With startups gaining in popularity over the past decade, it’s becoming harder to become visible through the ever increasing sea of websites, which continue to grow daily.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the practice of optimising a website, to increase its visibility in the Search Engine results pages. This differs from PPC (Google, Facebook Ads etc) which involves paying an amount each time your ad is clicked.
Although, when talking about SEO, we technically refer to all search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo!, DuckDuckGo etc. For the purpose of this article, we’ll just focus on Google, as it has above 95% market share in Australia: http://gs.statcounter.com/search-engine-market-share/all/australia/#yearly-2016-2019
There are a plethora of digital marketing channels available to startups, and most savvy founders know that there are few better marketing options than SEO for Return on Investment.
As startups frequently rely on bootstrapping, they have, at least initially limited access to funding, and it’s important to squeeze the most value out of the marketing budget, while at the same time, investing sufficiently in the promotion that’s required for a new business.
What can SEO do for my startup?
SEO has two broad objectives:
- Brand recognition– This helps potential customers find your business online. Take the example of a new (fictitious) startup called finance.ly. It’s critical when someone has heard about your startup, that they be able to find you online. The scenario when your startup can’t even rank for it’s name is devastating for founders.
- Lead generation. The aim of the majority of business is to generate leads and or sales. SEO has always been one of the most effective lead generation techniques for businesses. This is no different for startups. An e-commerce cart, contact/signup form or appointment bookings are common leaf generation goals.
How is startup SEO different from that of traditional business?
It isn’t. SEO for Startups is exactly the same as SEO for a traditional business, the only thing that separates the two is access to resources and often the lack of a significant marketing budget.
What does Google want exactly?
Google wants to provide the best content to the searcher so that it answers the searcher’s question as quickly and easily as possible. There are several fundamental elements that your website should contain to help Google. Websites should have:
- Accessible resources: in order for Google to be able to rank your website, it must be able to access or “crawl” the pages. It’s critical to check Google Search Console to ensure all intended pages are indexed.
- Excellent Content: Websites should contain content in the form of text, pictures or video that is relevant, unique and useful for the reader.
- Good UX: It’s important your website is usable, both on mobile and desktop, loads fast and be clean and easy to navigate.
- Engaging qualities By producing quality content and great UX, users should spend considerable amounts of time on your website. It’s important to monitor your site’s “Bounce rate” and average time on page in Google Analytics.
- Optimised content By optimising your content and it’s meta data, it makes pages easy for users and search engines to understand.
Using the previous example of a finance startup, it might seem logical to pick a keyword “Business Finance” as it has a high search volume of 1,000 searches per month, Australia wide.
This is problematic for two reasons:
- The intent is questionable. These “top of the funnel” search terms, will often be used to find out information about business finance. What is it? what finance options are there? etc, not necessarily to find a business finance service.
- The difficulty of ranking for the keyword. As a relatively new website, your site’s authority isn’t as strong as some of your more established competitors. The Keyword Difficulty (KD) figure of 75 on a scale of 1-100 means it will be relatively difficult to rank for this keyword.
You’ll want to start out by researching and using long tail keywords for your Startup SEO, as these will be easiest to rank for and have a higher chance of converting.
Whist Google has hundreds of ranking factors and tweaks it’s algorithms almost daily, it’s undoubtedly links that are amongst the top three ranking signals. Content needs to earn links from trusted and topically relevant sites and as always, quality is more important than quantity.
How do I start SEO for my startup?
Start compiling a list of keywords that you’d like your website to rank for. Type them into Google and see if your site ranks for these keywords. Have a look at the results that are displayed on the first page of Google search results. Type them into Google trends and see the trend and approximate monthly search volumes.
Find related keywords
Start looking at other related keywords, and type them into google. An example is “Business Finance Sydney”. At the bottom of the page, there are some “related searches” that are recommended by Google. Use these to find other related keywords that may be beneficial for your website.
Once you have a list of 10 or so “high value” keywords, you’ll either need to create new content around these keywords or modify existing content to contain these keywords. Use the keywords sparingly and not more than 2x per every 500 words, else you might be penalised by Google for “keyword stuffing”.
Check your search results weekly and note your rankings down for these keywords. There are also a plethora of SEO tools that automate these tasks for you.
Content is king!
Realistically, all SEO strategies revolve around creating content. To be successful with SEO for your startup, you’ll need to create a heap of regular, good quality content. Content options can include (but are not limited to):
- Guest Posts (ie blogs on other sites)
Create a Content Schedule
The key to generating effective content is to generate a content calendar/schedule. Schedule one day a week (or month) that’s focused on generating content that is both useful and insightful for your audience and potential customers. Give real value to users and help them solve any problems they may be having without asking for anything in return.
Promote this content to other websites that might find it useful for their readers, and hopefully, they’ll see the value and link you your website, thus increasing it’s the authority and the chances for your website to rank.
In summary, this has been a brief overview of Startup SEO, just scratching the surface of the opportunities available to founders. SEO takes considerable time, and often you need to be patient for six months to a year to see results. Start early, be consistent and your startup will reap the benefits of SEO!
David Sorauer is a Sydney digital marketer who’s been running his own agency, Evolocity, for over 2.5 years. He likes travelling, technology, sports, and coffee.