By Sujan Patel
If you’re a startup entrepreneur, chances are good that search engine optimization (SEO) is the last thing on your mind. After all, why should you worry about things like keyword phrases and backlinks when there are a hundred other items on your “to do” list, all clamoring for your attention?
Unfortunately, this mindset is extremely shortsighted. It doesn’t matter how innovative your products or services are. If people can’t find you online, you’re going to have a seriously tough time sustaining the momentum you need to propel a growing business to success.
So instead of dismissing the tremendous potential involved with SEO, consider implementing any or all of the following techniques into your startup’s marketing plan:
Technique #1 – Identify Target Keywords
In my opinion, a startup’s #1 marketing goal should be to identify at least a handful of potential SEO keywords to target within the natural search results and then optimize the site accordingly. This list should include keyword phrases that your potential customers are actually entering into the engines (as determined by search volume figures found in keyword research tools) and that aren’t too competitive to rank for your site (based on the presence of established websites in Google’s Top 10 results).
Once identified, these keywords should be integrated into your site in key areas, including your page titles, your heading tags, and your body content. Don’t force it through excessive inclusions, but do take advantage of the SEO value these positions hold to inform the search engines about the subject of your web content.
Technique #2 – Implement Branding Efforts
However, while it’s important to identify and target SEO keywords for use in your startup marketing plan, it’s also vital that you begin the branding process as early as possible in your company’s tenure. There’s no arguing with the fact that Google loves brands. Considering that the search engine must rely on quantifiable metrics (rather than subjective assessments) in order to evaluate website quality for display in the natural search results, branded elements remain one reliable bellwether that can be used to indicate viewer valuation.
To get started capturing these benefits for your startup’s website, decide on a set logo, color scheme, tagline, and promotional phrasing as early as possible, and use these elements consistently across your web presence. Consider working with a graphic designer or marketing consultant if you don’t feel capable of coming up with a cohesive brand on your own.
Technique #3 – Focus on Content Creation
Running a company blog on which you post product updates, industry news reactions, or other personal interest pieces is a vital part of SEO for two reasons.
First, publishing content to your site regularly increases the number of different keywords present on your site. By improving keyword exposure, you may find yourself earning free SEO traffic via natural search phrases you never even targeted on your site!
Second, filling your site with valuable content is a great way to build up the relationships you share with your prospects and customers. Because bounce rate and time on site are both believed to be playing roles in search ranking algorithms, the quality of these relationships could actually improve how well you rank in the SERPs.
Technique #4 – Commit to Social Networking
Truth be told, for many startup entrepreneurs, participating on popular social networking sites can seem like yet another chore to be added to the “to do” list. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap!
Both Google and Bing have acknowledged that social signals, including link shares and brand mentions on some social network status updates, are currently playing a role in natural SERPs rankings, which means that maintaining a presence on these sites is vitally important for your startup’s SEO. If at all possible, make it a priority to invest at least 10-20 minutes each day posting to social networking sites and interacting with the people who follow your company’s profiles on these sites.
Technique #5 – Connect with Social Networking Power Users
While you’re spending time on popular social media sites, it’s also a good idea to take the time to connect with the power users on these platforms. Not only is the relative authority of these social networking participants taken into account when weighting the social signals Google and the other search engines detect for your brand, a single link share from one of these “influencers” could result in a significant influx of traffic and customers to your website.
To do this effectively, identify the people you’d like to connect with based on their numbers of followers and their general authority within your industry, and then let your relationships with them build up naturally. Sharing their content or offering to help them in some way will go a long way towards ensuring the success of your eventual share request.
Technique #6 – Install Google Analytics
Another foundation to web success that all startups should consider is the ability to measure and test different metrics. For example, if you’ve recently added a new sign-up form to your startup’s website, you’ll want to be sure it’s as effective as possible, and you can’t know that if you aren’t measuring the results you achieve through A/B or multivariate split testing.
To gather the data needed to do this effectively, you’ll want to install a program like Google Analytics. It’s free and easy to use, and it provides an incredible wealth of information that can be used to improve your website’s conversion rates.
Technique #7 – Set up Google Analytics Goals
Speaking of conversion rates, once you’ve got Google Analytics installed, you’ll want to take the time to establish website goals and set up the necessary event tracking features to determine how well your website is performing. Because Google Analytics goals allow you to identify whether or not website visitors are engaging with your site the way you envisioned, they’re a vital part of making your site as effective as possible.
For complete details on how to use Google Analytics’s built-in features to start generating this data, take a look at any of the following articles:
- About Google Analytics Goals
- Setting up Google Analytics Goals
- Google Analytics Event Tracking Guide
Technique #8 – Invest in Link Building Campaigns
While optimizing your website for your chosen SEO and branded keyword phrases is important, it’s only half of the optimization battle. The second primary SEO aim you’ll want to pay attention to is link building, as in the process of getting other websites to point links to your content.
The number, quality, and relevance of the links pointing at your website are all used as quality signals in the search engine ranking algorithms. Because your site’s link profile is estimated to account for as much as 50-80% of your overall “SEO Score,” you’ll find that it’s well worth your while to invest in link building campaigns as soon as your startup’s website is online.
The easiest way to carry out a link building campaign is to take a look at where your competitors are getting their backlinks by using tools like Majestic SEO or the Open Site Explorer. Although you won’t want to copy their link profiles link-for-link, you can use the data generated by these programs to identify potential linking sources and uncover missed link opportunities that could allow you to outrank your opponents in the SERPs.
Technique #9 – Try Guest Posting
One link building technique that deserves special mention here is guest posting. As a guest author, you connect with other websites in your industry to provide guest blog posts in exchange for a link back to your site. When done well (that is, by partnering with top influencers within your industry), you will receive a high-quality, highly-relevant backlink and you also stand to receive additional traffic due to the transfer of perceived “recommendation” of your content by the referring site’s author.
With just a few good guest post spots, it’s possible to substantially increase both your rankings in the natural search results and the amount of traffic flowing to your website.
Technique #10 – Launch Press Releases
Finally, one link building technique that’s especially effective for startup entrepreneurs is the use of press releases. Whenever your company has something newsworthy to report, write up a provocative press release and send it out through a distribution service like PRWeb. As you might expect by now, promoting your site in this way has the potential to both increase traffic and backlinks through the sites that eventually carry your release.
Sujan Patel is the co-founder of Single Grain, an SEO Agency based in San Francisco, CA. Single Grain specializes in helping start ups and Fortune 500 companies with their digital marketing strategy.