SEO and Your Startup's Website

Unless a member of your target audience has specifically heard of you, they won't be searching for you by brand name. The most common way they'll be looking is by using a search engine. Search engine optimization (SEO) shouldn't simply be an afterthought, but it should be part of your startup business plan from day 1.


SEO is the way you get your website to show up higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). Ideally, by optimizing your website, you'll make it more visible to anyone who needs what you can provide. SEO achieves this by optimizing each website page, using keywords that are developed as a result of extensive keyword research efforts, and earning inbound links.

Search engine algorithms look at an almost constantly changing number of elements that include title tags, keywords, image tags, internal link structure, and backlinks.

You should clearly define your SEO business goals before you go any further. Exactly how you design your SEO strategy depends on what you hope to achieve; is it all about boosting brand visibility, or is it about generating demand, or are you focused on driving targeted leads? Once you establish your SEO business goals, you can move on to the next steps.

What is common to virtually all SEO strategies is the need to generate quality content. You want to attract links to your content and you want to generate repeat traffic. First, provide useful information and answers to questions your potential audience has. Then you convert that audience to followers, and then they will come to you when they’re ready to purchase goods and services. 

So, you need a process for topic generation so that you can develop an editorial calendar full of relevant, planned content. 


Determine what your customers, or potential customers, want.

You can't just start a blog and hope people find it. Content marketing means creating useful content that will attract your target audience. You have to identify topics that are popular and engaging in your field and create content to address those topics.

You can start by jotting down what you believe would be likely keywords in someone's search for answers to questions that you can answer for them. Then do Google searches for those words and sees what similar and related phrases pop up repeatedly. Start to type a query into the search box using a keyword and see what autocomplete results come up. These are alternative terms people have used in their searches.

Speak to customers as often as possible and note the language they use. By doing so, you'll learn how they talk about your niche, what problems they are encountering, and what they hope to find to address those problems. This helps you refine the keywords you've identified using Google search results and keyword tools.

Once you have the keywords that you want to rank, and an idea of what searchers are expecting when they enter those search terms into Google, you need to assign the keywords to the pages on your site. Create a map that ties each keyword in your plan to a page on your site.


Optimize your web pages for target keywords

The next step in your SEO strategy is on-page optimization. Here are some tips:

  • Use short, descriptive URLs that include your target keyword, or phrases from long-tail keywords, in a natural way.
  • Create meaningful meta titles and descriptions that search engines use when showing your page in SERPs.
  • Use headers and subheaders to make it easier for the search engines to search and categorize your content. This also helps your human readers.
  • Describe and explain your images in their alt tags to help the search engine understand what they are.


Be sure your website is accessible to both search engines and people

  • Make sure your website loads fast. If it doesn't, people will click away.
  • Ensure your site is mobile-friendly. You can use a tool like Google's Mobile Friendly Test Tool.
  • Install an SSL cert since HTTPS is one of the signals Google uses in ranking sites.
  • Create a sitemap so search engines can use it to find your content and understand how your pages are connected. These don't directly affect rankings but they allow the engines to find and index new pages faster.
  • Strategic linking of specific pages and posts can increase the speed at which your site is crawled while pointing the crawlers to your most important pages. Linking also helps your target audience find what they may be searching for easily and intuitively.


Backlinks are your Best Friend

One of the factors with significant influence on Google's ranking algorithm is backlinks. Backlinks are links from other websites back to yours. You need to commit time and resources to promote and generate links to your carefully produced content.

Follow these basic rules and you can turn guest blogging into a great tool for brand building, generating referral traffic, and improving your rankings.

  • Publish on a respected website with a relevant audience.
  • Create content which is helpful to the audience of this identified authoritative website.
  • Link to resources on your website that will help the other website's audience expand their knowledge on the topic.


Measure your SEO success

The last step in setting your SEO strategy is deciding how you're going to track your performance. There are a lot of methods and what seems like an infinite number of metrics you can use, so be selective. Perhaps the most important metrics in evaluating your SEO efforts are organic traffic, and the average ranking position of the keywords you're targeting.


Final thought

Optimizing your website for search will pay off over time. It will get you more and more traffic as long as you're consistent with your implementation.


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Shelley's been in Seattle practically since the dawn of time. She enjoys having fun (seriously) with research and writing. In her off hours she reads and walks, although not at the same time -- because tripping over sidewalks is embarrassing.

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