Unlike Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for a traditional business, one that’s already established and plugging along, SEO for startups have a much steeper uphill climb. With no existing brand awareness yet the same sort of hurdles to clear in order to show up in search — not to mention a limited budget — startups have to learn SEO fast, do it the right way and get it started immediately.
If you don’t hit SEO out of the park, then unless you have some big bad viral launch marketing campaign, you’re going to languish on page two or three (or beyond).
SEO is all about showing up where you need to — in relevant searches. You want to be as high up in the search rankings as possible so you can garner the clicks (traffic) needed to make a splash in your industry.
Tick ALL the SEO Boxes
Don’t just optimize your website for keywords — that’s kid stuff these days. Make sure you hit every one of the elements recommended in the top guides to SEO. This means making sure your site is optimized for mobile users (since most people use search at some point in their buying process) so your pages show up correctly. It also means you’re ensuring an optimal user experience throughout your site, driving users along the path to purchase.
And surely you know the importance of content. Not only should every page speak with engaging language and authoritative, relevant information, it should be optimized to get picked up by Google’s featured snippet bots. It should be easily digested through voice searches, too.
As a startup, you have the added challenge of carving out a place for the company in the industry (or even defining a new industry!). Your content needs to support your brand. It needs to build out a cognitive path that drives users from products and services (read: search terms) they already know and use to your products and services, which they have probably never heard of.
And don’t forget the technical stuff, either. Schema codes that speak to Google’s machine language to effectively categorize and display your content. Things like page speed, image tags, headers, titles, metas — yeah, there’s a lot there. Sitemaps! Don’t you dare overlook sitemaps, which help Google crawl your website and catalog it effectively and accurately. Read up or get an SEO agency involved before it’s too late.
Your startup may be focused on having a flashy site that offers a fresh new experience for users. That’s fine and dandy — but if you’re not technically up to par, no one is going to find your site to begin with.
And remember: SEO results aren’t going to appear, magically, as soon as you implement a tactic. One of the frustrating aspects of SEO is that it often doesn’t provide instant gratification. SEO results take time — but they’re worth the wait.
Consider What Happens Away From Your Website (Off-Page SEO)
To rise in search rankings, you need to build authority on other webpages that drive links back to your own content. This can come from publishing content on industry blogs, for instance, that offer your thought leadership and help drive awareness for your company — with links back to your site. This can also be achieved through adept social media marketing. The more followers and engagement you garner on social, the better you’ll do in search.
As a startup, you need to be singing the praises of your company anywhere you can. Of course, avoid low-value, spammy, “toxic” websites, but otherwise try to take any opportunity you can to build a presence. Reach out to thought leaders in the industry as well as other online publications or sites that have an overlap with your audience. Find out how you can contribute — maybe it’s a link to your website in one of their high-performing blog posts, or a social mention or inclusion in their email campaign. You won’t know if you don’t ask and do your due diligence.
Just Like a Startup, SEO Should Always be Ready to Pivot
Stay on top of your website’s performance to see if you need to re-up on any SEO tactics. Maybe you’re starting to lose ground with content and you need to create some fresh pieces or respond to industry changes with new blogs. Maybe you’re seeing a drop-off at a certain page along the buyer’s journey and you need to rewrite some content to better engage the user and drive them to action.
Of equal importance is staying on top of Google’s algorithm changes. Think of this as tracking the field of SEO. Google updates its algorithm on an unpredictable basis in its effort to optimize the user’s experience. Years ago, it made changes that devalued sites who participated in “keyword stuffing” which helped filter out spammy sites. More recently, it updated its layout to display featured snippets that answer a query right away as well as Knowledge Panels that show relevant business information. This had a huge impact, as nearly half of users ended their searches at the Google search results page, since one of those features gave them a sufficient answer. Some sites saw traffic drop and many took a cue to better optimize content to be pulled into these quick-hit results displays.
You’re probably already constantly on your toes, ready to pivot your business as the industry and your audience changes. That’s just the nature of startups. Be sure you factor that same mentality into SEO and your other digital marketing tactics so you keep that precious search engine visibility.