Did you just get fresh funding to grow your startup?
If so, it’s never too soon to start promoting what you do. After all, one of the most prominent challenges startups face is gaining recognition in the marketplace.
You need to generate leads as soon as possible so your business can make it. At the same time, you need to be forward-thinking in your approach.
To start seeing immediate results, you should focus on running paid digital ads. That will help you begin landing your initial sales. Simultaneously, it would be best to start employing an SEO (search engine optimization) strategy for long-term growth.
Why should you bother?
Because SEO will set you up for future growth – it takes a while to get kicking, but it has a compounding effect once it does.
As a startup, beginning your SEO journey early will pay off as your business begins to grow. Before you know it, you will have to spend less or no money running paid ads. Once you get a winning SEO strategy set in place, it will bolster your other digital marketing channels.
If you’ve recently acquired funding for your startup, it pays long-term to invest now in SEO while also scaling your immediate lead requirements using paid advertising
SEO will help you grow awareness, secure your place as a thought leader in your industry, and generate more leads/sales.
That’s why I’ve prepared 11 steps startups can use for sustained growth. They’re the essential building blocks of an SEO plan that generates high-quality traffic. Along the way, you’ll learn about 3 amazing benefits of using SEO for your startup. Read on to learn everything you need to know about SEO for startups.
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How SEO Strategy Tailored to Startups Leads to Clients’ Success + Answers to 2 Questions
Not every consultant knows how to handle SEO for startups. Luckily, I’m very familiar with the challenges startups face in their beginning stages.
Because of this, I can provide a realistic timeline for scalable growth. I’ve provided the following startups with higher search keyword rankings, more organic traffic, and increased leads and sales.
1. Should Startups Use SEO?
Since SEO takes a while to get going, you may wonder if it’s even worth it for startups. The truth is that it’s something you can’t afford to ignore.
While it’s true that SEO won’t lead to overnight growth, it will lead to significant growth down the line.
Beyond that, you’ll get started implementing one of the most vital marketing strategies. Consumers and businesses are using search engines to find new services and products. If you aren’t making an effort to increase your visibility on Google, new prospects won’t have a way to discover you.
Think about it like this; there are over 8.5 billion online searches conducted every day via Google alone.
The chances are high that some of those searches relate to your niche.
They’re searching for a product or a service just like yours. The only thing is, they don’t know that you exist yet. That’s why a startup’s SEO strategy is so crucial for any type of business. There are people out there craving content, products, and services like yours. Using SEO to show up on the first page of Google helps these prospects find out about you.
While it may take a while to get going, the benefits you’ll enjoy once they do can’t be understated.
SEO will lead to more organic search traffic, quality leads, and, ultimately, sales conversions.
I recommend all startups begin incorporating SEO as soon as they can. I’m sure to mention that it will take a while to see results. That’s why I suggest starting with paid digital ads for some immediate leads.
Beyond that, there are ‘SEO quick wins‘ to better optimize existing pages to see results in a few months. That way, you won’t go crazy waiting for a boost in traffic.
Once your SEO efforts pick up, you can start weaning yourself off paid ads. After a while, you may not need to rely on paid ads at all. Your SEO will boost other channels, such as generating more leads for email marketing. That’s why it’s crucial to get started with an SEO strategy sooner than later for your startup.
2. How Do I Start Off with Search Engine Optimization?
All right, now that you know you should get started with SEO ASAP, let’s jump into that. First, you’ll need to ensure that everyone at your startup is onboard with the idea.
You’ll need to get your CMO, CFO, CEO, and maybe even investors to buy in on incorporating an SEO strategy.
You’ll need to remind them that it’s not an investment that provides a return overnight. Instead, it’s a long-term strategy that focuses on future growth. Yet, SEO will pay off down the line like nothing else (if you have a solid strategy and stick with it). To get your team to give you the green light, mention the following benefits:
- It builds brand awareness to attract new prospects
- SEO content (blogs, articles, product/service pages, local landing pages) engages, informs, and educates your audience to build credibility & convert more customers
- A solid SEO strategy boosts every phase of the digital marketing funnel
- Excellent content builds customer loyalty and improves retention
- SEO reduces dependency on paid advertising channels
As you can see, the benefits of SEO are powerful indeed. Not only that but don’t forget to mention that SEO has compounding results. Every step you take now builds on the foundation you’ve already established.
What about the timeline for an ROI? After all, not everyone on your team will care about becoming a thought leader in your industry. Some professionals only have one thing on their mind: the bottom line.
For those individuals, let them know that the average break-even point for SEO is around 12 months. From there, you’ll begin to enjoy a return that increases as time goes on.
Once you’ve got everyone signed off on the project, there’s one more step to take before jumping in. What’s that?
It’s to set a realistic goal for your SEO strategy. I recommend setting a goal and then devising smaller goals along the way. An example would be:
- You want to rank in the top five for a primary keyword relating to your business.
To achieve this goal, you would create objectives along the path to accomplish that goal. Two of these ‘bite-sized’ ones could be:
- Acquiring 20 high-authority backlinks over 6 months
- Better optimizing a particular page each for a primary keyword
These two will help you achieve your ultimate goal from above. That’s the most reliable way to build a foundation for your startups’ SEO strategy.
3 Benefits to Applying SEO Strategies to Your Startup NOW
Are you still on the fence about putting resources toward an SEO strategy? If so, then don’t worry; I’m not done explaining the benefits of SEO for startups.
In fact, I’m only warming up. To further convince you of its effectiveness, here are my top three benefits of SEO for startups.
1. Zoom Out: Search Engines Take Time to Understand Your Content & Assign Ranking
Why does SEO take so much time? It’s because search engines like Google take a while to crawl and index your site. As you can imagine, there are an unspeakable number of websites online.
Google has a daunting task when it comes to crawling and indexing them all as they relate to search query keywords.
That’s why it takes an average of 6 to 12 months to start seeing an initial return on investment. Does that mean that you should forego an SEO strategy altogether?
As stated before, the benefits of SEO far outweigh the negatives. The fact that it takes a while simply means you should start sooner rather than later.
The last thing you want is for your startup SEO to slip between the cracks due to a lack of visibility. While paid ads can give you some initial boosts, they’re not a reliable long-term strategy. You’ll soon find that the cost doesn’t equal the benefit.
If you aren’t visible on search engines, all your competitors likely are – leaving you at a disadvantage.
But if you do choose to launch an SEO strategy as soon as possible, you can avoid falling behind.
2. You Get Scalable, Free Organic Traffic, Month-After-Month, Year-After-Year
This benefit is why SEO is worth the effort in the beginning. Once you increase your visibility and search rankings, you’ll continue to earn traffic for free.
Your blogs and product pages will continue to generate quality organic search traffic. If you have your content set up to convert, you’ll start landing more sales.
Month after month, year after year, your keyword optimized content will continue to work for you.
That’s why SEO provides such a fantastic ROI – the work you put in continues to put out for a very long time.
That beats the pants off relying on PPC ads (or Facebook for that matter) that leech off your bank account. If you have stellar content optimized for Google, you’ll generate continuous traffic for free. You won’t need to pay any type of recurring fee for your SEO efforts.
The goal is to set up your strategy in a way that it’s virtually on autopilot. That way all you have to do is reap the rewards via new leads and sales.
3. SEO Fuels Brand Awareness + Thought Leadership
The last benefit we’ll cover is the brand awareness you’ll build with SEO. The cornerstone of search engine optimization is content marketing. That means releasing blogs, articles, and landing pages with optimized keywords and backlinks.
You’ll establish yourself as a thought leader by releasing blogs that inform and educate.
That’s incredibly beneficial as new customers will view your brand as trustworthy.
When writing blogs, your goal should be to answer common questions and resolve problems. Avoid ‘hard sell’ tactics here; instead, you’re trying to educate and inform. At the end of the post, a well-placed call-to-action will motivate readers to try out your product or service.
Once you have blog posts ranking on the first page of Google, you’ll become a full-fledged thought leader. People will view your brand as trustworthy and look to your blog to find out more information.
To achieve this level of credibility – you need to do two things – create amazing content and use SEO tactics to increase visibility.
Once you’re established and rank high in search engine results pages – loads of new traffic will become aware of your offerings.
11 Steps to Putting Your SEO on Autopilot
By now, you should have a better understanding of why SEO matters for startups. It’s a game that you’ll eventually have to play as you scale – so it’s best to give yourself a head start.
There’s a right and wrong way to kickstart your SEO strategy. I know because I found out the hard way through lots of experimentation and years of trial and error.
That’s how I was able to compile bulletproof steps for setting SEO on autopilot.
Initially, it’ll take a lot of work for about 12+ months to establish your foundation. As we’ve already gone over, that’s right around the ‘break-even’ point of your investment. By staying diligent for another year – you’ll eventually be able to take your foot off the gas.
The ‘flywheel’ effect will take over, and you’ll enjoy smooth sailing for years to come.
To achieve this kind of sustainable success, you’ll need to follow these 11 steps closely.
1. Check Your Budget: Goals Fit/Alignment + Sell Your Leadership Team on Vision
Your first step is to set a realistic goal. From there, you’ll form a pyramid of smaller goals beneath it. That will set you up with a series of objectives along the path toward each of your goals.
You’ll need your entire team to be in alignment with these goals & objectives. For this reason, don’t keep them a secret; share them with your team.
It’s imperative to let everyone know what your SEO goals are.
That will help you stay accountable for each step in the process. Also, your leadership team needs to believe in your vision.
I’ve already gone over the primary benefits of SEO that you can list for your stakeholders. Beyond that, they need to believe in your unique strategy as well as your goals.
Hold a brainstorming session with all your important decision-makers. You’ll need to come up with your ‘SEO pyramid’ of goals during this.
An SEO pyramid has your desired outcome at the top, with your smaller goals at the bottom levels. When executing your strategy, you’ll begin at the bottom of the pyramid and work your way up.
So if your desired outcome is to rank within the top five on Google for a keyword – the bottom levels would look like this:
- Discover a primary keyword that doesn’t have a lot of competition (keyword difficulty)
- Creating outstanding content that includes target keywords that outdoes the competition
- Sending 50 outreach emails per month to obtain quality backlinks
As you can see, these ‘bottom’ objectives will eventually lead you to your desired outcome at the top. Once your team agrees on these series of goals – you’re ready to move on to the next step.
2. Create a Content Strategy Audit to Identify Quick(er) SEO Wins (Existing Pages)
Next, you’ll want to conduct a content audit to identify ‘quick wins’ to see more immediate results. These provide boosts in traffic that you’ll see within a few month.
How do you conduct a content audit?
You can by looking at your existing content pages and optimizing them for search engine keyword rankings. Your pages aren’t optimized since you haven’t started a search engine strategy yet.
As a result, your content doesn’t contain relevant keywords and has other ‘no-no’s’ for SEO.
A content audit involves identifying all these ‘no-no’s’ and correcting them.
Here’s a rundown of what you should look out for when auditing your content:
- Does your content have relevant, popular, & less competitive SEO keywords?
If not, then you need to add them to your existing pages. How do you find the ‘right’ keywords to use? There are a few ways. I recommend selecting a few team members to fill out this keyword survey. After that, you should use a keyword research tool such as Ahrefs or SEMRush to find the strongest keywords from your list.
- Do your pages have unique meta descriptions containing keywords?
If you haven’t paid attention to SEO in the past, your meta descriptions are probably missing (at least on some pages). That’s no good, as your metadata is one of the first points of contact Google makes when crawling your site. As such, each page needs a unique meta description containing your target keyword(s). If you notice any duplicate descriptions, make them unique. Beyond that, the ideal length for a description is 160 characters – so don’t stray too far on either side.
- Do they also have meta titles?
Beyond meta descriptions, meta titles are equally as important. Your meta title should also contain target keywords, break down what your article discusses, and be less than 60 characters (including spaces).
- Are images missing alt text?
Each image needs an ‘alt tag’ describing what the image shows. This information is what Google uses to find out what the image displays. If you’re missing these tags, Google won’t know that you have images – which isn’t good.
Lastly, I always look for ‘quick wins’ when doing a content audit. I look for other keywords that are within ‘striking distance.’ Look at your existing content pages where you are in striking distance of much more organic traffic and optimize them for that 1 primary keyword.
Google is trying to tell us that we should better optimize each page for that 1 keyword. Using these keywords in your content can bring about quick boosts in traffic.
3. Technical SEO Audit (Existing Pages)
After the content audit is complete, it’s time to audit the technical aspects of your page. A technical SEO audit looks at the ‘behind-the-scenes’ factors that affect your visibility on search engines.
For example, if your page doesn’t load quickly enough, Google won’t bother ranking you very high.
When crawling and indexing your page, Google has a series of tests it runs on your page to test its speed. It’s the Core Web Vitals test, and you don’t wait to fail it.
If your pages are loading slow, there are a few ways you can fix that. You can:
- Compress your images and videos
- Redirect (301) pages that are broken (404)
- Among others
Beyond page speed, other technical aspects matter for SEO, too. Another essential factor to check is if Google has visibility of your site.
If Google can’t index your website, you stand no chance of ranking on page one. Instead, you won’t show up anywhere in search results.
To discover if you’re showing up or not, you can use Google Search Console. It will let you know if Google has indexed your site or not. To speed things up, you can upload your XML sitemap to GSC to ensure Google has visibility of your presence.
4. Keyword Research for Home/Product/Service Pages (Existing & New Pages)
In the beginning stages, people likely aren’t searching for your brand name specifically. Instead, they’re after a product or service. That’s why you need to do ample SEO keyword research that reflects that.
It would help to target keywords in your industry that mirror what you do.
You’ll need to conduct keyword research for your existing pages and each new page you create. Once again, I recommend using this keyword survey. That’s because it takes into account your direct and indirect competitors. It’s vital to consider both types of competitors because you’ll compete for the same search queries.
My recommended method for keyword research is to start with the survey to compile a base list of keywords. Next, use Ahrefs or SEMRush to discover which keywords are the strongest from that list.
5. Keyword Research for Local SEO (Existing & New Pages)
It would help if you did additional keyword research for your local area, something we call local SEO. What’s the difference between that and “national SEO”? With local SEO, you’re targeting customers looking for a product or service from a specific location.
In other words, you want to stand out to locals searching for your type of service.
Let’s say that you’re a car rental company that offers cars in Green Bay, Wisconsin Or you might have a video production company in Green Bay.
In either case, ideally, you want to show up in searches like ‘car rental green bay‘ or ‘rental suvs in green bay, wi.’
As you can see, these queries are location specific. Not only that, but localized searches often have more intent than others.
It makes sense if you think about it. If you include the location in a search – it shows that you’re serious about taking action. Rather than goofing around on the internet searching for ‘new electronics,’ you’re after ‘rental cars in green bay, wi.’
That’s why you need to include localized keywords for your SEO. Doing local SEO keyword research will be a tad different than usual. You’ll need to include local-based keywords in your content AND metadata. Also, don’t forget to do this process for new pages and your existing content. Plus, you will need to build some quality backlinks to these pages as well.
6. Keyword Research + Content Editorial Calendar (New Article Pages)
Next, you’ll need to develop a content calendar for releasing blogs and articles. The SEO game is all about nailing content marketing. You’ll need to release a steady stream of informative content with relevant CTAs.
Remember, the goal with your content should not be to go for the hard sell. Instead, you’re here to inform, educate, and solve problems. That’s how you provide value to new prospects that have never heard of your brand before, and build trust. That way, when they’re ready to buy, they’ll be more likely to turn to you.
After you’ve provided that value at the end of the article, you hit them with a CTA. That’s where you encourage them to take action, either by making a purchase or asking to learn more.
A content calendar will help keep you on track with your content. Without one, it’s easy to become distracted with other things and neglect your release schedule.
7. Implement Above Search Engine On-Page Optimizations
For this step, you need to implement everything that you’ve researched, planned, and prioritized above. That means placing all your new keywords into your content in the fields that are most important.
- Url slug
- Meta title
- Meta description
- H1 heading
- Body copy underneath the H1
It also means sticking to your content calendar while releasing new articles. Also, don’t forget to optimize your metadata and technical factors.
If your pages are running slow, now is the time to fix that.
Why is this a step? Because it’s imperative to complete all the aforementioned steps before continuing. You may have come up with a list of excellent strategies, but if you haven’t implemented them yet, they don’t do any good.
So before moving on, ensure that you’ve implemented everything that we’ve gone over so far.
8. High Quality + Authoritative + Relevant Link Building (External + Internal)
Now it’s time to start the link-building process. It’s one of the most crucial aspects of successful SEO. You see, Google will pay a lot of attention to your backlink profile.
There’s a sort of ‘association’ thing going on with links.
If you have a backlink from a website Google views as authoritative – it boosts your authority.
For this reason, you have a lot of incentive to build a robust link profile. To do so, you’ll need to use a combination of internal and external links.
Internal links will link to your other pages. They could be your other blogs, the homepage, the contact page, and more. It’s always a good idea to include a few internal links on each page. Not only does it help you with SEO, but it encourages readers to check out your other content.
Do your best to find areas in your new content where you can link to your old content.
An example would be linking to your dog training course from an article you wrote about dog leashes.
External links are critical too. To link-build properly, you’ll need to focus on backlinks that hold high domain authority.
Getting a bunch of low-quality links is NOT the way to go about it. Instead, a handful links with a high domain authority will do far more than 100 with lower authority.
For me personally, I focus on robust email outreach to build external links. The ‘skyscraper‘ technique comes in handy here. That’s where you find the highest-ranking pages on Google related to your niche.
From there, you outdo their content. By that, I mean you go into more detail on the topic, provide more insights, and add more value overall. Also, you can add value by adding relevant images and videos.
Once you have your content ready – it’s time for the outreach. You send an email to each of the websites linking to the top 10 articles. Politely, you let them know why your article is superior and ask for a link to your new one.
It’s a highly successful technique when done correctly and with an interest in what’s in it for them (not just yourself).
9. Create Email Opt-in Enticements
You should think of every email address you capture as a form of currency. It’s a lead that can grow into a potential sale, so an email address is highly valuable.
As a result, you need to offer an incentive for someone to give you their email.
They’re essentially giving you the green light to send them educational and promotional emails. The article is free to read and provides value, but it’s not enough. You need a little something extra to encourage readers to take the extra step of typing their email.
Here are a few examples of incentives you can use:
- An eBook
- A whitepaper
- An exclusive video
These are all freebies that are worth giving up an email address to obtain. Beyond that, it will only cost you something one time to create. It’s a win-win for both parties – you get their email, and they get a freebie that adds additional value.
Remember, your incentives need to be worth it. If your freebie is mediocre, don’t expect many people to stay on your email list very long.
10. Build Email Nurturing Workflow Automations
Your email marketing isn’t done yet! After all, simply obtaining emails isn’t enough. Instead, you need a way to ‘nurture’ each lead so they can eventually become a customer.
That’s where email nurturing comes into play.
It involves sending your leads a series of emails that guides them through the buying process.
In today’s age, you can automate this process with workflows. Yet, each workflow should operate based on each lead’s behavior. In other words, email nurturing has to be specifically tailored for each lead.
Let’s say that you sell diesel engines to vehicle manufacturers. You’ve obtained an email lead, and they want to know more about the engine’s performance.
Their workflow would entail emails (articles, videos, etc.) centered around engine performance. You can also use email nurturing to encourage customers to try out a virtual demo of your product.
The goal is to send them emails based on their behavior to help them make a purchase or take action.
11. Monitoring, Reporting, & Tweaking
The last step is to keep track of your progress. You’ll need to use SEO tools such as Google Search Console & Google Analytics to monitor your performance. With it, you can measure your organic traffic to see how your strategy is working out.
Google Search Console has another unique feature you should check out, too. It suggests how you can improve your appearance on Google. That’s a massive help for SEO purposes, as you won’t have to play a guessing game.
Here are some other SEO tools you should use to monitor your progress and make any necessary tweaks:
- SurferSEO. That is a great tool to help you focus your website page writing on related keywords, # of words, keyword density, related questions, etc. It has Natural Language Processing capabilities that it uses to guide your writing efforts.
- ScreamingFrog. If you want to monitor and improve your site’s technical SEO, you should use this tool. It’s a tool that you can use to crawl your URLs to find any potential issues.
- Ahrefs. Beyond its keyword research tool, Ahrefs has many excellent SEO tools (rank tracker, backlink researcher, etc.). It’s a software suite that you can use to audit your site, build links, and more.
- SEMRush. You can use its software to improve your online visibility. They have a keyword gap and overlap analysis, a toxic backlink analyzer, among many other tools.
Five-Star SEO for Startups to Kickstart Your Growth
SEO for startups is an inevitable necessity. While it takes a while to get going, an SEO strategy is crucial for any company in today’s age, startup or otherwise.
As you scale, you’ll eventually run into the problem of search engine visibility.
If you neglected SEO initially due to how long it takes – you’ll find yourself between a rock and a hard place later.
You’ll rely entirely on Google ads (or other paid ads) for visibility – and your competitors will take you to task for it. That’s why you need to nip it in the bud and start an SEO strategy as soon as you can.
I have extensive experience with developing winning SEO strategies for startups. If you’re ready to stay one step ahead of the competition, reach out to me so we can chat.