As a specialist ICO marketing agency, we often carry out insight and discovery campaigns on past, current and future ICO launches, specifically focusing on the community, PR, technical setup, configuration, technical SEO & the SEO strategy of the ICO website. The first thing to understand here is that for an ICO to be successful, their website will need to raise their target in token sales. Not an exchange, not a distributor or an agent, the dedicated brand and token website will need to deliver, but should it also deliver quality and growth post ICO? We explore how search engine optimisation will help improve the performance of some ICO launches and benefit the Blockchain startup, their token investors and the technology as part of long term growth and success.
Is an ICO simply a funding vehicle or should it make up the foundations of a successful tech startup?
Are ICO’s & blockchain startups maximising their SEO potential?
Simple answer, barring a few exceptional cases, it seems a lot of potential SEO value is being missed. First we need to understand that SEO makes up a significant part of a long term growth strategy for any business that is looking for online success, meaning we do not need to dig immediately into their SEO but more into their growth post ICO.
Are they preparing for post ICO digital growth?
Brands and startups that go through an ICO launch are at a critical time in their future, where a significant token sale will provide them with the financial platform to build a business, backed by their powerful technologies, whilst demonstrating their exciting potential through the trust and acceptance of the Blockchain community. What is often overlooked, and we’ve seen this from the inside of ICO agencies, is the long term growth of the brand and ICO’s digital assets beyond the token sale, bearing in mind many are looking to enter competitive markets such as Cannabis/Organic CBD Oil, travel, epsorts and even energy distribution – this is a concern. It raises questions from a marketing perspective and is something the community and token investors should be aware of as part of their own due diligence prior to taking part in an ICO.
It is essential to understand that taking part in an ICO demonstrates a level of trust, not only in the technology that could be built with the funds raised, but also in the long term success of that technology as a product and a business. That comes with additional considerations, including marketing, market entry strategies, management and advisory board. Any brand going through an ICO that cannot demonstrate that their strategy takes into consideration the long term growth of the business, is one that should have additional questions asked of it…luckily they are all on hand across multiple platforms to give answers on it.
“We don’t need to think about the website beyond the 3 month ICO campaign and token launch”
Why should this raise alarm bells? For the Exact reasons we touched on above – An ICO is the very beginning of a start up that needs to deliver as a business in order to deliver on the promise shown by the technology and team behind it.
- The ICO launch website and domain are not the intended assets for the brand and product
- The brand does not need a web presence for the technology (or so they believe)
Both of these points set off alarm bells to any digital growth marketer, so let’s understand why.
1. The ICO digital assets are not required for the business post ICO
It’s certainly true for some successful ICO’s that the website and domain are simply there to sell their tokens and beyond that, plans are simply not in place yet. The problem with this is the marketing efforts and costs involved in a successful ICO campaign are significant, budget that could be used on product development and valuable team members, all pointing towards, and building value in, digital assets that every token investor has supported the launch of. These assets could, and should, be the foundations of everything the company does going forward.
What value is built during an ICO launch campaign?
- Links to the domain – during an ICO marketing campaign, many many links can and will be built to the website through the PR activities of the blockchain marketing agency. This is hugely valuable and will eventually lead to a successful launch and token sale.
- Brand/Token exposure & citation – every time the brand and token are mentioned online, in forums, in the community, even on social media, there is value being built to that brand.
- PR & publications – articles, posts, mentions and management interviews are all powerful strategies used by agencies to raise the profile of the ICO, token sale and brand name.
- Social accounts – although not huge in comparison to sports and film stars, thousands of social followers in the Blockchain community can be powerful enough to raise tens of millions of $dollars in days. These highly targeted communities are valuable.
- Insights – the company will learn a huge amount about their invested audience throughout the ICO. This community fully believe in what is being built and the in the future of the brand, a valuable commodity if it is utilised and understood.
What value can be lost if the assets change or move?
Most of the above. Moving digital assets is a complex process that if done correctly, can certainly be successful and is something that’s seen regularly among global brands as they re-brand to help their position in their market. That being said, with many Blockchain startups not fully understanding the value that has been created alongside their significant investment into marketing of the ICO, it is safe to say these processes would likely be overlooked. So what else would be effected with a change of digital assets?
- Trust – brands win or lose based soley on trust, especially in the world of ICO’s and Blockchain brands.
- Brand association – if things change too far from the original offering that drew in the the investors, there may be issues keeping them happy.
- Growth of new assets – digital marketing and successful PR takes time, growth takes even longer. Giving up on even 3 months growth could lead to over 6 months of lost growth potential.
- Marketing budgets – these will increase as new assets need to secure authority and trust online and in PR.
What value is being missed or overlooked?
Search engine optimisation covers all of the most important values associated with an digital asset and brand. This is highlighted in the awesome SEO Periodic table from the guys at Search Engine Land, displaying the most important ranking factors in an easily digestible format that we can all relate to.
SEO Periodic Table by Search Engine Land
But many ICO’s are clearly missing out on additional SEO value by the way they are marketing their websites online. What do we mean by this?
Medium – the leading content marketing strategies for the majority of ICO’s revolve around Medium, the online blogging platform launched in 2012 to promote great writing. The question really has to be why is Medium’s use so widespread and how is it being used incorrectly?
- Content is expensive, time consuming and is essentially an asset for your brand and business. Content marketing is a highly influential strategy used by global brands right down to tradesmen and local traders, for good reason…
- Content marketing builds value, grows communities, increases market authority and leads to greater visibility online.
- Posting content on your website
- It does the above by getting seen online, being read by targeted users who then explore your website and product offering, share your great content across social media and in their own posts and in turn growing the value of your website and domain.
Posting content directly on Medium
- Your valuable content posted on Medium = All value added by your content goes to…Medium! This is explored in great detail by the guys at Moz, you can see their video below.
Using Medium effectively for SEO
- This is a very simple process of creating high quality content and posting to your website, then using the powerful Medium ‘Import’ tool to bring your content over to your Medium publication, which will automatically add the extremely important canonical tag to the article. This ensures that any value that is passed on to the post on Medium, is then passed on to the source of the great content – your website!
- The Content
Poor link profile – highly successful online businesses invest big on their SEO and their digital reputation management. This goes far deeper than simply how a brand is being perceived on social media and within the community, it includes care and attention around the domain and website. Currently, ICO’s seem to be overlooking the long term impact of their link profile, from both a positive and a negative point of view.
- The good links – the highly relevant, targeted, high trust and high authority links from publications online that have influence in the Blockchain market and community. These are links that ICO’s should pushing for as part of their long term growth strategy. They should understand these, where to get them, how to get them and know when they get them.
- The bad links – the low trust, often irrelevant and low authority links that are often earned organically from sites or networks who find the domain online and decide they want to link to it.
- Protect your link profile – knowing where links are coming from and how they’re affecting your website is a highly effective method of protecting your digital assets. Gaining powerful, influential links from the likes of Coindesk and Coin Market Cap will do wonders for your SEO in the Blockchain market, but this value can soon be counteracted by low trust, low relevancy links. These may be built as part of your marketing campaign, in which case be very careful what sites you decide you want linking to you, or they may be built by spam sites that have noticed your ICO online or, and this is very possible, a rival company has intentionally carried out negative SEO to prevent your domain from increasing visibility online. Working with an experienced SEO team is essential here and should make up part of your monthly marketing budget.
- Remove harmful links – identifying harmful links is one thing, removing them is the solution to prevent any lasting impact on your search visibility. Your search professionals will be able to disavow particular links, which will inform search engines that you do not want your website associated with such links.
- Quality over quantity – as you spend more time assessing your link profile, you may notice that the amount of links is less than you would expect or less than that of your competitors. This is not an issue if the quality and relevancy of your links are high. By monitoring your links on a regular basis, you can keep your domain in great health. See our case study: How to launch a successful ICO to understand how links have effected successful ICO’s and how that will affect their long term growth.
On-site optimisation – Throughout various assessments of ICO websites throughout 2017, we have noticed a trend of the most basic SEO best practice techniques being overlooked, without any indication as to why this would be particular marketing tactic, other than there being a lack of digital marketing knowledge within the Blockchain marketing community currently.
Do the basics, they’re important! – many best practice features for a website are extremely simple to do, which often leads to them being ignored or overlooked as not important. This couldn’t be further from the truth and should lead to questions being asked about the growth strategies that are being implemented if the basics are being missed.
- We recently developed a website for an upcoming ICO that was handed over to another marketing agency to then launch for their client. At no point since the website went live had the site received any of the following – keyword research, page titles, meta descriptions, optimised urls or any form of on page optimisation and targeting.
- This website, although looking to raise $8 Million as part of their ICO and compete with the likes of Booking.com as a future product, has completely overlooked the long term growth strategy of the brand, beyond the ICO.
- It was clearly highlighted to us that the strategy for the ICO was simply ‘3 months for the ICO launch, after that the website doesn’t really matter.‘
- Build a startup website, not just a coin launch website – launching a startup is a costly and highly demanding process, with a huge amount of time dedicated to understanding the target audience and how to get the product or service in front of the right consumers at the right time. It’s big business, with $Millions spent a year on marketing and growth campaigns. So why is this different of the launch of an ICO if the token sale is raise the seed funds for a future successful business? It shouldn’t be, they should be taking the same steps to ensure optimal growth and efficient use of marketing budgets.
- Do the basics, they’re important! – many best practice features for a website are extremely simple to do, which often leads to them being ignored or overlooked as not important. This couldn’t be further from the truth and should lead to questions being asked about the growth strategies that are being implemented if the basics are being missed.
2. The brand/product does not need a digital presence to be successful post ICO
This is highly unlikely and it would be extremely shortsighted for any business to make a claim like that. Once an ICO is completed and all available tokens have been sold, the company will be actively pursuing listings on top exchanges, to ensure their tokens are traded and therefore, increase in value*. Token investors will be just as interested in the potential of the business and brand as those who purchased in a pre sale or during the ICO, with good reason. Their investment is likely going to be at a higher price than the launch price of the coin or token and they are looking for a return, be that long or short term, so post ICO is an essential period for the startup and brand and should be planned for.
We took an in depth look at a successful ICO, and relevant competitors, in our case study: How to launch a successful ICO, with some interesting findings regarding the period after the ICO. We take a look at some of the findings below.
Post ICO – The Good
We discovered that after the ICO was complete, the brand went on to receive a significant amount of digital PR. This may seem obvious, certainly in this case as the token sale raised in excess of $30million in just 3 days, but we have to understand why and what value this will bring to their digital assets going forward and more importantly, those of future ICO’s looking to build successful startups for long term success.
Coin market cap – Est 8 Million visits a month
One of the most powerful websites in the cryptocurrency industry, if not the most powerful, began linking to this businesses website, the same website used for their ICO. Immediately the traffic levels to that website increased 200% over the course of the first month, reaching 400k unique visitors, as potential investors came in to carry out their own due diligence and see if the product is something they want to invest in.
As a top 10 performing ICO based on the total sale value, a direct link to their website was received from Coin Schedule within days and went on to deliver some relevant authority to the domain that will last after the link is removed – this happened in Nov as new ICO’s raised even more.
What value does this bring?
Well, on top of the obvious exposure and traditional PR benefits, value was also added in ways that global brands work tirelessly to achieve and spend big in order to deliver those kind of results.
- Valuable back links – high trust, high authority and highly relevant links to the businesses digital assets, often free as publications and listing sites scramble to discuss the details of a successful ICO and make them the leading source of information for future token investors.
- Targeted traffic – as seen with the coin market cap traffic, links from the right websites can deliver significant visitors to a domain. The visitors are potential investors in the token, potential partners in the technology and more than likely blockchain related press.
- Brand recognition – as the above 2 grow, so to do the social mentions and community discussions.
Post ICO – The Bad
Throughout our Case Study, we make comparisons between two successful ICO’s, where not all discoveries are perfect or particularly well done in some cases. Yes they both raised huge sums during their token sales, but how much consideration did they give to SEO and the long term growth benefits for the startup?
Poor quality back links – we have covered links in some detail already, but it we are able to see that some of the most successful ICO’s have failed to protect their sites from low trust links in their post ICO stages, highlighting a lack of SEO knowledge, resources or simply a belief that they do not need a healthy SEO campaign in place to be successful…
Lack of onsite optimisation – again, we have discussed this in detail but as expected, we have identified major ICO websites overlooking the most basic SEO best practices both prior to launch and post ICO.
Bad use of valuable (and expensive) content – finally, we get back to Medium and it’s use as a content marketing platform for ICO’s. Use Medium…yes, use Medium as the sole source for your expensive and valuable content…no!
How does the value that’s being missed relate to strong SEO?
- The links – 20 referring domains for this particular ICO website, including links from ICO Bench, oncoins.org and etherscan, passing relevant link juice and value straight to Medium. In total, over 100 links to content that should be bringing value in to the main domain.
- SEO Metrics – Trust Flow 11, Citation Flow 25, DA 43 – not terrible but not as healthy as this domain could be considering it still has over 400 referring domains. It is being constrained by some very low quality links that were either the result of some black hat SEO techniques, getting unlucky with a PBN linking to them as a result of their exposure or some negative SEO from some jealous competitors.
- Ranks – Having launched in Q2, this ICO has been online for a considerable amount of time and currently has just 95 ranks in Google, with rank distribution primarily positions 40 and below. For a brand that raised $millions of dollars, questions may well be asked as to why organic growth is yet to materialise. Looking at the Medium point above, content marketing is likely to be a significant reason for this.
- Traffic – Search traffic relates to over 25% of the traffic into this site on a monthly basis. This will be significantly less than it could, and should, be with a well constructed SEO strategy in place.
How will not preparing for post ICO affect these startups?
The main impact from everything covered so far is the possibility that the website will not be as successful in the chosen market as it could be. Earlier we mentioned an ICO we had worked on, that would have to compete online with the likes of Booking.com in order to be considered a successful business and demonstrate the power of Blockchain in that marketplace. So what impact will their lack of long term growth insights and strategy have on the business as a whole?
- Growth – Their own FAQ suggests their partnerships with hotel chains will lead them to the forefront of the market. In reality, the success of the business will ultimately come down to how many users are booking hotels online, just like Booking.com.
- Missing a trick – not a term often used in marketing but one that is actually quote relevant here. At what point in the life of the startup will they receive as much PR, social engagement, community engagement and digital visibility as they did during their ICO? The likelihood is they may never get as much in such a short space of time, certainly not in the near future or without huge huge marketing budgets. Maximising every penny, every link, every mention and every bit of content at the ICO stage is possibly the most effective strategy a blockchain startup can implement at this stage of their business.
- Costs – Getting users on their website will be the biggest challenge they will face, in a hugely competitive market. The key, will be getting in front of the right audience and the right time, with the cost per acquisition of each customer at a sustainable price. The most effective marketing strategy for startups is an organic one, a low cost investment into the future of their online strategy. Currently Booking.com’s traffic is growing at a rate of 24% a year (based on statistics from 2015 – 2016) topping 82 million visitors throughout 2016, with their parent group spending $3.5 Billion in 2016 on marketing alone. How will it be possible to compete with this level of traffic, reach and growth without a very special strategy? Currently, we’re unable to see how.
- Time – Online growth takes time. A research piece by Ahrefs asked the question How long does it take to rank in Google? with some wonderfully insightful data being delivered as a result. The most interesting is 60% of pages ranking in the top 10 of Google have been online more than 3 years, with only 22% less than a year old. SEO and organic growth takes time.
- Market Share – While the brand loses time discovering why they have not grown online as quickly or as effectively as they thought they would, new Blockchain technologies are being launched and new brands are increasing their visibility online to the point where the market share that was there for the taking to begin with, is reducing by the day. A very real possibility for those not focused on the future, post ICO…
Is the right Blockchain marketing advice available?
It certainly is, but that doesn’t mean that IOCs and Blockchain brands are going to find it or listen to the right advice along the way. Having first hand experience of how the industry currently views ICOs as simple a funding vehicle for their startup, rather than the start of their business, the foundations on which they will grow, suggests that poor advice and a lack of growth understanding is widespread.
We have highlighted many areas where the future of startups making use of ICOs as a form of funding can improve and begin securing their long term success at a very early stage. This will increase trust with investors and benefit stakeholders.
At Searched we’re committed to bringing change to the world of ICO & Blockchain marketing, through education and powerful marketing strategies, built on extensive experience working with global brands.
*it should be noted that every ICO comes with it’s own terms and conditions and plans for their token, so this may not always be the case and sometimes tokens must be held for a certain period prior to trading.