The search for pretty much everything these days starts with Google.
As an industry newcomer, where you rank for your target audience’s most pressing queries can be the driving force behind the speed of your startup’s growth. Your online presence, or digital footprint therefore, is everything.
Let’s apply this to the North American startup ecosystem. When it comes to getting a Canadian startup off the ground, for instance, 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.
What is a digital footprint and why is it important?
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.
A well rounded online presence should also include plenty of earned media wins. By winning press coverage across a range of publications you’ll be perceived as being far more credible.
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.
How to increase your digital footprint
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.
1. In-House Blog
Lots of North American startups decide to put all of their blog content on online publishing platforms like Medium.
Don’t do this.
While you might have access to a larger community of readers and rank for keywords easier due to the site’s authority, you’re giving SEO power to someone else.
Medium gains traffic and backlinks from your blog. It ranks, therefore, for the keywords you’ve been targeting to bring your audience onto your site. None of this traffic (discounting referral traffic), nor these backlinks or keywords will belong to you. Likewise, backlinks from Medium’s site into your own are nofollow, meaning that SEO power isn’t transferred to your site.
Instead, make your own in-house blog and keep all of that SEO value for yourself. By carefully assembling a list of focus keywords that are a mixture of transactional, informational and longtail, you’ll be able to write blog content that’s both valuable to your target audience and build online exposure that funnels traffic directly to your website.
2. Put your business on Crunchbase
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.
By following the above, you’ll begin building your Crunchbase Rank and potentially start appearing on valuable Crunchbase lists like its database of top Canada Startups.
3. Sign up to a consumer review platform
This one kind of depends on what your startup does.
If your Canadian startup is B2C, 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.
4. Start guest blogging
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, after the announcement of the death of this in 2014.
This, however, misses the point a bit. It’s true, there’s no 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.
5. Don’t waste time with Wikipedia if you’re not established enough
People can get 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 is 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 than just mentioning a press release or other announcement. Have a read of this guide for more information.
So, building your Canadian startup’s 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.