In an ideal world, innovative startups wouldn’t have to invest any money in marketing. People would recognize the value of their products and services, and the good news would spread like wildfire all across the internet.
Unfortunately, startup brands have to deal with massive global competition. Unlike the years prior, when you only had to think about the domestic market, companies are now exposed to fierce opposition from other countries. What’s worse, brands tend to copy from each other, which can shorten your opportunity window.
And while all of this might sound harsh, the global market we live in also opens certain opportunities. It allows you to tap into a limitless number of customers and create interesting partnerships.
The importance of SEO for startups
If you managed to create a completive product and have a solid organizational structure, your last task is to promote the solution online. Unfortunately, this is where many brands fall short.
Business owners often think that the product will find its way to the market with minimal investment. But as you’ll soon find out, even if you have a revolutionary solution, there’s a chance it might get lost among numerous similar products. And this is where SEO comes into play.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a process of making your site better for Google and other search engines. Specifically, it focuses on improving the technical features of your website, creating viral content, and spreading it across the web.
Organic traffic accounts for 53% of total website traffic. While social media marketing and paid ads can also provide nice results, they won’t drive as many visitors as SEO. More importantly, this is the best method of growing online presence over time.
When should you implement SEO?
As experts like to joke, you should start investing in optimization yesterday.
Hiring a professional SEO agency like MiroMind will provide dividends in the long run. Keep in mind that SEO takes time to kick in, so the sooner you start doing it, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits.
In most cases, you’ll see very little benefit in the first few months. In fact, it might take a week or two for Google to index the first pieces on your site. So, if you’re having trouble with your cash flow, you might combine optimization with paid ads.
Nevertheless, no matter what other type of marketing campaign you’re running, you should always set aside a hefty SEO budget. Here are a few reasons for that:
- It doesn’t matter where the leads are coming from, as they’ll always end up on your site. And even if you have a fantastic social media team, they can’t help with broken website design or slow loading speed.
- Your website is your business card. It’s usually the first touchpoint between users and the startup, so you need to leave a good impression.
- Having a highly functional website is crucial for all your marketing efforts. Among others, it can help you land new partnership opportunities that you couldn’t gain otherwise.
- SEO experts often perform the role of CRO (conversion rate optimization). They make sure your product pages are up-to-date and working as intended. So, their involvement can have a direct impact on sales.
- Search engine optimization is especially fantastic for brands that rely on the local market. Aside from improving your site and adding your company to business directories, these experts can help track and improve online mentions.
Most importantly, SEO analysis can help you gain valuable insights about the market, competition, and potential customers. It introduces you to the biggest brands within a niche or industry. Based on what users are browsing for, you can learn more about their expectations and preferences.
Now that you understand why it’s so important for a startup to use optimization let’s go through some long-term benefits and drawbacks.
Main benefits of SEO for startups
Here are a few main reasons why your startup needs optimization:
- Provides high conversion rates
- Increases brand awareness
- Improves other marketing efforts
- A highly scalable marketing approach
- Promotes your brick-and-mortar stores
- Easily quantifiable results
- Helps reach a global audience
Ideally, you should invest heavily in SEO from the get-go. There’s simply nothing better for startups, as it allows you to make enormous web sales. What’s better, the process is highly scalable, and it can significantly improve your online reputation and users’ trust.
Main drawbacks of SEO for startups
Unfortunately, SEO also has a few issues. The biggest problem has to do with the initial impact and high costs:
- It doesn’t provide immediate results
- The price can be quite high
- SEO might distract you from other marketing practices
- Hiring a bad SEO company can spell disaster
Like with any other marketing effort, it’s very important to find a brand you can trust. Optimization is a highly technical process, and many things can go awry. Some companies even use shady practices that can get your site into trouble with Google leading to debilitating penalties.
10 Startup SEO practices
Before creating an SEO strategy for your startup, you need to ask yourself, what is the purpose of optimization?
Most brands focus their SEO efforts on increasing organic traffic. Truth be told, as a young organization, you’re probably worried that you’ll never make enough sales to cover recurring monthly costs. Because of this mindset, many entrepreneurs struggle with branding as their organization slowly transitions from a young to a mature brand.
So, in this article, we’d like to talk about best startup SEO practices not only for lead generation but for increasing online reputation.
5 startup SEO strategies for branding and reputation building
Many people don’t realize this, but SEO is, first and foremost, a brand-building activity. The increased number of visitors is the reflection of everything good you’ve done on your startup site. Unlike pay-per-click, which is transactional in its nature, SEO is meant to improve website interactions across the board.
As such, it’s not only important for making sales, but it can also help generate partnership opportunities, increase the number of website and social media followers, increase email subscriptions, and so on.
1. Analyze target audience
Many people don’t realize that the optimization process has numerous similarities to traditional marketing. In other words, before creating a marketing mix and finding an effective SEO strategy, an agency has to analyze the market.
Today, marketing companies use various SEO tools such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Trends, and AhRefs to learn more about user intent. Here are a few things you should pay attention to:
- Demographics data
- Financial state
- Website interactions
- Target keywords
- Mobile devices vs. desktops
- Distribution of global traffic
During keyword research, you have to see what people are looking for. Do they have long sales cycles? How long do they take to acquire information about a product or a brand? Do they make impulsive purchases, or do they have to interact with a website numerous times before buying?
Unfortunately, as a startup, you won’t have insights into sales data, which makes the whole process a guessing game. Yes, you can check competitors’ sites to see how many click they get for every piece of content. But this won’t tell you how many of these visitors they manage to convert.
2. Perform extensive technical SEO
In theory, you don’t need website content marketing or link building for a successful brand. In fact, you don’t even have to create a blog and populate your site with articles. Startup websites can drive leads via social media and paid ads, completely avoiding most SEO tasks.
Still, for any digital marketing strategy to be successful, you’ll need to at least perform technical analysis on your site. Here are a few things you need to pay attention to:
- Page speed
- Website architecture
- Duplicate content
- Linking issues
When people land on your pages, they need to be certain they’re dealing with a reputable brand. Although you can create a beautiful site by employing a top-tier designer, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the platform will work as intended.
This is why you need to hire an SEO expert to check your website pages.
3. Develop visual identity
Technical SEO and visual design often go hand in hand. A designer should keep in touch with the SEO agency throughout the process, so they can implement solutions that make sense for users and search engines.
For example, a developer might want to add flashy visual solutions to attract attention. However, this is a big no-no for your SEO success as it can slow down page speed. Two groups have to find a middle ground where a site will look nice without hindering technical performance.
In particular, you need to consider the following:
- General website theme
- Size of different elements
- Colors and patterns
- Text font
- Impact of various add-ons (pop-ups, widgets, banners, etc.)
While some people might argue that visuals aren’t necessarily the SEO’s responsibility, the MiroMind team begs to differ. Everything that happens on the site affects your keyword rankings. Having a high bounce rate due to poor visual solutions will quickly bring down your placement within search results.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that SEO experts should become design savants overnight. Still, they need to have a say in everything that’s going on with the startup’s web pages.
4. Create user-centric articles and landing pages
Building a startup website according to search intent should be one of your priorities. A person will judge your organization based on images, videos, and text. You need to create content that will satisfy their inquiries and provide the best possible user experience.
The focus on users has been more noticeable in the last few years. Nowadays, to reach the top spots in Google, you need to master visitor retention. Simply driving a person to your page isn’t enough; you need to keep them there for as long as possible. Here are a few tips on how you can do so:
- Place emphasis on titles. They’re the best way of driving traffic to a page. At the same time, stay true to the article’s name and give users exactly what they’re looking for from this type of content.
- Create actionable meta descriptions. They help explain the content of a page and can significantly increase the click-through rate.
- Use the knowledge you acquired when analyzing the target demographic. Learn about their content preferences, and use the language they expect to see in such posts.
- Add various visual solutions, including videos and images. Spend money on digital design to separate yourself from the crowd.
- Find a way to connect your brand to users. Create a brand message that corresponds to the current market trends and what’s expected from a startup in your industry.
- Find the right products for your store. Keep the items that are performing well, and remove those that don’t attract clicks. Increasing time spent on-page and increasing recurring visits is good for your SEO as much as it’s for your profits.
Today, more than ever, there’s an emphasis on tracking user behavior and accommodating visitors’ needs.
Google ranks its pages based on how people react to your content, how long they stay on pages, and how they interact with them. You can even notice this based on the upcoming changes to Google Analytics, which will now put more emphasis on analyzing a buyer’s journey and market funnels.
5. Introduce reputation-building activities
So far, we’ve talked about approaches that may or may not presume full SEO services. You can hire a professional to execute just to perform an SEO audit and see if everything is working as intended. However, if you wish to get the most from online users, you should eventually have to start doing optimization.
In particular, you need to create a marketing team that will interact with other website owners. Here are a few internal and external methods that will help you increase your brand’s authority:
- Create content that resonates with users and can potentially go viral.
- Use outbound links to quote authoritative resources and scientific studies.
- Spend money on fantastic images and other graphic solutions.
- Perform extensive studies and share them with the users.
- Interview industry experts and renowned scientists.
- Introduce continuous improvements to the website’s technical aspects.
- Add HTTPS encryption and other security protections.
- Proactively build links.
- Increase and improve your online mentions.
- Pitch other bloggers with partnership ideas.
- Promote your content on social media.
- Use HARO and similar platforms for reaching out to news outlets.
- Connect with third-party agencies that create round-ups in your industry.
5 Startup SEO strategies for increasing organic visits
It’s hard to say where brand building and lead generation start and stop. These two activities go hand-in-hand, and improving one usually helps the other. However, for the purpose of this article, we decided to split the two activities.
So, here are 5 tricks that will help you maximize your reach.
1. Focus on keyword research
Before creating your first article, it’s crucial to perform keyword research. This process provides numerous insights about the industry, competitors, and user preferences. Specifically, it shows you what kind of questions people ask search engines and how much a target keyword costs in Google Ads.
These are the main things you need to consider when analyzing specific keywords:
- Keyword difficulty
- Keyword volume
- Keyword potential
- Related phrases
Each one of these metrics can tell us something about a phrase. For example, cost-per-click shows us the commercial potential of a keyword. Even if a phrase doesn’t have a high volume, companies might pay top dollar for it as it’s more likely to generate sales.
On the other hand, related phrases are useful when creating topic clusters and marketing funnels. The general rule of thumb is to pursue phrases that have high volume and low difficulty. These provide the biggest value for your brand as they can significantly increase your growth. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll generate the most sales.
Startups should also be careful with geo-locations. Depending on your business, it might be better to focus on the domestic market. This is especially true if you have brick-and-mortar stores. While getting lots of global clicks might sound enticing, these usually turn out to be vanity metrics.
To execute this SEO strategy, you can use a keyword research tool such as AhRefs or SEMRush.
2. Create content clusters
Content clusters are one of the best ways of increasing a website’s topical authority. By covering all the angles of a specific subject, Google perceives you as an expert on the subject, thus boosting your rankings.
Unfortunately, creating these clusters requires extensive writing and optimization knowledge. Here’s how you can do it:
- Create a list of keywords that are closely related to each other.
- Find the most important one and use it as the pillar page.
- Alternatively, you can create clusters by simply categorizing articles as top, middle, and bottom of the funnel pages.
- Use links to drive people from one topic to another. If you have one main pillar page, make sure that all satellite articles point to it. If you’re creating a funnel structure, make sure to link from top to middle to bottom of the funnel.
- Be careful about the promotion. There’s no point in acquiring links for satellite pages as they mainly exist to support the pillar page.
- If you’re using funnel structure, create a top of the funnel article that analyzes the subject in the broadest way possible. As you go downward, add industry-specific phrasing and break down complex ideas.
Creating and promoting topic clusters can be very tricky. Although articles should be of the same quality, they should have a significantly different appearance. Whatever the case, you can easily tell which page is the priority and which ones serve to support it.
3. Develop link strategy
External links are every bit as important for increasing brand awareness as they are for increasing online visits. Startups can use them to reap direct and indirect SEO benefits.
To be specific, getting numerous backlinks to your web pages sends a strong signal to Google. It shows the algorithm that you’re a reputable source and, as such, that your web posts should rank higher within the search engine.
However, links might also provide indirect benefits. In their pursuit to manipulate search engines, startups often forget about the direct traffic coming through that same external link. Every online mention on the web can provide smaller or bigger benefits to your site.
So, what are some of the most important things you need to know about links?
- Ideally, you should try to acquire as many links as possible from industry sites. They provide the biggest SEO benefits but also drive the most qualified traffic.
- If you can’t get enough links from competitors, try reaching out to news outlets. These platforms are impartial and are more likely to link to your resources.
- Higher authority websites provide significantly more link juice than smaller blogs. In theory, one such link has the power of dozens and even hundreds of hyperlinks you receive from smaller blogs.
- Not every link is good for your startups. In fact, some of them can cause Google penalties throwing your site back to the Stone Age.
MiroMind always recommends that you hire a reputable SEO strategy for your link building. Not only will this help you gain better and more links, but it will also ensure you don’t get in trouble with search engines.
4. Create real connections
The problem with SEO and internet marketing, in general, is that people don’t have time for each other. Most entrepreneurs only work for their own pocket and are reluctant to help you out. This is why you need to create real-world connections to propel your website forward.
If we take into account everything that has been said about links, it becomes obvious you need to find a way into people’s hearts. Small tokens of appreciation will increase the likelihood of being featured on other sites before becoming a large brand.
Here are a few tricks that would allow you to build relationships with other industry professionals:
- Attend industry events. Conferences and trade shows are the ideal places for meeting competitors and potential partners.
- Create round-ups, interviews, and other pieces of content that require expert input. People love being featured in these articles, as it gives them an opportunity to get a link and increase reach. For you, this is a chance to make a connection.
- Don’t be stingy in sharing other people’s content. Nobody likes linking to a selfish person!
- Pitch website owners with different ideas and propose co-hosting events. Webinars and things of that nature are perfect for getting closer to others.
- Create Facebook groups and other types of online communities. Invite numerous bloggers and provide value to everyone involved without asking for anything in return.
- Help other bloggers out when they need help and offer freebies. Even though most people won’t reciprocate, some of them will.
Aside from these benefits, every new connection you make could convert reputable bloggers into website fans. Believe it or not, your competitors read things you write and usually stay on pages longer than casual visitors.
Always remember that blogging is a social activity. Although everything goes online, there are real people behind every site and article written. By having a proactive, open stance, you can reach out to individuals that can help boost your online presence.
5. Local SEO for startups
When we talk about organic search and search optimization, most people think of global search engine results.
As of late, the importance of local SEO has significantly increased. This is especially true for small mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, bars, and handymen. However, even if you’re a large tech startup, this approach can help users find you and create a relationship with the brand.
So, what is the goal of local SEO?
In the ideal scenario, your brand will appear in a snippet at the top of the search engine results page. This is known as 3-Pack results. These three businesses are featured for specific local keywords such as “Best restaurant in LA” or “Toronto moving companies.”
Here’s how our company does local SEO:
- First, we add your website to the biggest local directories, such as Google My Business and Bing Places. We also make sure that the data is the same across the board.
- If a startup has several stores, we create a new location for each one of them.
- Having a constant stream of positive reviews is crucial for local optimization. Our company performs reputation management taking note of all the online mentions.
Although traditional optimization will also help your placement in the local results, Google feedback is much more important. So, make sure to emphasize increasing the star score within the search engine.
5 Practices startups should avoid in SEO
The temptation of building your brand the wrong way is often too strong. As a result, startups often implement practices that go against Google’s guidelines. While some of these processes might provide results in the short run, they will come back to bite you sooner than later.
That being said, these are things that can damage your brand reputation, organic placement, and website conversion!
1. Forcing content creation
The content creation process is at the front and center of search optimization. Every article you make has the potential to drive a certain number of visitors to your startup site. In other words, as long as you’re using relevant keywords, every web page might help your sales and brand awareness.
However, that doesn’t mean you should spam articles. Having a valid content strategy is every bit as important as creating all these posts. Rushing the articles usually backfires as it leads to lower-quality posts. What’s worse, this can lead to other issues, such as content cannibalization.
2. Overdoing on-page optimization
Even top-tier SEO experts have a tendency to overdo their on-page optimization. In an attempt to cover all the angles, they might fall into the trap of keyword stuffing, using too many internal links, creating excessively long articles, and so on.
While some of these things won’t directly affect your rankings, they might provide an indirect negative impact. Specifically, they can be extremely bad for user experience. Google will notice that people are bouncing off your site, which will quickly deteriorate your search engine placement.
3. Risky link-building
Historically, shady link-building policies were the most common reason why websites would receive a Google penalty. Over the years, companies tried to implement various approaches, including link exchanges, PBNs, low-quality link spam, and similar tactics.
Although links are crucial for ranking pages, you have to be very careful as to how you use them. Steady and slow is usually much better than fast and chaotic. In fact, it would be much better to focus on producing quality content. If your articles are good enough, they will attract the right kind of attention anyway.
4. Too many visuals
Many companies have the mindset that “the bigger, the better.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t always bring results in the online world. Specifically, it’s really easy for a brand to overdo it with a visual solution. Intricate graphics might look nice, but they won’t help you if people can’t open the pages.
Even if this wasn’t the problem, using too many colors and patterns might be distracting. A visitor might struggle to read your article, which would result in a poor user experience. Not only will this have a negative impact on search optimization, but it might also negatively affect your sales.
5. Using too many pop-ups
In the last few years, web companies have gone crazy with pop-ups and similar solutions. Many entrepreneurs perceive them as an ideal method for increasing conversion. And while having a web chat might be good, it shouldn’t come at the cost of user experience.
We suggest that you perform minor A/B testing if you wish to make any such change on your platform. Even if something feels like a great idea, it might backfire in practice. Always remember that Google tracks metrics such as time spent on site, so it might downgrade your pages if users don’t stick around.