The Powerful Guide to SEO for Startups and Small Businesses
Running a business is no easy feat in today’s digital world. Entrepreneurs and business owners have more opportunities than ever to connect with consumers, but it can be difficult to know where to start, especially when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). Understanding what should take priority when nearly everything needs to be done, well, yesterday, is downright tricky.
Leveraging search engines for traffic starts with an understanding of the fundamental strategies that make websites search engine friendly. Billions of searches are performed on a monthly basis worldwide, and some of those searchers could end up on your site if all goes according to plan.
Launching your SEO from zero doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may think. With a bit of ingenuity, education, and planning, you’ll be well on your way to SEO success in no time. In this article you’ll learn some of the most important SEO fundamentals and how to start your startup’s SEO from scratch in 2017.
The most essential factor in gaining more business online? It all starts with having a website.
Seems simple enough, but having an effective website that provides the information your prospects need is sometimes a rarity with startups. Splash pages, “in construction” websites, static HTML, and one-page websites just don’t cut it anymore. Today’s consumers demand more information and will search online until they find what they’re looking for. Will your site show up?
Before diving too deeply into SEO, make sure you have a “place” to drive your prospects to. Without a website and associated landing pages, it’ll be hard to truly be effective with your marketing. A good website usually has a few key components:
- Keyword Placement – Each page of a website should rank in search engines for specific keywords, and those keywords must be placed in specific areas of the page for a search engine to understand. Additionally, a good website will have keywords mapped to specific pages, and those pages will have keywords sprinkled throughout.
- Mobile Friendly – The majority of users online today access the Internet through their mobile devices. If your website is not mobile friendly, search engines may not send as much traffic to your website. Websites should be mobile and tablet friendly.
- XML Sitemap – Telling a search engine where all of your pages are on your site can be done through a sitemap, an index of all of the pages on your domain. Search engines know to visit the map of your site to discover all of the pages you’d like to have ranking in search engines.
- Robots.txt – In addition to the sitemap, a robots.txt file helps a search engine know what pages to discover on your website and any specific instructions they should be aware of as they discover pages on a website.
- Multiple Browsers & Versions – A good website will resolve nicely in each of the popular browsers available online, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Using a browser checker, you can discover the shortcomings of your website by testing and fixing browser loading issues that may impact how the end users use your websites online.
- Page Load Speed – A fast, reliable website is a key factor in SEO. A good website should load pages quickly and easily, on both mobile and desktop, and on every page.
- User Friendly Design – Can users find what they need on your website quickly and easily? Factors such as time on page, average pages per visit, and bounce rates can impact how optimized a website is for search engines. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and provides a good user experience (UX) and user interface (UI).
- Analytics – Being able to track your progress and performance is free if you install and verify Google Analytics and Google Search Console. On a weekly and monthly basis, make sure you know your search analytics, conduct tests, and start working on improving the factors that directly affect SEO.
Ensuring your site is optimized for search engines will include a few additional tasks, which involve research and discovery. The center of most SEO revolves around keywords, that is, the specific words your prospects and current customers will use to find a website like yours.
Keyword research is the process SEO professionals use to discover a full list of search terms that people enter into search engines while looking for information on a particular topic. Keywords can be simple or complex, depending on your industry and customer needs. These keywords are then used to achieve better rankings in search engines. How? Through on-page optimization. Read our helpful article, A Keyword Primer: Finding and Using Keyword Effectively, to get started on keyword research.
On-page optimization is the implementation piece of the puzzle, after you’ve effectively researched keywords. It’s not enough to simply discover the terms you want your pages to rank for; next you must use those keywords throughout your pages ‒ in the right places.
On-page refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page, which can be optimized for search engines. Seed keywords throughout the page in the following locations in order to properly optimize a page:
- Meta title
- Meta description
- Throughout copy
- Image alt tags
- Internal links & external links
- H1-H5/heading tags
- LSI Keywords (synonyms that Google users to determine a pages topical relevancy)
Once your pages are optimized, it’s time to sit back and monitor your results. Pages that are well optimized are more likely to rank for the keywords which were intentionally placed on the page. Tracking your progress will help as an indicator of your success and tell you whether or not more optimization is needed.
An additional way you can optimize your startup’s website is through offsite factors. This type of promotion is a way to get your website mentioned on other websites and get it in front of your audience ‒ enabling you to make more money online.
Off-page optimization is a set of techniques you can use to increase the search engine rankings of your website; it’s the act of optimizing your brand’s online and offline presence. A huge part of off-page SEO are backlinks, which are incoming hyperlinks from one page to another website.
The number of backlinks a given website has is a pretty accurate indicator of how popular, important, or authoritative it is. External backlinks influence a search engine to understand what a page and website is about and can help improve rankings for specific keywords. While backlinks are an ever-decreasing factor in SEO, they still hold a large importance for search engines to determine where a site should be placed.
The goal of off-page SEO is to accumulate as many positive signals as possible for your brand, in a spam-free way. Off-page link building can be achieved in a number of ways, including the following:
- getting mentions of your brand linked back to your website;
- claiming local profiles for your brand and location;
- using social media and adding your website URL to your active social profiles;
- achieving press on your local news website or industry blogs, with a link back to your site;
- partnership and portfolio pages mentioning your website;
- backlinks pointing to valuable content such as case studies, research reports, white papers and free guides; and
- so much more!
If you’re interested in reading more about link building, check out our article Part 2: Link Building and SEO Strategies to Resurrect in 2017.
Developing an online presence for your startup is no easy feat, but with these helpful tips we hope you’re one or more steps closer to achieving success. Don’t miss out on the amazing opportunity search engines provide: traffic. Whether you’re ready or not, your brand is already being searched for online. Will you show up in these searches?
Check out these additional resources to learn more about SEO in 2017. Have a question or need SEO advice for your startup? Ask us in the comments below, and we’d we be happy to help!
SEO Tutorial for Beginners in 2017 from Hobo-Web.co.uk
SEO a Comprehensive Guide for Beginners from Kissmetrics.com
7 Days to SEO Success from SEObook.com
SEO Basics: Complete Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization from WordStream.com
Free SEO Training Course by Moz from Udemy.com
Moz Academy by Moz.com
SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide from NeilPatel.com
The Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing from QuickSprout.com
A Complete Guide to Getting Started in SEO from SearchEngineJournal.com
WordPress SEO Guide from Yoast.com
The Insanely Powerful 2017 SEO Checklist from ClickMinded.com