Search Engine Optimization: SEO Advice for startups in 2017 can be confusing with so much poor information flooding the internet.
From my experience creating SEO strategies for businesses in many different industries, I quickly realized how differently each company needs to position themselves to win key search terms.
Because startup companies are so new to their perspective marketplace, they are at a significant disadvantage when competing in search.
Google favors established businesses who consistently add valuable/shareable content to their website and social platforms (especially YouTube) and build positive relationships within their communities.
Since startup companies are new to their marketplace and communities, they don’t have the online credibility needed to rank high in Google’s search results.
For this reason, they need to be thorough in their SEO strategies and be sure not to follow any dated blackhat search engine optimization ideas.
Having said that, I want to be clear and offer my SEO expert advice for startup companies like yours in 2017.
SEO Advice for Startups in 2017
Entrepreneurship is the American Dream, and now that you’ve taken the plunge, it’s time to create that website and build up your digital presence.
Before building a website, for your business, you need to stop and start thinking of your website as an investment with a potentially high return. If you make it yourself, chances are you’ll limit the endless possibilities of a good search engine optimization strategy.
If you build your company website yourself, you could limit the extremely high return on investment and miss out on many possibilities for growth.
The approach many small local business owners take to building their company website is they tend to hire someone like their best friend’s brother’s cousin (a millennial) to build a “professional” looking website and probably believe that since a website “came with SEO” it alone will get them to the top of Google’s search results.
The reality is that their best friend’s brother’s cousin built crap and because of that, Google’s first impression is exactly that.
The other issues I see, is they hire the wrong full-service design agency to build their site.
Many web design companies claim they include SEO in the build; they don’t. Instead, they deliver a nice looking website that’s precisely what the client wanted instead of what the client needed.
For these reasons, my best SEO advice for startups is to establish your SEO strategy BEFORE you build your website.
SEO Advice for Startups: Know What You Need
My first bit of SEO advice for Startups start with the basic questions, who, what, and why? Know what you need.
I don’t care if a business thinks they need an image gallery, a cool slider, basic contact page with a form (data shows almost no one fills these out unless they’re getting something instant), the point is knowing what you need allows you to create the most effective strategy possible.
If you own a local business, I’ll tell you right now that your website needs:
- A Google map integration in your footer (see below),
- NAP (Name, address, phone number) that’s consistent with your Google My Business page, + the business hours of operation
- A sentence or two explaining your services in relation to your local area.
Google support will tell you first hand how to improve your local ranking on Google.
Knowing what you need before you build your website will help you with the next bit of SEO advice for startups: Build your SEO strategy before you build your site.
SEO Advice for Startups: Build Your SEO Strategy First
If you have hopes of getting your website to rank on the top spot of page one on Google, you’ll have to earn its trust. And the best way to get Google’s trust is to add real value to your customer’s lives.
Companies who put in the time and money to go above and beyond for their clients (expensive) are the ones who make it in business and end up killing it in SEO.
Developing a solid SEO strategy before you build your website will give you the clarity needed to make decisions on what content you need versus fluff content and additional features such as sliders and carousels.
All too often, business owners come to me after they’ve spent thousands of dollars on a new site, only for me to tell them that their site hierarchy is uncrawlable, missing crucial elements, and is stuffed with slow loading features, and isn’t indexable by Google and other search engines.
Other benefits of having an SEO strategy in place before building your website include:
- Knowing which target keywords are most profitable
- Measurement plan (knowing what to track in Google Analytics)
- Content strategy schedule (Having a schedule in place to add value to readers/customers)
- Information from competitor mistakes
- Localization – Google Maps, sitemaps
- Better website crawl-ability for both web crawlers and humans – Internal linking strategy
“Have an SEO Strategy BEFORE you build your website”
Many web designers and full-service web development agencies work closely with their clients to help them determine what they want in a website.
I can’t speak for all web designers and full-service agencies, but in the years I’ve noticed their goals are focused on giving clients something that they’ll approve, rather than a site that will convert.
I’ve sat in many design meetings, where the designer asks questions like,
“Can you give me some examples of websites you like?”
Personally, I’d rather ask you who you’re biggest competitors are.
I understand the question as it helps web designers figure out what the clients will approve during the design phase.
Since a web designer’s job relies heavily on giving you what you want, the website often fails because the customer made decisions based on emotion, impulse, and budget rather than the type of data a good SEO Expert would provide.
Remember click through rates (CTR) have an impact on your search engine ranking position (SERP).
The earlier a startup business develops their SEO strategy, the better chances they have at winning searches for their targeted keywords, so don’t wait until after you build your site to ask for help with SEO.
SEO Advice for Startups: Make a brand-able statement
One of the first steps in creating an SEO strategy is to know which keywords to target.It’s my job as an SEO Expert to help find the most profitable keywords and phrases to use throughout your website, however, the most important one I usually ask my clients is, “What do you want to be known for?”
It’s my job as an SEO Expert to help find the opportunities for targeted keywords. “What do you want to be known for?”
Since I’ve spent countless hours conducting keyword research for multiple industries, I’ve learned that nothing is easier to win than a good brand name.“What do you want to be known for?”
Branding your name and making it synonymous with your business industry is huge.
Think about what the Home Depot means for home repair supplies, and Roto-Rooter means to searchers looking for an emergency plumbing service.
Establishing your company name as a brand is crucial and can be done via search engine optimization strategy. To make your business brand synonymous, answer the following question:
“What do you want to be known for?”
The question above can be profound, but we need to construct a sentence and use it to open the website.
I want to win searches for having the fastest pizza delivery service in Baltimore, Maryland.
To do this, you:
- Need to have the fastest pizza delivery service in Baltimore
- We need to place this brand-able statement on the home page of your website.
After we position your site around this statement, everything on the website should support the statement.
SEO Advice for Startups: Learn to write – have a blog
Writing long-form blog articles is not a new concept for 2017, but is certainly one of the most important pieces of SEO advice for startups. Either learn to love to write or have someone on staff (who is computer savvy) manage your company blog and social media profiles.
Either learn to love to write, hire a content creator, or have someone on staff manage your company blog and social media profiles.
Adding shareable content to your website in the form of long-form blog articles will help increase the value to your customer’s lives and help give you a reputation as an industry expert.
Neil Patel, one of the finest digital marketers in the industry, has some excellent resources on content creation especially in the form of long-form blog posts.
How much content goes into a long-form blog article?
According to a study by serpIQ, companies who consistently rank in the top 10 of Google search results write posts of over 2,000 words.
Already have a website with a blog? Get rid of your boilerplate page titles and be sure to write content to help improve your customer’s lives.
SEO Advice for Startups: Verify Business Listings in Online Directories
Create and or verify the following free listings and directories:
I intentionally left out Yext because of they charge you a monthly fee to create these listings for you and take ownership of your listings so you never actually own your listings.
Don’t limit yourself to the listings above, if your business is a particular niche (like car dealerships) there are plenty of other directories and listing that are unique to your business type.
If your website and business have been around for a while, companies like Google and Yelp may have created a business listing for you. They use data they think they know about you (like hours and services)
SEO Advice for Startups: Conclusion
My best SEO advice for startups is to know they need out of the website, have an SEO strategy before creating a website, brand the site with the business products and services via brand-able statement, learn to love to write, and verify current or create new business listings.
After site launch, use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to monitor the health of the site, plus the search engine ranking position (SERP).
I like to monitor both my competitor’s and my rankings weekly. However, I don’t usually make any significant adjustments to my strategy until after 45 days or so – unless Google rolls out a new change to its algorithm.
The last bit of SEO advice for startup companies is to call a few SEO vendors and other local SEO companies and see if they offer any free SEO help in the form of an SEO consultation.
Talking to a few different SEO companies will help you find a variety of SEO strategies that could help your business.