Starting a business can be hard! Getting that business found online can be even harder, and the longer you leave it, the harder it will get. Your competitors are probably already strengthening their SEO, making it even harder for you to catch up.
So what is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. There are millions of searches conducted on search engines every day and some of those are probably for a business just like yours. Optimising your business presence on these search engines means that potentially, thousands if not, millions of people can become aware of your products/services. Commonly, SEO is the art of making a website appear for important search terms on search engines (namely Google as it has the most traffic).
There’s no better time to get started on your SEO than right now. So I’ll run you through the best things to focus on as a Startup Business.
Bear in mind…
Where search engines rank you depends on the quality of your website health, its content and how relevant it is to the user. Search engines don’t want to show websites that take slow to load, have very little/unoriginal content or don’t display well on the user’s screen. This is important for the next point below.
1. Don’t cut corners on your website
The design and health of the website is a huge ranking factor. When building a website you should take care when choosing the right hosting provider and CMS to build your website on. For example, I’d look into these CMS’s for these three different types of websites:
Shopify – E-Commerce Website
Squarespace – Online image-heavy portfolios
WordPress – Most other general websites
There are things to take into account when designing your website with SEO in mind:
- Optimise the website speed – Search Engines don’t like to show slow websites to their users.
- Create topic related pages that you want to rank for their individual search terms – Don’t try and stuff multiple subjects into the one page, reference the page and link to it instead, when applicable.
- Ensure that all pages that you want to rank highly on search engines contain plenty of content – Search engines want to show their users the answers to their search queries.
- Create plenty of links to relevant pages on your website – This can decrease bounce rate which in turn can rank a website higher. Rand Fishkin proved this in an experiment.
- Make the website responsive – A responsive website means that the website will scale to any browser screen. In an era when mobile search accounts for over 50% of searches made, search engines will want to prioritise any sites that display properly to their users.
- Build with SSL Encryption – SSL encryption makes the connection to a website’s server encrypted and secure. Search Engines like showing websites that are secure for obvious reasons.
From personal experience, if somebody is offering you a website built from scratch for under £500 – be very careful, and ask to see their portfolio and any reviews. A website is a long-term investment so take it from me when I say that you want to get it right from the get-go.
2. Target the right customers
As time goes on you will start seeing patterns in what pages are bringing in the most enquiries. Using Google Search Console you can get an idea of the search traffic which converts the highest on these pages and re-target your efforts on that. Unfortunately, as a startup business, you have very little of this data to go off. So we have to make other plans to find this traffic.
There’s a really good tool that I use by Neil Patel called Ubersuggest. This is totally free and allows you to find search phrases that are relevant to your service as well as some data about them. Simply type the search phrase you feel is the best fit for your business (the search term you would use to find you) and explore all of the suggestions.
I played around with the tool and found this:
The search phrase SEO Consultant brings in 1900 searches per month in the UK. This is over double the search traffic for Digital Marketing Consultant:
This is somewhat surprising as Digital Marketing is a broader subject, so naturally, I’d expect more searches for this search phrase. This just goes to show the importance of research!
This isn’t the last you’ve heard of keyword research in this article, there’s another really important type of keyword that is gold for startup businesses, called ‘Long Tail Keywords’. You’ll find out more about these in the ‘Start a blog’ part of the article.
3. Optimise the on-site SEO
I’ve touched on the website health part of the on-site SEO, but there are more parts of the website that you can optimise to rank highly on search engines other than it’s speed and responsiveness.
Metadata is effective data that describes parts of the websites to search engines and users to give a better idea of the sort of content that is appearing on the pages. The main two are:
Meta Titles appear in your browser’s tab, but more importantly on Search Engine Results Pages’ (SERP’s). They are the (normally) blue writing that appears on the SERP’s and have a massive impact both on where the site ranks, as well as the Click Through Rate (CTR). You want to have your meta titles to match as close as possible to the search phrase you want the corresponding webpage to rank for. This proves to increase the CTR as well as ranks for that search phrase.
Meta Descriptions are no longer a direct ranking factor. So having keywords in these won’t directly boost your rankings. Notice the word ‘directly’… Meta Descriptions are proven to boost a website’s CTR. Providing the website has good user experience then the lower bounce rate should send positive signals to search engines which can boost rankings.
The reason Meta Descriptions can boost CTR is that they can draw the user’s eye through highlighting match keywords in the description to the search term.
When writing content you want to ensure the content is:
- Is original
- Contains plenty of your keywords
- Easy to read (Don’t stuff too many keywords into it)
- Lengthy (On average it takes 1400+ words to rank on page 1 of Google – depending on competition).
A good way to gauge the level you should be writing at is to go through your competitor’s ranking webpage content. This will give you an idea of the length you should be writing at. If you take their content and run it through this tool it should show you the density of keywords they’re using to rank well. Use this as a benchmark for your own content taking into account the 4 points raised.
4. Optimise the off-site SEO
Once your website is loading fast, displaying correctly on all devices and has appropriate metadata then you should begin to start building up the off-site SEO. This is where link and citation building comes into play.
As a small business, building links back to your site is going to be difficult. You have may have a small / no audience so people won’t write about you based on your reputation. I’ve found the best way to get links back to small business’ websites is some PR and networking. By joining communities and meeting other individuals in businesses you can find that they will reference you on things like online guest lists sponsorships or even find opportunities to collaborate on projects and make yourself more noticed.
Additionally, if you’re starting as a local business you can build citations by adding yourself to a bunch of free directories. Citations are really helpful for local SEO. I’ve written an article about Link Building in my journal, which also includes some information about citations. I’d suggest you check it out! Alternatively, I’ve also written an article about Link Building Strategies, so if you want a bit of help with how to build links then I’d check out that one!
5. Start a blog
I used to underestimate the power of a blog (I’ve done a lot of growing up since). I used to think that a blog was something hippies travelling the world wrote to boast about their lifestyles and nice food that they eat. I was wrong. A blog is a great way to create an online community of people interested in/working in your field. It also has great SEO benefits as it shows search engines that you update and expands the content on your website. Providing the content you’ve written is of good quality, you can start looking at ways to share it with other website owners. This act of sharing the article with other website users can quite often lead to links back to your website which helps with your rankings.
Rank content for long-tail keywords
Long Tail keywords are search phrases with a lot of specificities. A good example would be using the keyword ‘Camera’
The search volume for ‘Camera’ is not long tail at all. It will be receiving a large amount of search traffic but not all of this traffic would be applicable to a camera shop. This is because not all of the traffic will be looking to buy a camera, some may be looking for camera repair, online photographs, or even good photo spots.
As you can see by the graph, as the search becomes more and more refined the search volume decreases, however, the likelihood to convert the search traffic increases. Using this example, if somebody were to be looking for the Sony Cybershot Digital Camera specifically, and as a camera shop you happened to be selling that product (and ranking for it) you have a good chance of converting that user to a customer – especially if the search term became even longer tail as ‘Sony Cybershot Digital Camera 7.1MP with Optical Zoom for sale’. The reason that long tail keywords are useful is that the competition for them is less. The specificity of the search term means that not all of your competitors will be trying to rank for the search terms, this gives you an opportunity to target this high converting and relatively easy to obtain traffic.
Blog articles are great ways to target long tail keywords. Personally, my website is structured to focus on the broad search terms using my home page and services pages, but appeal to the other (approximately) 70% of traffic appearing for long-tail search results.
Whatever traffic you bring to your website via your blogs you should attempt to monetise it. There are numerous ways you can achieve this:
- Google Adsense – this will place Google Ads on your website, every time they’re clicked you receive a kickback of some of the cost of that click.
- Affiliate Marketing – where you’ll place a link to a product or service on your website. If somebody follows that link and signs up on the subsequent page then you’ll receive a commission for this.
- Call to Action’s (CTA’s) – Giving the reader the ability to make an action from your page is great for your bounce rate, but also, it can lead to additional actions to take place on your site (depending on your goal).
Depending on your goals CTA’s should be used in your blog to leverage your traffic. Two great tools you can use are:
Subscribers allow you to send push notifications to the user’s browser even when they’re not on your website. This can be a great way to advertise news posts or offers for them to engage with.
Hello bar is another awesome tool that boosts subscribers when a user’s mouse works its way back up to the top of the window (where the close icon is) the screen will bring up a customisable message and an input field for the user to input their email address. This leads to additional emails to add for your mailouts.
Other CTA’s to use could be special offers on your services, or to discuss a problem that some business may face and link to your service/product that can be the resolution. SSL and GDPR were big ones where numerous articles discussing the topics surfaced and many of them from companies that offered help with SSL and GDPR. The ones ranking on the first page of search engines most likely received a good number of enquiries through their blog articles.
6. Push Mail Outs
I don’t quite understand why people think that email marketing is dead. Personally, I opt out for a lot of emails that I receive from companies, I don’t like my inbox being clogged up – but I do leave myself opted in for a few companies when I genuinely want to hear from them. There’s a lot of online marketing communities that I follow and want to hear from when they release new studies. Some of these mailouts I receive are for products that I’ve later gone on to purchase. The mail-outs don’t have to necessarily be to push your services and products, they could be to update the user with some new content you’ve posted. Either way, keeping that line of communication open with your users is great to build your brand with them and continuously reach an audience.
I need to digress here a bit to keep this point focussed on the SEO for startup businesses. Pushing this additional content to your customer base can be handy to obtain links back. By advertising new content you’re creating new opportunities for new prospects to link to you.
7. Social Media
As a startup, you need to use every channel to reach new traffic possible. Social Media has varying effectiveness for all businesses, but in almost all cases social media can be leveraged to become a profitable way to drive targeted traffic, similar to the main goal of SEO.
From a strictly SEO point of view, social media sends what is called ‘social signals’ to search engines. These social signals are created by traffic from social media profiles back to your website, shares of posts with your links included in them, and even just the general engagement and likes of the facebook posts and pages.
If there’s one last piece of advice I can give you, it would be, don’t give up! A lot of SEO is a long-term grind and your efforts can take months, if not years to see results. Stick to best practices, don’t do anything spammy and you’ll find the traffic starts pouring in. Once it does start looking at ways to optimise the traffic to convert. A step in the right direction would be to check our optimising your CTR as well as Convert Rate Optimisation (CRO). Ways to further your marketing efforts would be to go into more depth with your Social Media Marketing as well as opening up another marketing channel by using paid advertising, also known as PPC advertising. If you can leverage all of the tactics together you should find yourself a very busy business.
You’ll get there!