The First Six Steps Of Getting Your Startup Noticed

by Nathan W. Burke on May 28, 2009

Let’s play a little make believe. Let’s say you just started a job at a startup company that is in stealth mode. Your job is to promote the company and get it noticed online, and today is the day to get started. But where do you start?

I’ve been in that situation before, and had to fumble around in the dark to figure out the answer. Though I definitely do not claim to be the world’s foremost expert on startup marketing, I think that I can share some tips that should be useful to a lot of tech startups out there. With that said, I’ve compiled a quick and dirty set of steps to get your startup noticed.

Step One: Submit To Directories

Since inbound links increase google rankings, and since it can often take a while for directories to index your site, do this NOW. Here’s how you get started:

  1. Google- Yep, good ole’ google. To add your site to google go to:
  2. Yahoo– Go here: and add your site and feeds.
  3.– A flash-based directory of Web 2.0 Companies
  4. CrunchBase– TechCrunch-owned wiki of startup info
  5.– A startup directory that is updated daily
  6.– A site dedicated to videos of startups
  7. SimpleSpark– Another directory focused on web apps
  8. TradeVibes– A directory focused on the business side of startups

Step Two: Land Grab

Now that you’ve done the submission thing, time to go out and get some accounts for your startup. Here’s what you should get:

  1. Twitter– Head over to twitter and register an account for your startup’s name. You’ll be using this later.
  2. Flickr– Get a flickr account with your company’s name. You’ll first have to get a Yahoo! ID, which is another good thing to have. You’ll use this account to store all your photos.
  3. StumbleUpon– Might as well grab it, right?
  4. Mixx– A personalized news service…you might use this, but it doesn’t hurt to grab the name
  5. Vimeo– An excellent video-hosting service. You’ll create a channel here.
  6. YouTube– Another video hosting service you might have heard about…..another channel
  7. FriendFeed– A lot like twitter, but this is more of an aggregator than a communication service.
  8. Delicious– A social bookmarking service
  9. Diigo– Another social bookmarking service
  10.– A video streaming site
  11. Facebook– Create a page for your company

And on and on. There are tons of these. Get an account, and on each one, fill out your profile and add a link to your site. Boom. Instantly you have 10 links to your site.

Step Three: Find Your Audience

All right, now you’ve got some accounts. Good. Now let’s find where your target audience is.

  1. LinkedIn- Find out if there are groups that contain your target market, and find out what they’re talking about. Don’t immediately bust in and start shilling for your product/service. Instead, see what the issues are, and if you’re able to pitch in, that’s great. If not, just start learning what these people are talking about and that will help you: a) figure out new product features b) find things to write about c) understand whether your offering makes sense.
  2. Facebook– Again, look to see what people are talking about, and try to help out.
  3. Reddit– Search through the subreddits to find one that speaks to those that your product will serve

Just like the directories abd services above, there are many, many places to find your audience. Get out there and learn what they’re talking about.

Step Four: Create Some Content

Armed with the knowledge of what your target users are after, start writing some blog posts. Create some videos. Fire up a podcast. Talk to their problems, interests, pain points, etc. It’s okay to mention your product, but no one wants to listen to an infomercial. Just remember to behave like a human being, not just a pitchman. Make it relevant and useful. My favorite way to think of this is to imagine your content being sponsored by your company rather than all about it. Write content your company would want to sponsor.

Step Five: Promote Said Content

Again, this has to be relevant to your audience and not just a thinly-veiled commercial, as BS just won’t fly when you’re trying to promote your content. In fact, it’s better to not promote your content if it is just product spam, as it is better for your content to be ignored than to have it ripped apart as spam. With all that said, if you have something worthy, promote it.

  1. Get a account- will shorten your URL into something more digestable by twitter and the like, and it will give you stats.
  2. Add analytics to your site- I like google analytics as it is free and very full-featured. Sign up for an account, add the site, grab the javascript code and verify that you’ve installed the code properly. Then you’ll be able to start tracking.
  3. With analytics installed and a small URL, go to your twitter account and mention your new post, along with the URL.
  4. Bookmark and categorize the post in Delicious
  5. Bookmark and categorize the post in Diigo
  6. Add your post to Digg and Reddit in the appropriate category
  7. Add your post to StumbleUpon

If you have created video content, make sure you add it to:

  • Your facebook page
  • Your YouTube account
  • Your vimeo account
  • Your blog

Step Six: Reach Out To Bloggers

I wait until step six for this because you want to have some real content out there before you start pitching your startup to bloggers. Take it from me, I want to see that a company has its stuff together, has blog posts, some real content, etc. before I cover them. It makes them more real. That said (and assuming you’re a tech startup), start reaching out to:

If you’re not a tech startup, replace the above list with the influential blogs in your space. Go to AllTop, Blogged, and a multitude of other blog discovery sites and find the blogs that cover what you’ll be offering. Start following their blogs and commenting on their stories. That way, when you’re ready to launch or have news, you’ll have already built something of a relationship with them. The bigger the blog and more influential, the lesser the chance that the author will take the time to get to know you, but it shows them that you’re not just someone carpet bombing bloggers in order to get coverage. And again, be human. Write a quick email letting them know that you follow their blog, and that you’re launching a startup that would likely be of interest to their readers. Give them the quick intro and a link to what you’ve got. And DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT come off sounding like a press release.

I’d suggest only reaching out to the biggies when you’ve got real, substantial news. Don’t reach out to TechCrunch when you’ve added a blog post, since your blog post just isn’t important enough to warrant coverage there. Do reach out when you release your product.


As you can tell, there are no magic bullets here. You really have to do the work, create content, and form relationships with people if you want to get noticed online. But this should give you a pretty good start.

Again, I need to stress this: None of this will work if you don’t have good content that is interesting, new, and appealing.

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