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Abi Travers

My Blog. Full Stack Software Engineer. Ex-Growth Hacker.

Want to start a company but not sure where to begin? A guide to doing it the Agile way

I spent a few years as a growth hacker for tech start-ups in Asia. During this time I worked with many startups, both successful and not. I spoke to many start-up founders and learnt about their successful and less successful ventures. I tested what they said and watched which results worked and which did not.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting and child

Since I have been back in the UK I have noticed that many people would like to start a company but just aren’t sure where to begin. In Asia, especially HCMC, every other person I met had at least attempted to found a startup. People in Asia have a tendency to learn by doing. I have coupled this together with the ‘agile mind-set’, try small then get something working, then expand this as you go. Get a minimal (in this case, chargeable) product, see this work, then build up adding new features as you go.

One of the best visualisations of this is the idea is the example of building a car. The agile way says don’t start with a wheel, start with something small which achieves a scaled down version of the functionality you are hoping to deliver, such as a skateboard.

From all this I thought I would put together a practical guide on how to start your own company.

This guide will go through the most effective way to start a company. It will not guarantee success it will just increase your chances.

The key underlying principle is the agile one:

  1. Get some customers first. Make sure they are willing to pay for your product/ service. DO NOT GIVE IT OUT FOR FREE. You need to know if your product/ service is something people are going to pay for.
  2. Start on the presumption that you don’t fully know what your customers want. Look to solve a problem that your potential customers have right now and are actively looking to solve. Design something which is cheaper, faster or easier than the way they are currently solving this problem.
  3. Don’t build anything more than you need to satisfy these customers. Only ever scale to 10x of what your current customer base is.
  4. These first set of customers get an Minimal Chargeable Product (MCP). This means their experience slightly mimics what you think the final product experience will give them. This could mean you build nothing and manually delivering the experience. For example, if you want to build an on-demand food delivery service platform, you produce a manual list of all the places your customers can order food from, you then personally go to these places and deliver the food.
  5. Most importantly, GET AS MUCH FEEDBACK from your customers as you can at all stages of their journey with the product. Use this feedback to guide the direction you take your product/service. Assume you do not already know what they want.

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What is customer feedback?

Feedback comes in many different forms including:

  • User testing — observe how your customers actually interact with your product/ service.
  • Talk to your customers about their experiences of each stage of their interaction with the product/service.
  • Ask them to show you what they usually do to solve the problem and get them to walk you through it.
  • Asking them to fill in anonymous surveys with include both quantitive and qualitative questions. Try to avoid leading questions.

Your initial customers

How to get your first customers, starting with the least technical approach:

  1. Ask people you know

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Family, friends, friends of friends. Choose the people who you think would be most suitable i.e. they could be potential users of your product/service. You are trying to test your hypothesis, is there a need for what you are proposing.

  • Have an idea of what it is you are trying to achieve, what your company will be.
  • DO NOT tell them about the company you are thinking of developing.
  • Start by talking to them about the problem, ideally asking some non-leading questions and trying to let them lead the conversation.
  • Ask them the last time they had the problem what did they do to try and solve it. Did they spend hours googling it, did they spend hours manually botching together a solution etc. If they have been putting considerable time, effort or money into solving it then this is a potential customer of yours and your idea has potential.

Cons: The closer this person is to you the less likely they are to be a genuine customer. Their feedback may therefore not be as useful and may be biased. To mitigate this, you could always pretend it is not your company but someone you are working for.

Remember feedback from these people will guide what your final product/ service will be.

2. Use listing websites

You can list your product/ service on the appropriate listings website;

  • Gumtree
  • E-commerce sites (such as eBay, Amazon, Etsy). Be aware the larger the site is the more you may have to use paid ads, SEO etc, and the higher the competition for users eyeballs are.
  • Business directories (a list of 20)
  • Industry specific listing sites (such as SpareRoom.com)
  • Freelance and per hour sites (upwork.com , freelancer.comcodementor.io)
  • ProductHunt.com

Pros: If you get people they will be your actually users. You will receive non-biased feedback.

Cons: Hard to attract attention / stand out in the large crowds of products and services. None of the sites may be specific for your product or service. Not much scope / space to define your problem properly.

3. Paid online ads & landing pages

This is the most tailored but also the costliest and most technical and complex approach. It entails running paid online ads on google or fb (or whichever platform you chose) which lead to a simple landing page stating your proposition and enabling you to sell your first version of your product.

This enables you to get feedback from some more objective measures:

(Ordered in importance:)

  • How many people purchase your product as a % of the amount who saw it (traffic).
  • Click through rate — how many people on the page click through to purchase your product.
  • Traffic to the page. Click through rate of the ad.
  • Bounce rate. — measures if the traffic which clicked on your ad was genuinely interested.

You can incorporate several iterations

You can stop at the first stage — building the initial landing pages, and use feedback gathered to decide what to do next.

I will briefly describe some techniques[mt1] .

First build some landing pages

landing page example

What should I put on these landing pages?

You should build a number of landing pages each with a slightly different propositions.

The quality of the landing pages should be the same.

They should look basically the same only varying the text.

Deciding on the content for each landing page

I am assuming at this point you have a board idea of the problem you want to solve / the type of company you want to build. This will also include some assumptions of how your potential customers (people who have this problem and are actively trying to solve it) are currently dealing with this problem and where they are going to get the solution.

The content of each landing page should focus on one problem /solution which should be simple and obviously phrased.

A good way to identify a number of potential solution would be to assume many of your online customers are currently trying Google solutions to the problem you are going to solve for them. You can use search traffic in this case to try to decide what solution to build.

You can do this by:

Create a Google Search account and start typing in potential searches you think people would do if they were looking for your product.

Look at the volume of search traffic these words are getting and completion for these keywords. Recently Google has removed the ability to see search volume of keywords so you will need to use some other tools such as MOZ or Ahrefs, both of which have a free trail.

From these choose a number of small variations of your product/ service.

Choose these based on the keyword/ phrase which have the largest search volume yet low/medium competition. Choose low/medium competition as this means that there are less potential competitors.

Each landing page should focus on only one solution.

How many landing pages do I need?

This depends on how many variations of your potential product/ service you want to try out.

You could start with 4 which would be enough to focus on enough variations of your product and yet not too much that it costs too much in time, effort and money.

How can I build landing pages?

 

unbounce

Creating:

If you don’t want to do any coding you can use a free trail at unbounce to create drag and drop quick and easy landing pages.

You can use wordpress (Content Management System) and plugin a number of landing pages (built in unbounce).

This will mean they will all start with the same domain URL.

If you are more technical you can create a simple php single page website with one of the many html / free bootstrap templates.

Hosting:

You can host this with heroku for free while you don’t anticipate much traffic.

Or you can purchase a domain and pay for hosting with one of the many providers such as HostGator or BlueHost.

Secondly put some money into paid ads (Google ads, Facebook) and direct the traffic to the correct landing page.

Set up a google Adwords account.

Create an ad with copy and link it to your landing pages.

Bid on the keywords you had decided to create your landing pages for. Make sure the copy of your ad corresponds to your landing Page.

Vary your ad copy per landing page.

You can also run a series of different ads for the same landing page (AB tests the adverts themselves).

How much money and for how long should I places these bids?

You should bid slightly higher than google recommends. This is become your site is not trusted at the moment and so you will need to pay more than older more reputable sites to win the bid and place an ad. Monitor how many ads you are getting and if it isn’t many after a few days increase your bid amount.

Collect feedback including the additional feedback mentioned above.

NEXT STEPS — for all

Create the next iteration of your product based on this feedback. Even if this iteration is just going back through this process again but changing the wording of your ads etc.

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How I Got 22 Follow Links With Infographic Marketing

In 5 Easy Steps

I am guessing you are reading this because you already know how important link building is for any SEO strategy.

You understand that it boosts your page’s authority which in turn helps you rank higher for your chosen keywords.

You also know it can be a great source of traffic.

You have heard all about how to use written content to build these links but are after something extra. This is where infographic marketing comes in.

I will show you exactly how I used ‘infographic submission sites’ to gain easy and quick follow links back to my site within half a day. I have even included a full list of the submission sites I used.

I achieved these results for a client. I cannot disclose their identity so instead I am going to use a fictitious example. So please, close your eyes and imagine you own a website focused on the extremely popular topic; ‘The Cows of Bali’ …

A cow in Medewi, Bali. A guide on how to use infographic marketing to get follow links to your website

In case you need some help imagining this …

STEP 1: Create an infographic

How to choose the right infographic:  

Choose one of the keywords you have identified in your SEO strategy. Check no-one else has created an infographic on the exact same topic, or if they have, it can easily be beaten on quality or quantity.

How to create the infographic: 

There are many online free builders.Two of my personal favourites are:

1. Canva: Because of it is so easy to use.

2. Easel: Because of their extensive and well-made templates.

I would highly recommend you test out your chosen site before fully committing to creating your complete infographic.

Take 10 mins to create something simple and try to download it. You should be able to tell if you gel with this tool in that time and also you should check if there are charges for downloads.

The guys at Creative Blog have created an extensive list of free infographic creation sites.

How long it takes:

I timed the process and this infographic on cows took me 17 mins. I already had all the pictures I required…

…because yes, I am the sort of person who goes to Bali and takes pictures of cows.

infographic marketing on the cows in bali

The first time it may take you longer to get used to the tools. Start by creating something simple, like the above.

Spend no more than 45 mins to create your first infographic.

STEP 2: Create a post specifically for the Infographic.

Create a new post in your Word Press site which is dedicated to the infographic.  (If you are using another blogging site then still create a new post. The exact steps of how to do this may differ from below.)

This page will be submitted to the infographic submission sites.

To do this effectively and in a way which gains you ‘follow links’ go through the steps outlined below.

 

 

How to create a new blog page in Word press for an infographic. Step1

How to create a new blog page in Word press for an infographic. Step2

Add some text at the beginning of the post, to introduce your infographic.

Add a caption to your Word Press blog post dedicated to your infographic

Step 3: Optimise this page for SEO  

To do this all of the below must be optimised.

Text at the beginning of the post

What:

The text that comes before the Infographic. It should be written under the ‘paragraph’ setting.

Screenshot of the text at the start of a WP blog post for an infographic

How to optimise this text for SEO:

Must include your keyword or LSI keyword. *

Title of the post

What:

The title tag of your page. This is shown by Google, Yahoo (or other search engines) on the results page.

What is the title tag - screenshot showing how your title tag appears on google

If you don’t already have it, add the ‘Yoast SEO’ Plugin to your site. At the bottom of your post you will find this plugin. Click ‘Edit snippet’ then add the title here:

 

How to change the Title tag of your infographic post on word press. Yoast SEO

How to optimise for SEO:

Must contain the Keyword and the word ‘Infographic’.

Must be no longer than 60 characters.

Must be unique. No other posts on your website should have the same title (this is important).

Should only contain ‘|’ as punctuation. Use it for separation instead of a ‘.’.

Meta description

What:

The description which is shown under the title on the search results page.

screenshot showing how the metadescription of a blog post appears on google

 

You also edit this in the Yoast SEO add on at the bottom of the post. Click ‘Edit snippet’ then add the meta description:

 

Screenshot of where to edit the meta description of a infographic blog post on Word press. Using SEO Yoast

How to optimise the meta description  for SEO:

Should contain the keyword or a synonym of your keyword (otherwise referred to as LSI Keyword) LINK . (Rather than force keywords choose something to entice people to click. 80% of the time you should include the keywords).

Must be no longer than 160 characters.

Must be a genuine description of the page. A good rule of thumb I like to follow is: 1 sentence summarising what is on the page. 1 sentence as the call to action, making someone want to click to open the page.

H1

What:

The title which appears on your blog post itself. You can either put this within the text and set it as a H1, or within the ‘title’ box of the blog post.

how to add a h1 to your blog post for infographic marketing

or

screen shot showing where the h1 is on a wp blog post

It is VERY important that you do NOT add a H1 in both of these locations. Two H1s are very bad for SEO.

How to optimise the H1 for SEO:

Must contain keywords or LSI keywords.

Should be no longer than 50 characters,

Must be a genuine title for the page & make sense. It will appear at the top of the page so it must make viewers want to scroll down to see the infographic.

Must only be one in number.

 

Internal Anchor Text

 What:

The text used on a page when it is embedded into a link to another page. Basically, the text you click on and are redirected to another page.

‘Internal’ means within your own site. This is the text you use to link to other pages or posts within your own site.

How to optimise for SEO:

Must contain keyword.

Should be linked from at least one other  post or page within your site.

 

Image Alt text

What:

The alternative text which shows up if your image does not load. In this case, your image is the infographic itself. You edit this when you upload your picture.

 

alt text screenshot when uploading an image

How to optimise for SEO:

Must be a genuine description of the image

Should contain keyword.

External Anchor Text

What:

Similar to internal anchor text. ‘External’ is the text websites other than your own used to embed a link to your post.

External linking is another word for follow/ no-follow links and the focus of this article .

How to optimise external anchor text of your infographic blog post for SEO:

Must contain keywords.

cows in bali at sunset on the beach

Here is another picture of the cows in case you were getting bored of the screenshots

With written content you can only undertake this one way; by asking whoever owns the site you are requesting the link from to include your chosen anchor text.

However, this runs the risk of the owner refusing.

This is one of the main reasons infographic marketing works better than ‘written in’ and achieves links which boost your SEO ranking for your chosen keywords.

With infographic marketing the best way to get the anchor text you want with your follow link is to use this code embedder.

Embed this code at the bottom of the image.

Hubspot have written a brilliant guide on how to create this code, so I will just take you through the steps to do this:

How to fill in the code embedder needed for infographic marketing

1. Site name = The name of your site.

2. Post URL = The URL given at the top of your page. It is the URL a user would use to access your infographic blog post.

3. Image URL = This can be found when you insert the infographic onto your post. You can go back into ‘insert media’ click on the image and find the ‘image URL’. Below shows where this is on Word Press.

location of the image URL on a word press site

4. Image alt text = This is what we optimised earlier. It can also be found in the ‘insert media’ popup also.

 

5. Width of the image = The width of the image as it appears on the post. It can also be seen in the ‘insert media’ popup. Alternatively you can see it when clicking on it and then clicking the little pencil ‘edit’ icon.
screenshot of image width on wp site

6. Image height = As Hubspot explains this should be left blank so not the distort the image.

7.  Embedded box width & height = I like to make this the same as the image width so it looks good on the page. The height can be set as you like aesthetically, I prefer not too big so tend to go for 100px.

 

Cut and paste the code which the embedder then provides you with. Put this code either under your image or within the coding- which is the ‘text’ box in  word press.

screenshot showing where to embed the code for an infographic. Infographic marketing

STEP 4: Submit your infographic to the infographic submission sites

 

This is when you get the follow links.

Submit the page URL  and the embedded code to all of the bellow, free and paid sites.

Many of these allow you to submit your embedded code separately.

When I did this I had no budget so I only submitted to the free sites. This meant the quality of the infographic was even more important as was its uniqueness.

Paid sites will give you more of a guarantee return but if the quality of what you produce is up to scratch it shouldn’t be necessary to use paid sites.

Here is the full list of infographic submission sites I used. I managed to gain 22 follow links by only using the free sites listed below.

 

URL Domain Age +1S Type Cost
infographicdatabase.com 4 89 paid 20
infographixdirectory.com 4 0 paid 12.95
allinfographics.org 3 0 free 0
amazinginfographics.com 4 3 paid 100
aniartdesign.com 9 56 paid 9.95
bestinfographics.co 3 195 free 0
best-infographics.com 5 476 paid 10
bestinfographics.info 5 10 free 0
business2community.com 11 0 free 0
chartporn.org 6 577 free 0
coolinfographics.com 6 782 free 0
creativegraphs.net 3 1 free 0
dailyinfographic.com 5 257 paid not disclosed
datavisualizations.tumblr.com 3 7 free 0
designyoutrust.com 8 0 free 0
discoverinfographics.com 3 1 paid 20
elearninginfographics.com 2 0 free 0
freeinfographicssubmit.wordpress.com 3 224 paid 5
good.is 7 0 free 0
goodinfographics.com 5 1 freemium 25
graphs.net 8 58 free 0
ilovecharts.tumblr.com 6 541 free 0
infographaholic.tumblr.com 4 0 free 0
infographic.ca 3 104 free 0
info-graphic.co.uk 3 0 paid 31.2
infographic-directory.com 3 0 free 0
infographicbee.com 0 1 freemium 6
infographicexpo.com 2 0 freemium 4.95
infographicheaven.com 4 0 free 0
infographicjournal.com 4 0 freemium 25
infographick.com 2 0 paid 75
infographiclist.com 4 38 free 0
infographiclove.com 4 6 paid 75
infographicpics.com 4 0 free 0
infographicplaza.com 2 164 freemium 10
infographicportal.com 1 33 free 0
infographicreviews.com 4 12 free 0
infographicsamples.com 3 0 free 0
infographicsarchive.com 4 0 paid 19.99
infographicsdirectory.blogspot.com 2 0 free 0
infographicsinspiration.com 4 1 free 0
infographicsking.com 4 15 free 0
infographicsnow.com 4 23 freemium 25
infographicsonline.com 15 2 paid 50
infographicsonline.net 3 0 paid 45
infographicsonly.com 4 405 paid 89
infographicsposters.com 4 4 paid 20
infographicszone.com 3 2 free 0
itsinfographics.com 2 1 paid 100
krishnainfographics.com 1 0 free 0
lkrllc.com 11 0 paid 10
mashable.com 10 0 free 0
nerdgraph.com 3 568 free 0
newsilike.in 5 46 freemium not disclosed
onlyinfographic.com 5 2 free 0
pdviz.com 5 0 free 0
pureinfographics.com 4 165 paid 40
reddit.com/r/Infographics 13 0 free 0
shithotinfographics.wordpress.com 2 0 free 0
submitinfographics.com 5 12 free 0
submitvisuals.com 0 0 free 0
theinfographics.blogspot.com.es 3 0 free 0
topinfographic.com 3 40 free 0
treegraphic.com 3 0 free 0
ucollectinfographics.com 1 110 freemium 5
videoinfographic.com 4 1 free 0
visual.ly 14 0 free 0
visulattic.com 0 1 free 0
winfographics.com 5 10 paid 10
greatinfographic.com

 

STEP 5: Sit back and let the magic happen

After a few days check the number of backlinks you now have with Ahrefs or SEOprofiler. (Both of which offer a free trial).

They both take a while to pick up on new links. The newer your site is the longer they will take so don’t worry if it takes at least a week.

So there you have it, a detailed guide as to how I got 22 follow links in only half a day’s work using infographic marketing.

If you have any more questions feel free to get in touch with me.

 

LSI keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing) are  keywords that have a similar meaning to your primary keyword. They are NOT just synonym or keywords as most people cite.