This is a guest post by Nate Vickery.
Startups are very fragile. In fact, they are so fragile that the vast majority of them doesn’t make it past year 2 or 3. There are innumerable reasons as to why this happens and among those reasons is that they often simply do not find enough customers to become financially viable. And when a startup has difficulties doing this, the support of investors also tends to weaken.
In today’s world, startups are just as likely to find customers online as they are offline. In fact, for many of them, the customers will almost exclusively exist and do business online. Some of them will not even exist outside the web.
As a result, it becomes quite obvious that a startup needs to be as visible as possible online if it is to survive and as we all know it, no one (or at least almost no one) is visible online without a bit of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
In short, a startup simply has to do SEO if it is to survive.
Start In Time
Perhaps the most useful advice that startup owners can get in regards to SEO is to start on time. If you already have a product, it is too late. If you already have a website, it is too late. Your SEO starts the same time your idea begins to percolate.
Because of your startup’s name, the domain name that you will be purchasing and the keywords that you will be concentrating on as you build your SEO strategy.
First getting all of these and then coming up with an SEO strategy is the wrong way around. Your SEO strategy needs to happen at the same time as you are working on your idea.
Also, if you start in time, this will give you enough time to learn more about SEO and to understand what it is that you are trying to accomplish with it. It is a fluid, rapidly changing industry and if you miss a few months of it, it is as if you know nothing.
KissMetrics has assembled a fantastic list of sources to learn from, and while most of them are really useful, there are a few that really stand out:
- This video from the horse’s mouth does a great job of explaining how Google Search works and it is the perfect place to start
- Familiarising yourself with PageRank is also a must
- Quick Sprout’s and Moz’s guides to SEO are also great reads
- Google’s own SEO guide might be a few years old, but there are some serious insights there, too
- This is a great video about coming up with an SEO strategy
Pick Your Battles
One of the worst things that you can do with your SEO efforts is being unrealistic. This is something SEO experts always have to explain to their clients when they come over, dissatisfied with what they had achieved on their own and begging for help.
SEO cannot be rushed, or at least, it cannot be rushed and hope it will last. Proper SEO is something that you do over an extended period and something that has to develop naturally to last. And even then, even if you do everything right and you sink in months of SEO, you will still have difficulties ranking high for certain keywords and breaking into the top spots in Google Searches.
The reason for this is that there are bigger fish than you, especially highly competitive searches.
For example, if your startup develops new customer support software, you will have troubles beating Zendesk to the top spot. They have been around for years, and they have so much natural (and professional) SEO being done for them.
Instead of going for the One Big Victory, startups should concentrate on more frequent and attainable smaller wins that will after a while lead to a great position and increased traffic to the website.
Stick To The Classics
There is a reason why the classics are the classics. And it does not matter what we are talking about. There is a reason why Moby Dick is a classic or why Lawrence of Arabia is a classic. There is a reason why email marketing is a classic. They are good. In other words, they get the job done.
The same is true for SEO classics. They have been time-tested over and over again, and they help people rank their website.
SEO classics will always start off with ensuring that your on-site SEO is done properly. For one, you will make sure that your title tags include your keywords and that you are smart about them. Page speed is also an important on-site factor when Google is concerned. You should also make sure that you have properly interlinked your website content and that you have done URL canonization the way Google recommends.
The next step will be producing content on a regular basis and making sure it is content that people will want to consume. If you have to choose between producing one great piece of content every two weeks and so-so content every three days, stick to the truly great content.
One of the great SEO classics is getting links that will point back to your website. Simply put, this is still the most sensible indicator of a website’s strength and value and you have to make sure that the links pointing back to your website are quality ones and not spammy. To do so, you will want to do some guest blogging on other people’s websites and doing some cleanup if you think too many spammy links are pointing back to your website.
Your startup should also try and stay active on social media. While opinions are divided as to how much actual ROI you will get from being active on social, the fact is that startups are very much web-oriented and social has become an inseparable part of the web experience. Share your content on social media, grow connections and make sure you put a human touch to all your social media interactions.
All of these could be covered in time, and this is only a blueprint that will help you go in the right direction.
Convert. Convert. Convert.
SEO is never its own purpose. The reason why you do SEO is not so you can call up your mum or dad and tell them to search for a keyphrase and tell you which result came out first in Google. You do SEO so that more people find your website. More precisely, you do SEO so that more people find your website, visit it and become your customers.
To do this, you will need to convert all of this SEO-driven traffic into paying customers who will provide your startup with a revenue and who will turn your “brilliant idea” into a money-maker.
Even scratching the surface of how to increase conversions would require volumes of guides and text and, thankfully we got you covered. This blog is packed with advice on how to boost your conversions and make sure your brand is making all the money it can make. You should also keep in mind that different industries have different ways to increase conversions and that your efforts will depend on what kind of a startup you run.
The important thing is that you do not forget convert.
It’s like that scene in Glengarry Glenn Ross where Alec Baldwin rages at the poor real estate agents, telling them to Always Be Closing. When we are talking SEO, it is Always Be Converting.
Doing SEO for your startup is definitely not the simplest of undertakings. To do it the right way and to really reap the benefits, you will need a lot of hard work and time investment.
That being said, a few common sense practices can do a lot over a period time. Foregoing tricks and keeping your website really human-friendly is the first step. For our blog, BizzMarkBlog, my colleagues and I like to do some guest posting, both because it allows us to reach new audiences and get great links, but also because it helps us build connections with some really great people.
The most important thing is that you do not cut corners, start buying links or reverse to 2008 SEO practices (posting gajillion spun 500-word articles on “article dumpster websites”, using hidden links, spamming forums with unnatural links, etc.) in any other way. This may boost your visibility quickly, but in the long run, it is far more likely to get you penalties from Google and ruin everything you have accomplished.
What are tips and tricks are you using for your company’s website to boost its Search Engine Ranking? Let us know in the comments so we can all learn from it!
Nate Vickery is a business consultant mostly interested in latest technology trends applicable to SMB and startup management and marketing. Nate is also the editor at a business-oriented blog called BizzMarkBlog.