How Not to Market Your Startup

Marketing your web-based business is never an easy thing to do. You’re bound to make a lot of mistakes and waste money on things that just don’t work.

Over the past eight years, I have worked with dozens of startups. Many of these startups got acquired, but most of them failed. One trend that I noticed that separates the successful startups from the failures is that the failures made a lot of marketing mistakes.

Here are 7 marketing tactics that you should avoid with your business:

1. Useless splash pages

splash page

A common trend on the web is to create a splash page before you launch your startup. On this splash page, you probably have a message saying that you are launching soon, but you are a bit vague about what your company is actually offering.

The problem with creating a splash page like the one above is that it isn’t useful to the people visiting your site. If you create a minimalistic splash page, the chances of someone coming back to your website in a month are slim to none.

Here is how you can create an effective splash page:

  1. Grab people’s attention – you only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention. A catchy headline that’s relevant to your business is a good start.
  2. Don’t be shy – tell people what your product or service is going to be before you create it.
  3. Include visuals – if you have a screen shot of your product or service, include it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to illustrate what you are creating.
  4. Promise a solution – tell your ideal customers what you are going to do for them.
  5. Collect emails – at the end, you should collect people’s names and email addresses. This way, you can send them an email when you launch.

2. Links at the bottom of each page

bottom links

Who doesn’t want to get ranked at the top of Google? Not only does search traffic convert well, but it also usually provides a high ROI. So what’s the best way to get ranked at the top of Google? Well, it isn’t by adding a ton of rich anchor text links at the bottom of every page going to other internal pages.

There are a few things that are wrong with the image above:

  • Internal links do help increase rankings, but external links are much more effective.
  • Internal links are typically more effective when they are placed within your content.
  • Rich anchor text links are a great way to increase rankings, but, once again, it is more effective to have rich anchor text links coming from external sites.

3. Meta keywords tag

meta keywords

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell search engines what keyword they should rank you for? The most common way to do this is to create a meta keywords tag and list all the keywords you want to rank for.

The problem with meta keywords tags is that you would probably include every keyword you can think of even if your site wasn’t 100% related to those keywords. For this reason, search engines ignore them. They determine what keywords your website should rank for based on your content and the websites that link back to yours.

4. Blogging for Diggs

blog for diggs

One of the most common trends startups are riding is creating infographics, comic strips, and other viral related content on their blogs. By creating potentially viral content, they help their traffic skyrocket.

It’s a great idea, but only if the content is relevant. For example, does a great job of creating viral content that is related to finance. If it created viral content that wasn’t related to finance, it could have probably still increased its traffic, but those visitors wouldn’t have signed up for its service.

So, if you are creating viral content, make sure it is related to your business. If you don’t, you won’t see an increase in your revenue, which – at the end of the day – is all that matters.

5. Creating unnecessary buzz


Doesn’t it sound like a cool idea to get covered by popular blogs like TechCrunch, Mashable, and ReadWriteWeb? If you have a tech related business, then, yes, it is cool. If you don’t, those blogs probably won’t drive that many customers.

For example, if you have a business that is targeting moms, it doesn’t matter if TechCrunch writes about you or not. It does matter if the top mom bloggers cover your business. You’ll get a lot more moms over to your website if a mom blogger writes about you versus TechCrunch even though that mom blogger probably has a thousand times fewer readers than TechCrunch.

At the end of the day, don’t get bloggers to write about you for just press and traffic. Get them to blog about you because your product or service solves a problem for their readers.

6. PR helps build brands, not revenue


When you are starting out, it may seem like a great idea to hire a PR firm to get you into the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, but that won’t necessarily help you increase your bottom line.

I have been covered in over twenty major publications like the Wall Street Journal, and although it helped with my company’s brand, it didn’t get us many customers. If we put more time into marketing efforts that had a direct ROI, we would have been better off.

Now, if you are approached by a journalist, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to him or her. If you can use a New York Times logo on your website to increase your conversion rate, that’s great. Just don’t go crazy and spend a lot of time seeking a full-page story in the New York Times. If it comes to you, great…but don’t chase it.

7. Bribing customers isn’t smart

ipad contest

Contests, prizes, and gifts are great ways to get potential customers coming to your website. But if you have a good product or service, why should you have to stoop to that level?

Your product or service is great, so customers should gladly want to use your product. If you keep giving stuff away for free, people will just continue to expect it. And, more importantly, you’ll find yourself gaining customers for the wrong reasons.

Although throwing contests may seem tempting, use it as the last resort. You’re better off spending that time and energy building a better product or service.


There are tons of ways in which you can market your startup. But the worst ways are usually the easiest ones. Before you start marketing your business online, really think about what’s best for your business and customers.

There is no reason to rush things as it will just cost you time and money. Plan things out, and if you happen to make mistakes, learn from them and adapt quickly.

P.S. If you want help with marketing your business click here.


  1. Eagerly awaiting the 7 best ways to market your startup. 🙂

    • Lol, I’ll come up with something like that soon enough.

      • Hahahah, a great idea for a follow up post! People really battle to grasp as to how to go about leveraging social media successfully, and a simple post will really go a long way towards steering people on the right path….

        I look forward to it!

        • It should be a very fun and exciting experience.

          • I think your advice on the best ways to market a start-up would be immensely helpful. Especially if you offered ideas for those companies that don’t necessarily have money or connections. A “real starting from scratch” approach…who to connect with, how to get your name out there, what things are important and what resources are most helpful. There are so many marketing tools that are just gimmicks to suck your money; someone that had experience like yourself could provide some valuable insights I am sure!


      • Jason Baudendistel :

        Neil if that article has already happened point me to it if not I will be looking forward to it. Thank you for yet another awesome article.

  2. The best way to market a startup is to let people experiment. As people experiment and find how good your product is they’ll automatically become your customers.

    Startups need to be perfect (Somehow people expect this feature in them) and they need to provide legit substance. A startup works well and gets viral if it solves some problem – probably some need.

    • SEO Results :

      Or even better, if it creates a new trend and services the need that goes along with it. There are lots of opportunies here, especially in the teen mobile market.

  3. Well Contests are a good idea if that is your niche. But yea I agree a lot of marketing is a waste of money. When you use big marketing companies they charge huge margins that it is better to learn the skills and do it in house.

  4. Hey Neil,

    I agree with Michael D – would love to see a posts about the most effective marketing tactics you’ve seen.

    There are some great “don’t” tips here – I especially like the one about creating unnecessary buzz. So many startups shell out a huge portion of their budget to hire expensive PR agencies. In my opinion PR should be done in-house, and should focus on targeted publications (great example of mom blogs vs. TechCrunch).


  5. Ross Hudgens :

    Some good takeaways here. I agree especially with the giveaway part – I think you have to be pretty creative to see positive ROI from such campaigns.

  6. Hamlet Meneses :

    Terrific info Neil.
    As a small company I am in the constant look out on how to get new clients. I even did a few things with Apple (at an Apple Store) a few years ago, but even though it was great for branding it provided no customers for me. So now I plan my marketing strategies more while staying in budget.

    Interestingly enough, the best marketing that helped me from the get go and that has served me best to this day, continues being: positive Word of Mouth from each client I continue to work with that is satisfied with the end result of the products I offer.

    Ironically, your link mention of “top mom bloggers” taps into my territory since I work 100% with moms whose network of connections is something that no business should ignore. They have been my main source of free marketing and has cost me nothing but smiles and of course a great product, which for me is teaching their kids.


  7. Here are three more ways NOT to market your startup.

    1. I find that many technology startups focus too much on the technology. Although the technology might be really cool, the customers usually don’t care about it. Instead of focusing on the speed of your signal processor or the size of your data base encryption, focus on how these features will benefit the customer. Your average user won’t know what a 128 bit data encryption software really does.

    2. If you troll around many websites, you will notice that the large majority of them say something along the lines of “We have good quality products, a friendly staff and competitive prices.” The selling point for any product or service needs to be much stronger than that; or you are going to get into bidding wars with your competitors.

    3. And finally, I agree with David and you. Before you plan on spending significant amounts of money on PR and spokes people, do the stuff that is lower cost and directly effects the ROI of your marketing efforts. Wait until you know the business is viable, profitable, and scalable before you spend $10,000 a month on a PR firm.

    • Local Internet Marketing :

      Great points! These are really similar points to what 37Signals writes about, most recently in their book Rework.

      I have to wonder though, if you’ve built a business that’s viable, profitable, and scalable, you may decide that $10,000 a month on PR is never a good idea. Keep doing what you’re doing and the growth will take care of itself.

      • Neil Patel :

        Exactly, you’re looking to create a momentum effect.

        • SEO Results :

          But the momentum needs to be sustained, and built, so taking your foot off the throttle is not a good idea at all. The last thing that should be cut is the marketing budget, so focus on marketing smarter and getting the most out of the available budget.

          • You just need to quickly figure out what works and what doesn’t which will be through trial and error. Keep track and avoid making the same mistakes twice as it can cost you.

  8. Absolutely It matters a lot! Some people really don’t want to market items and startup. But this information also shows that how any one can market any startup more boldly online…

  9. Neil,
    Your take on these tactics are interesting and enlightening. I need to dig deeper and be aware of the impact (lack of impact) of each. Giveaways are certainly tricky and can come off bad. Thanks for your insight.

    • Local Internet Marketing :

      There are a few people I follow on Twitter who are constantly participating in retweet giveaways. It’s pretty annoying. And in some small way, it turns me off to the companies doing the giveaways, even though I’d never heard of them and I’m not participating in the contest myself.

      The bad effects of a giveaway can easily spread beyond just those participating. They certainly are tricky…

      • Neil Patel :

        Yeah, it can get annoying and enticing, but then people are always expecting something. Then if you don’t deliver, people will get turned off or upset.

  10. Rolando Peralta :

    excellent post! I’m completly agree with you. I’d like to comment adding one more thing: buy advertising campaigns.
    Instead of doing that, start with Word of Mouth Marketing. I mean, REAL word of mouth, not pre-built “viral” recipes from advertising agencies (this practices had become very popular since last year).
    @RolandoPeralta | CommunitiesDNA

  11. Good advice. I totally agree about the splash pages. I hate it when I land on a page like that only to be pushed away with no information. I want the company to give some insight into the vision for their company. I think giving the user just enough information to make them hungrier for more is critical. Its also good to give people some content to link to even before you have launched your site.

  12. Lol at Jason Calacanis.

  13. Lorraine Ball :

    The theme throughout your comments – Relevant Content. Relevant Content, Relevant Content.

    In order to do that well, you need to understand who your target customer is ( and it isn’t any one just because they can fog a mirror) Once you have a clear picture in mind, it is easier to write web copy, relevant blog posts, and interesting tweets to send traffic your way.

  14. Girl Startup :

    Oh this is what I have been looking for, although I would of liked it to go more in depth to be honest. I so don’t understand all this online marketing stuff. I agree contests are lame, however people have suggested to me to get someone to review your product may help. For example I am putting a bag range together and I’ve got a couple of sample bags that I don’t want to sell, as they are not the final product, but I don’t want them sitting around doing nothing either.

  15. Hi Neil! I really like the article but I’m confused about “2. Links at bottom of each page”. You said that external links are much better but that doesn’t mean that links at the bottom are a bad thing. I’ve heard that those links are mainly used to minimize the number of clicks it takes to get to all of your content. Am I misguided?

    • You are not misguided. The advice in #2 is misleading. The technique is primarily to help search engines spider your content more effectively and also to help pass internal link juice. It also does provide an effective means to reduce the number of clicks between pages in the eyes of search engines. Really has nothing to do with marketing your start-up…

  16. Henri Schauffler :

    Great stuff, Neil! Every marketer should heed these points, not just startups.

    Love the one about not bribing customers – this is the conventional wisdom these days. Thanks for going against-the-grain and getting us to think!

    Will post a review on my blog.

  17. Thanks for the tips! I definitely agree with #4 and #5. I’ve come across several articles and webinars recently that actually promote this but it’s great to see a different perspective. And I agree with your point about staying relevant.

    I’m also always wary of free giveaways. Not a great tactic in my opinion and it can make you look spammy.

  18. Neil I disagree 100% with the free giveaways. I designed a new online raffle game and a large telco stole the concept after they game some free prizes. Within 100 days they had over 100,000 fans on their page.

    In fact the way my game is designed I am now seeking to patent it as once rolled out and played by the user right a site can jump form 10,000 to 100,000 and 1 million to 10 million within 3 to six months. Thus within a year a site can actually safely see 60 million unique visitors per month based on my game.

    The objective is that not only is the site kick ass but they will also want to play the game as it in itself is also a kick ass incentive to play. Who would not want to win USD10,000 per week or USD1,000 per day for doing nothing hard and the chances to win are based on the prize number. thus 1/1000, 1/10,000 or 1/1,000,000?

    • agree…. what do u mean by patenting your idea… does it really happen

      • Well whenever you develop a specific way operate a game never done like the way you designed it before and it has immediate value and under US law you can get it patented or protected as it is your intellectual property much the same way facebook got their news feed patent. Then yes.

      • Oh, you cannot patent an idea, but you can patent a working process showing how you did it and along with the fact that is has worked or released in public domain. I do not think anyone can patent an idea, but I am open to a contrary view.

    • It is not a facebook app. Facebook sucks 🙂

    • Your numbers do sound very good. I’d like to see more of your project as it unfolds. There is a certain allure to competitions that is similar to the response gamblers have, and if you market it right and bright the response can be quite overwhelming.

      So please keep us posted on your progress, dear sir! I love social experiments and this sounds like a goodie.

      • Hello Net Age,

        Well that’s the idea. The game also has a revenue stream model based on subscription. But that only increase your chances of free entries versus limited entries. I picked up this model based on legal online gambling sites in the USA as I had a problem on how to cross that hurdle.

        None the less Patenting such a product/method/game is important as if Google were to do this or Twitter they would see a huge spike in regular visitors passing facebook along the way.

        I will keep you posted as the world wide patent is complete as best as it can be. Main market of course the states.

        Neil what say you bro? You are so quiet on this one.

      • Social experiments are always fun, I agree with you 🙂

        • It can no longer be an experiment if it has been proven to work exactly the way it was designed to work.

          I am sure fb fan pages are not an experiment. 🙂

          Face it Neil. Success on the web has nothing to do with real talent. Just who you know and luck.

          • Neil Patel :

            Some fan pages are experiments… yes it’s a lot of luck BUT the luck comes from working your ass off. Luck only lasts so long… so then it’s skill that keeps you going.

  19. I am sure most customers would love a free ipad :p

    Just kidding

  20. Its mind-boggling that a lot are still using those useless splashpages (the ones with coming soon) and worse is they starting to market those kinds of site aggressively as if people would get interested in it. Is it a good way to make an anticipation what do you think?

    btw, i saw on your facebook account that its your bday so happy bday

  21. thats great way to tell the difference between good startups and great startups…

  22. J Vanderford :

    This is a great article Neil. I appreciate the assistance and as a small business owner, I will keep this in mind. I am also busy studying Marketing Management in Graduate School right now and this is good stuff.

    Thanks for the advice
    J Vanderford

  23. This was really great advice, especially about the splash page. I’m actually currently building my site and unfortunately my splash page is somewhat as bad as your example. Will definitely change that today!


    • I guess the splash page only matters if you are actually getting traffic to your website or if it has been crawled. Coming soon websites are pointless yea

  24. Altinkum Property :


    I am guilty of number two, I did it just yesterday when trying to make my website more appealing.

    • Don’t worry Altinkum, most people have made mistake several times. Focus on doing what works and making it happen.

  25. I had a nagging dislike for the kinds of threaded comments that you often see in large corporate portal-type blogs, but I couldn’t place my finger on what the problem was. In my twenty years of Internet use I’ve over time tended to prefer single thread conversations.

    • Yes it can become very confusing and annoying very quickly, you just need to structure it accordingly.

    • Local Internet Marketing :

      I’ve started to really enjoy threaded comments in blogs. If you simply want to reply to the post, add your comment to the end as usual. But, it opens up the opportunity to participate in other, loosely-related discussions.

      It’s kind of like going to a conference where every group you approach is talking about the same broad topic, but each is going in their own direction, bringing their own knowledge and experience to the subject.

      It’s a great experience if you’re interested in the topic as a whole, and want to explore it from many angles.

      • Neil Patel :

        lol, great analogy. Yes it’s definitely a great way to get a group discussion going and not to mention eliciting more commenting.

  26. The concept of having an email signup on your splash page is of utmost importance if you’re already optimising for your keywords. By the time your site goes live you should have a sizeable email list to begin working with, and as we all know, the money is in the list, ultimately.

    • Well it is but then you must realize that too many people have this powerful “list” so in the end… everyone has the list…taking emails in to an obsolete level.

      • Local Internet Marketing :

        I think that’s when the quality and relevance of your content comes in. Even when I go through and unsubscribe from most of the lists I’ve ended up on, there’s always the handful that are too good, too helpful, and too relevant to leave.

        I won’t be the answer for every one of my subscribers. But just because only a portion of subscribers are in my exact target market, doesn’t mean the list as a whole is obsolete.

        • Neil Patel :

          Yes, the relevancy of the content is most important… otherwise it just doesn’t make sense .

  27. Poker Marketer :

    I know Google doesn’t use Meta Keywords, but what about Yahoo! or Bing? If none of the three big SE’s use them then they are pretty much useless to use…

    • They aren’t significant any more.

      • Local Internet Marketing :

        They aren’t significant, but does it really hurt to use two or three highly targeted keywords?

        If Google has dozens upon dozens of factors in its algorithm, who’s to say they wouldn’t factor in a tiny amount if you’re not spamming with dozens of keywords.

        Since it only takes a couple seconds… why not?

    • Good to pay attention to, but I would not fret over it. Bing an yahoo from my experience with traffic for my sites has been completly insignificant.

    • SEO Results :

      Your Meta Title and Meta description are important, and must contain your targeted keywords, along with a couple of repeats in the first 100 – 150 words of your content, along with the very last sentence of your content.

      Then you must not forget about having your targeted keywords in your h tags either. It is quite simple really, with the main challenge being to make everything readable to both search engines and humans.

      • Yes, well said. That’s true and it’s important for you to be consistent with everything because the more structured you are, the better you’ll do and easier it will be for you rank for key words.

  28. Some great and very relevant insights there Neil. What I agree most is that one should always have their business in mind and should design marketing campaigns targeted to that. What seems good may not be a good source of converting consumers.

  29. best real estate :

    We do not have much money to do mass advertising. Please share your ideas how to market your business locally and create brand awareness without spending too much money.

    • Write useful articles on your blog and connect with people via social networking. If you don’t use $$, then use your time.

    • Local Internet Marketing :

      There’s an enormous opportunity in local SEO. If you’re really trying to target a local market, pay attention to Google Local Business Center, review-sites for your market, and keyword targeting your city and region.

      All of these things are free (financially, as Neil said you’ll have to spend your time) and the odds are your local competitors are hardly doing any of it.

      • Neil Patel :

        Most people won’t go through the extremity to do it… it’s too much of a hassle. Which is great for people who are doing it.

  30. sell textbooks :

    These are definitely worthy comments regarding start ups. The mistakes you stated are more common than one would think. Especially the ones pertaining to promotion and bribing people to come to your site. Niel you always have got great advice for the newbs!

  31. mac data recovery :

    Hi Neil,

    What I would recommend for the tech business holders to make others talk about their product most of the time people look out for the reviews of the electronic product before purchasing, no matter how big brand you are, If they find positive reviews all around they will go for the product.

    So what i am trying to say is to go for the product reviews not related websites it may be electrical, toys, FMGC or any other industry the word of mouth spread through the reviews will help you increase in traffic as well as conversion rate.

    as far as the splash pages are concerned I also didn’t like the whole idea.

    • Well you may not, but it has worked successful for many people. Also, yes, for tech product sites, going to the review sites is a great idea.

  32. Enrique Gutierrez :

    Unnecessary Buzz – Tell that to Gizmodo. They’re not only going to come out ahead of all others thanks to the iPhone 4 leak legal troubles (if they don’t get slaughtered); they’re going to improve their reputation just like TMZ (ref: Michael Jackson story breaking). Buzz is important, and “unnecessary” is subjective.

    Bribing – That’s a cynical approach and I agree, bribing is bad. Engaging and giving incentives with tangible goodness is, on the other hand, extremely effective, it works, AND it gives something back to your customers (god forbid).

    PR doesn’t generate revenue? ARE YOU INSANE?!? If you can’t generate revenue from PR… let me put it slowly. YOU. ARE. DOING. IT. WRONG. Not only is PR an important keystone in strategy, it should be a flat out requirement.

    • Gizmodo knows how to do it right, which is why it works fro them. Bribing is just not a great long term strategy. PR can work, but most people don’t have the money to do it the correct way.

  33. Joseph T. Dager :

    Good advice – some asked for the best ways to market your start-up and I think you have a great theme going here. Relevancy, Agility and Speed. You acquire all of them by hanging out close to your customer or as I say in their backyard. Good Post!

  34. Thanks for the great post. I couldn’t agree more with the notion of knowing what NOT to do before coming up with a concrete move-forward plan.

  35. Romantic Rooms :

    Agree with all of them except for the giveaways. You need to generate a buzz at first, and well thought out, limited, SEASONAL giveaways is a great way of saying: “we’re a fun company that likes to change things up” instead of being the same exact service all year round.


  36. Real Blogging Advice :

    I also experienced so many start ups where I used to change my blog keywords to promote more often…

    I got the page rank 3 but still, I don’t know what keyword I am popular to other users or search engines.

    I plan to launch a new blog to overcome what I did wrong in my site.

    Thank you for sharing this information. I like visiting more often in this blog where this is my first visit.

    I hope we could be friends.

    Felix Albutra – Real Blogging Advice

  37. Some say that using google adwords could help boost sales from thier internet business. Is it true that if you use google adwords, google will also increase your PR?

    • No, that’s just a myth.

      • SEO Results :

        And a pretty silly one too. Traditionally the trick is to use Adwords to drive traffic initially, while you are frantically building links and focusing on other SEO methods to get your keywords to rank so that you start getting organic search engine traffic building up over time.

  38. free forex demo account :

    Thanks for the article. I use internal links at the bottom of my blogs but i see here that i have made the wrong thing so far. I will do it within the content now.

    • Yes, it doesn’t help you site with what you expect it to do. Great job realizing it and making the necessary changes.

  39. I am surprised to know that keyword meta tags are not used by these search engines. In fact I observed that you dont even have them in your own site, which is best example I guess.

    • Yea man….. They basically stopped them because people just stuff them with keywords…. I did read up that yahoo still might use it…. Neil is that true… BTW yahoo sucks lol

    • It’s best to use to organize your site and make it easier for the bots to crawl.

  40. kyra@forex cfd :

    So, this is it! I’m gonna do this too for my other sites. But, for my friend’s case, what they did was experimenting something that they end up on a very creative and effective splash startup. Unfortunately, they didn’t give me any idea how to. Thank you for sharing this one, I’ve got an idea now.

  41. Local Internet Marketing :

    That’s debatable. I’d much rather solicit email addresses, and worry about what incentive to offer to get as many submissions as possible. Even if you don’t get as many followers, they’re much more valuable. So many people ignore Twitter, and aren’t regular users, and don’t participate, whereas everyone continues to check their email.

    Get the email and you’ve got time to get the rest. And if you include a link to Twitter off to the side, the people who truly prefer it and are more likely to use it, will still follow you there.

  42. Local Internet Marketing :

    It’s pretty difficult, especially for a one-man startup, to keep on top of all of this. It seems impossible to juggle everything and have a broad range of marketing strategies for a balanced approach.

    For instance, #4, Blogging for Diggs… over the last couple days my personal site received a couple hundred hits from Stumbleupon. It wasn’t a new post, who knows why it started, and I couldn’t begin to know how to try and repeat it.

    But, I can’t spend all my time trying to figure out how to go viral, or I might not get anything done! So whenever I get overwhelmed, I just try to remember to step back and focus on creating some content, and just keep taking small steps towards everything else.

    • Neil Patel :

      Well that’s the best part… having your articles go viral even with out your doing much 😉 Always best to let things happen by creating great quality content.

  43. free forex demo account :

    i totally agree with you about the value of “pr”. it creates brand but not revenue. what brings money is SEO.

  44. If you lazy man, read only conclusion! in this part of article concentrated maximum information!
    For author, thx so much! Chapter 3. Meta keywords tag is more informatable than others! Little bit expirience for me) thx!)

  45. pays to live green :

    I agree completely with most of these points including “Creating unnecessary buzz”. The best way to market is to get sites in your field to write or link to your site. I sort of agree with your last point on contests. I host contests that are green products that I would buy myself. This often brings in people who are interested in green products and would be interested in my site.

  46. I think the idea is a silly one and there is value but only for business and not really for the end users. Who really wants to let people see what they are buying and is it really that interesting. 98% of purchases on my cc are dull. Who cares if I bought petrol and a chocolate bar last night?

  47. Great advice, but I’d say a backlink from one of those major publications you mentioned (WSJ, etc) is worth more than a hundred dugg articles.

  48. Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire :

    Totally with you on the bribes thing. Offering people a chance to get something for free is great, but it quickly wears off once the contest is over.

    Your customers will only focus on getting the prize and not on the business, the way you want them to. There’s nothing wrong with asking for their input, but stay away from the contests and bribes of you can.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  49. Maryland SEO Company :


    How many companies you work with identify what they would pay for a new customer and then, based on conversion rates, identify a max cost per lead?

    Any correlation between companies that do this and those that succeed? In our business, we work with a lot of small businesses and it’s extremely rare for them to identify target CPL and CPA’s.

    Those that identify their numbers tend to grow much larger than those that shoot from the hip.


    • Neil Patel :

      A lot of them identify that information. It is all about tracking your internal metrics and basing business decisions off of them.

      I think companies that do that are more likely to succeed.

  50. i think many marketing “techniques” are a waste of time and money but by having peoples atenttion with the short time you have is having the battle half won

  51. Oh I like this post !
    Neil, may I translate it into italian (obviously giving credit to you) ?


  52. Clifford Jones :

    Great points on common marketing blunders. We encourage our clients to market with education of value and to focus on relevancy, not gimmicks.

    • Exactly… gimmicks will only get you so far… unfortunately, people keep doing it, raising the bar, and just blow a lot of money.

  53. I think the balancing act you are looking at is between getting the mentor early enough that she can help you avoid early mistakes, but not too early that she loses interest in your venture. Generally, I’d think the earlier the better, but for some high-profile mentors, it is sometimes better to wait a little till you look a bit more credible.

    • Sure, I would definitely think it would be better to invest your time into one when you have a little bit more of a foundation built up. That way you can maximize what you’re looking to do.

  54. There was a lot what my company I was employed with taught me.. in terms of what not to do.. I see a few of those in the list here..

  55. Organizing Closets :

    I totally agree with giving stuff out for free (“bribes”). If your business/product/service is so good, why are you bribing me for your business.

    That said, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never been sucked in by a good give-away…

  56. Thanks for the great post. I couldn’t agree more with the notion of knowing what NOT to do before coming up with a concrete move-forward plan.

  57. iPhone app developer :

    I am pleased to post my comments for your writing skill because your given info deserves it and through this I could find complete info. This is just amazing post! I will share this information to my cousin. He really likes this. Thanks a ton for putting this out.

  58. Kensington Mortgages :

    Bro. Neil I agree with you totally on the point about PR and measuring ROI. We have spent a ton of money in the past with not much return. Maybe it was our product. Only future testing will tell. Bless you and keep up the informative posts. Dr N UK

    • You really don’t know until you keep trying, analyzing, and learning the data. Glad you found it useful and make sure you use these techniques in your business.

  59. brother toner cartridges :

    To market you product online is not easier. You can use sosial bookmarking websites, yahoo buzz, Digg , stumble upon and etc. but untill the end of time you realize that the traffic and sales did not came from the all sosial bookmarking websites. If came directly from Google and Yahoo Search Engine. That happen to me

  60. Joe@Home Business Ideas :

    Great article Neil and the comments are helpful too. I remember reading (not sure where) about removing either the meta descriptions,meta keywords or both from a site and it double the traffic. I think this was you, am I right? And if I am how you’d you recommend setting up the backend of WordPress? I get the permalinks, title tags,h1,categories. But do you even use All-in-One SEO? How to do you treat this part of wp? I’ve never found your site via search.I actually found it via my love for Will Ferrell… ??

    Last questions (or I should have to pay) What would you do with a site that gets 40k pageviews a month but is stuck between two markets -Small Business- and Home Business? Would you create a sub domain, just keep using categories or what?

    thanks for your insight and information you share here at


    • I haven’t really used the All in SEO plugin. The way I was able to boost the traffic was to create a unique meta description on each page and remove the company names from each Title Tag.

      I would keep using categories.

  61. webfeuer | Social Media Marketing :

    Hi Neil,

    this is really a great article. I am also one of those, wo are starting their own business at the moment. therefore a appreciate advices like that. Although I have to say, that contests can create a buzz in the beginning, especially in the field of social media.


  62. This is a great article. I am learning tru this and very useful for starters like me. I hope to see more articles like this.

  63. Noticed the Mahalo example with ‘bribing customers isn’t smart’. Why? It surely seems to be working well for them and I feel thats an important place if you are looking for quality answers to your questions.

    • Yes I guess bribing people can work only if it is in the right place. You cannot sound desperate or else I feel like you will fail.

      • Never come across as desperate, you are guaranteed to fail. Use the approach of appearing confident and secure.

  64. Basant | Techno-Pulse :

    Your tips are valuable. I fully agree with you when you say ‘bribing the customers doesn’t work in long run. Many blog owners offer a lot of freebies in return for a RSS/twit/digg etc. I found your site fresh & informative.

    • Thanks! Yes, buying your traffic will only work for so long. Quality is what will last for a while.

  65. Business Model Generation book is a great source of “out-of-the-box” business creativity, and offers great tools to analyze and improve your business model.

  66. The job of market research isn’t complete until you have confidence in the scope and depth of your findings. The more information you gather, the less likely you are to set up a business that is odds-on to fail.

    • Well yes, you don’t want to keep submerging yourself to so much information that it keeps you away from doing what’s important.

  67. dalaman airport transfer :

    if you’ve built a business that’s viable, profitable, and scalable, you may decide that $10,000 a month on PR is never a good idea.

  68. Watch Season :

    Unfortunately there are some very bright heads out there yet they know nothing about marketing. It saddens me how some great ideas go unnoticed. If only this was before internet bubble. Things would have been much easier.

    • Well, that can be arguable in my eyes as many people who are actively taking whatever approach they have now can literally have viral results with ease.

  69. Ali-Buy BlackBerry Phones :

    Yes splash screens are also not good for SEO of website, because usually splash screens contains only images or flash content, whereas for a good ranking in search engines text r necessary.

  70. The contests thing is almost always a lie. Many websites are appealing to this practice but people are smart enough to not buy it.

    • I would say most people, but yes very true.

    • John I think you would be surprised to see how many people are really into that niche. There are a lot of contests going on. Thousands of people win stuff so those people start believing and start following many different contests. But yes I can see many of them being scammy.

  71. Halloween Costumes :

    yes., Sometimes being shy can ruin your life. Let’s boast our confidence and we should face the people and that’s business.

    • Focus on what’s important to you and how badly you want it and you’ll easily achieve whatever it is you want no matter what kind of person you are.

  72. Web Design LA :

    I believe in Brand, Once we become Brand than thing gets easier automatically.

  73. Wow, great article.

    I just stumbled onto your site, and I’ve been here for an hour already!
    I run a show/video blog about travel, adventure, and entrepreneurship…It might be interesting to you, so check it out if you get a chance.

    Keep the articles coming!



  74. Sell Property :

    We are spending too much on PR, but as you mentioned, are not getting any good customers. I will also suggest to stop spending too much on PR and start working on social media.

    • Especially since social media is cheaper… focus on the PR when you become big time.

    • Social media is almost free so why focusing on PR which costs lots of money? These days you need to save every penny you can.

  75. iPhone app developer :

    Nice tips, particularly on chasing PR and bribing customers. Whatever you are vending should be unique to woo customers. Don’t expect them dumb enough to buy your product/service by inducement. Integrity is a rare commodity these days but it still pays. Keep writing more on pitfalls of marketing.

  76. Hmmm good point. What about a product review, where you give your product away to a site for reviewing?

    • That can definitely help, just make sure you have a worthwhile product that won’t get crappy reviews.

  77. Web Design LA :

    @Sell Property: Agree with yours Social Media currently very hot and growing day by day, so off course social media batter way compare to PR.

  78. latest gadgets :

    PR really helps you make in brands and not the revenue…I too agree that sketching out a clear plan in the mind before venturing into something is very significant for any start-up. Great write-up Neil.

  79. And if I am how you’d you recommend setting up the backend of WordPress? I get the permalinks, title tags,h1,categories. But do you even use All-in-One SEO? How to do you treat this part of wp

  80. Anthony from :

    Hey Neil,

    Much more effective than a crafty splash page, blogging before you launch is a must, as it can help you to start engaging with your potential customers.

    I’m learning that you have to talk less about you and your product and more about topics that potential customers can relate to and might share.

    It’s hard when you are working on your dream project though, you want to find similar people to connect and share your story with.

    Keep up the good work, long time reader, first time poster.


  81. iPhone app developer :

    Tips apart, one of the great marketing tactics for a startup is to follow the KISS principle. In the jungle of cluttered websites, try minimalism. Crisp content, lucid language, calm colors, likable logo, good graphics and marketable messages are ingredients of a winning web-based business. Avoid pop-up messages and blinking images at every angle. Try not to tell the visitor to ‘click here’ or ‘visit this page’. Real customers will click and visit at their discretion.

  82. Sell Property :

    @Web Design LA That’s the thing I Am Expert In.

  83. hermes handbags :

    Exactly… it’s too easy for customers to get swayed away then it is for them to stay.

  84. Vip Minibüs Kiralama :

    I know Google doesn’t use Meta Keywords, but what about Yahoo! or Bing? If none of the three big SE’s use them then they are pretty much useless to use…….

  85. Best Ski Resorts :

    Silly, really silly.Try managing a strong sales organization through mobile phones and no cards. I am sure that companies have real them seriously. I can see the conference call now try to take a step WebEx for mobile phone cell phone with all the background noise.

  86. Nick Rodriquez :

    In fact, you can write a few information about the nature of your business and give a link on the homepage for the visitors to check it out. You may get early indexing from SE’s for the content, and you will also get eager visitors who might come back come launch day to see the actual business you are offering.

  87. sağlık haberleri :

    The best way to market a startup is to let people experiment. 😉

  88. Coolest Gadget @ITrush :

    Agree, learn from your mistakes and of course don’t do it again and instead think of another ways and means..

  89. Mami Hotels Family :

    I think promotionals work great i dont know why you would be so down on it neil.

    • You can produce cheaper results by just writing quality content and pushing it in social media avenues.

  90. College textbooks :

    This is a post for bookmarking. I have been gathering different posts for things that come up often and these are the main basic problems I see out there. It is something to simple for people to not know.

    • I agree, but sometimes we overlook things in our haste and impatience. Glad you found the post useful 🙂

  91. Great read. We just set up KissMetrics for and love it. Your sales guy did a great tour for us today.

    BTW – We can help people create a useful landing page that enables them to follow-up with customers via a 2nd and 3rd touch with thank yous and newsletters.

  92. The best way to market a startup is to let people experiment. As people experiment and find how good your product is they’ll automatically become your customers.

    • Definitely, it is all about experimenting and seeing what your results are. That way you can either continue or change and improve based off customer feedback.

  93. Creative Team Events :

    Thanks for confirming that search engines ignore the meta keywords tag. It’s amazing how many people I come across that still don’t believe that. So, you’ve got to put the effort in to create useful content for your readers.

  94. Jasmine Henry :

    For the splash page tip, I agree with you about not making them boring or what-have-you.

    The best ones I’ve seen are ones that create a real sense of intrigue, like, just using a few lines of text or using a picture.
    One idea I had for a splash page but haven’t had the chance to utilise is reveal part of a picture or a confusing bit of text and get the user to visit the site again on a specific date. They’re more likely to want whatever service you’re offering if you’ve already gotten them invested in this way.

    • Thanks Jasmine,

      You should definitely try that out. See how it goes you only can improve if you try new things!

  95. Roma Costume INC. :

    PR is really important especially in a corporate world today. I believe it is one key to success in any business

  96. hey neil,
    totally agree with it,”Bribing customers isn’t smart”. great contents of the post. these are the mistakes that one must try avoid.


  97. This is a great article Neil. I appreciate the assistance and as a small business owner, I will keep this in mind. I am also busy studying Marketing Management in Graduate School right now and this is good stuff.

  98. Some great tips here, Thanks Neil.

  99. Appreciating the dedication you put into your site and in depth
    information you provide. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material.
    Excellent read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  100. Hi there, every time i used to check website posts here in the early hours in the daylight, since i enjoy to gain knowledge of more and more.

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