If you are in the process of establishing a startup company then you will probably be all too aware of the important role SEO has to play in its success. The benefits of good SEO practices and the ability to rank well for key search terms can’t be disputed but how does a startup company go about establishing the right SEO strategy for their needs and goals?
Define Your Goals
The first thing you need to do is actually define what your goals are. Too many new companies jump head first into a range of marketing strategies without clearly establishing what they want and need to achieve from them.
When defining the goals of your SEO campaign you will need to be realistic in terms of time it will take. And you will need to be able to examine your own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your competitors.
A great way to do that is to create an SEO SWOT Analysis. Much like a traditional marketing SWOT analysis, this will give you the opportunity to weigh up what you’re currently good at, what opportunities there are for you to exploit as well as what you’re not so good at and weaknesses in your company that need to be improved upon. When you are able to put all that together then you will be much better positioned to define what goals you should realistically expect to achieve through an SEO campaign.
Know Your Competitors
This may seem a bit obvious and you may think that you already know who your competitors are. Perhaps there is one just across the road from your office. However, the truth is until you do some concrete keyword and competitive research you won’t know who your real competitors are. In SEO terms, your main competitors are those who are ranking in the top 3 spots in Google for the main keywords you are targeting.
Keyword research is vital at the early stage of an SEO campaign as it enables you to identify your “money” keywords. In other words, those that are going to drive revenue to your business. You will need to know the average search volume for your keywords within your target area and how competitive they are.
It’s important that you don’t get SEO and AdWords competition confused. The competitiveness of an organic keyword refers to the likelihood of your website ranking on page 1 of Google when someone searches for it. It’s based on the strength and relevance of the websites that are currently ranking on page 1 for it and so when you know this information you might just find that your real competitors are very different than you first assumed.
What Sets You Apart?
Having a USP isn’t new advice but once again you need to tweak this notion to apply it solely to your SEO strategy. In order to outrank websites who have been ranking at the top of Google for a certain keyword for years, you will have to offer something different and better for the searcher. Gone are the days where the website with the most links or an exact match domain name would atomically rank top of Google. There are no shortcuts in modern SEO, the website that answers the users query best will rank the highest.
This means that you will have to create content, resources, services etc. that provide the best possible information for the user. Usability and good user experience also have a role to play in this as bounce rate (the amount of people visiting a website then leaving straight away without performing an action) is another important ranking factor as Google sees that as a sign that the user doesn’t find the website helpful to their search query. If you can do all of that better than your competitor and offer a service, price, innovation etc. that beats theirs then you will stand a good chance of outranking them. Of course, high quality, relevant links and on-page SEO optimisation still plays a huge part as well.
Create Linkable Assets
There are lots of ways to build links to your website such as guest posting, broken link building and creating listings but the key to earning regular, high quality links is having a linkable asset on your website that will continue to attract links over time. A linkable asset is any piece of content or tool that has been created for the purpose of attracting links to your website. A definitive guide on a certain topic is a good example of a linkable asset. The more information, data and detailed research you include the more likely it will be shared and linked back to by others within your industry.
Just think of the number of articles and blog posts you have read that cite certain data and studies and if yours is of high enough quality it can continue to be referenced for years to come earning you a nice steady stream of links which are still a huge ranking factor.
Having a linkable asset, or a number of them on your website is another example of ensuring that your website is offering something more than your competitors and that it actually deserves to rank at the top of Google.
This is an important one. Starting a new business is hard and the overheads will start to flow in thick and fast, but you will need to remember that SEO is a long-term strategy. You won’t see overnight results from your SEO campaign. In fact, it will likely be at least six months before you start to see the fruits of your labour. It’s worth sticking with however as once you get there it will be much easier to maintain that flow of organic traffic to your website.
To allow you to be patient with your SEO campaign, it’s a good idea to have other sources of traffic for your website while it gains traction. Social media and Pay Per Click ads are good ways to gain exposure for your new brand and drive some much-needed traffic. You can use a platform such as Google ads to run alongside your SEO efforts so that you rank in the paid search spots for the same keywords. This can be a temporary tactic to help generate revenue while your SEO rankings continue to improve or it can be another long-term strategy to enable you to dominate both the organic and paid listings for particular keywords and topics.
Stuart Cooke is the Digital Marketing Manager at NIParcels.com, an online courier comparison service that helps startups in the e-commerce sector find the perfect shipping partner at the best possible price.