SEO for Startups: Using SEO to Energize Your Organic Traffic in the First Year

Search engine optimization (SEO) is what makes your brand show up on Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube, Pinterest, or any of the online search engines. It isn’t the easiest marketing strategy but it’s the most effective long term.

Most businesses in the startup phase don’t have a ton of resources to dedicate to expensive marketing strategies like paid advertising, affiliate marketing, or social media influencers.

Major brands that hold a strong portion of their market usually show up first in relevant searches or are even searched for directly by users. When you’re still building your brand, that kind of organic reach isn’t possible just yet. But it will never be possible if you don’t start.

If you want new customers to find your website and buy your products, you have to be findable online. SEO is the most cost-effective way for startups to achieve that kind of internet visibility. Here are a few SEO best practices your startup can implement today.

SEO for Startups: Using SEO to Energize Your Organic Traffic in the First Year

The Different Elements of SEO

An effective SEO strategy is so much more than poorly keyword stuffing your content.

On-Page SEO

Search engines crawl your content for “on-page SEO”. This is the content and keywords found in your articles, videos, website copy, blogs, newsletters, and social media that compile search results.

In Zutobi’s case, if a user is searching for the easiest way to prepare for a driver’s permit test in Iowa, they will search for something like “how to pass the driving test in Iowa.”, and hopefully the Iowa permit test page ranks well. The results that rank higher are the sites the search engine thought best matched what the user is searching for. Websites that rank higher get more traffic.

When traffic comes your way, the search engine logs this activity as acknowledgment from the user that your website is a match for their search, thus verifying your place in the ranks. Creating SEO-rich content made up of what your target audience is searching for is how to deliver an effective on-page SEO strategy.

Off-Page SEO

Some argue this is the more important, though more difficult, SEO strategy. Off-page SEO includes link-building with other sites and creators to add digital credibility to your content and improve your rankings.

Social media and online networking are also considered elements of an off-page strategy. Getting other people or platforms to talk about and share your content will build industry recognition and trust with your market.

Get to know your industry partners and build genuine relationships. Together, you can build a strategy to increase brand credibility.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is a more behind-the-scenes approach, different from “on-page SEO”. The elements of an effective technical SEO strategy primarily focus on programming, site indexing, HTML code, functionality, and user experience optimization.

  • Use Schema Markup Plugins

Search engines use a unique semantic vocabulary for communication. Using a schema markup with show search engines exactly what your page contains makes it easy for the crawlers to identify when your content is a good match. If you host your website on WordPress, you can install a plugin to create the schema markup for you.

  • Remember Page Load Time Optimization

If your website is too slow to load, longer than a few seconds, most viewers will lose patience and move on to the next search result.

Refine your website programming by removing unused code. This keeps the search engines from having to dig through superfluous content.

Optimize your graphic and photo image sizes without sacrificing quality or branding aesthetics to improve the load time and keep more visitors on your page.

  • Optimize for Mobile Users

Test and tweak your web content to make sure a mobile user has the same positive experience as a desktop visitor.

  • Improve Site Navigation

Confusing menus lead to abandoned websites and lost sales. Online shoppers and researchers are often deterred by slow, confusing, or glitchy navigation.  Design simple menus with clear, relevant options to prevent new visitors from leaving. Don’t have more than one, maybe two, calls to action per page to avoid further confusion.

Always include a sitemap to help the search engine crawlers see everything you offer for the best SEO results.

SEO for Startups: Why It’s Essential

To get more customers, they have to find your website. For them to find you, you have to show up on search engines. You need an effective SEO strategy so you can rank higher in search results and your next customer can buy from you!

1. Increase Brand Awareness and Credibility

Most internet searchers discover new brands when they have a problem they’re trying to solve.  If they need to brush up on local traffic safety laws before a test or if they want to learn how to install a microwave, they turn to a search engine with intention. They have a need, and they’re hunting down a solution.

You want your brand to show up higher in search engine results, so your solution is the one they find. This will position you and your content as the preferred source for what they want to know. Whatever problem your business solves, create relevant content and digital assets to increase the recognition of what you offer.

The credibility of your brand is directly connected to the level of trust your customers and visitors have in your product or service. As you serve more and more customers, make sure they have a seamless and positive experience they’ll want to talk about and share. Request reviews and testimonials from all your success stories and leverage their results in future marketing.

2. Budget-Friendly Marketing

Search engine optimization helps you generate more organic, unpaid traffic to your website. This not only increases your chances of getting more sales, but it brings the cost of those sales down significantly.

Paid marketing strategies like ads, influencers, and affiliates can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. If your operation is similar to most startups, you don’t have a pile of cash lying around to inject into marketing. The return on your investment for SEO marketing is much higher, making it the most cost-effective of marketing solutions.

3. Seamless User Experience

User experience refers to how easy it is for visitors to use and navigate your website. While user experience isn’t technically a component of SEO strategy, it’s still essential.

Google can track how long someone stays on your website and how well it’s performing. If a user clicked on your result and then abandoned ship because your graphics are terrible or nothing will load, this could impact future rankings.

5 SEO Rules to Follow

Best Practices to Leverage SEO for More Organic Traffic

Now you know all the different elements the search engines use to decide how far up they will display your website in the search results. The following are a few practical tips to help you plan an effective SEO strategy.

1. Identify Your Target Audience

The last thing you want is to rank for the wrong audience. The wrong audience may click, but they don’t stick around. Over time, this could lead to decreased ranking in search results.

So how can you avoid this?

Craft your messaging to appeal to the audience you want to work with. Create branding and digital assets that appeal to your target market. If your market is dads, you probably won’t use a lot of pinks or reds in your branding.

However, if your ideal client is a single dad of daughters, you’ll want to incorporate both soft and masculine features to differentiate it from the more general “dad market.”

When you’re speaking to and for your ideal audience, this is when clicks turn into purchases, and new customers come back for more.

Tips to Relate to Your Target Audience

Put yourself in their shoes. What are they thinking, feeling, or trying to achieve?

  • What are their demographics?
  • What problem do they have that you can solve?
  • Identify pain points and desired results.
  • What content or digital assets should you create that will connect the dots?

Use these questions to help you narrow the focus of your content and zero in on your ideal customers.

2. Work Smarter, Not Harder

There exist keywords that are generally considered “low-hanging keywords.” These are words and phrases that rank high on search engines already and aren’t buried in extensive competition. By using them in your SEO strategy, you can rank higher just by picking the low-hanging fruit.

3. Do Your Keyword Research

If you choose to implement some low-hanging keywords, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to conduct your own keyword research. You need to rank for keywords your target audience is searching for.

Google ranks content based on its perceived relevance to the search terms. The customer has a certain intent when they conduct a search, and they’re after something specific. Search engines also look at how credible a site appears and what kind of volume it gets.

Keywords made up of full phrases are called longtail keywords and usually contain three or more words. Longtail keywords are often not fully formed sentences and can be tough to naturally plug into your content. However, they are much easier to rank for due to specificity.

After you have conducted your keyword research, make a list of content that relates to those keywords. You can essentially reverse engineer the content you need to connect with your target audience.

4. Patiently Wait for Results

Have you ever heard of the “time, cost, quality triangle,” also known as the “speed, price, quality triangle?” It is a simple visual that means you can only choose two of the three presented outcomes.

If you want high-quality results quickly, it will not be cheap. This is the definition of an expensive paid marketing strategy.

If you want results that are high quality and inexpensive, you must play the long game. That’s what makes the SEO path the best for startups.

The fast and cheap option in the marketing world is what we call spam.

Developing an effective SEO strategy and seeing the results come in will take time, consistent production of high-quality content, and patience.

How to Position Your Brand as the Industry Leader

Showcase your expertise and how you help your target audience with their primary struggles. Choose no more than three to five pillars or buckets of content topics that suit your brand’s services and connect with your audience.

Put out newsletters, blog articles, and social media content that aligns with these pillars of thought. Pitch guest posts or podcast appearances to increase credibility and social proof.

Prove that you’re the expert before anyone ever buys from you.

Drive More Organic Traffic for Your Startup With SEO!

Alone, none of these strategies will be terribly effective. But when you combine the on-page, off-page, and technical elements of an SEO strategy together, you will land on a comprehensive and inexpensive marketing plan to establish your place in the rankings.

Tim Waldenback

Tim Waldenback is the co-founder of Zutobi, a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their license. Tim founded Zutobi to make world-class driver's education fun, affordable, and easily accessible for all.

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