A startup with a great product idea and a talented team is only missing one ingredient for success: exposure. Marketing is tough for a business that doesn’t have the audience to make a profit, which is why so many startups find themselves in a Catch-22 with no easy solution in sight. Often, the answer lies in creativity. Yes, creativity is hard. The good news? The ROI is often much higher.

Here are a few ideas to attract natural citations and high quality links that will get your business listed in the search results.

1. Contacting universities and hiring talented graduates

I’d be surprised if I found out there was a university somewhere that didn’t have a website that gave many of its grad students their own websites. I’d also be surprised if there were an SEO anywhere who didn’t appreciate links from .edu domains. There is some doubt in the industry about whether .edu domains really pass more authority, but there’s no doubt that as trends come and go, universities will always be considered an authority in the broadest sense of the word.

Certainly, you wouldn’t want to hire a graduate simply because they would be able to give you a citation in return. That said, it’s worth factoring this into your decision making process. Graduates with a strong track record and a lot of impressive work on their own “pet” website should be considered hot commodities.

2. Get featured in local startup directories

“Directory” has become a dirty word in the SEO community, but there is a tremendous difference between legitimate directories and “link” directories. A legitimate startup directory is used by actual people (other than SEOs) who are looking for information about startups in their area. Get listed in these, as well as directories like the BBB, your local Chamber of Commerce, and so on. The higher the standards, the better.

3. Share your startup idea by attending local startup meetups

Getting involved in real-world events is one of the best ways to get online exposure. We live in a world that is tightly integrated with the net, after all. Meetup.com is a great way to get in touch with people who are succeeding at the startup game, make some connections, build a network, and get natural links and citations as a result. Cross promotion is very powerful when it’s done legitimately.

You might even consider hosting a meetup yourself. There’s something about standing on a stage and talking that has tremendous psychological impact and is great for building respect and authority.

4. Help NGOs in your niche

Many businesses see tons of request letters from NGOs for sponsorships and so on. Most throw them out, completely forgetting that this can be a great opportunity to build exposure and do something good at the same time. As a startup, you may not see such requests as often, but the opportunities are there and it’s well worth reaching out to these organizations.

5. Find the best blogs in your niche and let them know about your new startup

Merely sending out a press release or embarking on a mass mailing campaign isn’t going to get you the kind of exposure that transforms into search engine visibility or conversions. One of the best ways to get “out there” is through targeted communications with bloggers who already have exposure. Build relationships with these types of influencers by reaching out directly to them with context and a friendly attitude.

6. Register your spot in local seminars and events and getting featured on their websites

Events are possibly the best way for the modern business to build exposure. It is virtually the central focus of most social media communications. People who attend a live event are more likely to remember the experience and feel the impact of it than if they read something online. Getting listed on an events website will result in links right off the bat, and the exposure and chances for citations only improve from there.

7. Give testimonials, get listed as a client, and build partnerships

Any time you use a tool or work with a supplier or business client, you should also be asking yourself if there’s an opportunity to build links and citations. Anybody you work with, by definition, already has a working relationship with you. Most businesses have a website, or an online presence of some kind. The same is true for many freelancers you may work with. Don’t hesitate to use these partnerships as opportunities for links, citations, and exposure.

Your Turn

Hopefully these seven ideas will help you get the creative juices flowing. Creativity is key when time and resources are low. What are some other creative ways to put yourself out there? Be sure to pass this guide along if you liked what you saw.

(Image Credit: Ideas)

  • Manish Dudharejia is the Founder & CEO of E2M Solutions, a full service digital agency specialized in Website Design & Development, eCommerce, SEO, Content Marketing, and Copywriting.