As a startup founder, time is limited and needs to be distributed accordingly to achieve the best results. Sometimes that means that we prioritize short-term actions at the hindrance of long-term benefits, willingly or otherwise. A prime example in marketing is SEO, where we’ve come across numerous startups without a real SEO game plan (and no actual results either). This results in a huge missed opportunity because SEO can become the most profitable distribution channel in the long term, although it does require considerably more time to achieve results than PPC.
That’s why we decided to detail some of the key opportunities that startups can use to increase their search engine ranking positions, generate more targeted traffic and obtain more customers in just a few easy steps. These 5 tips and tools for startups should be applicable to most industries and business models, however please take any generalized suggestions with a grain of salt, as SEO needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
We are going to assume that you’ve already taken care of the fundamental on-page SEO aspects of your website and adequately optimized your content, keywords, meta-tags etc. There are numerous detailed on-page SEO checklists, guidelines and tutorials online, however we’re going to outline some of the essential ranking factors below.
What is startup SEO?
SEO is a form of marketing for startups, which uses various techniques to attract visitors or customers by increasing web page rankings in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). SEO helps you rank higher in search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. You can work with an SEO Outsourcing provider, or develop your own search strategy; however, you will need to consider the following factors to optimize your website for higher ranking in SERPs:
Keyword research and analysis: keywords are what searchers type into search engines when they’re looking for something specific. You should identify keywords related to your business and then do keyword research to determine how many people are searching those terms every month so you know which ones to target with your content.
Finding the right keywords related to your business can be tricky: Because keywords are the cornerstone building blocks of your SEO strategy, you need to build a cohesive keyword structure that encapsulates the right terminology of your potential customers on each different stage of your customer journey. You can utilize Google’s own keyword tool or third-party platforms to establish keyword difficulty metrics (and estimates of the keyword volume).
Technical on-page optimization: this includes making sure each page on your website has a title tag, description tag, meta tags (keywords), headings (, , etc.), and other important elements that search engines crawl throughout your website. Website performance & loading speed have also become a major ranking factor in recent Google updates.
Content funnel: A well optimized long-term content strategy is at the core of any high ranking website. Google and other search engines crawl your site, index its content and display it in their search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s important to have high quality relevant content that will appeal to your target audience, avoiding duplicate content.
SEO for startups refers to ideating the right SEO strategy that increases the organic search traffic (and potential customers) to your website.
Is SEO important for startups?
Startup SEO should be the most important part of your marketing strategy.
Why? Because Google is where most users go when they are looking for anything from products to services to articles and more. A recent report said that 86% use search engines as their first line of inquiry when searching for something.
With that being said, let’s jump into the 5 key SEO tips for startups to increase search visibility:
- Webmaster Tools and Search Console set-up
We will start the list with what should probably be considered SEO 102 and a requirement for every startup: integrating with the webmaster & search console panel of search engines.
TIP: You want to verify your domain on GSC both as a “Domain” property, as well as “URL Prefix” (which needs to be the exact URL HTTP(s)/WWW version of your website).
Having access to Google and Bing’s crawling information, automated reports, and issue reporting makes SEO considerably easier in the long run. Take the necessary time to familiarize yourself with the dashboard of both panels so you can efficiently take advantage of the data and features that search engines provide you within their individual platforms.
- Local search properties
If you have an online business, promoting it in your immediate local area is often the least of your concerns. However, this can result to be a mistake because having a properly optimized local presence can have long-term benefits, such as:
- Increases your legitimacy, both in the eyes of your prospective customers as well as search engines
- It helps your business show up in front of targeted, local search queries
- Provides an efficient distribution channel for your immediate area
And if this wasn’t enough, it’s completely free to establish a local search presence.
TIP: Create your GMB first, then you can import your business information to Bing Places.
The same on-page SEO principles apply to your GMB/Bing Places listings as well, where you need to optimize the content properly and business presence if you want to show up for targeted search queries. However, the added bonus of having a local search property means that Google will consider your proximity to the user as an added relevancy signal, thus showing your business higher than the competition.
Optimizing your local search properties requires its own in-depth article to cover appropriately; however, we’ll list three key features that you need to keep in mind:
- GMB site
Google offers the possibility for GMB owners to create a simple web 2.0 website for their listing. It’s advisable to fill in the relevant business information and some content pertaining to your business alongside your main website link.
- Publish posts often
Keep your listing updated with relevant information that your customers want to know. If you are currently implementing a content strategy through your blog, you can publish your posts on GMB.
- Attract (positive) reviews
Social proof is one of the most powerful buying motivators, and as it turns out, it affects your search engine rankings as well. Make sure you attract positive reviews from satisfied customers on your listing, and it will start ranking higher than the competition.
- Structured Data Implementation
Now we’re starting to wander into more advanced territory, so if you’re not particularly tech-savvy, this might require some development help in terms of set-up. However if you’re doing SEO for tech startups, this should be right up your alley.
Structured data is used by search engines to “understand” (parse & categorize) pages better and display rich snippets on search results. Why does your website need it? Your website may get featured in rich snippets and attract more visibility if it’s already ranking. However, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you will get better rankings from implementing it.
The official schema.org website lists all the different types of structured data that you can implement and provides examples for each one. Some of the most common schema markup types used for businesses are:
There is no “one size fits all” rule that can help you implement structured data on your website, as the markup type will depend on your business type, website structure, content strategy and overall SEO performance. Take the time to get well-acquainted with the various types of Schema and how to implement them accordingly on your website. Make sure you check out Google’s own Structured Data Guidelines and Bing’s Structured Data Markup documentation.
- Social Engagement
One of the most overlooked SEO factors is user engagement. If your website is gaining traction throughout social networks, search engines will start favoring your content more and ranking your business higher. This is why social engagement should be promoted and encouraged throughout your website, so make sure that your blogpost section contains multiple sharing buttons for social networks.
Going one step further, you can directly provide value to your users in exchange for their social actions. Now we’re venturing into Growth Marketing/SMM territory, but it does overlap with SEO: One of the best ways to incentivize social engagement is through giveaways. Another way would be to provide to each user something in return for their social engagement, such as an exclusive piece of content. Take for example our next point…
5. User-Generated Content
User-generated content can become a major driving force behind your business, not simply to improve your conversion rate, but also to attract new visitors to your website. Your existing customers can become your greatest business advocates, so you should always strive to incentivize your satisfied customers to leave reviews. If you enable reviews and ratings through your website, you should implement the “AggregateRating” schema. Alternatively, you should set up brand profiles on unbiased third-party platforms that your potential customers use, such as Facebook pages, GMB listings as well as any industry-relevant distribution networks.
As an example, at Outrank.Website, we’re currently offering 50% off our Comprehensive SEO Audit package. Once we’ve delivered the order reports and answered the customer’s questions, we invite feedback to be posted on our Trustpilot page (perfect 5-star rating so far!).
Another way to promote user discussions on your website is to enable comments wherever applicable (usually the blog section of your website) and encourage users to share their thoughts or questions in a comment. Just make sure that you enable spam filters so that your blog doesn’t end up being spammed to death with low-quality links.
Going beyond the basic UGC strategies, you should document and display on your website case studies from your previous projects, with the explicit permission of your clients, of course. This acts two-fold as a positive reinforcement for prospective customers, because you’re showcasing your domain expertise, as well as a solid track record with proven results. Obviously, this does not apply to every industry because it depends on any confidentiality agreements in place and the client’s disposition to publicize their project information online.
Displaying user-generated content on your website is brilliant in terms of SEO because your customers will use the terminology that your target audience uses, which sometimes can result to be even more efficient and natural than a carefully crafted SEO article.
While this article nowhere near covers the extensive field of SEO and how a startup should apply it to maximize their user acquisition, it does provide an initial starting point to implement a long-term SEO strategy that maximizes the visibility that your website gets from search rankings.
If you find SEO to be too much of a time sink without any apparent results, then you should consider talking to professionals that can design and execute the right SEO strategy for you. At Outrank.Website, we understand the shifting business requirements of a startup and how to facilitate growth, whether we’re working with a pre-seed MVP or a fully-fledged market-fit product. Let’s discuss your SEO challenges and how we can help you solve them and scale with our tailor-made SEO For Startups services.