In this blog, I will try to share my experience with SEO and startups.
I was able to scale organic traffic to startup in more than 1500% in two years – from 5000 monthly sessions to 100K+ per month.
Does SEO still work? Or you should solely focus on Facebook and Google ads.
Still, SEO has the highest ROI, among all inbound marketing channels.
Identify if SEO is a fit for your startup
The hard truth is, that SEO isn’t always a great fit for startups.
Important to know, that SEO might not work in all occasions. These days, it is a pretty competitive area, which might require a lot of resources and time. So, it makes sense to clarify SEO expectations before going into a serious SEO campaign or hiring an expensive SEO agency.
For example, if your startup is in a super early stage and the aim is to get first 10-50 customers ASAP. And SEO might take time to kick in – 6-8 months. In this case, maybe it’s better to go with Google or Facebook ads.
Another example is, when you are just in a super competitive SEO niche, with lots of ranking content for the whole range of keywords. Over-ranking your competitors will require big investments into link building and amazing content.
Overall, I think SEO is a great choice for startups right before or after the first major investment. When there is some clearer product-market fit and at least some stability ahead, required for the middle and long term marketing strategy, such as SEO.
However, I also really recommend starting blogging and content marketing campaigns as early as possible.
Design and execute SEO strategy
My SEO strategy for startups = tech setup + 3 SEO whales.
- Tech SEO setup for startups
You should always start from tech setup.
Important technical checklist for startup SEO:
- Good hosting
- Install CMS (WordPress would be my choice)
- SEO plugins (Yoast)
- Search Console account
- Mobile view
- Optimized images
Your blog should be the core of your startup SEO. If you are a startup and serious about SEO, you should definitely have a blog.
TIP: host your blog under a subfolder, not a subdomain. E.g. awesome.site/blog, not blog.awesome.site.
3 SEO whales: keywords, content and backlinks
In my experience, the three most important areas for SEO strategy and scaling your organic traffic are:
- Keywords research
- Content (+ on-page SEO), based on this research
- Backlinks, pointing to the content
If you remove one of these elements, your SEO strategy might not work or will work not on full capacity.
So, identify top keywords using many keyword tools or SEO competitors research.
You can start with Google suggest or “Related search” at the bottom of SERP.
There is also a free keyword tool in Google ads (you don’t need to run Google ads to access it).
Also, another option – is to “steal” keyword and content ideas from competing startups. This might work really well, as you can find a lot of niche, long-tail keywords, for which it is much easier to rank.
You can do this with Ahrefs or Semrush.
Here is an overview of top organic keywords for Neil Patel’s site.
Create amazing, comprehensive content, which gives the ultimate answer to the above keywords or search queries.
Of course, your content should be original and non-plagiarized. If you outsource your content (a common thing for startups) – always check it for plagiarism.
Focus on long-form content – at least 1500+ words. Ideally, you should aim in the 2000-2400 range. This content tends to perform better in Google search.
A lot of startups make the mistake of spamming with 500-word articles. Don’t go that route. It doesn’t work for SEO – you will just waste time and resources. Instead, create a few high-quality long reads, which cover all aspects of a specific topic.
Link to other relevant articles. Google should see your blogs as a “topic octopus”, which covers all aspects of a specific niche.
Add visuals, infographics, quotes, expert opinions, videos, gifs, podcasts – anything, which can make your content to stand out from hundreds of other articles.
On-page SEO also matters a lot. Basically, you need to organize your content in a way, that’s understandable to Google.
For example, you selected a focus keyword: “chocolate doughnuts”. Google bots should clearly understand, that your content is about this keyword.
Include your focus keyword in:
- Meta tags (Title and meta description)
- Alt tags
- First paragraph
- Anchor tags
Also, think of:
- Keyword density
- Content length (at least 300-500 words)
- Adding images
- Internal links (pointing to other related articles)
- Easiness to read
You can check all of that with free Yoast WordPress plugin. If you don’t use WordPress, there is also free Yoast real-time tool.
You just enter your focus keyword and tool will present some suggestions.
Last, but not least, actively build backlinks to that content.
The more high-quality backlinks – the better.
This step is often either skipped or misunderstood by many startup content teams. A lot of them consider link building spammy, not a useful activity.
In fact, high-quality link building is a “secret sauce” of SEO, it is what gives you an advantage over your competitors. If you figure it out – you will rank higher than they in Google.
Here are some ways to get high-quality backlinks:
- Guest posting
- PR campaign
- Listings in business directories, local pages
- Engaging with the community (forums, other blogs’ comments, subreddits)
- Answering questions on Quora
- Backlinks from your customers
- Backlinks ideas from your competitors
Some startups are really lucky: because of the great product they get a lot of coverage in top technical publishers – TechCrunch, TheVerge, Mashable and so on – with top tier backlinks. If you combine that strong domain with the blog – you will get a lot of traffic! So, again, start a startup blog. 🙂
For other backlink ideas, you can also look at your competitors’ backlink profiles.
For example, here is a backlink profile of Backlinko – one of the top SEO blogs.
I can see some backlinks from guest posts, forums, social media, so I will just try to publish my site there.
Look at your competitors
Very often, in startup SEO you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
Probably, there are already plenty of other similar companies in your niche already, with similar blogs.
It can be an SEO goldmine, especially if you don’t have a lot of SEO experience or resources.
From competitors, you can learn:
- top searched content (great for your topics)
- most shared content
- their backlinks (it is an amazing link building technique)
- content-type and structure
For example, you can learn your competitors’ content, make a better version of it and there is a high chance it will perform great as well.
Again, here is a screenshot of most shared content from Backlinko (done with Ahrefs tool). Some articles get 2-7K social media shares! Try to create something similar and your content might take off as well.
And here is an overview of top blogs by organic search.
These are great topic ideas for your blogs as well.
Tracking SEO campaigns
In a startup world, it is super important to have all metrics in place or to have something to present to investors.
There are more than 200 SEO ranking factors, how to identify most important ones? And if you hired an expensive marketing agency, how to know you are not throwing money out of the window?
So, here are the main SEO KPIs for startups:
- Organic traffic
- Nr of conversions from organic traffic
- Nr of ranking keywords in the top 100 Google
- Nr of referring domains
- Your domain authority
- Page speed
First two are the most important ones. Frankly, a lot of founders don’t care about SEO details, such as link building or e.g. schema markup. What you should focus on is “conversions (leads, orders, trials) coming from Google”.
Don’t get distracted on other things. Just put all your effort in growing organic traffic and conversions coming from that traffic.
SEO for B2B and B2C startups
SEO for B2B and B2C products can be totally different.
For B2C sites, SEO is much more straightforward.
Imagine you created a hotel booking platform. For SEO, you will need just to add more copy for every hotel listing page and then build backlinks to these pages. There are thousands of hotels, so you have thousands of indexable opportunities.
People search in Google – “book hotel X in city X” -> land on page -> convert.
For B2B – e.g. you built a project management software – there aren’t that many landing pages opportunities as with B2C.
So, SEO is trickier here – you need to invest a lot of effort in your blog and sales-oriented content.
Ranking for “best project management software” might be hard.
So, people search for “productivity tips” -> land on your blog about increasing productivity -> link to project management software landing page -> conversion.
So, you need to learn how to create sales-oriented and ranking content.
Keep these differences in mind, while creating your SEO for startups strategy.
That’s about it for this blog. For a start.
Of course, there are many other SEO techniques for startups, but probably it will require a book. 🙂
Andrew Gor – SEO fanatic with 10+ years of experience. He focuses on keyword research, rank tracking and tech SEO hacks. Check out his SEO blog – Online Hikes and an inspirational site for entrepreneurs – Museuly.