More often than not, startups don’t think of SEO as an important aspect of their marketing strategy. There are actually some valid reasons for this: SEO is mainly a long term game, and is quite difficult to execute while requiring consistency. Yet, SEO can be a very effective -and affordable- strategy for any startup, and in this guide, we will discuss how to effectively implement an SEO strategy in a startup business.
This will be a step-by-step guide so that you can easily apply it to your business even if you are a complete SEO beginner, and without further ado, let us begin with the first one.
Step 1: The Right Mindset
What is your actual first impression about SEO? While it can be different for everyone, most of people are admittedly sceptical about SEO, thinking it’s just one scammy tactic to cheat Google. In the past, black-hat SEO practices have contributed to this reputation, among others belonging in the dark history of SEO.
So, before we begin, we must address some of the common misconceptions to have a proper mindset:
SEO Is Not a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
Above, we have briefly discussed black hat SEO tactics, and they can indeed get you results in a fairly quick manner. Yet, they are very risky and you can get penalized by Google just as quick. On a worst case scenario, you might get a permanent ban from being ranked altogether.
Indeed, change your perception: SEO is a long-term strategy with long-lasting effects. Expect to invest at least 6 to 12 months before seeing any significant results. However, it will definitely be worth it.
SEO is Not Solely About Ranking
One of the most common bad practices by many SEO practitioners is putting too much focus on ranking. Yes, ranking is one of the key SEO objectives, but it doesn’t stop there. There’s no use if you are ranked #1 on Google but nobody clicked on your link. It will also be useless if you can’t convert those traffic into leads and ultimately into actual customers.
Ranking is most of the time, just a vanity metric, while instead you should be focusing on the end goals: revenue, conversion, and getting more leads from traffic.
SEO Is Alive and Well
Virtually every year, we will stumble upon a news or two proclaiming that “SEO is Dead”. More often than not, those news are tied with a Google algorithm update or another.
Yet, SEO is still alive and kicking, and arguably it’s even more important today in this saturated digital market. It’s true, however, that SEO is always evolving. A certain SEO tactic that worked last year might not work this year and the next. The good news is, as long as you are following Google’s starter guide for SEO, you will always be safe.
Step 2: Keyword Research and Content Planning
A huge aspect of SEO is your keyword research. If you are targeting the right keywords with the proper contents, you are already halfway there. There are several different approaches to achieve this: you can do your competitive analysis and find out the keywords they are targeting. You can target keywords based on your audience’s behavior, and so on.
There are many different tools available that can help you in this step, so make the full use of them.
Next, plan and develop contents based on the target keyword(s). In the past, we can simply stuff the article with our target keywords, and we are basically done. It’s no longer the case nowadays, as Google closely monitor the quality of our contents. To succeed, focus in giving more value to your human readers while naturally including your keywords.
Also, it helps to have a proper editorial calendar so that you can plan your topics ahead. A 12-month calendar is ideal, although you can start with a 3-month one.
Step 3: On-Site Optimization
Developing contents to target our focus keywords are actually part of on-site SEO. The next step, is to optimize the technical aspect of on-site SEO, which can include many different aspects.
Optimizing all the different technical factors can be difficult and confusing, especially if you are not utterly familiar with SEO best practices. So, here are some of the key areas you can focus on:
- Title Tags: Always include your focus keyword in the title tags, while making sure it is natural and interesting enough for human readers. Also, every single title tag on your site must be unique.
- XML Sitemap: Having a proper sitemap can give Google an easier time to index your site. There are many available tools to help you with this aspect, and don’t forget to submit your sitemap to Google Webmaster Central.
- Meta Description: Although meta descriptions are not a direct ranking signal, it can improve your CTR (click-through rate) which is an important ranking signal today. As always, make sure your meta description will be interesting for your human readers and unique.
- Headings and Subheadings: Proper headings and subheadings will not only make the contents more comprehensive for human readers, it will also allow an easier time for Google to sparse your site.
Step 4: Off-Site Optimization
While on-site SEO, in general, is developing content to target the focus keywords, off-site SEO is about putting those contents out there to get endorsements in the form of backlinks.
So, off-site SEO is essentially, all about link buildings. Link building is a pretty broad subject on its own, and you might want to refer to this guide by Backlinko to get a clearer picture.
Yet, here are a few areas to focus on:
- The most important part is actually covered in previous steps: create link-able contents that are valuable for your audience. If your contents are good, sooner or later people will link it.
- Be active on your social media, and frequently link quality contents
- Collaborate with other site in your industry, the higher their authority (the more influential), the better
- If you are a brick-and-mortar business, build local reviews and citations.
To summarize, there are three key aspects of implementing SEO for startup: your content that targets the right keywords, on-site technical optimizations, and link building. Keep in mind that you can also outsource SEO services to marketing companies like Nine Peaks and they will do the work and monitor the progress, as well as your competitors’. SEO is hardly a static strategy, so always be aware of changes and adjust when necessary.