SEO seems to be just one of those things that a lot of startups overlook during the early days. But I can understand why. You’re juggling a million and one priorities and looking to invest funds in areas that will have the biggest impact. Startup SEO – with its very long lead time – often languishes at the bottom of the queue.
However, this approach can be a costly mistake. Yes, SEO for startups can have a long lead-time before you see any ROI. But this means that the sooner you start focusing efforts on it, the sooner you’ll see a return. And what if you do leave it until later? Well, things can end up very costly indeed. SEO agency fees and an over-reliance on digital ads can put a strain on financial resources. This is compounded by all that organic traffic you’re not capturing.
However, if you sow the seeds of SEO success from day one you can future-proof your website. This can help you avoid unnecessary costs in the future. So here are my top startup SEO tips, which we advise our clients on.
Research the market
Keyword research stumps a lot of people! How do you choose keywords to target? How do you know if these words receive any search traffic, or if you have a hope in hell of ever getting onto page one of Google? These questions are fundamental to startup SEO.
The best place to start is by gathering some competitor intelligence. Choose a few keyword phrases that best describe your business (e.g. “customer service chatbot”, “chatbot client for customer services”, “AI chatbot for customer services”). Search each of these keyword terms in Google and then make a list of all the competitor websites within the first page of each of the results.
Enter each of these websites into the keyword explorer tool in either Moz or SEMrush. Both offer a 1-month free trial, so your research needn’t cost you anything. Analyze the keyword terms that each of these sites are ranking for, along with the content that’s ranking for these terms. This will give you a solid grounding in the keyword terms that your competitors are ranking for, you can then use this as a basis to start exploring related keywords.
Setup a logical site structure
A benefit of a startup website is that it doesn’t come with a messy legacy sitemap. This means you can plan an optimal site structure from day one for the best possible SEO. Map out a hierarchy in a spreadsheet and decide what your main categories are going to be. These are what will appear on the top line of your nav bar. Aim for around a couple to half a dozen.
Your main categories could be things like “Products”, “Resources” and “Blog” Now plan all of the pages that will sit within these categories. This will be things like a separate page for each of your different products, a separate page for each of your resources etc.
When it comes to hosting these pages on your site, make sure you create a logical URL structure. All category and subcategory pages should have the following URL structures:
Optimize the copy on your core pages
Explore your route keywords (those that best describe your business and product) with the keyword explorer in Moz or SEMrush. Look at both the competitiveness and popularity of each. You want to choose keywords that are popular relative to related keywords, but which have a low to medium competitiveness.
The copy on your homepage should be optimized around two or three variants of a broad keyword term that was chosen following the above research. Make sure these keywords adequately describe your product and service and have clear commercial intent.
The next most important pages - SEO wise - are your product or services landing pages. These pages enable you to capture long tail keywords. These are lower traffic, but often higher converting and easier to rank for search terms, where users are searching for more specific terms. Going back to the above research, each of these pages should be optimized around a couple of keyword terms.
Combine content efforts
If you want to rank for a broad range of keywords, then you have to create a lot of high-quality content. This fact of SEO life can create a stumbling block with plenty of startups. What I often hear is that resources are stretched and nobody really has the time to spend hours writing a blog post or landing page. If this sounds familiar to you, then combine your content efforts.
You or your team are no doubt writing good quality content when pitching to investors or engaging in PR efforts. A lot of this material can be repurposed and used across your site. You can also operate this the other way. You can pitch any blog posts you’ve written for your site to publications or blog sites, as guest articles or blogs. As long as you setup a canonical URL, you’ll have no SEO issues with duplicate content.
Leverage PR for easy backlink wins
Love it or hate it, backlinks are still one of the most important SEO ranking factors in 2019.
Startup websites often struggle to gain backlinks passively, as you need valuable content that already ranks well to do this. But this just means you need to be creative and leverage things you may already be doing.
One of the best ways to do this is with some basic PR activity that you can do yourself. Each time you win a piece of media coverage, the chances are you’ll also receive a backlink to your website. And of course, PR has plenty of other benefits asides from just SEO.
There are many ways you can win media coverage. If you have an announcement to make, send out a press release to relevant industry publications. If there’s a current news story or trend that’s relevant to your business, reach out to journalists to offer an expert comment. Or offer to share your industry insights by pitching to write guest articles for leading publications.
Know what to analyse in Google Analytics
Make Google Analytics (GA) analysis a part of your regular business reporting. I can’t stress this point enough! If you’re uninitiated into the world of GA, the sheer amount of data on display can be a little overwhelming. So to begin with, focus your attention on the following:
- Traffic by channel – track this weekly in a time series. Is your organic traffic going up or down, in terms of sessions and as a share of all traffic? This is one of the most fundamental metrics in the world of SEO.
- Landing pages – in GA, a landing page is the page where a user enters a website. By setting the channel filter to organic, you can see every page where a user enters your site through Google. Track your top pages on a weekly basis.
- Conversion – getting traffic to a site is one thing. But just as important is how traffic behaves when on a site. Set up goals reporting so you can track how many site users convert into a lead or sale. You can then track this by the above landing pages report, allowing you to see what type of content performs the best conversion wise.
So there you have it. With just a few simple steps you can discover the best keywords to target, optimize the copy on your core pages, set up a logical site structure, combine content efforts, leverage PR to win backlinks and monitor the most important metrics. And the best thing is that none of this requires a huge amount of time, which makes startup SEO accessible to everyone.