This is the first of a 4 part series on marketing for startups/bootstrapped companies. Much of the learnings from this are a result of experiences with Registry Stop. The key to each of these is going to be measuring and reacting to your efforts. If you need help on this, check out previous post around metrics for startups.
So without further adieu, on this initial post of the series we’re going to talk a bit about the biggest free way to get traction and traffic for your startup. The best way to aquire free traffic to your site, is to ensure your site is optimized for search engines or more commonly SEO. Sure you can pay $3 for your ad to show up on certain keywords, but why spend the $3 per click if you can simply ensure you’re the first search result. There are slightly different methods for this for each search engine, but we’ll cover a broad set of items to pay attention to.
Sitemap Most sites have a sitemap.xml at their root level. This could perhaps be one of the biggest pieces of getting indexed that you can pay attention to. This xml tells search engines what pages they should index, how frequently they are updated, and the priority of the page. If you have dynamic pages, you should have this sitemap.xml generated so that it captures all pages.
If you need a little more reading on creating your sitemap take a look at: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=183668
Meta Tags Many search engines pay little attention to these tags, but that doesn’t mean that all don’t. You do want these tags to be as unique as possible per page and relate as much as possible to the content. The really key meta tags you want to have would be your description and your keywords. For a little more information you can check out: http://searchenginewatch.com/2167931
Other Tags While meta tags make pretty straight forward sense, other tags are immensly powerful in how a search engine indexes your site. The first is the title tag, you absolutely want it in and want it to be unique per page. You also want to correctly use html markup throughout your page. Just because your page looks like you want, doesn’t mean a search engine will understand it the same way. It’s important to use proper headings, including h1, h2, h3, to show just that, your headings and importance. You also want to be careful about the use of tables when not representing tabular data.
Once your page is live, you’ll want to submit it to google and other search engines. Do Not use a tool to do this, submit to the major search engines manually. Once you’ve done this you’ll start to appear in search results. The key from here is to begin monitoring what users are searching for, from within google analytics, and when they visit your site. A few key links to submit and manage your sites, as well as evaluate how you’re doing include: