In this guide, I’ll explain how a startup can implement search engine optimization (SEO) to position its brand.
First, let me ask this: Does the word “startup” conjure up any connotations? Whenever I hear “startup”, what immediately comes to mind is two or three young guys in Silicon Valley with a unique idea for a tech company that’s set to skyrocket.
But that isn’t the reality. Here’s what characterizes a startup:
In the early stages, most startups can’t afford to hire an SEO agency to work with them. In most cases, a DIY SEO strategy is the perfect solution.
As the headline suggests, I’ll share tactics and strategies to grow your company with SEO. My goal is to equip you with the required knowledge to bootstrap your company with SEO. But before diving in, let’s look at some of the mistakes most startups run into with SEO.
I understand why most startups make this mistake: They have a tight budget and want to make some revenue fast. But even so, it can be a cause for failure.
For instance, a startup trying to take shortcuts would most likely buy low-quality links, low-quality content, set out without a proper content plan and cause irreparable damage to their rankings in many other ways. You shouldn’t make this mistake – it’s a startup killer.
In the end, excelling at SEO isn’t your main goal, it’s just a means to the end. Your real target is to make sales or get your target audience to take needful action – and that’s business.
Without a content strategy, achieving your goal might be difficult. SEO success doesn’t mean business success, and organic traffic increase doesn’t mean sales increase.
In essence, you need a content strategy to tie your SEO tactics to your sales process. To better understand this, think of a content strategy as a strategy to implement SEO in the business sense. A content strategy would always include your plan and process for content creation, marketing, distribution of the content, lead generation strategy, etc.
While some years back, you could easily excuse branding and publish relatively low-quality content, now you would only be causing more harm. While branding has little to do with your search appearance or site ability to rank high on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), it affects the overall performance of your startup.
The right branding will only bring more sales and success to your startup. SEO attracts visitors to your website and your branding determines if you get to keep the visitor.
People buy from brands they love. In other words, people buy your brand and not the product, and if they don’t like the brand, they won’t buy the product. So, even after working hard at SEO, if you’re still not able to keep your visitors, your efforts are a failure.
Before diving into SEO, ensure you have implemented the right branding. Look into your website design, user experience (UX), customer experience (CX) and the like.
Here’s the deal: I’m not sure what you’ve heard about SEO, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. I’ll try to simplify it and make it as easy to follow as possible. Let’s dive in!
Content experience matters. Create content your audiences will love, and you’ll give them a good content experience. Quality content alone isn’t enough to win the heart of your audience.
Content experience starts at the UX stage. It includes everything, from your font style to the white space on the page. While you could always rank without good content experience, you might not be able to keep your visitors.
Landing on a poorly designed page, irrespective of how good the content is, might make visitors lose their patience and give up on reading your page.
A lot of people still judge a book by its cover, and you should be mindful of that. Your UX is as important as your content, and I believe it forms the foundation for successful branding.
As a startup, you don’t have as large a budget as a Fortune 500 company, so wasting your funds wouldn’t be a good idea. As a matter of fact, any content that doesn’t add any value to your business is a waste.
With a content audit, you can reduce waste by finding holes and opportunities to leverage. Running a content audit should help you identify needed actions to be taken. The result should leave you with possible actions to take.
Here are some possible actions to take based on your result:
An upgrade will be the right action if you need to add more text or insert videos or infographics. But, if during the audit you discover content that is poorly written, a rewrite or delete will be a better solution.
By rewriting the content, you can always still keep the URL syntax – but if the URL is poorly optimized, deleting and redirecting is probably the way to go.
As a startup owner, you should remember that SEO is a long-term game. Without disputing the fact, the only way of seeing quick results is to build a strong authority. That’s topical authority.
You want to be regarded as an authority on topics in your niche. To implement topical authority, you have to create more content about a single topic. While you might be in a broad niche with many topics to cover, you don’t have to cover everything at once. Pick a topic, or micro-niche, and exhaust it.
By creating multiple content pieces on a single topic, you will find it easy to interlink your content and also gain some authority. However, you will need the right site structure. For instance, for every chosen topic, you should have a cornerstone content piece (perhaps in the form of an in-depth blog article on the topic) alongside other, smaller posts to support it.
Without a doubt, you’ll need to carry out keyword research for your startup. Bear in mind that your keyword research must be directed towards the right audience. Put simply, you need to turn your product, services or demands into keywords to build your content around.
You don’t just want to target informational keywords; you want to target buyers’ keywords, too. And that’s where keyword analysis is crucial.
Keyword analysis requires you to analyze the value of keywords alongside other data. Many startups make the mistake of neglecting low-volume keywords. As a matter of fact, some low-volume keywords bring more sales and revenue to a startup than high-volume keywords.
Don’t neglect low volume keywords, but focus more on keywords based on their intent and value.
Another foundation of SEO is content optimization.
To rank high on Google, you need to optimize your content properly. Here’s how:
When writing your headlines, you need to include your keyword within the headline. If you don’t, it’s near impossible to rank for that keyword. That said, your headlines should not be too lengthy.
H1, H2, H3 and H4 are the most-used heading tags when creating content. You hardly need more than these four.
You should only use H1 for the title or headline, and it should appear only once. The other heading tags – H2, H3, and H4 – should be used smartly to break up the content and give some breathing space. Wherever possible, your subheadings should also include your target keyword.
Within your content, insert some internal links to your other content and pages. The internet is a web, and Google crawls a website to understand its content. With internal links, you get a better web structure, and this makes it easier for Google to crawl your website and find hidden pages.
Similar to internal links, you need to insert some external links within your content. External links to authority sites that complement your site make it easier to rank. Linking to authority sites that Google trusts helps Google to rank your content better.
Latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords are other terms relating to your chosen topic. To create a better understanding, you should add LSI keywords to your content. The LSI keywords assist Google in understanding the keywords and the searchers’ intent.
Backlinks are vital. To rank on Google, you definitely need quality links – but acquiring them is difficult.
As a startup, you can get a handful of links by engaging in guest blogging and also submitting your site to local directories. Guest blogging is a great way to position your brand as a starter. You could also find yourself getting your initial customers via guest blogging.
But there’s a rule: You need to provide a valuable guest post, and you should link to a landing page in your bio instead of a homepage.
In the beginning, your focus should be on creating more content rather than more links. You should create your first set of content you can link to. After publishing a couple of pieces, you can then afford to dive deep into link building.
Link building takes time and can be overwhelming – expect a lot of rejections and a lot of back and forth email exchanges, because there’s a whole lot attached to it. So here’s my advice: Don’t try out all link building strategies in the early stages. Find what works for you and stick to it.
You can try platforms like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) or sending out a press release. And if you want to scale your guest blogging and link acquisition, you should consider outsourcing your content writing.
The lead magnet is sometimes neglected by startups. They focus on generating traffic and building an audience before creating lead magnets. Don’t make that mistake – you should start collecting your prospects’ information in the early days.
Your site’s landing pages should always have a call-to-action (CTA) to attract your audience members and help them convert. Your CTA could be an eBook, case study, white paper, video, infographic, etc – but you should always have one for each piece of content.
It doesn’t even have to be something that gets them onto your list; it could be buying a product using your affiliate link.
Data is power. The difference between a good marketing campaign and a bad marketing campaign is data. The way you interpret data from your analytics matters a lot to your SEO success, but only a few marketers know how to interpret and use their tools well.
To implement your SEO effectively, there are various tools to assist you. For starters, you need Google Search Console, Google Analytics and a third-party SEO tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs.
I’m of the opinion that, as simple as Google Search Console seems, it’s one of the most under-utilized tools. It can help you achieve more than you realize. For instance, with the performance tool in Google Search Console, I track down keywords I’m already appearing for but not necessarily ranking high for. Once I have those keywords, I go back to the content and re-optimize it for those keywords. In doing this, I’ve had my content jump from the tenth position on page one to the first position on page one within two days.
And all this was achieved just by scrolling through the queries tab on Search Console. Like Search Console, there are many other tools that aren’t utilized to their full potential. You don’t need a lot of tools, you only need to master one or two tools to get the results you want.
Finally, playing the new SEO game and winning requires you to build relationships and partner with others. Getting natural links to your site doesn’t just happen – you need to cultivate relationships with others in your niche.
Seeing marketing as competition won’t help you, but by collaborating with others, you can go far. Here’s an example of a partnership I formed:
Even more than links, a partner could prove helpful by sending you warm leads and lots of mentions.
Your partners could share their resources with you, provide more assistance to you and much more.
I’m not suggesting you should build or forge a relationship on the basis of getting something from your partners. Focus on building genuine relationships. And remember, you have to be ready to be useful to your partners too.
SEO doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be a game, and it isn’t as hard as you think it is.
Start simple. Follow the basics and you’ll be fine. Remember that content and links matter more, and you should focus on learning to master your data.
Finally, I wish I could show you that even experts can feel as clueless as you do. So don’t overthink it, and just trust the process I’ve outlined. If you do everything right, you’ll see the results.
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