SEO for Startups: Strategy Best Practice

Beth Rathbone

Your brand is still unknown to a lot of your potential customers as a startup which is why SEO should be an integral part of your strategy.

SEO should be considered even in the early stages of your startup’s marketing such as deciding a business name or building your website because this will help make SEO a success .

When you are building your brand, naming your startup, and creating a presence remember that setting yourself apart from your competitors helps you to get noticed, and adding in a healthy dose of SEO helps you rank on the search engines.

The biggest tip when it comes to SEO for startups is in choosing the right keywords. Whilst startups might not have the same resources as larger companies, it doesn’t matter if you identify the right keywords before creating your SEO strategy.

What does an SEO-friendly website look like?

Google’s algorithm is not biased, there are just a few simple rules to follow if you want to lay a great foundation for SEO:

  • Content should be relevant, unique, and engaging to visitors, whilst also optimised for your target keywords
  • Your website should provide a great user experience, be easy to navigate and to understand (for robots too), and be mobile-friendly.
  • Quality, authentic backlinks from other trusted sites should point to your website

You might be thinking – what does a great user experience look like? Or, how do I know if my content is engaging enough? We answer these questions below.

Considerations When Developing an SEO Strategy

There’s a difference between creating content for John the flowerpot salesman down the road when your target audience is the global flower distributors. What you create has to be relevant for your audience, which is why researching search intent is a core part of an SEO strategy. Ultimately to create valuable content for an audience, you have to know who they are and what they want.

Once more established understanding of your audience can be done through market research, buyer personas, and analytics tools, but at the beginning of a business journey, this may not be possible. In this case, start by picturing what your ideal customer looks like, this should be enough to give you a basic understanding of your audience’s behaviour, pains and needs.

What Does an SEO Strategy for Startups Include?

Goals

It’s important to focus on what is relevant for your startup. The key is to create a set of actionable SEO goals to strive towards within a reasonable timeframe, often it can take startups 6 months+ to see noticeable results. A few examples are below:

  • Increase inbound leads and sales
  • Increase your online visibility
  • Create a blog that is the go-to content hub within your industry
  • Appear for local keywords, e.g. ‘engineer near me’ or ‘engineer in london’

Target Keywords

SEO for startups demands focused keywords that are relevant to your industry. This is why competitor keyword research is a great place to source keyword ideas. It is also a good idea to put yourself in the shoes of your potential customer, what do you think they would be searching to find your product or service?

Once you have an initial keyword list chosen based on search volume, it is a good idea to check the first page of search results for each term to determine the search intent for this keyword. There are three types:

  • Brand – these are self-explanatory – they are brand keywords! Such as your own
  • Informational – these keywords answer a question, and are generally blog posts or news articles
  • Transactional – these are keywords that return service or product pages

Based on what is appearing you can build a page to target each term. For example, if a service page appears on the first page of search results then it makes sense to create a service page targeting that keyword; for keywords that return blog posts then it makes sense to make blog posts targeting those keywords.

When you’re first establishing your strategy, targeting as many keywords as possible, or very high search volume broad keywords is not the answer. Keywords will only drive noticeable traffic to your website if they reach the top 3 positions in search results. Therefore, targeting a highly refined list of keywords that focuses on driving the right traffic and conversions is more effective than a broader strategy that focuses on quantity over quality.

It’s also important to consider how niche your service is. Startups are known for bringing fresh and exciting services to the industry which gives you a unique advantage in the keyword department. If your startup is a trailblazer then you are setting the benchmark for future competition.

Technical Foundation

When you’re building your website with consideration to SEO, it’s important to choose a Content Management System (CMS) that is SEO friendly. For example, WordPress is a great match whereas Javascript-based sites like Wix are not preferable.

Using a tool to crawl your website to ensure it is performing well is crucial for a good foundation to your SEO strategy. Tools such as ‘Screaming Frog’ are a great free starting point. Screaming Frog also has comprehensive guides on how to crawl your website and how to interpret your results. Here are a few technical issues to look out for:

  • 404 pages
  • Duplicate content
  • Redirects
  • Mobile friendly issues
  • Broken links

Create Quality Content

The rule of thumb is this: it’s better to have a few quality pieces over loads of sub-par content on your website. Content marketing should be a top priority for startups because this is where the brand presents and positions itself.

Particularly when we are discussing SEO strategy for startups, content is a key part of overall strategy, plus it gives you a space to engage with your audience. Search engines measure the quality of content with a large number of ranking factors including analysing keywords, links, customer experience signals, the site’s technical set up and backlinks, as well as utilizing machine learning to better match up queries with content

However, while we know that SEO is crucial for increasing search visibility, it’s also important to write for your audience. Creating a resource that your audience can return to showcases your position as a leader early on.

Creating valuable content that offers everything your competitors offer and more is critical. Make sure to consider your competition as well as your audience when you are developing your content.

Don’t Forget Backlinks

When another website links to yours, we refer to this as a backlink. In brief, Google considers a link to another site as a vote of confidence for that site, which consequently can have a positive impact on rankings – the more links, the more votes of confidence. However, not all links are equal and so it’s important to only gain links from websites you trust, contacting your partners, suppliers or even industry leaders for link placements can be a good place to start building your backlink profile. Furthermore, this can also be a strong source of referral traffic.

Digital PR campaigns are the next best way to build links for your startup. Digital PR is a measurable strategy in increasing brand awareness, traffic and engagement. An example of effective digital PR can be seen here.

Measure Your Results

Data should drive every decision you make for your startup. Data tells us what is working and what needs to be improved. The details that thorough analytics can provide will help you continuously develop and evolve your SEO strategy so that it remains relevant to your business goals.

Set up Google Analytics and Google Search Console at the start of your journey to begin utilising your website’s data, and if possible use your CRM with these to see the direct correlation between keywords and qualified leads/conversions. This data gives you powerful insights such as organic traffic, conversions, and keyword clicks that can help you hit targets, generate qualified leads, and increase ROI.

Set up keyword tracking so that you see keyword positions over time. If keywords are not performing as well as they should they may need optimising further. Similarly, if keywords are performing exceptionally well it can give you insights that you can apply to similar keywords.

Consistent Optimisation

Don’t stop improving your website’s SEO. Google’s algorithm is continually evolving and becoming more sophisticated which means that your startup needs to keep up. Creating a strategy and optimising for ranking keywords will help your startup tremendously at the beginning of your journey, however, to stay ahead of the game continuous optimisation is crucial.

We would suggest using an automated tool to regularly crawl your website and track keyword positions such as Ahrefs. This will allow you to quickly be notified if a keyword is slipping down the rankings or identify if there are any issues with your website’s performance.

SEO for Startups: What to Avoid

You’re an established startup, you have the investment and you have the business goals. You can’t wait to get stuck in and scale up. We’ve reviewed best practices in SEO for startups, but there are always things to avoid so that you don’t unintentionally damage your brand before you’ve peaked.

Be wary of the promises of big results that happen at speed. SEO for startups can be really successful but it takes methodical planning involving keywords, content and backlinks. Falling prey to the delusion that there is a quick fix could harm your reputation overall.

Blackhat or greyhat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing or buying links are against Google’s guidelines. Google doesn’t like it and you won’t be rewarded for it.

Thousands of backlinks that aren’t quality won’t bring you the results some may promise. Backlinks that are established and beneficial for your growth matter but don’t crowd your website with irrelevant ones.

Finally, don’t just do SEO once. For your startup, SEO is a continuous evolution just like your brand. It needs constant assessment and tweaking to scale your startup up in the best way possible.