SEO for Startups: A 11-Step Guide to Online Exposure (Part 1)
Running a startup or any kind of new business isn’t an easy feat. Your team is probably hustling all day for more traction, early signups and online traffic.
With resources-constrained as a starting point, spending $70,000 a month on online advertising or public relation firms can be overwhelming for small startups.
So, how do you reach your potential audience and generate more traffic with tiny advertising budget?
The power of search
Over the years, many startups have succeeded through search engine optimization (SEO) as their online marketing catalyst. SEO works effectively until today because:
- Google remains the most dominant search engine for about 72% of market share
- More than 44% of online shoppers begin with search engine when they want to buy something
- People who search something online indicates their strong intent towards: “I need this to solve my problems right now!”
Therefore, we’re going to learn about the step-by-step SEO plan every startups can implement to gain online exposure on search. Stick to this Part 1 of two-part series article until the end, I promise you’ll walk away with valuable tips.
Step 1: Ensure search engine can discover your website
Search engine typically goes through 3 process steps to rank a Web page:
- Spider will crawl to find all your URL resources
- Google will index these URL assets
- Search algorithm will reward the most valuable web page and place them highly on search
Therefore, to ensure “findability” on search, it’s best to begin your SEO effort with a technical SEO analysis.
It allows you to spot any issues that could be preventing your website from getting crawled, indexed or discovered from the search engine.
Here’re some important dimensions to consider when you perform a technical website audit:
Check for URL names, domain strategy (i.e. TLD, ccTLD, gTLD), parameters, session IDs and dynamic URLs. Make sure they are gibberish-free and easy-to-read by both human and search engine.
Look for 3xx redirect resources. Is your website having lots of redirects?
HTTP and HTTPS mixed contents
For secure website (with SSL certificate), make sure all the resources (such as URLs, images, videos, stylesheets, scripts files) are loaded over an secure HTTPS connection and not partially associating with HTTP.
Check for page size, loading speed, mobile responsiveness. How fast or slow is your site? A general rule of thumb is to keep your site loading speed below 3 seconds.
Review the overall website hierarchy including page depth, internal links profile, inlinks vs outlinks count
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Step 2: Know your audience intent
If you want to get the most out of SEO (i.e. conversion rates, traffic, leads, revenue), you can’t afford to ignore user intent. In short, user intent is about fulfilling the needs of a searcher.
You need to understand what users are likely to type in search bar when they begin searching. These insights can be used to drive successful keyword strategies and content marketing in modern SEO.
One easy way to help you figure out is to segment your target audience based on their buyer’s journey:
- People who are looking to research about a product to gather information, but not ready to buy yet
- People who are comparing between product features or service providers before deciding to make purchase
- People who are looking to purchase the products right now
Create an audience intent profile
Let’s look at this example:
Suppose you’re an online payment solution startup.
You may have people who wants to find out how to set up payment online; those who are comparing between X and Y providers; and those who are looking to increase checkout conversions based on their existing products.
Having this user intent profile allows you to generate relevant keyword ideas in the following step.
Step 3: Research the best keywords
Once you complete your audience intent profile, you can start finding a list of ideal keywords.
Some tools for keyword research like SEMrush, Keyword.io, Google Keyword Planner, Google trends or autocomplete can be helpful in this process.
Few things to consider when you analyze these keywords:
- Will people search it?
- What kind of conversions (signups, contact info, sales) you will get by targeting these keywords?
- Is there enough demand for these keywords?
- Are these keywords too competitive?
Group these keyword lists to match your audience intent profile using an Excel sheet. This spreadsheet will be useful for later use in your content marketing and keyword optimization tasks.
Step 4: Run a Blog and produce high quality contents
SEO and content marketing goes together like chips and dip. They are perfect for each other because:
- Google will choose to rank highly for contents that are valuable, unique, and beneficial for users who are searching about them.
- Successful content marketing will also help startups to build awareness, generate interest and drive profitable calls-to-action.
A simple way to get started with content strategy is to start a blog.
Assign your in-house employees to write about topics that resonates across your target audience and their user intent (based on Step 2). You might also want to include target keywords from Step 2 in your contents.
Consistency is the key to SEO success. Ideally, you should roll out a blog post once a week. To keep yourself on track, you can use a content marketing calendar like this one:
Image via [hubspot.com]
Step 5: Optimize your contents for SEO
Content creation cannot succeed in the name of SEO without proper on-page optimization.
That means getting relevant search terms and web elements (i.e. title, headings, internal links, etc.) in place, before your content goes out to the public.
By applying a few fixes on your contents can drive great amount of success for your SEO. Here’re a few best practices to keep in mind:
Keep your URL short and easy-to-read for both human and search engine is important for quality SEO. For example, this blog post URL “www.mashwebby.com/12-step-seo-guide” is better than “www.mysite.com/?id_234001=dfs9“.
Create a descriptive title tag with optimal length – it can enhance the presentation of call-to-action (CTA) when it displays in search result page. A page’s title should also matches with the page contents so that it doesn’t confuse the readers and crawlers.
Meta description tag sometimes is ignored because most will consider it’s not an important rankings factor. But think of it like a “trailer” for your page contents to entice visitors to click. When you provide a short meta description, it will improve click-through-rate and drive traffic for your website.
Using headings strategically within your paragraph can create better structure for your paragraph and break down key ideas into relevant sub-points. Readers will be able to scan across headings and help them read the contents easier.
Consider using “humanized” language to present your most valuable ideas in your contents. Although keywords is important for SEO, it’s best to use them sparingly to avoid keyword stuffing.
If you have 2 or more blog posts, do interlink them together to help visitors navigate to other piece of valuable information. It will increase the time-on-site signals – which tells Google your website is actually giving values to visitors.
Continue for Part 2…
In Part 2 of this Startup SEO series, we’ll take you to the profitable side of SEO: how to monitor important SEO metrics; how to scale your SEO tasks and so on.