As a startup, you need to get customers in the door, and fast. If you're spending all of your time and money on paid ads, you'll miss out on the chance to build a loyal audience who will eventually become customers and help drive revenue (not to mention organic traffic).
For many digital startups, ARR (annual recurring revenue) is the most important metric for success - both internally, and to investors. You need serious, growing numbers to attract future investment and eventually turn a profit. So many early and mid stage startups think that the best way to do this is by simply building some landing pages, running some paid marketing campaigns, and converting paid traffic into paid users. Of course, there's nothing wrong with this strategy, and it has it's place in every growth plan, but many startups fail to understand the true power of SEO and content marketing.
Organic search traffic is an incredibly powerful engine that can kickstart your user acquisition strategy. If you're not thinking about SEO as a component of your startup's growth plan, you're on the right track.
Sadly, many startups fail to see the power of search engine optimization strategy as it's a long-term play (1+ years to see massive ROI). We've seen many companies burn all their cash on paid ads, neglect SEO and go bankrupt in 1-2 years, just as their SEO strategies would begin to pay off.
In this article, we will explore the basics of SEO for Startups from day one, starting with keywords. Keyword research is the foundation of every good SEO strategy and if you don't pay attention to its effects on your organic traffic, then you'll be missing out on a huge opportunity.
Website traffic for digital startups is incredibly important. In fact, many digital startups give up on their SEO strategies too soon. In the startup world, time is one of your most valuable assets and if you can't get organic traffic coming to your website after a year, then it's time to start looking for a better strategy.
Why? When you're a small startup, you need all the organic traffic you can get.
But of course, if your startup is the next Airbnb, Uber or Dropbox (which sometimes happens), then you'll probably receive enough attention through word of mouth and press to grow organically via social sharing on Facebook, Twitter and other networks.
But more often than not, this isn't the case, so you need to start by making sure that your website is designed for growth, and that you're attracting the right audience.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is what digital marketers use to make sure their website shows up in Google search results (and other search engines like Bing). It's basically white hat marketing where you play by the rules set out by search engines so you can rank higher up in their results. Since Google is used by ~90% of all web users, it's incredibly important that your website ranks #1 for relevant keywords (more on this below). Think of SEO as a long term marketing strategy which will pay off once people start coming to your website, linking to it and sharing your content.
With SEO, you're building an audience that doesn't cost you any money nor is influenced by paid ads . People who voluntarily come to your website daily or weekly (or monthly) are "captive" customers who stick around long enough to see the value of your product or service - all because you ranked higher in Google's organic rankings.
Instead of paying money to advertise to people, you pay an SEO company (or learn how to do it yourself), optimize your website for keywords that are relevant for your business and aim to rank #1 on Google for those keywords. Organic search traffic is one of the most powerful forms of traffic because it's long term, reliable, and free.
This is why startups need to take their SEO seriously - if done right, it can be the best marketing strategy for them in the long term, and lead to high converting traffic. It should be the core of any digital marketing strategy. In fact, we've seen many campaigns return over 10X within 1-2 years of implementation. No other marketing method (other than building and nurturing an email list) come close to that!
Use a Keyword Research Tool such as SEMRush or Ahrefs (we use this one) to figure out what keywords you should be targeting. You want to find relevant keywords that your target audience is searching for, and have low competition from the other guys.
SEMRush makes this easy by giving you a list of keywords you rank for organically based on their database of 1 billion searches per month . Just go to the Organic Keywords box where it says " Show all results " and select " Only show (keyword) - with or without (number) results ".
Once you do this, your list of keywords will only contain the ones that you're ranking for organically. For each keyword, look at the monthly searches and competition on the left hand side to see how many searches there are worldwide, and how many websites are competing for that keyword.
Remember, you want to target keywords that have a decent amount of monthly searches, but not too many people competing for them . The best SEO strategy is to aim for medium sized keywords with low competition, because this will give you a better chance of ranking higher up in Google so more people can find your website. If you choose keywords that are too difficult to rank for, then you're just wasting your time.
There are also some free SEO tools, but if your startup has the budget, for long term SEO success, we suggest investing in a good tool, and focusing on high quality content that's relevant to what your company does.
Do your research and see if there is a strong demand for what you're selling as well as enough content on Google to warrant more pages, such as tutorials and case studies (for example). If you're still figuring things out, then choose long tail keywords that are specific to your industry or niche. These keywords should be relevant and easy to rank for, so they'll send traffic that is likely to become customers. It's the only way to end up on the top of search engine results.
SEO efforts are for nothing if you can't create great content around keywords. Use a keyword research tool to see what people are searching for and then create blog posts that answer these questions.
If you're targeting customers who haven't yet bought your product, write out detailed blog posts on how they'll solve their problems after signing up. If you're more of a B2B company, make sure all your content educates readers and provides them with actionable advice. Choosing specific keywords as paramount to SEO for startups.
In 2022 and onwards, voice search is going to become more and more prominent, so make sure you're including keywords in all your content (including the meta descriptions and headlines) because Google might rank those pages higher for voice search queries even if they don't show up on mobile. You want to appear as an authority for your niche.
Also, whatever you do, avoid keyword stuffing. If you're trying to rank for something, and you see the same word over and over again, it's a giveaway that you're doing poor SEO. We've seen this happen again and again in some startup's SEO strategy, and it's a massive detriment to long term success.
Having a website that looks good (is designed by a legit web design agency), loads fast, and can scale rapidly is important. We recommend keeping the blog as simple as possible, even if your landing and core pages (like pricing info) are really fancy - simple blog pages and landing pages load quickly and are good in terms of on page optimization.
Technical SEO is also another part of web design/creation. If you have technical SEO issues, then your hard work won't pay the dividends you're expecting. Getting an audit from a professional SEO agency will
Off page seo is almost as important as your content quality and Keyword rankings - search engine rankings are not just about ranking the best but also getting the right, quality and authority links..
If you're trying to rank for "marketing agency San Francisco" then you want to get links from local companies that are related to marketing agencies, like PR firms or ad agencies. You also want to get links from other authority sites (so your backlinks come from the best sources).
Off page SEO is one of several SEO tactics for ranking for high search volume terms that have high keyword difficulty - so keep it in mind. Try to get great links from other websites that also have relevant content in your neigh. A good way to do this is search for your target keyword, and find sites ranking for it. Then create some high quality content that augments their articles, and ask for them to link to your website url - this is a great way to get completely free, high quality links. (PS the term for this is "link building")
Track where, how, and what users are doing on your website by using a combination of Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Google Analytics is good to track which channels (or keywords) lead to more conversions and get an accurate understanding of what visitors do on your site.
Google Search Console is great for checking your website's technical SEO as well as your search rankings. The tool allows you to see your website's Google Search performance, monitor your site's crawling status and diagnose issues. You can also see how many pages Google crawls on an hourly basis, which is useful for finding out what users are looking at on your website.
We have a few SEO tips for startups to make sure they are doing everything they can to rank their website. We know that search engine optimization is tedious, but it's definitely worth the time, effort and money if you want your startup to grow organically at a healthy pace.
The first thing we look at when ranking for specific keywords is whether or not the startup has one of the following:
A super relevant and informative blog with very specific posts A lot of reviews or feedback from real customers.
If a startup has one or all of these factors, then we will immediately focus on creating landing pages for those keywords. The more relevancy a keyword has, the better the chance of ranking.
When a startup doesn't have any of these things going for it, we go with a different strategy - which is creating written content that is focused on sharing your expertise in an industry. This helps your website stand out from other websites and provides you with another platform to market yourself. Here's an example:
When ranking in the marketing industry, we focus on creating informational blog posts about tools that are important when it comes to successful marketing strategies. We then link back to this specific post when relevant keywords are used in conversation.
For instance - let's say you're a startup trying to rank for "top marketing software." A lot of your competitors will try to rank by writing new blog posts about the top marketing software, but there's nothing original about that. We will write an informative post that focuses on one specific aspect of marketing software like how it has evolved or what are some helpful tools for online marketers. This ensures people who read your article find everything they need and come back to your website for more information.
This marketing strategy has proven to be very effective and we highly recommend startups try it because:
It's original and not found across the web (unless you're dealing with a big corporation that can easily compete in this scenario).
It generates interest from potential customers who were looking for something related to your post specifically.
It builds your credibility online by creating original content that people can't find anywhere else. Other startup websites will give you quality links if the content is good enough.
Content strategy and SEO tactics are a long term approach to marketing, as opposed to Google Ads, and investors love when founders understand SEO techniques and implement them for long term growth. The ROI of creating good content, adding internal links, focusing on link building, building domain authority and getting to the top of search engines is massive, which is why SEO experts get paid so much.
The better you rank and build an audience, the more valuable your website becomes. And the more valuable your website is, the easier it is to raise money or get accredited investors interested in helping fund your startup.
But, you don't really need to pay somebody for SEO tasks in the beginning. Simply create content that is keyword optimized, follows best SEO practices, and is good for search intent. Connect to analytics tools such as Google Analytics, use free tools such as Keyword optimizer to get the targeting down, and rank high for great search terms.
SEO for startups is an important component in your marketing strategy. Investing time in SEO efforts is totally worth it when you're starting out, because traffic increases organically and high rankings increase credibility with investors. Meticulously working on a website's ranking is the best way to get to the top of search engines.
By focusing on creating valuable content that shares your expertise for longer-term goals, you'll build an audience of loyal followers who are eager to learn more about what your startup offers.
The stronger your presence online, the easier it is to raise funds and get investors interested in what you're doing. And when you find success with SEO efforts, moving forward with paid ads will be a much more efficient strategy for bringing in new leads and growing your business.