searches for your brand.
Crunchbase is more of a database of business information, rather than a business network like LinkedIn is. And it’s crowd sourced, which means users can edit or add information to any profile.
Don’t just copy and paste your company description from LinkedIn or Facebook. You don’t want to duplicate content across platforms. You should also write your Crunchbase profile in the third person and avoid superlatives. And keep the news section updated; put up press releases on your site when announcing news and link to these from here.
This one kind of depends on what it is your startup does. But if you sell a consumer product or service, you should seriously consider signing up to a consumer review website as soon as you get going. It’s another plus point with your digital footprint and acts as a strong trust signal with potential consumers.
Site’s such as Trustpilot and BazaarVoice provide review services to customers. Your review page that’s hosted on a consumer review website should appear on page one of Google when a user searched for you. This type of online presence lends a lot of credibility to your brand.
Guest blogging remains one of the most effective ways of how to build a startup’s digital footprint and backlinks. But some people get very nervous at the mere mention of guest blogging. This is thanks to Google’s former Head of Web Spam Matt Cutts announcing the death of this in 2014.
But that misses the point a bit. He announced that there would no longer be any SEO value with poor quality guest blogs on questionable websites. But if you can bag a guest post on a top industry blog, or a leading publication like Forbes or Entrepreneur, this has enormous value with both your credibility and your SEO.
This is great for both your personal brand and your startup, as people searching for both can find these articles.
People can a little bit carried away with trying to get their startup onto Wikipedia. There’s no doubt that seeing a wikipedia side panel displayed on page one of Google is great for the credibility of any growing business.
The problem is that Wikipedia moderators know this only too well. As such their guidelines are pretty strict. In a nutshell it boils down to this central point:
“If a topic has received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject, it is presumed to be suitable for a stand-alone article or list.”
There are no minimum amount of sources you need to reach, to automatically secure approval from the moderators. But they need to be reliable sources, not written by a guest author, and offer in depth coverage rather then just mentioning a press release or other announcement. Have a read of this guide for more information.
So, building your online presence: easy, right? With a little bit of effort applied in the right places, you can start to build a digital footprint for your startup. And the more your digital footprint grows – the more your credibility increases.